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A Spring Bear Hunt to Remember

Kaden with his bear • Credit: Canada in the Rough
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A Spring Bear Hunt to Remember

Getting a second chance at a big bear doesn’t often happen but when it does, you never forget it



Another long winter has come to an end and it’s time to once again hit the road for this year’s spring bear hunting adventure in Northern Ontario. This is a bit of a different hunt for me though, as I’m taking my eldest son Kaden with me and he will be the one behind the crossbow.

We started our adventure as most do, packing our truck and starting our long drive up to beautiful Algoma Country. We’re headed to Brace Lake Outfitters to hunt bears and fish for some walleye and pike. What makes this adventure even more exciting is it’s a fly-in lodge and this will mark Kaden’s first-ever floatplane flight.

After a twelve-hour drive from Peterborough, we grabbed a hotel in the town Longlac along Highway Eleven. The following day we made the rest of the drive to Nakina Ontario, where we would be flying out with Nakina Air Service. We arrived before our plane had returned from another flight, so we got to see the amazing blue otter land and taxi in to pick us up. The look of excitement in Kaden's eyes was contagious.

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The crew got all our gear on the plane and we were soon off climbing into the sky. As we flew over the never-ending bush and countless lakes and rivers, it reminded both of us of how lucky we are to take part in such a great adventure, especially after the struggles we all have been facing over the last year.

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After a twenty-minute flight, we spotted Brace Lake Outfitters cabins on the shores of Brace Lake. Their unique blue metal roofs stuck out like a welcome beacon. Our pilot Alex smoothly put the big bird down on the water and we were soon greeted by Kyle & Teri Poleskey, the owners of the outfit on the dock.

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Brace Lake Outfitters has been in operation for a while now and Kyle and Teri sure know how to do it right. From amazing private accommodations fully equipped with everything you may ever need, to the special care taken with their provided meals. You may not see her a whole lot but Teri is behind the amazing meals here, and honestly, it’s some of the best food, if not the best, we’ve ever had while hunting.

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Since we got in too late for hunting on the first day we just unpacked and took it easy, enjoying a great display of the northern lights to cap the evening off.

The next day we awoke to a very tasty breakfast, followed by sighting in the crossbow to make sure the bow made the flight safely and that Kaden was confident in himself.

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Kyle set us up that evening on a wide stream that currently had thousands of suckers spawning in it. The bears were in the area at night and you could see they were feeding on the suckers as well. We were set up on the ground and had a beautiful view, unfortunately, no bears showed up for us on our first sit. But we did thoroughly enjoy our hunt as we had some great encounters with many immature bald eagles and even a pair of green-winged teal ducks, including a stunning drake.

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The next day we took some time to take part in some fishing ahead of our evening bear hunt. This area is renowned for amazing fishing so we were both very excited as Kyle walked us down to his boats. Now these aren’t just any fishing boats, these are gorgeous eighteen-foot cedar stripped boats.

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Throughout the week we were able to take a few hours most days to head out fishing and we had a blast catching a ton of walleye and pike. We caught a number of very nice walleye, though we never landed any of the true giant Northern Pike they are known for.

One of the days we decided to take the time for another first for Kaden, a traditional fish shore lunch. Kyle found a great little island and he got busy cleaning the fish we had just caught that morning. Kyle fried up the fish, along with some really tasty fries and veggies and we ate like kings on our little isolated island. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.

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On our second evening hunt, we headed back to our sucker stream, where we were rewarded with a very cool bear encounter. With the sun just touching the top of the trees we heard some splashing up the stream. Sure enough, as we strained to look through the brush we could make out a black bear chasing suckers in the water. The setting sunlight was catching the splashing water as the bear tried to catch its dinner. It was quite the sight watching this bear hunt in the stream. Unfortunately for us he never came close enough for a shot before we lost light.

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That evening a big storm hit the area and stuck around for all of day three, keeping us from hunting.

