Thirty years ago I arrowed my first black bear. I was 30 years old. Time flies they say when you are having fun. I couldn't agree more.
For some reason, these two dates jumped out at me today, out of the blue, just as I was contemplating getting out after some grouse for the afternoon. However, I find myself banging away at the keyboard.
What has changed over those thirty years? More aptly ... What hasn't?
The first bears we tagged often drew an audience at my little camp from passerbys. The most common question was " Did you shoot that around here?" When I replied yes , many long time local residents would say they had never seen one, or had only ever seen a couple.
Contrast wtih today in that same area, and it's almost hard to beleive. I hardly know anyone who hasn't spotted bears while just going about their daily routines. Multiple bear sightings are now the norm.
The same could be said of bear hunters. Even 30 years ago, not many had an interest in bears. There was a common misconception of bear being a foul smelling, unfit to eat animal, hardly worthy of bonafide big game status.
Boy, has that ever changed! I'd say at least 50% of the hunters I know now hunt bear. I hardly know anyone who has tried properly tended bear meat who didn't love it. The hunters I know who pursue them each fall cherish the meat as much as they do venison.
Another big change over over the last 3 decades is bait. What I once got more than I could use for free, it's common now to have to scrounge and chase down every possible lead to obtain a sufficient amount of bait to run a bait or two. Paying for it is now often the norm. Many who pay for it, consider themselves lucky to have a source, even if it includes parting with a few dollars.
I still contend that in NS black bears have not obtained legitimate big game status, such as deer or moose have. That discussion often leads to ruffled feathers ( admittedly often mine). With age, sometimes comes a bit of wisdom, or maybe in my case, I've just learned to bite my tongue. And, perhaps more impotantly, to accept that my personal opinion does not make it correct. But given a platform ( not that it happens very often) or asked I'll give it.
I've never shot a bear with anything other than a bow. Many taken with a traditional bow. Some with wooden arrows. Other with aluminum or carbon shafts. Some with hand sharpened broadheads. Others with blistering sharp out of the package broadheads. Some in the morning hours, but the majority in the evening hours.
Looking back, some of the most lasting warm n fuzzy memories are simply of the folks who I shared bear hunt with. Succesful and unsuccessful seasons. . Folks I sweated with, through the summer months lugging bait while swatting flies away ! Some of whom I shared a camp meal of bear with on a cold winter night while down at the camp hunting rabbits or just enjoying a January evening at the old camp.
This years bruin was no exception. I shared the whole process from start to finish with a good bud. I enjoyed every second of the whole process. There's no doubt, it was memorable for a host of reasons, but perhaps the most lasting memory will be the drag out under the stars. Longest and toughest one I've been a part of. Nothing more bonding in my experience though, than a seriously back busting drag with folks who are working just as hard as myself to get my critter out to the truck. It's a favour I hope to be able to return. Such is bear hunting to me.
Bears have been a large part of my hunting life. Fingers crossed, maybe I'll have another 30 years of bear hunting friends, baiting, and adventures to write about in 2050.