Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Yuppy Farm Girls Bear Adventure

Who goes bear hunting on their honeymoon, when one member of the newlywed couple has never been hunting for anything other than a bargain, remote or lost car keys?  Why us of course.

We had originally planned a fly in fishing trip for our honeymoon, but my husband is a farmer who has to drive a truck and taking time off 2 months in a row, would be difficult at best. So when our oldest son’s ACT scheduling conflicted with him making this year’s traditional Brothers and Sons bearhunting trip, my husband asked if I’d like to hunt in his place atAll Terrain Bear Hunts with outfitter Cory Grant.   

My dad, who raised 4 girls, always told me I would hate hunting.  He said you have to wash up in the lake, and you can’t have hair dryers.  Knowing this my husband asked me if I was sure I wanted to go hunting bear since I’ve never hunted before.  I looked at him with a very cocky attitude and said “Go Big or Go Home Baby”.  This quickly became my 12 year old bonus son’s and my phrase the whole trip.  We both ended up going home, and sadly I have to admit I scared off my son’s 500 pound chocolate trophy bear.  Just think of the story you’d be reading if that would have been his first bear!

There was a mad dash of getting a passport for me and purchasing my very first bow.  Getting your very first bow could be a story of its own.  It’s a lot like giving birth to your first child.  Holding your new born baby you realize what a warrior you are, holding your very first bow you realize you have the power to be a mighty huntress (for a gal that is).  Little did I know what a powerful experience this whole trip would be.

We arrived at All Terrain Bear Hunt in Thompson, Manitoba Canada after a 3 day long road trip from Kansas and met up with our hunting guide Cory.  By the time we arrived the guys were all convinced I didn’t need a bow to hunt I’d be just fine wrestling a bear down with my bare hands.  Let’s just say being cooped up in a pick-up truck with five men is not necessarily ideal when you’re the only woman. I’ve apologized.

We rode by boat to the cabin we would call home for the next 5 days.  What an experience it was seeing the beautiful maple trees surrounded by more Pine trees than even Deep East Texas.  That evening as we settled in, Cory showed us all trail cam pictures of where we would be going.  He asked my husband how he felt about hunting in a ground blind.  

Anticipation started rising at the thought of being in a ground blind with the bears he was showing us on trail cams.  We saw a 500 pound chocolate, a 7 ft. black bear and a pushing 600 pound cinnamon, with some gorgeous blonde bears that were average size.  

Originally I had contemplated hunting by myself.  This was my sons first official hunt, and even though it was mine too, I thought it would be better for Dad & Son to be together as a riteof passage.  That was until I saw the pictures.  I had no clue what I was doing, and the thought of being alone freaked me out.  Cory in his infinite wisdom didn’t feel us two rookies should be alone, so I was placed with my husband the first 3 nights and my son with his uncle.  I felt relief and guilt at the same time.  

Our first night out, Kendall and I were in the ground blind.  Every movement or sound I was sure was a bear, and I was sure it was coming for the fresh meat on the ground.  We had about 25 squirrels and no, I’m not exaggerating, come in that night.  Not one bear.  The trail cam had shown 4 good size bears going to that site on a regular basis.  The weather was cold, and rainy and if I was a bear I wouldn’t be out either.  

My son’s first night out they were in a double stand.  They had 4 bears come in.  They never were really presented with a good shot.  When it was the end of the evening, Cory picked up my husband and I first and we took a boat ride over to pick up my son and brother-n-law.  As I saw my son walk out of the woods, I saw his megawatt smile.  My whole night of seeing imaginary bears was quickly not the point of my night.   There is no greater joy than seeing your son smile that big even though he didn’t get a bear that night.  I sat in back of the boat with Cory as I watched my son and brother-n-law tell my husband about their sightings.  I watched with amazement and awe as they all smiled.  That moment was what hunting is really about. The second night was a mirror to our first night out.