On day four the weather broke in the evening long enough for us to get out to a new spot that has been known to attract some big bears. Sure enough, the trail camera had been getting some photos of a good bear in daylight. Setup on the ground again in a natural blind, we position Kaden to my right and got his bow ready. We were set up ten yards off the lake looking into an opening in the timber. To our rear was a lake, so we knew the bears couldn’t sneak in from behind us.

We sat patiently for a good three hours and the woods seemed fairly quiet. But then I spotted something dark in the woods fifty yards through the thick timber. As I looked intently at the dark area in the brush, I eventually made out a very slight movement, and almost like magic, my eyes were able to focus and see that I was in fact staring at a bear head starring back at us. Without moving I quietly told Kaden not to move as I had spotted a bear. This was definitely a smart bear, he stood so still he looked like a statue, just staring in our direction as he surveyed the area for danger.

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Eventually, he started to move a bit, sticking his head out of the thick brush to smell and taste the air. This was the first time we got good eyes on him and we both were shocked at how big this bear looked. He had a big round head like a big black pumpkin and his ears were so small, slightly leaning off to the sides, all great signs of a very mature boar. The tense encounter continued as he just sat and waited, smelling and tasting the air and taking long slow glancing sweeps of the area.

After fifteen minutes he made his first step closer, walking very slowly he closed another five yards. But once again he stopped behind a tree. After another five-minute standoff, the old boar decided he didn’t like something and retreated back into the timber. We were both heartbroken. This looked like a true spring brute and as people who have hunted big bears know, you typically only get one chance at these smart boys.

With nothing to lose and seeing that the weather forecast was calling for another big storm to roll through the area tomorrow, we knew this was looking like our last hunt of the trip, so we stuck it out. After an hour or so with nothing and the light getting low, we were both feeling pretty down, until I looked up to see a big black figure walking out from our left from behind a fallen tree only fifteen yards away.

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Kaden silently made his way to his crossbow as it sat ready on a tripod. He managed to get the bow shouldered and took off the safety without being detected. The bear walked a few feet away towards the bait. He then stopped and looked back to us on a quartering away stance and Kaden let the bolt fly.

Kaden made a perfect shot and the bear tore off into the woods where we had first spotted him and dispatched just out of view. We both had a giant wave of emotions crash over us as we embraced in a big hug. Getting a second chance at a big bear doesn’t often happen and we both were very grateful that we got our second chance.

We made our way to the downed bear with the last minutes of light left in our hunt and confirmed he was in fact deceased. This big old bear had been a warrior, not only did he have multiple large scars in his hide from fighting but he was missing one of his canine teeth and both of his ears seemed to have been bitten in half. Kyle met us that evening and helped us get the bear out of the bush and back to camp.

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The next day Kaden and I got busy processing the bear. After skinning it, we broke it down into its main sections; the front and rear quarters, loins or “backstraps” as they are commonly referred to in the hunting community, the neck roast, and even the head steaks. Yes, there are in fact two great cuts of meat located at the top of the skull that most don’t know about. They are a tougher cut of meat but turn succulent once braised. We then broke the larger cuts down into roasts and wrapped them for the freezer.

After we said our goodbyes the next day and once again rose into the air aboard the floatplane headed back home, I looked out the window and thought back to the week's adventure. And truly that’s why I love hunting and fishing so much, the memories we create with loved ones in the outdoors. Most will not remember in great detail that time you beat that hard level on some video game, but you will always remember your first floatplane trip, your first shore lunch and that time the big old bruin gave you a second chance and under pressure, you made the shot you had been training for.

A big thanks to Kyle and Teri Poleskey of Brace Lake Outfitters for such a great time hunting and fishing in the gorgeous Northern Ontario wilderness. I highly recommend you check them out and if possible, book a trip with them. They truly go above and beyond with all the big and little details; from the accommodations to the food, the hunting, the fishing, it’s all you can ask for and I hope to return one day.


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