Objective: Film an episode of “Forever Wild Outdoors Adrenaline Adventures” on the Pursuit Channel
Date: September 17-23, 2016
Species to be hunted: Bear and Wolf
Place: Watson’s Kaby Lodge, North-Central Ontario, Canada
Participants: Steve Schicker, Gerry Rightmyer, Ben Lowe, Bryan Carr
Since early 2016, the plan was set. We received an invitation to film a wolf/bear hunt in North-Central Ontario, Canada with Tom & Michel Watson, from Watson’s Kaby Lodge. Last year, we were able to harvest two beautiful north-country bruins, one with archery equipment, and the other with a bolt-action rifle.
It would be my third trip to this camp, so I have some familiarity with the area, the lodge, and the staff. It feels like a second home. The owners, guides, and scenic beauty of Canada and Watson’s Kaby Lodge are something I look forward to each and every year. It’s an addiction. Hunting big game animals in a wilderness area is a treat. The memories, fun, and camaraderie are all things I cherish on any hunt, so the mere fact I’m able to experience this adventure is a blessing for sure!
Our goal was to film an episode (or two) for our upcoming Season 4 on the Pursuit Channel. We planned to hunt in teams of two, one cameraman per hunter, hunting wolf and bear and filling as many tags as possible. It was the last week of bear season, the leaves were beginning to turn, and you could sense a change in the air. The nights were starting to cool down, the moose were beginning to rut, and there was a definite feeling that winter’s door was about to open.
Generally speaking, we would hunt and film for wolves in the mornings, come back to camp for lunch, and then return to a new bait site to sit for black bear the rest of the evening. The first few days we hunted hard. Ben Lowe and I had two run-ins with Ursus americanus. One encounter occurred on the third evening, when the clang of a bow against the stand blew our chance, and again on the fourth night when the bear caught our scent and ambled away unscathed.
Each day was a new adventure, we observed otter, pine marten, beaver, eagles, and every sort of Canadian fauna imaginable, but we just couldn’t get the job done on bear or wolves. Watching animals going about their daily business is one of the many highlights of any hunt. It also helps the time pass. Our binoculars got a workout each day as we continuously glassed the surrounding shorelines and bait sites.
As the week wore on, our group decided to mix things up a bit. Each hunter was putting in the time, but as with any fair chase hunt, sometimes the “critters need to cooperate”! There were bear sightings throughout the week, but for one reason or another, we had nothing to show for all of our time and effort. We felt we needed to increase our odds of harvesting bear or wolf, so we decided to split up and “self film”. After a brief discussion and team meeting, we felt that “splitting up” would double our chances of encountering a bear, so each member of the group would film their own hunt. This decision proved challenging, but one we felt needed to be employed given the hunting conditions, and the amount of time remaining on our trip. Two members of our group would be hunting with bow and arrow and the other two would be hunting with rifles.
Most bears in the area were getting ready for hibernation, so we knew that they’d be hitting the bait sites eventually. Any bruin hoping to see next spring would assuredly be “putting on the pounds”, so we continued to feel upbeat about our chances of killing a bear on a bait site. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time! The more bait sites we could sit, the better our chances of seeing a bear.
Our guides, Tom and Adam, were busy hustling hunters to and from wolf “sit” to bear baits each and every day, so the decision to “split up” the hunting party made their schedules logistically more challenging. Some bear baits were more than 15 miles away (by boat) from base camp, so planning was essential in order to make sure each hunter had an optimum chance for success. It also meant that some hunters would have long waits for pick-up each night. Just an FYI… if you don’t like sitting in the dark in bear and wolf-infested wilderness for an hour or more, waiting to be picked up by your guide, you may want to consider a different hobby!
With a day and a half left in our trip, the first hunter to score on a bear was pro staffer Bryan Carr. Bryan arrowed his 200+ pound bear a little after four o’clock in the afternoon. Bryan’s first bear would require a follow-up recovery, as his arrow struck a little far back on the bruin. Little did he know that his bow-sight was loose, and factored in on his initial shot. The next morning, after a short blood trail from Tom’s dog, Riser, the bear lay dead, and the celebrations began! One bear down… three to go!
The same afternoon of Bryan’s encounter, yours truly scored on his second bear at Watson’s Kaby Lodge. At five pm, I noticed some branches and leaves swaying back and forth behind the bait barrel. I knew it wasn’t the wind, and upon further inspection, I noticed a bear rubbing it’s back on a large tree trunk, no more than 15 yards from my ladder stand. A brief moment later, the bear dropped on all fours and made a “bee-line” toward the bait site. I raised the Mauser model 98, steadied the Vanguard riflescope, and pulled the trigger. In an instant, the bear ran off, and soon I was standing over a trophy black bear! Two bears down… two to go! Two bear tags filled within an hour of each other! Sometimes that’s how hunting goes!
The third member of our hunting party is pro staffer, Ben Lowe. Ben had encounters with a bear on three consecutive nights, and for one reason or another, each encounter provided more and more frustration. A subtle noise, a breath of wind, or low camera light would prove to be his undoing, and each night the bear would elude him, but Ben was persistent, and he decided the last day would be an “all day vigil”.
After four and a half days of hunting, it came down to the last day. Ben Lowe and Steve Schicker both decided to put in “all day sits”. Each hunter was dropped off at their bear bait in the wee hours of the morning, and each hunter would not be picked up until that evening. A grueling mental and physical hunt was in store for both men, but each was confident something would happen on the final day.
Neither Steve nor Ben had radioed base camp all day. It was looking bleak until, with minutes to spare, Ben radioed camp with exciting news. He had finally arrowed the bear that had eluded him the previous three days! As for Steve, he never connected on a bear or wolf, but he couldn’t have been more excited for the rest of the group. Sometimes a hunt doesn’t result in a kill, and that’s okay! As we always say at Forever Wild Outdoors… it’s not the size of the trophy, it’s the size of the experience that matters! If you’re interested in a quality bear, moose, or wolf hunt in Canada… look no further. Contact Tom or Michel Watson at Watson’s Kaby Lodge for a true wilderness adventure! It’s not just a hunt; it’s an adventure for sure!
(Gerry Rightmyer, Forever Wild Outdoors)