Black Bear - The First Time
By Norma Draper

My husband (Walter) and I made the decision to go on a hunt for the Black Bear. Neither of us had ever hunted bear and thought is was time to add Black Bears to our ever-growing trophy room. Due to my numerous and various health problems, finding an outfitter who could accommodate my special needs proved to be quite a task. After calling and talking to many outfitters who could not accommodate my needs, I mentioned to a friend that we were interested in finding a Black Bear outfitter. Within several days, we started receiving calls from outfitters in Manitoba. Turns out it was one of those "a friend of a friend of a friend" type things. After talking to several outfitters from Manitoba and Ontario, we decided on Trapper Mike's Outfitting based in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada. We spoke with him on the phone several times and exchanged letters. He sent us his brochure and I sent away for information on Manitoba.

Because of my health problems, we decided we would drive to Thompson. However, arrangements could have been made to go by air. We left our home in Illinois and traveled to Thompson, Manitoba.

I was disappointed to find that Manitoba is not how I pictured, thanks to television, Canada. It is not the portion of Canada with all the high, snow covered, mountains. Where we were was more flat with a lot of fir and birch trees. Since spring was late this year, the birch trees were just beginning to bud and to begin with we actually thought they were dead, but then we realized they were just beginning to bud. By the time we left Canada, one week later, the trees were getting their leaves and were turning green and pretty.

We arrived at our Thompson, Manitoba destination on a Sunday afternoon and were greeted by our outfitter, Trapper Mike. Trapper Mike (Mike Sinhor) is a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer and quite an interesting individual. He has more stories to tell than we had time to hear. He has a bit of a devilish streak also, and loves to tell and play jokes. His wife, Anne, is a retired nurse who loves to cook and bake and in her spare time is an artist. She has won awards at art shows for her paintings. We met their married daughter, Michelle, who was there for a short visit. Blaine, their son was there to help out with the outfitting.

Before I start telling you about the actual bear hunting, let me tell you about the accommodations. We stayed in the lower level of Mike and Anne's home. They have it set up to accommodate up to 4 hunters and in the off season, Anne operates a Bed & Breakfast. The meals were wonderful. Anne makes most things from scratch. We would have breakfast that alternated between a big breakfast and a light breakfast. Lunches were always "home made" hot soup and sandwiches. Those soups were so good. I am not particularly fond of mushrooms, but Anne made the most delicious mushroom soup (using locally grown mushrooms) that I had a second helping. After lunch we would try and catch a nap before the hunt. Bears are not active during the day, and we did not usually head for the stands until about 4:00 PM. Dinner was served late every day as the hunt ends about 11:00 PM, we would eat our dinner when we got back to the house, which was usually about Midnight, sometimes a little before, and sometimes after, depending on how the hunt went. Dinners were awesome. Anne really outdoes herself with the meals. She can manage to have a delicious dinner ready whatever time the hunters get in. Her dinner meals consisted of at least 2 types of salad (coleslaw and a lettuce type), potatoes or rice, another vegetable or two and the delicious main dishes, followed by some of the best desserts I have ever had.

Now, for the hunting. I was quite nervous about how the hunting would be done as my health problems limit my walking and I was worrying about how exactly I would get to and from the hunting stands. I should not have worried; I was taken right to the stands by 4-wheeler. Walter got to walk in to his stands and he watched as the bait was put out for the bears and then Trapper Mike would leave and Walter would sit and wait all alone. Since I couldn't be left alone, Blaine would take me to the stand on the 4-wheeler and would get me all settled. Then he would have to put out the bait for the bears and take the 4-wheeler far enough away that the bears could not smell it, park it, and walk back in to sit in the stand with me.

Sitting in those stands can get to be difficult and boring. You have to be very quiet, you cannot talk and you really cannot move around very much. Black Bears have a good sense of smell and they have great ears and can hear any little movement. During the first two days of the hunt, I saw, and managed to take some video of one bear each day who came to enjoy the treats. On the first day Walter didn't see any bears, but on the second he saw seven.

On the third day of the hunt, the weather forecast was predicting bad weather and I felt (due to my health situation) that if I were going to get a bear I would have to get one on that day so, off we went to the stand. Blaine got me all settled in and went off to park the 4-wheeler and returned. We waited, and waited and waited. We watched the birds come and go and the squirrels come and go and come back again and FINALLY at about 9:45 PM out came a bear. I saw him come out before Blaine did as we were looking in opposite directions. The moment I saw him walk in to the bait barrel, I knew I was going to shoot him and I started to shake. I am one of those hunters that always shake before I shoot an animal. Anyway, I shook and shook and shook. The shaking made it very hard for me to get my gloves off and pick up my rifle, but moving totally in slow motion, I finally had the rifle in my hand and was looking at the bear through the scope. I was still shaking and wondering to myself if I could hit anything the way I was shaking. I had no rifle rest so I knew it was up to me. I also knew that I did not want a wounded bear running around because there was no way I could help track him down. I heard Blaine say, "take him" several times, but I wanted to wait until I was sure. FINALLY, I shot and I saw the bear jump and run and I could not see him any longer. I looked at Blaine, thinking I had missed, and asked, "did I even hit him". Blaine was watching and said "good shot, he is down". I looked around and still could not see him. We waited for a few minutes and then Blaine told me he would go make sure that the bear was dead and he got down from the stand and walked a short distance. He yelled back that he was dead. I could actually see Blaine and at his feet was this big black spot that was my bear. He had run about 20 yards.

Blaine went for the 4-wheeler, got me out of the stand, skinned and loaded and off we went back to the house. When we got back I found Walter had not seen any bears, but I took great pleasure in telling him I had gotten mine. Naturally, he didn't believe me until he saw the bear. A rough measure of my bear put him at 5' 5". Not a huge bear, but he was MY FIRST BLACK BEAR and I got him with ONE SHOT all by myself from the decision to shoot, to the selection and the shot. .

After the collection of my bear, I spent my time around the house with Anne. We had coffee several times with her friends and I met other artists and saw their work.

Walter continued his hunt seeing one small bear on Thursday, nothing on Friday and finally Saturday evening, the LAST DAY, Walter went to the stand and at 10:05 PM a bear came out and he took him. He got back to the house around 11:45 PM. His bear rough measured at 5' 1". Not a trophy bear, as he had hoped, but it was his first Black Bear also and I feel certain he will go back and hunt for the BIG ONE, possible a Fall hunt next time.

All in all, it was a good time and we are both very happy with our bears. We left them at a taxidermist in Winnipeg to be made into rugs and I am anxious to see how they will turn out. We would both highly recommend Trapper Mike's Outfitting Service to anyone who wanted a good hunt, delicious meals and a very good time.

Written By Norma S. Draper Sugar Grove, Illinois June 20, 2002
Email: Wddnsd@aol.com


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La Marque, Texas 77568
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