… and smaller bruins too.
We’re now well into December and thoughts turn to Christmas just around the corner. Yet my thoughts turn to spring time. I’ve come to not like winter very much as generally it means being more housebound on the heels of Covid-19 which doesn’t seem to want to go away! But I can make plans for the Spring of 2022.
Yes, I know that come April there will be the usual outside chores to be taken care of, but my hope is that a spring bear hunt will take shape into reality. And that’s not merely a “walk-about” hoping to see a sleepy bruin just out of its den, but a well-planned for bear adventure with a bait setup. In all the many years of hunting them, only once did I see a bruin that was not attending one of my baits. That was a big one and responding to my moose call.
Bears love spring calf moose, and I think calling moose isn’t a bad tactic either, but boar bears are hungry for almost anything after emerging from their long winter’s nap. Sow bears are more reticent if they have cubs with them, and usually hang around the den for a few weeks before venturing very far away. But since the reintroduction of the spring bear hunt here in Ontario, they’ve set the starting date to May 1st for most BMAs which means that females may also show up at baits by then. Formerly, the start dates were mid-April. Politics made that change as someone in authority decided that female bears should have “equal opportunities” as the males – sound familiar? From many years of spring hunting bears, before it was shut down, I never saw a female bear with cubs at any of my bait sites, and never did I hunt, or have to, into the month of June.
The downside of a spring hunt is the millions of black flies followed by deer flies and mosquitoes. And all of that is dependant on weather cycles: Wet-warm weather is bad for flying insects whereas cool-dry weather is best. In any case, we get prepared by the use of head nets, tight clothes, calf-high boots with pants tucked inside and bug spray! Be wary, however, in using insect repellent on bare hands! It will mar the finish of your rifle or even engrave fingerprints wherever it’s touched, even on metal!
So I have to plan on sources for bait, and then where to set up a bait site, or sites. Already I have in mind where the primary bait site will be located. That will be a new site with relatively easy access for baiting and retrieving a dead bear, which brings up the subject of a rifle and load to insure a bear doesn’t run off into a thick tangle of brush after bullet impact.
The RIFLE: either the Ruger #1 in .458 Winchester Magnum or the Tikka T3 Lite in 9.3 x 62. And it may very well be that I’ll take one or the other on alternating days – the .458 Win one day and the 9.3 x 62 the next, and so on until a bruin is harvested. If a sow shows up with cubs, that’s a pass both ethically and legally. Otherwise, I’ll not be waiting on the “perfect” trophy! Since the bear, large or small, must be eaten, smaller is always better than larger. And it’s easier to get rid of all the meat that won’t fit into your freezer if it’s smaller.
So the hunt will be an adventure – I’m sure with some surprises! The baiting process alone is often a memorable event because you never know what might happen on route or on arrival at the site! Best advice? Be READY for any unexpected developments, such as a bear charge! A big male dominant bear that has laid claim to a food source will defend it against all comers, even other bears! Or a female present with cubs will interpret the sudden approach by a hunter as a threat to her cubs! Though she may retreat with her cubs, she could also quickly go into attack mode! So, it’s best to have a path to your blind or tree stand that doesn’t surprise any bear at the bait site. We go to the blind or stand BEFORE approaching the bait site with supplies. And we refresh the bait (if needed) well in advance of sitting in blind or stand for the hunt. While those are separate activities, we still need to be prepared for any surprises – taking nothing for granted as any bear could be nearby coming to the bait, or resting, or hiding, waiting for the right time – even darkness! From over thirty years of hunting black bears over bait, I’ve had all of those experiences, except never having been charged by a black bear. Yet, we’ve had a couple that were wounded hiding in thick brush till daylight waiting to attack their assailants.
The LOAD: I’ve shot a few bears with the Tikka in 9.3 x 62, but have yet to shoot any creature with the #1 Ruger in .458 Win. So likely that’ll be the one favored to take a black bear. The bullet I have in mind for that are the newly acquired 550g Woodleigh Weldcores at about 1800 fps. The propellant will be either AA5744 or H4895, whichever gives the best accuracy. Of course, AA5744 will give the least recoil because significantly less propellant than H4895 will be used to make 1800 fps. Why 1800 fps? Because I don’t need more than that for even the largest black bear in Ontario! And 1800 fps might give some expansion on even the smallest at about 65 to 80 yards distant.
The jacket of the 550g Woodleigh is guilding metal at 90% copper and 10% zinc, but the fused lead core is said to be “pure lead” with a lot of it exposed. The jacket is also thinner near the mouth and .06″ thick in the shank and base. So I’m hopeful that some expansion will take place at around 1650 to 1700 fps impact. Of course, a lung hit is one matter and a solid shoulder hit involving some heavy bone is entirely another. In any case, I want a dead bear at the site, and that means waiting for the right shot.