Our third night out, we went to where we had been the two nights before, only this time the sun was out. I started off once again seeing imaginary animals, when suddenly a loud tree crack caught our attention.  My husband whispered that was too big to be anything other than a bear.  So we sat for 10 minutes in complete silence, watching and waiting.  Directly in front of usabout 100 yards, I saw movement and there was no denying it was a bear!  Both my husband and I thought he looked huge from that far back. I turned to my husband and asked him if he wanted him, I wasn’t here for a trophy and that sure looked like a trophy.  Kendall told me to just watch him come in and we would gauge his size when he came all the way in.  

As he got closer we realized he was an average size bear but his coat was gorgeous.  He was mine.  There it was, a perfect broadside shot opportunityKendall told me to draw my bow butI couldn’t do it.  I was shaking with adrenaline too bad because this very moment was what I had waited for.  The bear must have heard a noise and when he started to move, I had the perfect broad side shot. Kendall told me to draw three timeswhile I was drawing my bow back for the shot.  I ended up shooting too low, and missed my bear.  I had never practiced sitting down and shooting my bow and at closer than 10 yards;so I aimed low, thinking it would be just like shooting at 10 yards.  It wasn’t, it went exactly where I had it aimed.  I missed my bear.  

When Cory arrived that night, my other 2 boys that stayed at camp came along with him.  In case, step-mom had gotten a bear.  I cried like a baby they had come.  Knowing I had a chance at a bear and they could have shared in that with me meant more than just getting a bear.  I again went home empty handed but my heart was full.  

When it was time to head out of our site, we packed up and walked down to the water’s edge.  Time started passing and I started getting worried.  I knew there were bears in those woods;we were an open target just waiting.  Looking at my husband, he must have known what I was thinking because he said surely the others got a bear and would be there shortly.  After an eternity of waiting (okay, twenty minutes) the boat arrived. Inside that boat was my son and brother-n-law, my son smiling bigger than ever introducing me to the blonde beauty in the boat with them.  I quickly asked whose it was, which Hunter told me Uncle Kevins.  None the less, it was a celebration night.  Someone was going home with a bear.  

My dear, patient husband, who was blowing his hunting nights being stuck with me, was going to get to hunt by himself the next two nightsand would be going after a huge cinnamon that had returned after being wounded by previous hunters.  Cory decided he had the perfect spot for 2 rookies; Hunter and I were going to go out together in a tree stand.

Trying to put on a brave front, knowing I’m going up in a tree, we walked past huge fresh bear evidence.  As we get closer to the tree, we notice the beaver head lying in the tree stand floor and obvious bear claw prints in the dirt up the ladder.  We both climb up and secure ourselves.  I pulled out the scent spray to start spraying down, and my son told me to wait until Cory had left.  Cory went back out telling my husband who was waiting to go to his stand we saw the beaver head and had already pulled out the bear mace.  I promise it was the scent spray!

Within 30 minutes our first bear came in.  He was an average size, black bear with a tan snout but rubbed very badly all over.  We sat and watched as he filled his stomach and wondered off.

Not even an hour later, another average size black bear.  We watched him for a good while, and I decided that he was my chance at taking a bear home.  We had already determined that Hunter would have first shot at the 500 pound chocolate that had been visiting this site. I would go for average size.  It was to be my first bear and an average size bear was good for me.  I wasn’t scared or shaking.  Thinking, this was going to be much easier than the night before; I drew my bow, suddenly like a race horse he was gone.  

As I start to turn back around, I see him; all 500 glorious pounds of chocolate bear.  I started shaking and felt the blood drain from my face.  Hunter looked at me knowing something was up and asked what?  As quietly as I could told him his bear was here.  He told me to freeze and not move a muscle.  Hunters bear saw me, and off he went.  Not too fast, but more of a cautious ease away.  Feeling horrible, I started praying “Dear God, just let him come back” over and over about 5 times.Turning to Hunter I said he had to come back, he moved away too slowly I didn’t think he was scared off.  Almost in tears and prayingwe waited for that beauty to come back in.  He never did.  I blew my son’s chance at his trophy.  I will never ever live this moment down.  

