The second wounded bear was similar to the first in several respects — only about a decade later. The location was the same and the caliber rifle, but the cartridge was a .350 Rem Mag instead of a .35 Whelen. And the range was about 30 yards rather than 100. Also, I had a partner by my side, Ken.
I’ve told that event again recently so will spare too many details. We were hunting from the blind near the top of a ridge in the Haliburton Highlands which was my primary baiting location, with this distinction: the bait was 35 yards closer in front of one of the typical large boulders scattered throughout the region. So it was originally 65 yards from blind to the bait barrel. A dominant bruin was visiting the bait, but when we were not there. Getting late in the season (late October), with the leaves of the hardwoods falling, exposed our location that the bear was familiar with. He’d not come to the bait if we were behind the blind. But he came up through a finger of conifers, and in behind us silently to check us out — when we were there he’d try to spook us by approaching silently within 10 feet at our backs, then suddenly go crashing off like a transport truck in a wreck on Ontario Highway 401 (The Trans Canada Highway). He did that once when Ken and I were both there, and again the week following when I was there alone. (Left click on pics for a better view.)
<This pic was taken the week I was there alone. The rifle was my Ruger No.1 in .45-70 LT loaded with the 350 TSX at 2470 fps/4740 ft-lbs – not max. The bear was in thick bush within 8 – 10 feet behind the chair I was seated in. I stood to take this photo, and when I moved to return to my seat he did his “crash test” through the bush for about 30 yards, and then dead silence. By the way, notice the hole, rips, tears and bites — all done by dominant black bears!
We decided to move the blind downhill closer to the bait and make it a part of the forest. That worked. He came in about 5 PM from behind the big boulder. The boulder was 30 inches high and I saw his back above the boulder by at least 6″ – 8″ just before he completely emerged. But he didn’t go directly to the bait. Instead, he went behind the only mature tree, facing me from about 25 yards! I could only see his sides and ears. He stayed there without flinching for what seemed like a couple of eternities while I had my Remington M673 up, pointed in his direction with safety off, and chambered with a 250gr Speer GS that would leave the muzzle at +2700 fps. Ken had his rifle “up” too and ready, but it was my shot, and he was wondering why I didn’t shoot as he had a better angle about five feet to my left. Finally, the bear decided to leave in a flash… he turned 180 degrees and started to make a beeline for cover directly away. I had a millisecond as he swung, and I fired at his shoulder as he switched ends, making his move. He turned on the afterburners and disappeared into the brush in less time than it takes to tell it. Ken unleashed his .270 Win and the 150 Federal Partition load found dirt well beyond the bear. Mine took off a piece of fur and hide from his left shoulder. Then it got dark and the chase was done.
The next day we were there for followup. Ken with his only centerfire — the .270, and I with my Marlin in .45-70. And again, I went where the bear would go… into the thickest tangle of bush. There I again found a patch of blood where he spent the night watching his back-trail. Eventually, Ken was on hands and knees following droplets of blood into the thickest brush imaginable. I stood guard during the two-hour process. It led to a game trail and then off the trail into an impenetrable tangle of alders. We abandoned the chase at that point.
There were, as in the first case, several lessons taught and hopefully learned. More than the rifle and load, it concerned knowledge and patience. The load was excellent and the rifle had superb accuracy shooting that load into 1/2 MOA.
Knowledge: 1) The habitat. Knowing bear habitat — where they come from, how they live and where are keys to baiting them, or, on the other hand, finding and stalking them.
3) A dominant bore bear will claim a bait site, berry patch, corn field or fruit tree as his! And he will stay in the area until he believes it’s finished — done — kaput! Just like a Kodiak bear on a moose carcass!
Patience:4) A wounded dominant black bear will not leave the country! If the shot is a complete miss he’ll wait in a hide until it’s “safe”. If wounded, he’ll wait in a hide to discover what caused it with a spirit of revenge!
5) Never do a followup on a wounded bruin alone, unless there is no other recourse. Even then, we must know the terrain and a bear’s nature.
6) Know when “to fold ’em”.
7) Don’t wait until dark before leaving the woods or bush, the bear might have circled behind you!
8) Don’t be naive and “trust a bear”… even a “dead one”.
9) Don’t be naive and “trust a bear”… even a “fed one”.
10) Don’t be naive and “trust a bear”… even one that ran from you.
<(That was my CZ550 in .458 Winchester Magnum in sneaking through the bush.)
Any predator that can run up to 35 mph/57 kph and weigh between 150 to 650 lbs, and has a record of killing humans, IS DANGEROUS GAME and not to be taken lightly!
