Dog Lake Bears
Kevin couldn’t believe he was coming back in for a second time. Kevin knew this was a good black bear—all he could do was hope that he would come into the clearing for a shot.
Northwestern Ontario is a beautiful part of Canada, covered with towering coniferous and deciduous trees which make up the boreal forest. Along with the rocky Canadian Shield and pristine lakes and rivers, it is truly a black bear hunter’s dream location. We were driving about an hour north of the city of Thunder Bay, headed to Dog Lake Resort for a week of bear hunting and fishing. Kevin was really looking forward to this hunt, especially since his father Ken was joining him.
We arrived at camp and got our gear into our beautiful cabin, which was perched up on a hill overlooking the lake. The cabin had multiple rooms, a full kitchen, a living room, and a full bathroom. Everything you needed to make your stay comfortable.
The owner Paul Del Pino and guide Ron Phillips met us at the main lodge, where we went over their extremely large bear hunting management area. They gave us a tour of the camp, which consisted of several cabins, a private sandy beach, and even a sauna.
Feeling really good about our arrangements we headed over to their shooting range to shoot the crossbows and make sure they were still shooting accurately after our long trip.
Kevin’s first evening sit had him set up in a tall double ladder stand with some water to his back and the bait in front, about 18 yards away. This bait was getting some good trail camera photos of multiple bears hitting the bait and sure enough, shortly after Paul had dropped him off, he spotted a bear emerging from the forest. Straight away Kevin could tell this bear was struggling as he moved towards him. This younger bear seemed to have an issue with his back right leg as he wouldn’t walk on it. Yet, he was still using it to scratch himself and even laying on it. Kevin could only assume he had something lodged in his paw that was making it uncomfortable for him. He was very healthy looking otherwise, with a great shiny black full coat, but Kevin decided to pass him this night.
Meanwhile, Ken was hunting another stand about thirty minutes away. He had a quick encounter with a younger bear near the end of his sit which seemed uneasy around the bait. This is often a great sign of bait with a bigger bear on it. Though he never saw any mature boars that night, he did end his night with a visit from a couple year and a half old cubs, one of which decided to climb a tree near his exit route which made the walk back to the truck interesting.
The next morning, we started our day with a tasty breakfast before heading out fishing with one of Dog Lakes Resort’s long-time guests Jim. He graciously took us to some of his favourite spots to target walleye and smallmouth bass. Jim has been coming up here from the USA for thirty years and has really gotten to know the lake, and it showed. We had an amazing few hours of fishing, where we all caught lots of great walleye and bass. By the time we got back to the lodge, we had boated over sixty fish. It was the best day of walleye fishing Kevin has ever had.
Since we’re hunting during the spring bear season the sunset times are late, so Dog Lake Resort likes to serve their main meal at 2 pm which we really enjoy. Irene and Lorrilee do an amazing job creating the meals. Over the years they have dialled in their meals, and we were beyond spoiled during our week of hunting. They even make sure to have a snack for you back at camp after your hunt.
On the second evening hunt Ken got settled into his spot and was ready for a great night in the stand. With a little over an hour left in the night, he spotted some black moving through the trees. This bear was definitely older and extremely cautious. It finally made its way into crossbow range, but was keeping itself mostly hidden by bushes and trees. Eventually, it only had to take three steps and would be in the clearing for a clean shot, but as he was about to take a step, he turned and backed out without giving Ken a shot. Though unfortunate, Ken was very excited to have such a great encounter with a great-looking bear.
Ron had shown us some trail camera photos of a big boar and sow hitting a bait, but the wind hadn’t been good for it. So finally on this night, the wind was good. So Ron got Kevin into the stand at around 5:30. Shortly after 9 pm, Kevin noticed some movement about sixty yards in front of him. Sure enough, it turned out to be a bear. He was very cautious as he worked his way in. This was a nice mature bear. As he slowly made his way towards the bait he got into 15 yards, but he was covered by a tree. He was warily scoping out his surroundings yet not once did he look up at the stand, which kept Kevin hopeful he would walk out for a shot. When he was three yards from the clearing, he stopped and turned on a dime and bolted off. Kevin was shocked and heartbroken. He wasn’t sure what spooked the bear, all he knew was the bear had disappeared into the thick forest.
With well over an hour of daylight left, Kevin settled back into his stand and just patiently waited and hoped he’d come back out. Within 5 minutes, he spotted the bear walking back down the same trail he had left. Kevin got his crossbow ready and watched the bear once again slowly work towards the bait. This time, after 8 and a half minutes, the bear did what Kevin was hoping. He took the extra three yards to get into the clearing. Kevin settled his crosshairs on his vitals and squeezed the trigger. The bolt flew through the air and hit him exactly where he wanted. The bear spun and ran about forty yards before falling mid-run.
As Kevin walked up to recover him, he was pleasantly surprised that he was even bigger than he thought. This black bear had a beautiful thick coat and a gorgeous big round head. Ron and Ken arrived shortly after and helped get the bear out of the forest, and back to camp where we were able to get him into the cold storage.
The next morning, we got to butchering the bear with Ron and Paul, who made quick work of the bear. We absolutely love bear meat. It’s our favourite wild game meat that we find extremely versatile. From pulled bear tacos to Philly cheese steak sandwiches, we have several great bear recipes on our YouTube Channel for those interested in different ways to cook bear.
Though Ken didn’t end up harvesting a bear, we all had a wonderful time at Dog Lake Resort. From the hunting to the incredible fishing and amazing food, we were spoiled during our bear-hunting adventure and hope to return one day.