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Another Season

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les welch

les welch

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Fishing was great on morning 2. We were putting lots of Walleyes and Perch in the boat, and the Northerns were hungry but we did our best to avoid them. After a late breakfast of Walleye it was time to assemble the gear and get ready for the afternoon's hunt. We were all headed to new stands and anticipations were high! We didn't leave until 2 on this day and with some long 4 wheeler rides it was 3-3:30 before getting set at the baits. I was in a ground blind about 12 yards from the bait. Let me tell you it was TIGHT. Any bears would be 12 yards or less before I could see them. I was only a few yards off a small creek...this made for some amazing breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. It took about an hour for me to get them cleared out of the blind. Thank goodness for Thermacell!! It was near 10pm as shooting light began to fail. I quietly packed my gear and slipped out the back. After a half mile walk I hopped on the 4 wheeler for the 13 mile ride back to camp. Pulling in I saw that the guys' wheelers were there, but nobody was around, so I drove straight to the skinning shed. Sure enough they were working on Larry's bear. He made a great shot on a nice boar and the Iron Will made a short tracking job.
 
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les welch

les welch

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Chuck has a neat system for bears that works really well up there. He never takes a quantity of hunters. Its all about the quality. He also has a lot of freezer space. This allows for gutting of the bear and then the whole animal is put into a freezer. This brings down the temp nicely and allows for good daylight pictures early the following morning. After Larry's bear was put in the freezer there may have been a drink or two consumed. Of course now the talk was already beginning of the "secret" smallmouth and lake trout lake that now Chuck and Larry would have the opportunity to fish while Brian and I still "had" to hunt.
 
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les welch

les welch

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Morning 3 started off with early pictures and then getting Larry's bear caped and deboned. Then it all went into the freezer. I'm guessing ya'll are going to have a hard time believing this, but after that we went fishing :) Literally we only went a few hundred yards and fished for a very short time. Fresh Walleye was on the menu for breakfast. So back to shore we went and it was time to clean and eat. Upon finishing breakfast it was determined we still had a few hours to fish before Brian and I had to make the drive to the bear baits. So out we went again, literally boating a couple of hundred walleyes over the next 3 hours. The fishing is absolutely incredible here. Walleye sandwiches for lunch, shot our bows, and got ready. Today I would have an 18 mile 4 wheeler ride to a new bait, and Brian had a 23 mile ride back to the same bait he sat on night 2. The talk was rampant about this "secret" lake that we were missing out on fishing because we still "had" to bear hunt. Brian and I were getting itchy.
 
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les welch

les welch

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As we loaded up the wheelers for the evening trip Larry was debating between a nap and walleye fishing, slightly rubbing it in :) We said our good lucks and headed on the way. As I crawled up the climbing sticks to the stand, I got that feeling. You will know it if you have had it. I also experienced it on an out of state whitetail hunt this past fall. That feeling when you know that this is the set. It might not be this sit, but something would come from that particular location. There was VERY little, and usually no service in this area of NW Ontario, and these baits in particular Chuck said would not have service. Chuck's instructions were to ride back to camp and get help when (not if) we shot a bear. However I usually leave my phone on and in Airplane mode so I can snap quick pictures or video, check the time, what have you if need be. I swiped Airplane mode off just as I started up the tree. Chuck was setting the bait. Right after my feet hit the platform I secured my safety harness, gave Chuck the good to go thumbs up, and then started getting my gear set and arranged. By the time I heard the wheeler start up I had my bow hung, arrow nocked, and release clipped. I kept an eye open, but kept moving to get the video gear mounted, still camera ready, and all hunting stuff organized. Within a couple of minutes the woods was returning to its usual business. Pine squirrels chasing, jays cawing, and mosquito's buzzing.
 
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les welch

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I could feel it in this set. I “knew” this was it. Wind permitting I would ask to sit here every night.


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In my previous sits I had yet to see a Pine Marten, although the other guys had saw them every night. It wasn't long though before I was greeted by my first visit. The time passed quickly as the Marten came and went. Hauling bear bait away like a pack rat and coming and going quite a lot. I filmed him different times and just enjoyed sit. The Marten had been gone for awhile and I had been filming some red/pine squirrels chasing one another around. They were pretty intense. Back home I had watched this scenario unfold hundreds if not thousands of times. I had often wondered what happened when they actually catch one another; I had never see that happen. I literally laughed out loud as they came tearing through the bait, at what seemed like 25mph, and the lead one just slams on the brakes. Stops on a dime. The chasing one slams head first right into the front squirrel's ass. They both go tumbling in a big ball, get up running opposite directions to different trees, and chattering like two school girls. It was all get out funny.
 
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les welch

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It didn't take long for them to get back to the routine of eating some bait, chasing one another around, chattering, and repeating. Some time had passed and two of these were again going around the bait area all out chasing one another and chattering, and then it happened. I saw the movement flashing in from behind the bait. Immediately I knew what was going to happen. I quickly reached and hit the record button and started to zoom on the bait. In perfect timing the two pine squirrels made a turn and sped between the bait and the crib, and at exactly the right time the pine marten dove through the crib from the back side pinning the rear red squirrel to the ground. There was about 15 seconds of death kicks as the pine marten held his jaws firmly around the the squirrel's neck. The pine marten then had a warm supper of squirrel heart and then walked over to the bear bait for a little dessert. It was a neat scenario to experience and video. A short while later the Pine Marten picked up the red squirrel in his mouth and hauled him off to parts unknown to me.
 