< The Woodleigh Weldcore RN 550 grain.
As to the Tikka in 9.3 x 62, I’d never previously planned on using anything more than the 286g Nosler Partition for any game in our province, including moose. But for this particular hunt I’m thinking of using the 320g Woodleigh Weldcore since I’ve purchased a new box at a very descent price which allows significant practice time. I also have a load for that bullet that puts it on a par with a .375 H&H or .375 Ruger – that being the 320g Woodleigh at 2500 fps, and that’s more than capable for a Cape buffalo! Why such a load for a black bear? Just because… It’s not a matter of “need” but simply wanting to use that bullet to see what happens. It hasn’t previously been used in hunting – only in developing loads for testing at the range. Recoil has been “up there” in the 7.3 lb rifle at about 52 ft-lbs without additional ammo in the clip. I killed a bear with the 286 NP at around 47 ft-lbs recoil with three in the clip plus one in the chamber.
The muzzle brake should put some brakes on the effects of the 320g at around 2500 fps. That should tone things down to around 40 ft-lbs with three more in the magazine clip. And I could/may load another four or five in a butt-stock ammo holder increasing weight to just over 8 lbs while reducing “felt recoil” to about 37 ft-lbs.
<Another option is the 600g Barnes RN. It’s 1.65″ BOL and 0.33″ where brass meets lead. It has been modified since the Original which was 1/10″ shorter with little taper, less lead exposed at the tip and no cannelure. I’ll not be crimping in the cannelure as there’s no need for that. Instead, I’ll use a COL of over 3.7″ or whatever works best for accuracy at about 1750 fps. I fired a full box (20) through my former #1 Ruger in .45-70 LT at up to 1900 fps, and that was not absolute max. They were accurate enough but showed some tilting at 100 yards. The 1 in 20″ twist rate of the rifling wasn’t sufficient for complete stability. The 1 in 14″ of my #1 Ruger in .458 Win should be more than adequate.
In the proposed bear hunt, the TIKKA T3 will be handier to tote but the #1 Ruger should be easier on the shoulder at about 36 ft-lbs of recoil. And more significantly, that recoil in ft-lbs will be spread over more time at slower fps.
The Ruger in .458 has a 2 – 7 x 32mm Nikon scope (it was also used on my former #1 in .45-70 LT), and the Tikka in 9.3 x 62 has a new 3 – 9 x 40mm Bushnell Elite that will be slightly brighter at 5x than the Nikon. That’s the magnification I usually employ for bear hunting at less than 100 yards. As to details at 75 yards, it simulates sighting a bear at 15 yards without optical aid.
I’m looking forward to this, and matters will evolve over the winter as I continually work out to improve physical strength, and other stuff falls into place. There’s a sayin’ about a planned trip that “Getting there is half the fun.” Well, in regard to a hunting adventure, I’ll say “Planning it is half the fun!” It may not work out exactly as planned, and other details will likely be added, but “planning it” helps dispel the winter blahs! Yet as God and weather permits, I’ll do some wolf hunting in late March, 2022. My rifle will be the Tikka in 9.3 x 62. When I get my rifle back from the smith, it will need to be re-sighted anyway. Hopefully, the snow will not be too deep for range work. If it is then it will be the Ruger in .458 and the deer load of the 250g Hornady MonoFlex at 2610 fps. It’s already sighted dead on at 150 yards and sub-MOA.
So much to do for ’22: new game tags, new stickers for the plates on my Ford by the end of this month, and a new driver’s license by April 4, 2022. By then I’ll be ready to do some scouting for the best location for my “new” bear-bait setup.
That may very well be here on the edge of the woods near the right side of the pic. The blind will be on top of “Mount Shalom” on the upper left of the photo.
< A closer look at “Mount Shalom” with my Ruger #1 in .458 resting at its bottom. It was between myself and this sheer “mount” that over a period of about a month I progressively saw a big bear print, increased deer tracks – including those of a very large buck – and finally over the last couple of days of the last week of the deer hunt, three sets of moose tracks of a bull, cow and calf. This area had at least two years of logging operations that was finished about a year ago, and it’s apparent that wildlife are moving back into the area. So that looks promising for a spring bear hunt.
I named it “Mount Shalom” because of a sense of peace there. “Peace” in Hebrew is, of course, “Shalom”, so it’s “Peace Mountain” – the top of a high ridge in the Haliburton Highlands that ends in a sheer cliff.
Til the next…
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.” (Jeremiah 17: 5, 7)