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  • Writer's pictureJeff Rice

Bearly Today - Larry Weishuhn

“Larry really likes sitting on the ground!” answered Brad Fenson before I could, when questioned about how I liked hunting bear.  I nodded enthusiastically!


“Perfect! We’ve got just the stand for him.  There’s been a really smart old bear coming into one of our stands.  He’s been seen briefly several times.  Hunters we’ve had in that stand have reported seeing him at a distance peering around a tree.  Soon as he sees someone sitting in the latter blind, he disappears.” Said Clayton Royer, owner of Grand Slam Hunting Adventures, the outfit we were hunting with for spring bear. 


I glanced at Mark Sidelinger.  He nodded approvingly.  I was in Alberta, Canada thanks to Mark’s Media Direct Creative company which among his other outdoor clients is Avient, the company that recently developed unique technology which makes rifle barrels lightweight, extremely sturdy, accurate and immediately draws heat away from the core.


“Larry I’m going to send you with Cam Morrison this afternoon.  You’ll want to leave shortly after you make certain the rifle you’re using is sighted in.” Continued Clay.  Rather than bring a rifle, Mark had suggested I get with Brad Fenson and borrow one of his Mossbergs.  Brad graciously agreed for me to use his Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical in .308 Win complete with a box of Hornady 165-grain CX Outfitter.  He suggested I use it over his .300 Win Mossberg Patriot. “The .308’s 22-inch barrel as opposed to the .300 Win Mag’s 24-inch barrel will make it easier to handle in the close quarters that you might have to deal with.”  I liked how Brad thought. 


Cam accompanied me to the rifle range set up immediately behind our most comfortable camp.  “You’ll be about 50-yards from the bait barrel, so I’ll set up a target at that distance.”  Sounded good to me.  Moments later from a “hunter’s rest” I created with two shots I crease a third of an inch hole immediately above the target’s “X” center.  “Think you’re ready!” said he with a smile. As I was packing my gear Cam reminded, “Be certain to take your rain gear.  It is going to rain this afternoon.  And you’ll be set up in a clear-cut without any canopy of trees.  The bait barrel is just inside the tree-line, but where you can fully see it or a bear approaching it.  There’s a log you can sit behind, and we’ll pull a could of shorter logs against it to further break up your outline, should make an excellent “hide!” 


Less than forty minutes later, after a bit of drive we approached where I would be sitting. Said Cam, “Gonna drop you off to set up while I add more bait to the barrel.”  As we had approached the bait I had told Cam and Brad who would be dropped off after I was I planned on staying until at least official sundown, even if I shot a bear early.  I had learned a long time before just because you shoot a good bear on a bait, it is not uncommon for an even bigger one to come in to the same bait after the shot.  Thus I bade Brad good luck and Cam a “See you later.”

No sooner had Cam and Brad left it started raining, intermittently lightly and then hard.  The first three hours I hardly saw even so much as a bird, just a lot of rain drops.  Hunkered into my raingear I was really keeping me dry.  Interestingly, the temperature hovered in the low to mid-40s. Even more interesting, I never even thought of starting the two Thermacells I regularly carry with me when hunting spring bear.  There was nary a mosquito!  Almost strange! 


I happened to glance at my phone; ten minutes before eight. I could see the bait barrel rather “fuzzily” through falling rain.  Then from just beyond it, I could see a huge black “glob”.  My rifle was pointed toward the barrel.  I reached up, pushed my Stealth Vision’s 3-18x44 scope’s lighted reticle switch to “On”, and cranked the variable magnification up to 5X.


There was no doubt the bear was BIG. He stood on all fours, easily looking over the top of the upright barrel.  I could see black on either side of the barrel.  The distance between the bear’s ears was well over half the width of the barrel.  My heart started beating like a hummingbird’s wings. Huge bear!


Thanks to how I was set up, my rifle did not so much as even wiggle as I peered through my scope. The bear moved a bit to his left, my right, he was quartered to me.  The red-lighted crosshairs were solid upon his chest.  But..I waited!  I wanted him a bit more exposed before pulling the trigger to be certain the bullet would pass through both lungs, knowing too a bear’s heart and lung are situated behind the front legs rather than immediately behind them.


The bear had from as soon as he showed up been looking in my direction, but also looked up toward where I would have been sitting had I been in the ladder stand.  No doubt he would never have approached the bait barrel had I been in the stand.  After what seemed like an eternity he finally took a couple of steps forward quartering less acutely in my direction.  I pushed the safety to “Fire”, double checked his angle, then determined how he stood I could drive the Hornady bullet through both lungs.  All this while it was continuing to rain quite hard.


I took one more deep breath, let it all out and gentled pull the trigger. At the shot, the bear rocked backwards a bit, then immediately turned and disappeared into the wall of trees behind the bait bucket.  He never ran, but still moved faster than allowing me a second shot.


There was no doubt I had the big bear squarely through his vitals.  But then there was…  I sat back.  In my mind I re-ran what had just happened.  I had to have hit him!  The crosshairs had been steady half-way from top to bottom of his chest.  Still he had simply turned and walked away as if nothing had happened.  Confidence, but still a little bit of doubt crept in.


The rain slowed shortly after my shot.  Clay and Cam had instructed to stay on stand after the shot and to not go look for blood or the bear.  I again relived what had happened. 


It started raining again, hard.  My intention had been to remain on stand until the end of legal shooting light at official sundown. I had told both Cam and Brad I would not call even if I shot a bear. But now I was quickly becoming concerned the heavy rain might wash away any blood.  I called Brad and asked him to contact Cam to tell him I had shot a bear that ran.


