There’s nothing like sitting together on a hunt to bring a father and son together. It was just 12 days after my 13-year-old son Brennan had had surgery. He was, unbelievably, recovered enough to head to camp to try filling his bear tag. This was something we never thought would be possible perhaps a month later, because of the unexpected surgery, but school would be starting soon and we made a last-minute decision to give it a shot. And what a shot it would turn out to be!
We spent the first day scouting for deer and bear with my other son, Colby, who is also very eager to take his hunter safety training and start hunting next year. We started hunting the following afternoon. Although the bait was hit when we got there, the wind was terrible, the air was thick with mosquitoes, and the heat was oppressive. So we sat with the door open and, unsurprisingly, had no action.
The next day was cooler and the wind was perfect (I could smell the bait too many times). This time I had been smart enough to remember the Therma Cell. We both had a really good feeling that something was going to happen. We weren’t wrong. As dinnertime rolled around, an hour and a half after we started sitting, we had a smaller black walk past through the trees, followed by a beautiful brown bear. They were headed down to the oats field a short distance away, but I only got an obstructed look at them.
We were sitting in one of my metal deer blinds, about two feet off the ground. Now, this stand isn’t made for hunting bear, but there were just too many bears in the area for us not to hunt there. The spot is what I call a tight spot: heavily treed, where a big buck would feel comfortable moving around in November, when all the leaves and undergrowth are gone. Unfortunately for us, it was late August, and it was like a jungle in there.
I didn’t like the fact that the two bears were lumbering around behind us, tromping toward the oats field. The box doesn’t have back windows, and I had just heard of a bear creeping up on a client in a similar box just months earlier. I kept checking over my shoulder, just in case.
After a half-hour of watching our six, craning my neck as far ’round as I could to view the surroundings, I told Brennan to take a peek to check his side. He did, then slowly turned to me.
“There’s a bear right behind us,” he whispered. A shot of adrenaline ran through my body. I told him to slowly look again, to see what the bear was doing. After checking, Brennan whispered, “He’s coming to your side!” Better my side than his, I thought. We both heard the bear approaching the box as we sat in total silence. The animal rubbed his nose against the box and smelled. I gave Brenn the “be quiet” gesture and turned to look through the crack of the door opening. I could see the bear’s nose right there, maybe six inches away from me. I decided that I would react as the bear proceeded, but he made a snorting noise, ran ten yards, and then proceeded to take the bait. Watching as the creature stood before us, we shared a sense of relief that our door was closed.
Brennan’s adrenaline was flowing as much as mine, but he had time to watch the bear in the scope for a bit and calm his nerves. Just as the bear turned to leave, I squeaked and Brennan pulled the trigger, making what turned out to be a great shot. The bear made it just 50 yards before succumbing.
Now I had my work cut out for me, as this bear was 300 lbs. and I wanted to get it (and my son) out of there before dark, as there are just too many bears in the area. After some hearty work, we made it back home. My younger son, who had been unable to accompany us because of the limited room in the blind, was supremely excited to hear about Brennan shooting his first bear.
I am very proud of my little 13-year-old hunter, how he kept quiet and still with the bear right behind us, how he waited for his moment and made a great shot, and the manner in which he handled his surgery and recovery. He stayed positive the whole time, and helped make our hunting expedition a positive experience for both of us.
Great job, son.
Elliott Maduck is the owner of Truly Canadian Outdoors outfitting and the producer of TCO hunting and outdoor DVDs. He has enjoyed the outdoors his entire life and has worked as a guide and outfitter for nearly two decades. TCO is dedicated to helping visitors fully enjoying their outdoor experiences in Saskatchewan and Canada.