MY FIRST BEAR FOLLOWUP was when I was still a novice at this game. I had been spring bear hunting in May for a few years with the same outfitter in the northeast of our province not too far from the Quebec border. My outfitter/guide was Norm from that area just southeast and east of Algonquin Park. He was the only legal outfitter of that huge region. Often, he had as many as 85 baits set out throughout that BMA. So each time I went it was a new-to-me location. I enjoyed that for eight full seasons and saw a lot of mountainous — lake strewn — rivers and streams, rugged country.
That is where I learned bear hunting over bait. Norm involved me and was a good teacher — more by actions and example than by words — though he answered all questions and explained why he did matters in a particular way — or why he felt that a particular spot was good for a bait setup.
On one such excursion, it was of course new to me but also a relatively new location for Norm. Only one hunter had preceded me there and that was one of his guides who had hunted a good bear with a bow. He shot it in the rump on the edge of darkness and the arrow went through the plastic milk container (for toting milk to customers, that covered the bait) and attached the plastic box to the rump of the bear as it departed into the darkness! That was the last he saw of that bear.
I was the next hunter to that spot. Norm had to leave for the Pearson International Airport in Toronto to pick up his daughter for a wedding… he would be gone for the day. I was entirely on my own, driving his three-wheeler over a tortuous trail to the location from my parked vehicle a mile away.
When I arrived, there was no stand or blind as he had warned… but lots of natural ones behind boulders or dead-falls on the opposite side of the trail uphill on a ridge. I found a suitable spot with a smallish boulder (compared to most) for a seat and a small fir tree in front as a blind. The bait was downhill and across the trail, into a ditch about 65 yards away. I was ready with my 300 Weatherby Magnum loaded with 220-gr Hornadys at 2800 fps/3829 ft-lbs at the muzzle and around 2650 fps/3430 ft-lbs at impact. I could peek around the smallish tree to check the bait every 30 sec. or so. And I found a branch on the tree that could serve as support when and if I fired a shot.
That briefly sums matters up! It became a waiting game for the next three hours or so. As 8 pm approached, I looked around the tree more often as the time for big bruins was drawing near! My handsome Weatherby Vanguard, with Claro walnut stock and white-line spacers, dark walnut fore end tip and pistol grip cap, and 24″ barrel was as accurate with my handloads as any I’ve every made from home-brewed loads — at sub-moa. And that 220gr load was no less accurate at 2800 fps MV.
The rifle was slipped onto the chosen branch of the small fir tree which created a small gap between the branches for clear vision of the bait setup about 65 yards downhill from me. Without pre-announcement the bear — and it was mature in all respects — quietly appeared in a standoffish position to the right of the bait. It was being cautious! Just as I squeezed the Timney aftermarket trigger the branch supporting my rifle (about 8.5 lbs total) decided to take a nap or fainted, whatever… anyway it collapsed under the heavy burden of 8.5 lbs and the bullet hit somewhere other than the target!
Have you ever witnessed a big buck take off from a standing start when spooked? Well… a big bear could catch it in a couple of bounds! He took off to my left — the direction he was headed — like a rocket! I mean, you would have had to witness it to believe it! He was hitting 30 – 35 mph in his second bound and fully disappeared into hair-thick foliage where he leapt into a ravine never stopping until he bulldozed through some underbrush left by loggers — then all fell silent as though he’d been taken into space by some aliens!
I didn’t know the ravine was there as it was shrouded in bush! But the bear did! He landed on his front paws that sunk into moss covered ground a couple inches never losing stride! In my followup I quit at the top of the ravine that was straight down! And I wasn’t about to slither down a vertical rock cliff only to be met by 3 feet of broken timber left by loggers… alone! Remember Norm was in Toronto at the airport!
Rule No.2 > never search for a wounded bear ALONE! But I had to make sure there was no evidence that the 220-gr had hit the bear in any part of its anatomy! After a meticulous search on the ground, branches, and at the bait site, and my instinct from the failed branch fiasco, all together told me that a search for a non-wounded bear in unfamiliar physical conditions would not only be futile, but foolish!
The following day I informed Norm, and he moved me to a new location.
Oh! By-the-way, what’s Rule No.1?
1> To be fired from a suitable rifle.
2> Suitable for all bears and any bear.
3> Under any and all conditions.
4> Larger is better than smaller.
5> Construction suited to muzzle velocity.
6> Construction suited to impact velocity.
7> Not too hard and not too soft.
8> Not a FMJ.
9> Not a varmint bullet.
10> Not a target bullet — most game bullets are accurate enough if the rifle and hunter is.
Recoil management is another topic. But Rule No.1 is shoot a rifle you are both comfortable with and familiar with.
Til the next… Some cartridge comparisons.