An hour before it was time to go back to camp, the tree again shook and I felt wetness and a plop on my head.  I look around wondering what is going on, because even though the wind had been blowing it had not been blowing that hard.  Hunter looks up, and pointed and whispered “bear”.  Knowing this child, and how he loves to pull pranks I didn’t believe him. I took my hat off and glanced up and didn’t see anything.  I placed my hand on my hat and pulled my hand back down and smelled.  Yes, I smelled.  It was definitely excretions.  I again pull my hat off and glance up to see a bear in the tree with us.  

At first it looked like a cub, maybe two.  Now we were really worried, where there are cubs there is a sow looking for those cubs.  I couldn’t with good conscience shoot any bear that came in, it might be that sow.  I did pull the mace out then; we could be in a very dangerous spot now. I then told Hunter with a smile on my face, we’ve been here all night with him what’s another hour? We then figured out it was a yearling and not a cub, so I felt a little more safe.

About 15 minutes before last light, my bear came back.  I was going to take the shot.  Hunter seemed very proud that I was going to take the shot.  Waiting and waiting for the broadside shot, I drew back my bow to make sure my light was still good enough.  Then as he gave me a quartering away shot, Cory and my other son, Garrett, came in on four wheelers to take us home.  My bear took off, guess that serves me right.  That night my dear patient husband didn’t see any bears.  He was however in the presence of a completely white wolf.  

Our final night, Hunter didn’t want to go back to the tree stand with me as I had scared his bear off.  Couldn’t really blame him, but I was convinced we needed to go together one last time.  You see, the night before I discovered what it felt like to reallysit with your son. No words, no need to fill the silence, just sit and be together.  High up in a tree, neither one of us able to pretend there was something more important going on at the time.   It was quality time that a lot of people talk about having but don’t ever really have the chance for.  There were quite a few times that night where he rested his head on my shoulder, as he would have as a baby or small child had he been mine from birth.  I had already raised 3 boys over the age of 18, and I took a lot of moments I shouldn’t have for granted.   That night, I was not going to take anything for granted.  

My husband’s last night by himself was spent seeing his trophy cinnamon 80 yards out on a date with his girlfriend.  The wind was blowing pretty hard, and neither one came in.  Had Kendall taken his gun, I’m sure he would have had his biggest bear yet.Hunter’s and my last night was spent watching a small black bear enjoy our bait site.

The experiences of hearing my husband’s excitement behind me as I was going for my first bear, my son’s head on my shoulder, seeing my boys come to pick me up after my hunt night, far outweigh any bear I could have brought home this trip. learned hunting isn’t just about shooting and killing, it’s not always about coming home with food or a trophy, or your husband trying to get away from you; sometimes it’s just about being with the people you love.  Not having to talk, but just being present with each other.  Moments you can’t get anywhere else. Quit nagging your husbands, and I challenge you to go out with them.  Camo up from head to toe and that includes your face, scent free yourself and arm up.  Spend some time with a member of your family in a tree stand, and keep quiet.  If you really get what I’m saying, your blessing is going to be 10 fold.

There are not enough good words to describe All Terrain Bear Hunts and Cory Grant.  That man knows his bears; he knows his sites that he takes you.  He doesn’t just drop you off and say good luck. Cory baits his sites, to suit the situation.  For the first time bear hunter, you will not find another place better to go.  For the seasoned bear hunter you will get all your BIG bear thrills.  The fishing is divine too.  We had 3 amazing fish breakfasts, that were caught right there off the dock at our cabin.  

Will I hunt again?  You better believe it, I’m anxiously awaiting deer season.  Plus, I already told my husband he’s not ever leaving me out on a bear trip.  The rush you get seeing your first bear, and I imagine anytime you see a bear is up there with one of the best feelings in the world.  Especially when you experience it with those you love most.