Thirty minutes later, Cam drove up.  I told him my story while we walked to where the bear had been standing when I shot.  Just beyond we found a very small fleck of blood.  We walked in the direction it appeared the bear had gone.  Ten yards later we found another very small spot of blood. Then numerous steps beyond we found one more small spot of blood, and then no more!


Had the bear quit bleeding because he was only wounded?  Had he quit bleeding because fat clogged the entrance and exit holes?  Had he continued bleeding, but the rain had washed away the blood? 


It was getting late and darkness was fast approaching. We could find no more blood.  Now I was truly questioning what happened.  “Break a bunch of limbs to mark where we last found blood.  We’ll have to come back in the morning. Temperatures will drop to near freezing tonight. The bear will be fine for the night and we’ll find him in the morning.” Commented Cam. 


I reluctantly followed him out the spongy woods back to where we had parked his vehicle.  It was going to be a long restless night!


Back at camp I told my story, had a delicious supper that would have tasted much better had my bear been on the skinning table rather then out in the woods, dead or alive.  I said many prayers and relived my shot innumerable times.  But always, I recalled the crosshairs being held solidly on the bear’s vitals.


Morning came none to soon! After a quick breakfast Cam, Clay and a couple of the other guides and I headed back to where we had lost the blood trail.  “You guys stay right here and wait for me to see what I can find beyond.” Instructed Clay.  “Looks like he’s headed in pretty much a straight line based on what little blood y’all found…” He continued as the disappeared into the dense trees and spongy path.


I had just started telling Cam a story when I heard Clay say, “Here he is!”  Although I heard him I could scarcely believe he had found my bear that quickly.  “He’s right here! And he’s huge!” Again said Clay.


He had scarcely finished those words.  I stood looking down had a truly huge black bear laying at my feet. Before I could say anything Cam was pounding on my back with congratulations.  I started to say something but all that came out was “Thank You Lord!  Thank You Cam and THANK YOU Clay!”


The black colored bear at my feet truly was huge of body.  Having taken a fair number of black bears in years past I had no doubt he would weigh well over 300-pounds and square a good bit north of 7-feet. I whispered a prayer of thanks.  Then accepted the congratulatory hands of Clay and Cam, and the the other two guides. 


After some in the field photos, the guides loaded my bear on a skid and pulled and pushed my bear back to the edge of the clear-cut where the four of them loaded my bear into the back of a vehicle for the trip back to headquarters.


Back at camp we took numerous more photos before my bear was skinned for a life-size mount, which will be done by Double Nickle Taxidermy near New Braunfels, Texas.  Once it was skinned the bear’s hide was “squared” by measuring from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, added to the measurement from the tip of the left front foot to the tip of the right.  That total was divided by two, the standard way of measuring a bear.  Using this method my bear squared 7-feet 8-inches.  Later the skull was also measured by placing it length-wise between two perpendicular uprights. This measure was added to the width of the skull by playing the perpendicular uprights at the widest part of the skull, at the zygomatic arch.  These two measurements totaled 20 ¼-inches…an impressive black bear, to say the least!  I could not have been more pleased!


Interestingly Mark Sidelinger’s bear, which he too had been taken the first afternoon of the hunt was almost a twin of mine.  Others in our camp had also taken really nice bears, their first.


The second evening of the hunt Cam dropped me at a bait.  “No place to do a ground blind at this bait.  Hope you don’t mind sitting in a tree stand…”  I assured him I would be fine even though I much prefer hunting bear from the ground.


That afternoon I saw nine different bear, six which appeared to be sows and young boars, and two bigger boars that had I not already taken the bear I had, either one I would have shot.  Both no doubt would have squared over 7-feet.  They were truly handsome!  The ninth was a young color phase bear, a blonde with a gorgeous coat!  I have to admit I was tempted, but it was young, most likely a young sow. 


One of my bear hunting goals is to take a BIG color phase bear, be it a blonde, cinnamon or chocolate brown.  But bit also equates to an older bear.  Far too often young color phase bears are shot before they have the opportunity to mature.  Much as I like the color of the young bear, I could not bring myself to pull the trigger on it.  I watched it walk away.


The following two nights I hunted on the ground, hear where a huge brown boar had been seen in the past.  He nor any other bear showed.  At the time we were on the cusp of the bear breeding season, so it was quite possible the big boar I hunted had moved to another area.


Last day of our hunt I arrived at a ground blind I had built where had been a nice cinnamon colored bear had been seen.  I arrived there about 9:30 in the morning and stayed there until almost 10:30 that evening, expecting a bear of my dreams to appear at any moment.  It did not.  Although at about 8 in the evening a sow with three cubs visited the area. While the cubs fed on the bait, the sow kept circling the area. Several times she was behind me.  I kept an eye on her until she drifted away.  The cubs, thankfully, followed.


In Alberta there are two bears on your license.  This allowed me to continue hunting after I have taken my big bear.  Others in our hunting group each took two bears.  I took one.  There had been other opportunities particularly with the two bigger bears the second evening.  I had chosen to pass on them, along with the young color phase in hopes of seeing a big mature color phase or an even bigger, than the one I shot, black colored bear.


I departed Alberta with great resolve to return to look for an exceedingly large color phase black bear that continues to evade me. I dearly love hunting bear! Perhaps one of these day I will see and take the bear of my dreams!






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