Combining Great Fishing and Hunting

Andomoozwe Outfitters & Lodge is located in an area of Ontario known for its great black bear population, due to its remoteness and ideal habitat.

As a lightning bolt cracked in the distance, I was grateful to hear the thunder a few seconds behind as an indication that the storm was well past me now. I sat there, now soaking wet to my core, watching the dark rain clouds continue their path, drenching the land in their wake. After an hour and a half of intense rain, the entire forest went into hiding but now the mosquitoes were coming out in mass and the birds were not far behind. After heavy rainfall, the wildlife always stand up to shake off the water and it’s been my experience that once they’re on their feet, they often decide to feed so being in the stand immediately after rainfall has proven successful on many occasions. This was one of those occasions.

Spring black bear hunting is one of my favourite times of the year. For one thing, it’s my first road-trip hunt of the year and there’s just something extra special about driving across Northern Ontario, with all of its stunning vistas, to start your adventure. Secondly, I love black bear meat, my whole family does in fact, and this year we have big plans to make black bear sausage.

This spring I was headed north of Nakina, Ontario, to hunt black bears with Andomoozwe Outfitters & Lodge. Owners Patrick and Dave recently purchased this outfit, formerly known as O’Sullivan Lake Outfitters, which had been running for over 26 years. This area of Ontario is known for a great black bear population, due to its remoteness and ideal habitat. This area has a secluded, private feel, more like a fly-in outfit rather than a drive-to camp.

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On this hunt, I was joined by a good friend, John Ward of Camillus Knives and DMT Sharpeners. We pulled into camp after a fourteen-hour drive from Southern Ontario and were greeted by Patrick and Dave, who showed us to our cabin.

Patrick and Dave are the first people to tell you their cabins are more rustic than high-end, but as new owners with big plans, they are in the process of renovating and updating. Luckily their reputation for great hunting and especially fishing keeps a large list of returning clients, coming back year after year.

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After arrival, John & I got the Yamaha RMAX off the trailer and all our gear unpacked, before shooting our crossbows.

For our first evening, John was hunting a double ladder stand in a mature poplar and birch forest. I too, was hunting from a ladder stand in the same forest, about ten kilometres away. That first evening I had a great encounter with a nice-looking bear. This stand had two nice big bears coming to it so I decided to pass on this bear and just enjoyed the show.

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The next morning, John and I jumped in a boat and made our way down the channel to get to the mouth of the lake. We had previously heard about the great walleye and pike fishing up here, so we were both excited to see for ourselves. Sure, enough the rumors were true. John and I had a great morning fish, catching lots of walleye and pike and while we weren’t really targeting the big fish, we still caught some with pretty respectable size.

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We got back to camp where we touched up our knives and got busy butchering our catch for a future fish fry.

After reviewing trail cameras, we decided to move John to a new stand for his second afternoon sit. Shortly after the sun had set, a bear with a beautiful coat came into the bait. John sat with his crossbow ready, but the bear wouldn’t give him a clean shot for well over ten minutes as it pulled and rolled logs over to get to the food. His patience was eventually rewarded when the bear gave him a clean broadside shot. John’s shot was perfect and the bear didn’t go fifty yards before falling over.

With daylight fading fast, John wasted no time recovering and dressing the bear, to prep it for cold storage back at camp.

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The next morning, John got busy skinning and butchering his bear, as I headed out to check baits and cameras.

By early afternoon, the bear was fully butchered and packed in the freezer, and while checking the trail cameras, I found a mature bear was visiting one of the sites that we hadn’t hunted yet.

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As John headed out for an evening fish, I was headed to the stand that had the mature bear. I was very eager to get up into the stand and see if the big bear would make an appearance. This ladder stand was about 17 feet up in the tree, set back a fair distance off the bait, but still within shooting range with my crossbow. There was a clean path leading to the bait, which was up on a hill, making the bait almost eye-level with me.

Within thirty minutes of setting up a smaller bear arrived. It constantly looked around, seemingly watching out for the bigger bears that are also frequenting this bait. Eventually the young bear tore off, running right towards us and even passing us. I got my crossbow ready, hoping that it was a shooter bear that had scared this young one off. Sure enough, another bear appeared up on the forested hill side. This bear was slightly bigger, sporting two white lines on its chest but it wasn’t the bigger bear that I had seen on the trail camera so I decided to hold out.

