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bear hunting at key harbour lodge

Chris Dawson charges the bait site at Georgian Bay’s Key Harbour Lodge.



A half-hour after Chris Dawson of Key Harbour Lodge drops my wife Karen and I off at our bear stands, my cell phone vibrates. It’s Karen saying she’s already had bears in front of her stand. This is the start of what turns out to be an exciting two days of hunting along the shores of Georgian Bay. It also happens to be the anniversary of our wedding.

No Shortage of Bears

the author’s wife Karen with a 200-pound bruin taken at Georgian Bay’s Key Harbour Lodge.
The author’s wife Karen with a 200-pound bruin taken at Georgian Bay’s Key Harbour Lodge.

Key Harbour Lodge is at the mouth of the Key River in the northeast corner of the bay. It’s only accessible by water and the seven-mile boat ride from Highway 69 is scenic. We travel down a well-marked channel lined with granite cliffs and tree-lined rocks gently sloping down to the water. After unloading, Dawson takes us to our stands. The blinds are hand-built, roomy and comfortable.

We are the first hunters of the year and Dawson has been seeing regular activity at the stands. My first day is uneventful and after Dawson picks me up we head to Karen’s stand. As we approach I hear her yell, “Be careful.” She climbs down from the treestand, telling us there was a bear on the barrel as we pulled in. Karen is charged with excitement, telling the tale of the six bears she saw.
“Were they too cute to shoot?” Dawson jokes.
Karen has various reasons for not shooting each, but assures us she is primed and ready for action.

Dropping the Hammer

The next day, within the first hour, Karen texts me that she has seen a bear but it didn’t come into the open. All is quiet in front of my stand until I hear a shot around 7 p.m. A text from Karen soon follows and I can sense her exhilaration as she relates how the bear stood on its back legs and then did a summersault before thrashing about in the bush. I assure her she hit it and tell her to let Dawson know.

Just after the sun dips below the horizon, I hear branches breaking and a growling sound coming from the brush to my right. My heart pounds as a mother and cub walk to the bait bucket. Just then Dawson pulls in to get me but we hear more growling after the mother and cub hightail it.
“There’s a bruiser coming in. I’ll come back for you,” he says.

For the next hour I hear growling and occasional branches breaking, but the bear doesn’t show. Still, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up, knowing a top predator is out there.

When I finally meet up with my wife, she is bubbling over and all smiles standing over a 200-pound bruin. And she shot the bear on our anniversary to boot.

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