Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ writer David Hewitt has been hunting in Canada, and today continues to share his experiences with his readers:
Mid-August and even parts of Ontario experience the heat and humidity of the dog days. 83 degrees doesn’t seem right for my mindset of what Canada should be.
My first evening on stand, anxious to get back out in the woods after a long lay-off. My chosen hiding place was about five miles from camp. I’ve checked all of my gear, loaded my backpack, grabbed my recurve and ready myself for a seven-hour watch.
I hop into the guide’s mini-SUV and after a race down the highway and a white knuckle ride at break-neck speeds through an overgrown two track a mile back into the bush, I’m dropped off at the trail head that leads to my treestand.
“Don’t come out until dark and if you shoot a bear, stay in your stand!” my guide instructs me as he tears out of the woods in a cloud of dust.
I throw my pack over my shoulder and string my bow. A low, constant buzz begins. Dull and distant sounding at first, but growing louder each moment. Soon, a cloud of mosquitoes envelopes my head as I pick up my pace walking to the stand.
A couple hundred yards and I reach my destination.
An old lock-on treestand, strategically placed in a pine of some sort. My shot – if it comes – will be at 15 yards, perfect distance for my traditional bow. I hurriedly tie my gear to the haul line and shimmy up the ladder trying to gain some altitude to avoid the vampire-like mosquitoes.
Settled in, I sit back with a sigh and wipe the sweat from my forehead. I’m obviously overdressed for the evening’s hunt and hope for a breeze to help cool me off. The bugs are finally relenting under the pressure from my insect repellent. I survey my surroundings and despite the thickness of the Canadian bush, my hunting spot isn’t all that different from my deer stands at home.
Evergreens are the norm with a few scattered hardwoods that I wasn’t familiar with. A distinct game trail wormed its way through the undergrowth towards the bait and I could only hope that a unsuspecting bear would follow the path to his end.
Three hours into my vigil and nothing.
The wilderness is immense. 80 unbroken miles to the next paved North/South highway.
I feel tiny, insignificant out here as I continue to wait on my prey. The minutes tick by slowly during my watch. The occasional chipmunk or a diminutive pine squirrel might make a brief appearance only to race back into the thickness of the cover.
Still, I sit and watch and listen.
Times grinds by as my mind races…
Aside from the breeze blowing through the tree tops and the “raw, raw, raw” call of ravens, it’s ghostly quiet. A few songbirds sing and chirp, but none I can identify. I strain my ears to hear the faintest of twigs snapping, imagining a bear making his mistake and giving up his location, but it’s only in my imagination.
The Northern sun is crashing and a nearly full moon is on the horizon. Just about dark now, today’s hunt is coming to a close. I stand and stretch and make one last glance at the bait, praying that a bear has slipped in undetected. Every dark spot, every contrast, every shadow now warrants a second look.
“Is that one?” my mind asks.
I watch and wait for movement.
Night time has beat me and it’s time to leave my perch. Being in true forest and not being on the top of the food chain has my sense keen. Although black bears aren’t known for being man-eaters, even a mid-sized bear has enough claw and fang to give you a bad day.
I sneak out the path and check my back trail as I make it to the clearing and hear the buzz of the mosquitoes once again as I impatiently wait for my ride.
The first night of my bear hunting trip played out over the next six afternoons the same way. Lots of hours sitting on stand, waiting, hoping and praying for a bear to make an appearance, but none did for me.
Two of my hunting partners were fortunate enough to take bears on this trip and a fair number of walleyes found their way into the frying pan for a fish dinner.
The Ontario bush was absolutely beautiful. Rugged, unforgiving, and scenic. A true outdoorsman’s paradise with wilderness, rivers, lakes and streams. Black bear, moose, wolves, foxes, bobcats and lynx call this area home along with a handful of hearty people.
I’ve been home for only a couple weeks and voices of the pines, the ravens and the loons are calling me back. If the fates allow, I’ll be back next year,:
– David Hewitt