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As I sat and watched the bear, I suddenly heard a branch break behind me. I slowly turned to look but the forest was much too thick. Then, moments later I heard another crack, but this time it was directly under me! I slowly looked down to see a big bear leaning against my tree. I could see this was a mature bear, but I wasn’t sure if it was the same bear that was on the trail camera. The bear stood up on his hind legs to get a better view of the low-lying vegetation and then lifted his head to stare straight up at me. I tried to avoid eye contact in hopes that it wouldn’t identify what I was. Unfortunately, the bear was on the wrong side of the tree for the camera to capture him until he eventually started to work out in front. The camera could only see him for a few steps before he second-guessed his decision and tore off back to where he came from. As the saying goes, “big bears get big for a reason” and this guy’s sixth sense served him well this time. I felt crushed. Big bears like this don’t often give you second chances.

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Unable to get this big bear off my mind, and with the end of my week nearing, I decided to go all-in for this bear. So the next morning, I headed back out to that same stand, and though I had another encounter with that younger bear with white lines on its chest, none of the other bears made an appearance. I sat for a couple of hours while getting satellite text messages from John telling me about all the walleye he was catching!

After my morning hunt, I saw the weather forecast was calling for a change in wind direction, which wouldn’t make hunting this stand possible. So, I decided to change the setup. I brushed in a new ground blind closer and on a different side of the bait. It only gave me one small window to shoot from and the visibility was also really limited. It was far from ideal but it was my only option to hunt the bigger bear from the trail camera with this wind direction.

That evening I was once again visited by the white-chested bear, but nothing else came in. I was beginning to get worried that I had blown that bear out of the area.

The next day, after my morning routine of topping up baits and checking cameras, I decided to once again go back to the ground blind as John, gleefully, headed out to enjoy more fishing. Shortly after getting set up, I saw a flash in the distance, a long low rumble followed and the skies darkened. Within no time, we were sitting in a torrential rain. Big fat raindrops fell like someone had giant buckets of water continually pouring over me. The water was running from my face, down my neck and into my chest. My chair was holding water so it felt like I was sitting in a puddle. Even with rain gear on, we were soaked to the core.

After one and a half hours, the storm passed, and with an hour of daylight light, I was confident that bears would be on their feet to shake off and then hopefully en route to the bait. While the raindrops were still falling from the trees, I spotted something black slinking in. As it stood up on its hind legs, I could see it was a younger bear. He was very unsure of the area, cautiously checking his surroundings and smelling the air. After the storm, the wind did start to swirl a bit, and I think he was catching a whiff of me every so often.  When he did, he would run off, but stop almost as fast, and work back to the bait.

After five minutes or so, the bear was standing up on a fallen tree to get a better view, when he suddenly looked behind the bait and then exploded off the log, running by me on my left.

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I got my crossbow ready once again, seating it on my shoulder quietly. I looked up and immediately saw a large dark object slowly coming through the woods. As the head appeared from behind a tree, I could instantly see this was a very mature bear. As it stood there carefully checking out its surroundings, I could see it not only had a big head, but a thick neck, and wide shoulders.

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It slowly approached the bait, nose in the air at times, as it stayed mostly hidden behind the tall raspberry canes. The tension was nothing short of intense.

It eventually walked out into my shooting lane, but it was facing straight on, not a shot I wanted to take. It was once again smelling and tasting the air so I feared that it might bolt at any second.

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I waited with my heart pounding in my chest, safety off, finger rested gently on the trigger, watching through my scope, hoping for a clean shot. With the swirling winds, I figured this was going to be my only chance. The bear then started to slowly turn to go back to the bait and I knew this would be my brief moment. As it turned, I held for it’s vitals and squeezed the trigger. The bolt began its arc, leaving a trail of water behind as it spun through the air, headed towards the bear. The shot was perfect, and the bear was down in sight.

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I was very happy to have harvested this mature bear with a stunning thick black coat but I was much more excited for the meat I would harvest from it, and bring back to my family.

As a spring bear-hunting adventure goes, this week was quite a successful and enjoyable one. John and I both shot bears and had lots of meat coming back with us. We also had a great time fishing and shared a lot of laughs back in our cabin during our downtime.

If you have been wanting to get out bear hunting, this area of Northern Ontario is a place you should check out. Thanks to the whole crew at Andomoozwe Outfitters & Lodge, Patrick, Dave, Cooper & Josh were a big help, and we recommend them to anyone looking for a great northern adventure.

About Canada in the Rough

The Beasley Brothers' passion for hunting is only surpassed by their commitment to their family. Respect, integrity, a strong work ethic and an undying passion for hunting bond these youthful advocates of our hunting heritage at the hip. Also producing Ontario's only magazine dedicated to whitetail deer hunting, and running the day-to-day operations of the Foundation for the Recognition of Ontario Wildlife (FROW), the brothers are anxiously engaged in promoting the joys of hunting and are thrilled to be part of Canada's most-watched hunting adventure television show.

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