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by Kim Ralston a.k.a. KRal Last updated: 2015-03-18 12:14:57
Over several years of researching bear hunts, I’d decided my destination would most likely go to be in the Northeastern State of Maine. Not only does it have the largest population of black bear in the CONUS, but it also has over-the-counter tags for non-resident and at a very reasonable price. Not to mention, that it’s a handgun hunting friendly State! All this made it very easy for top choice of my first bear hunt.
While attending a school back in 2012, I met and became very good friends with one of my classmates; Jesse Cote. We had many things in common: the love of hunting, fishing, and just the good ‘ole outdoors; just to name a few. We hit it off pretty quick; needless to say. Coincidently, he was from Maine and happened to be a registered Maine Guide (You can see where this is going). We’ll after four months of dream’n and scheme’n, (sounds like a Waylon Jennings’ song) I started planning my bear hunt to Maine. All was going well, especially when Jesse drew three moose depredation tags, which coincided with bear bait season. Now I’m looking at a combo Bear/Moose hunt!!!! Sounds too good to be true…..well, unfortunately, it was. Due to some setbacks in our profession, the combo hunt didn’t happen.
Now let’s fast- forward to the fall of 2014. All plans have been made and all is looking good for my first bear hunt. This also happens to be my son’s (Clay) senior year in high school so, what better senior trip than a bear hunt in Maine! So, I booked some plane tickets eight months out and started the sleepless nights in anticipation; especially after Jesse started sending trail camera pictures of all the bear.
August finally arrived and the final preparations came as we approached the opening day of season, which was the 25th of August. Clay and I both had decided on revolvers for this hunt; knowing shots would be less than 50-75 yards. Clay’s choice was a Ruger Bisley Hunter chambered for 44 magnum that he had just received as an early Christmas present and my choice was a 5.5” Freedom Arms M97 chambered in 45 Colt. Clay’s gun would be topped with a 2x Leupold scoped and shoot’n a 300 gr Beartooth WFNGC hardcast bullet over 19.0 gr of H110. My gun would be topped with a JPoint reflex sight and shoot’n a 250 gr Hornady XTP over 20.5 gr of 2400. Both guns were shoot’n extremely well with the loads at 50 yards and after daily practice for two months; we had full confidence in them. I had booked our hunt for the opening week in hopes to hunt the undisturbed/pressured bears and have a higher percentage for both of us to tag a bear. The first couple day’s moon phase was looking good for daytime movement, but the temperatures predicted weren’t to be as cool as we hoped…….who cares!!!! We’re going bear hunting!
We met up with a friend at Memphis International and ended up in Bangor, Maine on the 23rd of August. We didn’t reserve a vehicle, so we had to take what was available……a Kia “Soul”; not exactly your idea hunting vehicle……but….hey….we’re secure in our manhood and we’re bear hunting! So, we hopped in our Soul and headed to Caribou, ME. Sunday, the 24th, was an eventful day. We met Jesse at his house and helped him run thirty bait sites, which gives you a lot more appreciation for what a good bear guide goes through. That’s a L-O-T of work! And Jesse does this every day for a month or so prior to opening day and during season. All the hard work was forgotten when Jesse prepared fresh Maine lobster and steak for everyone that night.
Jesse promotes hunting in the evening for bear and my philosophy is: Don’t guide the guide. So we slept in for opening day and had a fantastic breakfast at a local diner (Those blue-berry pancakes are still in my mind). We arrive at Jesse’s around 1:00 p.m. and got ready for the evening hunt. After zero checks on all weapons, we loaded up and headed to the stand.
Clay was to be the first, of us two, to be behind the trigger; I was going to be behind the camera in hopes to get it all on film. We were perched in a two-man ladder stand with a bait site approximately 35 yards away; a chip shot for Clay if he can keep his composure. The site was located on the side of a young mountain, parallel to a brook and we were facing down an ATV trail that Jesse had cut through the thick undergrowth. Clay could only see about 60 yards straight ahead. The camera for this site showed daily daytime activity, so our anticipation was high!
About 20 minutes after arriving to our stand, another hunter in our camp broke the silence with the first bear of the season; seems the bear were moving early and we haven’t even got set-up completely yet. We scramble around and got set-up, but is would still be a couple hours before we had any action.
