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North America has so much to offer when it comes to big game hunting. No matter what you hunt here in Ohio, everyone needs to find time to make a trip out of state to hunt a different species our great continent has to offer. From elk to moose, big horn sheep to mule deer. It can be a tough decision as to what trip you’d like to invest in. And most of the time, the investment narrows down your options. Let’s not kid ourselves. Probably 99.9% of us don’t have $50K just laying around to spend on a big horn sheep hunt. When I begin planning for a yearly hunting trip, I am looking at the least expensive hunts I can find that will still give me a good chance at being successful. Since I’m a bowhunter, this narrows my choices down even more. We’re talking hog hunts, pronghorn, public land elk in Colorado (the only state you can buy over-the-counter elk tags), DIY mule deer, turkey, and black bear. The hunt I am going to focus on in this article is a black bear hunt. The ins and outs, the approximate cost, and what to expect when you arrive at bear camp.
I’ve been on several black bear hunts with several different guides over the past few years, and have talked with numerous other hunters about their experiences in the bear woods. So although I may not have the knowledge about bears as I do whitetails and turkeys here in Ohio, I can give you a rough idea of what to expect no matter which outfitter you decide to go with. First off, as for where to go for your black bear hunt I highly recommend getting your passport and making a trip to Canada. You could book a trip somewhere in the states, but in my opinion, success rates and bigger bears live in the Land of the Leaf. Quebec has a ton of black bears and some big ones too. My guide is about 45 minutes into Quebec from the Ontario border, but we’ll talk about him later. Alberta and Manitoba are historically great for black bears as well as New Brunswick and Ontario. Depending on the province, this could make for a very short trip via your truck and trailer.
Now, when I say truck and trailer, most of the time you’re going to need to bring your ATV or UTV along with you. Most bear camps you’ll either stay in a lodge or cabin, then to travel to your stand, you’ll be making quite a trip back into the Canadian bush on some not so nice roads. Although some states you can hunt without a guide, I highly recommend booking with a guide. They’ve done their homework, they’ve probably been baiting all spring (which I recommend even though fall hunting can be great too), and you’ll find you have a much better chance at success with a guide. Black bears can be hunted spot and stalk, but I recommend hunting a bait from a stand. Once you step foot in the Canadian bush in May or June, you’ll understand… there’s no pinpointing these bears without a bait.
To take you through a typical black bear hunt, I’ll be using my guide’s way of doing things as a comparison. Now, understand every outfitter is different, but this should give you a rough idea of what to expect. Typically it’s a five day hunt. Arrive on a Saturday which from Cambridge, OH to camp it’s about 13 hours. Not a long trip compared to most. We buy our licenses, tags, and our food for the week in town before we head down the back roads to camp. We stay in a cabin and must provide our food for the week whereas if you stay at the lodge, they provide three home cooked meals a day. We usually try to arrive in the morning or around lunch. We’ll unload the truck and trailer into the cabin. Then that evening we’ll take the ATV’s and follow the guide as he will not only show us where we will be hunting and hanging our stands, but also he will bait the barrels again so they are fresh for the hunt. Most guides have you bring your own stands for liability reasons.
Some outfitters suggest hunting both morning and evening but most of the time you’ll just hunt the evenings when bears are most active on the baits. So we usually fish the nearby lake in the mornings until it’s time to head out each evening. Make sure you take your Thermacell! If you didn’t know already, the black flies and mosquitoes are terribly thick during spring in Canada. Thermacells will not spook the bears, and be the difference between hunting comfortably, and a miserable hunt. If you forget your Thermacell even one night, expect to turn into a human bug bite. They are not friendly!
As far as pricing goes, every outfitter is different. Most of the time, you get what you pay for. However, for the hunt our guide provides, it is a very inexpensive hunt. To stay in a cabin it’s about $1200 per person as opposed to the lodge which is $1500 per person. Like I stated before, the lodge includes your meals whereas staying in a cabin you must bring your own. Plus you need to factor gas money, taxes, and your license and tag which in Quebec are roughly $275. Hunting trips are never cheap, But if you do a little shopping, you can get a deal that could still lead you to a filled tag.
No matter what the hunt, just make sure you have a pretty good idea of what to expect going in, and always have a checklist for your gear. If you’re like me, you always forget something. So I always make a checklist to make sure I have it all. If you’re interested in booking a black bear hunt in the future, I highly recommend booking with Shawn Sullivan of Pontiac Lodge, Quebec. He treats everyone like family, and you’re going to have plenty of shot opportunities at bears. His website is: www.pontiaclodge.ca where you can find his contact info and all sorts of photos of the beautiful scenery and bears taken from camp, as well as a printer friendly checklist for all the essential gear for a black bear hunt. Stay tuned next month, as we talk tree stand safety. launchtoi.com/LukeFabian