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les welch

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One of the little guys. I thought he was going I hop in my lap for a second.


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les welch

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It wasn't long and I heard a twig snap. It's funny how silent bears can be though, yet in this moment I instantly knew it was a bear, even with out visual. As soon as I heard it, my left hand was going to the bow, and the right hand was flipping power to the video camera, all while I was standing and pushing seat back against the tree. Cameras showed 3 bears using this bait. 190#, 220#, and 325#, all of these are ball parkish guesses. The two smaller bears had a tendency to come in to the bait together. Within a couple of seconds I could tell it was the pair, and although early in the evening and the hunt, I knew I would take the bigger of the two if given a shot on film.
 
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les welch

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If you followed along on last year's thread you knew what was going through my mind! As the bears were moving and situating I was zooming, framing, and double/triple/quadruple checking the record button. :D The smaller of the two came in and went directly to the bait. The bigger one came in a few seconds later. When it hit the small opening around the bait he instantly looked up right at "me" in the stand. He marched the 9 yards right to the base of my stand and looked up and stared at "me" again. I never moved while those bears could see me, there is now way he knew I was there. Just goes to show you how they can pattern us as well. After 20 seconds or so he turned and I thought he was going to leave. However he turned and moved into and around the bait and found a spot to snack. As he was doing this I had already come to full draw. I've fought target panic for a long time. Last year I started to work through it and have become better. He continued to move around and get settled and I continued to hold and bring the sight picture together. When he finally settled in he was at a somewhat quartering to angle and 9 yards away. I was shooting a 73#, 28" draw Mathews Triax with 100grain Iron Will tipped Easton Full metal jacket arrows. As I worked through the shot process I knew I wanted to take out the leading edge of the front shoulder. When everything come together the arrow was gone amid the growl and jump of the boar as he flashed briefly through the thick underbrush. In a few seconds there was a couple of loud "breaths" and then again total silence.
 
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les welch

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I used to be a bear guide in WI. I've been in on over 150 bear recoveries and thoroughly enjoy it. I've been in the woods for 40 years now. I have a fairly good idea of what needs to be done in most situations, and feel I can handle anything that comes my way. I'm also a person that really likes DIY, and especially when it comes to the first moments with an animal, those can't be redone. I don't enjoy killing, I don't dislike it. It's an integral part of the process, one that I don't take lightly, yet one that I don't lose sleep over. For that reason the moments when an animal is first recovered are pretty special to me. Depending on the situation I like the recoveries to be mine. I'll gladly share that experience after a short time, but if given the opportunity on "my" hunt, I'd rather enjoy it for a few moments. It's a place of peace. Most guides want a "client" to get them involved, and totally 100% understand and respect that. I knew Chuck wanted me to wait, I also knew that bear was already stiffening and I had only sent the arrow a few minutes before. About 10 minutes after getting in my stand I pulled my phone out of the pocket; it had 20+ texts and dozens of notifications. Wow, not shabby for a place that didn't have service. :) I looped the rope around my bow and sent it to the ground and then descended. As I walked to the bait I could see the Iron Will was buried beyond sight into the pine tree. As I got closer I could see the blood spray on the ground, crib, and surrounding trees. Although of a different foilage type, this is what I envision Vietnam to be like. It was a complete wall of underbrush mess. There were two options. On your knees and crawl along the bear trails or cover face and bull through it. I elected the latter. My knees and hips are too worn to be down there like that. Thankfully the boar only went 23 yards. I spent a few minutes with the bear. Reflecting on this hunt, all that had happened in the year since my last bear "hunt" in Manitoba, and just being thankful for getting to live my life the way I do.
 
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les welch

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After a few moments and pictures I headed back to the stand. I only had a tiny bit of service, and I had to be in the treestand with the phone in a particular spot. I sent this text to Chuck "We're going fishing tomorrow, come give me a hand :) " Chuck's reply " OK, we'll be right there!" Ha ha, had such an excellent time on this trip. I also knew "we'll be right there" was very relative. They had to gear up, and then ride 20 miles on 4 wheeler. I was in no hurry. I did a little videoing, packed up my gear, cleaned up the area a little, and just enjoyed the time. It was really nice. I'm always a little apprehensive about filling a tag, this was no different. I got all my gear out to the wheeler and ready for the ride out. I knew I had time so I took a few photos of the landscape and did some bodyweight work. Pushups, squats, and lunges. It was a short time later when the cavalry got there. 4 guys' on 4 wheelers! I thought that was a little extreme........what I didn't know was that shortly after I messaged Chuck about fishing, Brian sent a very similar message about fishing the following day. Turns out we shot bears about 5 minutes apart. We got my bear out to the trail, and then we headed down about 5 miles towards Brian. We were able to retrieve both bears and still get back to camp right about dark!
 
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