My longtime friend, Danny Dyer, runs an impressive spring black bear camp (DyersOutfitters.com). His exclusive baiting area is 150 miles long, 75 miles wide and absolutely overrun with bruins. Some of these are huge, with live weights of more than 500 pounds.
Danny’s bear camp is cozy, the food outstanding and the guides are a blast. You sleep in as late as you want because travel to bait sites doesn’t occur until early afternoon. Darkness doesn’t arrive until 10 p.m., and it takes a solid 2 hours to drive back to camp on dirt roads from the farthest reaches of Danny’s hunting concession. Supper is served after midnight, followed by 8-10 hours of great sleep. What a way to spend a week in May or June!
THE WITCHING HOUR
It was Saturday evening when a raindrop slapped my face—the last day of my hunt and the last day of New Brunswick’s spring black bear season. Drops continued to patter against hardwood leaves and evergreen boughs around me, but the experience was actually pleasant compared to the 6 hours of driving rain I’d sat through the day before. Normally vicious mosquitoes, blackflies, no-see-’ums and whitesox were still hiding from the storm, so my wife, Greta, and I could remove our head nets without getting nailed. The witching hour was upon us when bears begin ambling to the bait.
Greta was carrying only a camera and had photographed 23 different black bears in 5 days. I was holding out for a bruin with a backline as high as the 34-inch-tall steel bait barrels Danny places at his sites. A bear that makes an upright barrel disappear when it steps in front is a whopper.
So far, I’d passed up one bear that nearly topped the barrel. The problem was, Greta and I had sat 3 days in the same stand where a giant, legendary bear had been seen on a scouting cam the week before. The nighttime photos of that bear were mind-boggling. He dwarfed an upright barrel, and his ears looked like grapes along giant rolls of muscle atop his noggin. I named him Angus, but we never saw the mostly nocturnal bruin despite the fact the bear rut was in full swing. We spent half our hunt waiting in vain for Angus.
Another evening, Greta and I sat in a Double Bull pop-up blind where huge tracks littered the ground. This bear’s front paws were more than 6 inches wide, but only medium-sized bears came in that evening. A 6-inch front track means a 7-foot black bear (measured nose to tip of tail), but such animals are at least 8 years old, wary and unpredictable. Like trophy white-tailed bucks, they require patience and lots of luck to see.
Now, on the final evening of our 6-day hunt, Greta and I were back where we’d seen and photographed the biggest bear of our trip. “Little Stripe” had a short, narrow scrape in his hide along the backbone and just forward of the tail, something a taxidermist could repair on the otherwise gorgeous hide. His head and ears looked impressive, and his body was massive, even though his backline was an inch or so below the top of the bait barrel.
Like most large bears, this one had appeared late—at 9:40 p.m.—after smaller ones had fed. He gobbled pizza pockets, marshmallows, vanilla frosting and beef scraps for 6 minutes and then melted into the dense rainforest. I passed, hoping for an even bigger bear in the remaining days. But as I sat on stand that final afternoon, I knew that if Little Stripe appeared again, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot.
Afternoon No. 6 was a typical sit on a Danny Dyer bear stand. A small sow (round head, narrow snout, backline halfway up the barrel) appeared at 7:10 p.m. Twenty minutes later, this bear scampered away with a chunk of meat between her teeth. A larger sow appeared almost immediately with two second-year cubs. By 8:15 p.m., Greta and I had seen six bears.
At 8:25 p.m., a black blob appeared briefly behind the bait. The bear vanished, circled and strutted out again 30 yards to my left. This was a gnarly customer we’d never seen before. The boar’s face was a mass of old and new scars, and I could see a deep slice bisecting his nose. This boar was big, with a gorgeous coat.
He sauntered in like he owned the place, then turned toward me as he fed. My heart was leaping from my chest. At 19 yards, the boar’s heavily muscled head looked huge. Even at the severe downward angle from my tree, I could see that his back was even with the top of the upright barrel.
Finally, the boar turned nearly broadside. As I drew, he turned back toward me and gulped another pizza pocket. I held the 75-pound Hoyt Tribute bow at full draw, hoping the bruin would swivel back. He did.
The Rage 2-blade broadhead smashed tight behind his shoulder and sliced completely through. He hissed and galloped into the trees, but I knew he wouldn’t go far with a 2-inch hole through both lungs. Thirty minutes later, I spotted my bear upside-down at the end of an excellent blood trail.
My boar had 15 fresh tooth punctures along his neck and jaws, more than two dozen long, deep scars on his chest, and an old tooth slice that cut his nose nearly in half. Big boars battle fiercely during mating season, and this guy had been to war!
My bear’s estimated weight was more than 400 pounds, and the green skull measured over 19 inches. I still dream about Angus the monster bear that never appeared, but “Old Scarface” will do just fine until I try for Angus again next spring.