There's nothing like waking to the smell of bacon, eggs, and fresh coffee in the morning. That's how our first day at Misty River Outfitters in Alberta began. Mike Pierson and I were in the heart of big bruin country, camped along the Athabasca River hunting black bears with Nick Kuelken and his crew. The early scouting reports were promising and we were excited to be back in the bear woods.
Mike and I drew straws for the first day's hunt and, as usual, I lost. Mike grabbed the Excalibur Crossbow and we were off to our evening stand. Nick had been telling us about this stand for some time. He said the bait was very active, with a number of good bears on it including a big, old color-phase boar. As we walked in to the stand we could see what he meant - the bait site was obliterated, and everywhere you looked you found bear sign.
For this hunt, Mike and I decided to hunt from a ground blind. The wind wasn't right for the stand Nick had in place and, quite frankly, there's nothing like hunting a bear from the ground. We spent a little time brushing up our blind, freshening up the bait and spraying out the Cake Icing Bear Bomb to sweeten up the air. With everything in place, we settled in to wait the bears out.
We didn't have to wait long... just 45 minutes after we arrived, Mike tapped me on the shoulder and told me to get ready. I fired up the camera, searching through the greenery to find him. He stepped out cautiously and we got our first look at him.
The big boar made his way in to archery range, cautiously surveying the area as he took in his last meal. We waited patiently for a shot and when he finally posed for the camera, Mike touched the trigger and launched a FireBolt through the cool spring air. I saw the Lumenok light the way straight to the boiler plate and disappear behind the shoulder. He ran 30 yards and piled up less than an hour into our hunt.
With a solid four hours of daylight left, Mike and I switched equipment. We had just gotten settled when Mike tapped me on the shoulder again.
Mike leaned over, looking behind us and whispered "Did you hear that?" Twenty yards behind us, and on a straight line to our blind, the second bear of the hunt was on his way in. As he got within 10 yards he put his nose straight up in the air, trying to figure out what we were and why we were sitting in the bush. After a few tense moments, he circled around us, popping his jaws along the way.
The adrenaline had just started to dissipate in my blood stream when the nosey young boar turned and proceeded to walk right toward us. When he had closed the distance to about five yards I decided he was close enough. I moved just enough to get his attention. He started popping his jaws and "talking" to us, before he slowly walked away, disappearing in the bush.
We finished our first evening hunt with some great stories. We recovered Mike's bear - a nice Alberta Boar pushing 300 pounds - and loaded into the boat to return to camp.
A couple days later, Nick approached me and asked if I'd be interested in trying an area right on the river. The activity on this site was an indication that there were several large bears in the area, but there weren't any trail camera photos to back it up. He was confident it would be time well spent, and I was confident he knew what he was doing.
Once again we settled ourselves into a ground blind for the evening hunt. The bait barrel was situated 15 yards downhill from our blind beside a deadfall. It just felt like big bear country.
About an hour into our hunt we could hear brush breaking on the far hillside. It sounded like a moose busting through the bush until we could make out the distinct sound of a bear popping his jaw. When we were finally able to see him he put on an impressive show, knocking over small trees and breaking branches all the way in to the bait. As he got closer he got bigger and I knew it was time to feed my Excalibur.
As I settled my sites on this big Alberta bruin, I heard another bear announcing his presence, and heading right to the bait barrel. As he approached the bait a scuffle ensued, sending this second bear back up the hill, right to our ground blind. He got within 5 feet of our position and stopped to see if the other bear was in pursuit. Content that he wasn't he turned his head back toward us and then realized he wasn't alone. All of the sudden we were his focus of attention. I had the Excalibur shouldered and ready to scream in case he made a decision I didn't agree with. He began huffing and popping his jaw. He looked at us and then back to the bear at the bait barrel. Finally, as if he were trying to figure out what in the world was going on, he sat on the ground, looking back and forth from our blind to the barrel. I swiveled around and settled the crosshairs on the bear at the bait barrel, and let her sing.
What happened next is still something of a blur. My arrow screamed through the air reaching its target with blazing speed. As it hit its mark the big boar turned hard and I lost him behind a tree as he ran off. I raised up on my knees to locate him and saw him running right toward our blind. With indescribable speed he closed the 15 yards and would have crashed right through our blind if I hadn't hit him in the head with the stirrup of my Excalibur Crossbow. When I hit him, he stopped briefly, then turned 180 degrees and ran about 20 yards. He stopped, looked back to where we were sitting, then ran up the hill another 30 yards before he piled up.
I'm still not sure who was more scared - me, or the bear. And in all the excitement I had forgotten about the other bear. His conundrum was solved, and he made his way right to the bait barrel, looking our way every now and then to make sure we were in our place.
It seemed like days before he had had his fill and wandered off into the bush. I couldn't wait to get my hands on my bear and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, we left the comfort of our ground blind behind and tracked my big Alberta stud into the bush.
In less than a week of hunting we had taken two good Alberta bears, and a lifetime of memories with them. I couldn't begin to tell you how many bears we saw during the week, but I will tell you that Alberta is one of the most target-rich environments you will ever find. And the guys at Misty River know how to get it done right.
There's nothing like the smell of fresh walleye on the fire - except, maybe, the smell of bacon and eggs in the morning. But when the fish is frying, the bears are in the freezer, and you're hanging out with the boys around the camp, you know you're living right.
If you're looking for a first-rate black bear hunt, you owe it to yourself to talk to Nick Kuelken at Misty River Outfitters. Alberta has big bears, and plenty of them. There are also a good percentage of color-phase bears in this province. Nick and his crew are as good at bear hunting as they are at moose hunting and put the utmost effort into everything they do. Look them up... you'll be glad you did.