Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shannon's Canadian Sub-Arctic Bear Hunt

As soon as I booked the flight and got my passport I thought to myself, “Can I really handle this?” A week in the Canadian Sub-Arctic with no running water, limited electricity, tents and a hole in the ground with a piece of plywood as a toilet, I questioned if I was capable of a wilderness hunt.

The months leading up to my Manitoba bear hunt, I practiced with my Vicxen everyday. I simulated countless shooting scenarios as well as mentally prepared myself for the wilderness. I also brushed up on my camera skills, as I would be filming Vicki Cianciarulo of Archer’s Choice TV!

Finally the day arrived and I was in Winnipeg boarding a chartered plane with Vicki, Ralph and Dusty (from the ACM Posse) to the main lodge. The plane banked hard to the right and we got a great view of the gravel runway with a bear crossing it! Shortly after landing, we boarded a float plane to our final destination. Dusty and myself were nervous as we both had never flown on a float plane, it is safe to say we both got over our fear of air turbulence and actually enjoy float planes! About 45 minutes later we landed on Whitmore Lake (google it). Our guides John and Marshall were there with boats to greet us and take us to our camp on an island. We unloaded our gear and got settled into camp.

The next morning we got up and ran bait with the guides. We checked the Stealth Cams to see what bears were hitting the bait and restock the bait if necessary. It was on this morning that I realized I loved bear hunting for the following reasons:

1) You get to sleep in late

2) The bait is perfect for snacking; popcorn and licorice are two of my favorite things

The next few days we saw quality bears, but no shot opportunities. It was exciting since I had never seen a bear in the wild! Vicki taught me how to judge a bear, how to tell the difference between a sow and a boar as well as how to stay composed in the presence of a bear (breathe, no sudden movements, etc.).

I also got to experience the camaraderie of our small camp. All of the laughter around a pot of coffee, the pranks around camp and stories told by the guides of past hunting adventures, I will never forget.

I was also taking a liking to the wilderness hunt. We fished for Walleye for our meals and built fires to keep warm. It was so neat to be camping in such a remote location. I got to see the Northern Lights, a mating pair of artic wolves and see land that no human has ever walked. It was a really humbling experience.

On the fourth day it was Vicki’s turn to hunt. Dusty made two of her lucky peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It worked for Ralph, he shot an amazing chocolate bear the day Dusty made him a PB&J. We ate our PB&Js as soon as we got settled in. Vicki and I were in hour 8 or 9 of the 11-hour sit when like a ghost, a quality bear appeared. I was excited because if this boar came into the bait, I would have the honor of filming Vicki!

The boar came in and immediately sat behind the bait. We waited and waited. Vicki had that all familiar look of contemplation and I asked her what she was thinking. She turned and said, “Give me the camera.”

Questioning Vicki how I was going to logistically hand her the camera, tripod, headphones, change the second angle camera, get my bow out of the sling, put on my release, take off my quiver and knock an arrow without alerting the bear that is stands 14 yards away. To which she replied, “Slowly and quietly.”

After a few minutes, the camera was in Vicki’s hands and I was standing with my Vicxen, waiting for the perfect opportunity. An hour went by and no shot. I kept reminding myself to stay calm, draw and anchor the same way I practiced, pick a spot on the bear, don’t jerk the trigger and keep my arm up. Finally the bear stood up and gave me a broadside shot.

I watched as my Beman hit the double-lung sweet spot. My bear ran 44 yards from the stand. Every doubt I had about myself and every fear I thought vanished when that bear dropped. Emotions overwhelmed me when I looked at Vicki and whispered, “I did it.”

This was a life-changing hunt. I questioned if I would be capable of living in the wilderness for a week without life’s luxuries, if I would be capable of hunting an animal that could hunt me back and if I would be capable of accepting that if something went wrong, help was a day away. Not only did I learn that I am capable of all of this, but I enjoyed every moment of it. This hunt instilled a newfound confidence inside of me. When I accepted the invitation from Vicki, I had no idea it was going to change my life.

I can’t thank Ralph and Vicki enough for giving me the opportunity to go on this hunt, especially Vicki; that should have been her bear. She is the most giving person I know, and I am grateful to have her as my friend. Also, without the continual support of my coworkers, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, thank you. I want to thank Dusty for my lucky PB&J and making me laugh time and time again.

Thank you to Ken Gangler for an unforgettable experience in your territory. A big thanks to our guides John and Marshall, who both taught me so much about bear hunting. It is a priceless and solid foundation that I will utilize for the rest of my life.

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