Hunting > Big Game

A Black Bear Hotspot

Bob Robb has hunted black bears hard for nearly 40 years, but this trip was one that stood out in the crowd.

4/22/2010

To say that I was not jetlagged would be something of a little white lie. The “joy of air travel” began with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up at home, and a full day's travel to reach Montreal where my friend and booking agent, Armando Vendittozzi, picked me up at the airport. A late supper, five hours in the sack, and we were on the road to the lodge. It was the third week of May and the Quebec black bear season had been open a week. As was the case all across North America, spring of 2009 did not go out quietly or early. It was still cold and wet, and the bears were just beginning to get active. If there was good news, it was that Quebec’s notorious swarms of biting black flies and mosquitoes were yet to make their presence known.

Though I have hunted black bears hard for nearly 40 years, most of my experiences have occurred west of the Mississippi River. I had not yet experienced Quebec, and have to admit I was drawn to this location for both the excellent bear hunting and superb spring fishing for walleye and northern pike. When we arrived at the lodge, co-owner Sylvain Danis told me this was definitely prime time. “The best walleye and pike fishing usually occur from now until mid-June,” he said. “The record here is a 52-inch pike that weighed 39 pounds, the largest walleye 36 inches and 17 pounds,” he said. “But of course those are rare.”
 
Great Track Record
The lodge—a family owned and operated business for the past 40 years—boasts a bear hunting track record that’s hard to beat. “In 2008, we had 38 hunters and they took 32 bears,” said co-owner Serge Danis. “All but one of our hunters had a shot at a mature bear.” And as far as the man who did not get a shot? “We have a guarantee at the lodge that says if you do not have an opportunity at a mature bear during your week’s hunt, you can come back next year on us. All you pay is your transportation and the cost of the license.” All told, the lodge has almost 600 square miles of prime bear habitat to hunt.

All hunting is done over bait sites, which are serviced daily by local guides who are both highly experienced bear hunters and skilled woodsmen. In case you’re worried about the region’s legions of biting insects, rest easy. Every bait station boasts an enclosed shooting house with screened windows. No bugs can get in! When it’s time to shoot, you simply swing open the screened window in front of the house, rest your firearm across the window sill, and take a 75- to 100-yard shot. How cool is that?
          
First Evening Bear

We arrived at the lodge at about 2 p.m., checked in and got licenses, then went to the rifle range to check our sights. My old Remington Express .30-06 is a very special rifle to me. An old friend and mentor, Marine combat veteran George Effenberger, willed it to me when he passed away just a month before the hunt. Topped with an old but trustworthy classic 4X Bushnell Banner scope, it groups factory Hornady ammo with the 150-grain GMX bullet inside an inch at 100 yards all day long. Taking it to the stand with me that first evening, I felt as if my buddy were sitting there with me, helping keep me calm and focused as he always did. Being in his presence was always a great honor.

For me, this hunt was almost over too quickly. EZ, my guide, had said there were two bears hitting this bait, one small and the other a pretty decent-sized one. So, at 7 p.m.—two hours before dark—a bear came to the bait, I glassed him closely. I did the mental math. I have seen a lot of bears shot over the years, and this one was definitely a mature boar. I thought he’d weigh right at 200 pounds, with a hide that would square just under six feet and a skull that would measure about 18 inches. But it was early, so I let him walk off. All told, I let him come to the bait and walk off five times over a 90-minute period.

When he came back about 8:30 p.m., I came to my senses. Danis had told me that, despite the fact that a 350-pounder had been taken the week before, in this area mature boars average 175 to 200 pounds. Here was a better-than-average boar staring me in the face, and I had George’s old .30-06 afield for the very first time. What was wrong with me? So I cautiously slid my window open, placed my vest on the sill to cushion the rifle’s forearm, and when the bear turned broadside, put the crosshairs of the old Bushnell scope on his lungs and squeezed the shot off.
           
Less than three hours into it and my hunt was over.
           
When it was all said and done, the boar—which required some effort to get him out of the nasty little canyon where he died—weighed 210 pounds, squared a tick under six feet with a green skull measurement of just under 18 inches. He is a dandy Quebec black bear by anyone’s standards.
 
Reflections

The remaining few days, I fished mornings, took photographs and relaxed. The lodge features comfortable full-service cabins, a main lodge with a small bar and great meals with satellite T.V. so we could watch the hockey playoffs. The staff is as friendly and efficient as one could hope for. The guides skin your bear and prepare it for you to take back home with you. This would be a superb place to bring first-time hunters, including your spouse or children. Oh, yeah, what about that “working man” price? All inclusive—accommodations, guides, meals, etc.—$1900 for seven days. Without meals it’s $1700. If you like to fish you can rent a boat and motor for $210 for the week. Nonresident licenses are a tick under $150 U.S. You can rent a car in Montreal and drive up, drive your own vehicle from the states, or an airport pickup can be arranged for a fee.
           
To experience the same superb black bear hunt with all the trimmings, contact Armando Vendittozzi, Armando’s Outdoor Expeditions by email, a.outdoorexpeditions@hotmail.com.

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