Blindsided Bear

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bear hunter waiting for a shot at a black bear
A bear hunter waits for a shot at a black bear in the Northern reaches of Manitoba.

A blur of dark, thickly furred legs silently swishing through scrawny blueberry plants caught the bear hunter’s attention and opened the spigot of his adrenal gland. Without hesitation, the bold, black bear moved purposefully towards the bait, emerging from the cover afforded it by the dense jack pines.

The animal sauntered past the bait barrel without so much as a glance towards the bear hunter and cameraman that were concealed in the ground blind, a mere twelve yards away. The duped bruin plopped its empty belly down on the ground and proceeded to consume a plastic bag containing grease, eating bag and all.

The bear hunter raised his crossbow, steadying his elbow on the arm of his wheelchair. It had been just one hour since the hunting guides had wheeled him into the ground blind and already the first bear of the evening was at the bait barrel. After months of planning and arranging, the bear hunter was now staring out the porthole of the ground blind at a hungry 175 lb. spring bear.

 

bear hunter and hunting outfitter
A bear hunter and hunting outfitter at the end of a 2-hour hunt.

The adventure had started over a year ago when this author had approached the hunter, David Mallak, as he sat quietly in his wheelchair, people-watching in the hallway of the Crossroad Shopping Center in St Cloud, Minnesota.

When asked if he was a bowhunter, David responded with, “No, I’ve never been hunting.”

At the time, David was 50 years old. He confessed with his next sentence that he had always wanted to hunt, but that he had never been given the opportunity. The author boldly told him that this was his lucky day and that his life was about to change; for the better. And it did!

That very same fall, David attended the Annual UFFDA Camp Wilderness Hunt in Minnesota and became a member of the “Successful Bowhunter’s Club” by harvesting a handsome fork horn buck. The down side of his achievement was that many of them had to listen to him share the details of his triumph over and over and over again. Such a tough job!

With his first big-game bow harvest behind him, he began to dream of expanding his horizons. Upon seeing details about the annual HBM Spring Fling Manitoba spring bear hunt in an issue of the Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine, David called to gather more information. After many questions, he took the plunge by asking this author if he would take him on that bear hunt, in spite of his wheelchair. The answer was, of course, yes.

For almost two decades, a hunting outfitter from Lynn Lake Fly-in Outpost Camps has been the host for the Manitoba adventure for three very good reasons. Number one, he gladly works with our physically challenged comrades, doing more than is expected to assure that each one has the experience of a lifetime.

bear hunter at end of bear hunt
A very jubilant bear hunter cheers the end result of his dream hunt.

The second reason for our loyalty is that this hunting outfitter has some of the finest bear hunting on the continent. His spring-bear population includes many large animals with a high percentage of color phases. The third and final reason is that the annual trek to Lynn Lake provides another opportunity to ride the rough ridges of northern Manitoba with the chief hunting guide for the early wave of spring bear hunters.

This hunting outfitter provides excellent service, encyclopedia quality animal and fishing lore, while still being a down to earth, knee-slapping entertainer. He can turn a hunt that is going poorly into an experience worthy of anyone’s memory book.

A fellow UFFDA board member joined David and the author, offering his Ford Expedition and trailer, which provided ample space and comfort for three hunters and a mountain of their hunting gear. By Saturday morning on May 20th, the team was assembled in the front yard, the packing was complete and the journey had begun.

They arrived at Lynn Lake, Manitoba after almost two days of driving. Each of them enjoyed the dramatic change of scenery that is afforded by the continuous trek northward. A quick look at any road atlas will surprise you with just how far north Lynn Lake, Manitoba really is. Half the fun of the quest, however, was the journey through mile after mile of pristine Canadian wilderness.

successful bear hunt
Hunting outfitter, bear hunter and hunting guide pose behind the bear.

They checked into the hotel where a spacious 2-bedroom apartment had been reserved by their host. They hadn’t even finished unpacking when the telephone rang and the hunting outfitter commanded from the other end, “Get your butts out here! The weather’s broken and the bears are going to be moving.”

They scrambled to obey. The weariness brought on by their long journey north immediately disappeared at the prospect of bagging big, black bruins a day early.

After a 45-minute drive to the lodge, they sighted in their weapons to make sure that nothing had been bumped out of place on the rough roads to Lynn Lake. When accuracy had been confirmed, the hunting outfitter and hunting guide loaded them into their vehicles to transport them into the bush.

Upon reaching their destination, Dave had to be wheeled 200 yards through dense cover, which included rolling over a large number of fallen sown trees. Their hunting guides never batted an eye as they huffed and puffed, taking steady bites out of the distance that separated David from his bear bait.

Once there, they quickly set up their ground blind, adjusting it so that the bear hunter and the cameraman had an equally clear vantage point overlooking the area around the barrel. When they were completely situated, the hunting guides bid them farewell and disappeared back toward the road.

bear hunter fishing
With the bear in the bag, this bear hunter had nothing else to do, but chase big northern pike.

As the minutes passed, the forest slowly came back to life from the silence that had been imposed upon it by the intrusion of the bear hunting party. The ever-friendly Gray Jays began to glide into our line of vision and Ravens could be heard giving the all-clear sign to their bird-buddies. Within a half an hour, it was business as usual, as the forest creatures resumed their daily routine of survival.

David was immersed up to the crown of his hat in sensual stimuli. He took in every new scent, sound and motion, usually following it with a question. He was like a small child making his first trip to a splendid toy store. His eyes were alive with the sparkle that can only be put there by something that is wild and wonderful. This evening was just a continuation of the “first time” experiences David had been bombarded with since leaving the front yard.

Suddenly he pointed towards the window and turned his head towards the author holding up two fingers. I glanced out and spotted the large round head of a bear. It was standing on a game trail 50 yards away, looking towards the bait. The cameraman slowly moved to the camera, but by the time it was powered up and focused, the animal was gone.

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Russell, MB
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