At a little past 5:00 p.m., Clay bumped my leg and said, “Here he comes”. We don our hearing protection and I got the camera on just in time to get the bear coming in sight. The bear came straight to the barrel, stood on his hind legs and started pawing for some goodies. While he was occupied with his sweet tooth, Clay readied his Bisley Hunter. The next time the bear stuck his head in the barrel, I heard the familiar clicking of a revolver being cocked. Shortly after, the bear presented a broadside shot and I assured Clay the camera was on it. At the drop of the hammer, the bear fell in his tracks!
Clay’s intent was to put a double shoulder shot on the bear to anchor it at the bait site, due to a 45 feet drop-off cliff down to the brook about 10 yards to the right of the bait sight and extremely dense forage to the left of the site. Well, it anchored it at first; but while we were giving high-fives and regaining our composure, the bear crawled out of the clearing toward the cliff. Moments later, we heard a big splash! The bear made it to the cliff and fell 45 feet down to the brook. After a few minutes of hearing the bear splashing, we decided it needed a finishing shot. We climb down and quietly made our way to the edge of the cliff. The bear had made it’s was about 60 yards downstream. Clay sat down, found an opening and got a steady rest for the second shot; it was a perfectly place and the bear released its death moan. To say we were excited would be an understatement. We gather our gear and made our way down to the bear. Opening day had been very good to us, we were blessed. The bear in the brook made for some beautiful photo and memories.
Now that Clay had tagged out, he would be behind the camera till I tagged out or till the hunt was over. With all the bear sightings and two bear already killed in camp, it seemed like it was going to be a quick and easy hunt…..the bear thought different. For the next two days, I didn’t see anything that resembled a bear. With the moon phase changing and the unseasonably warm temperatures, not to mention un-cooperating winds, the hunting was getting tougher.
Fortunately, on the fourth day, the temperatures dropped 40 degrees; thanks to a cold front moving in. It also brought along a good wind for the stand we’d been hunting. Now I’m feeling better for that evenings hunt.
Cool and cloudy conditions welcomed us to our stand that evening. Not only was the wind blowing in the perfect direction, but it was also blowing HARD! The black bear, as many of you know, is known as the “black ghost” due to its stealthy nature. You can’t hear them under normal conditions, much less in high winds.
After about an hour sitting motionless in the stand, I caught movement to my right. It was a bear, in full stride, headed toward the bait site. I bumped Clay on the leg to get his attention to the direction I was looking. We slowly donned our hearing protection and he eased his hand up to the camera and readied it for filming. The bear went straight to the site and squatted to mark its territory. I assumed it would do the same as Clay’s bear and stick its head in the barrel to rake out some goodies, so I was in no hurry to get my gun up and ready. The bear had different plans! After it finished its business, it walked behind the barrel and was leaving….on a mission! I quickly brought my gun up, cocked the hammer, and “maaaacked” at the bear! There was a two foot window between the barrel and the tree it was hanging from, to get a shot. The bear stopped, took a half step back to see what made that noise and ask Clay “Are you on it?” When I heard “Yes Sir”….. the sight picture had already been acquired with the red dot resting on its shoulder and the trigger squeeze was in progress. At the drop of the hammer, the bear did a “barrel role” and ran straight away. I had already thumbed the hammer back for a second shot and as the trigger broke, the bear made a hard right and the bullet struck where the bear “was”. No worries though, the big sow was down at ten yards from where she was shot and the death moan occurred 9 seconds after that first shot. The 250 xtp found its mark on the shoulder and took out the heart and lungs on its way though and out the other shoulder.
When Jesse arrived and I told him about “mack’n” the bear to stop it; he said I was full of crap, “You can’t do that with a bear”. I assured him it was all on video. I did it subconsciously and had no idea it would work, but it did and I’m glad!
Clay and I both had a hunt that will not be soon forgotten. For both of us to tag out together and both film each other on our first bear, it’s a hunt we will relive for a long time! There were 10 hunters in our camp for opening week; 7 hunters took bear and the other 3 had opportunity. That’s pretty good odds.
While waiting for our departure flight from Bangor International, I had the pleasure to meet and chat with Robert Fanucci; well known amongst the handgun hunting realm. He was booked to hunt with Jesse the second week of the season. I’m anxious to get back again!
If you’re interested in a black bear hunt over bait, give Jesse Cote at Back Woods Guide Service in Caribou, ME, a call: (207)227-8531 ;or look him up on FaceBook; or backwoodsguideservice.com. I promise it’ll be a hunt you won’t forget!
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