As much as we love hunting and the outdoors and travelling across this great country, it’s always a little bittersweet when we hit the road and have to leave our families behind. While we can share the stories and the footage from our adventures with them, what we can’t share is the long hours spent driving and in the stand, the laughs around the picnic table over lunch, or the emotion that comes with that big moment of a successful hunt.
This spring, that all changed. Keith Beasley’s oldest son Kaden turned 12 this year, making him legal age to buy his own black bear tag. So Keith seized the opportunity to take Kaden on his first road trip with the Canada in the Rough crew, up to Dog Lake Resort Black Bear Adventure just north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The long drive up highway 17 along Lake Superior was just the start of an amazing week of firsts for Kaden.
Arriving late that night after nearly 16 hours on the road, Keith and Kaden met their host Paul, owner of Dog Lake Resort. After some brief greetings, the guys headed for bed in their beautiful log cabin, situated on a hill overlooking the lake and the rest of camp. The next morning, Keith and Kaden discussed hunting plans with Paul and Ron, their guide for the week. The family vibe in camp was unmistakable as Paul’s mother Irene and girlfriend Lorrilee brought out the homemade breakfast.
After checking out camp, Keith and Kaden grabbed a target and shot the crossbow a few times. Kaden had been practicing for weeks leading up to the hunt, and after a couple of bull’s-eyes, the guys were confident the bow was shooting fine. After a truly delicious steak lunch, they hopped in the truck and headed out with Ron for their first night in the stand.
The crew, along with Paul and Ron, all agreed leading up to this week that they would tackle the hunt a little differently than our crew usually would. As experienced hunters committed to producing quality television and harvesting mature animals, we typically focus our attention on big boars. But often that means long, quiet sits, waiting for that boar to appear right before dark. Having a first-time bear hunter with us this time, the focus would be shifted. We wanted Kaden to experience a bear hunt with lots of encounters and lots of action, with less emphasis on the size of the bear. So Ron set us up at one of his most active areas for the night.
After less than an hour in the stand, the first bear appeared. Kaden and Keith kept quiet and still as the bear wandered towards them through the woods, but a swirling wind and a quick sniff sent the bear walking away. Despite the disappointment, Kaden performed like a seasoned hunter. He kept his emotions in check, stayed still and quiet, and 20 minutes later, the bear reappeared, slowly making his way into the clearing. With Keith providing support and encouragement in his ear, Kaden lifted his bow quietly, waited for the bear to turn broadside, and executed a perfect shot.
For all the amazing hunts our crew has experienced over the years, that moment shared by father and son in the woods of Northern Ontario ranks right near the top. Next, Kaden got to see the part of the hunt that people watching on TV don’t always see—the extra filming, following the blood trail, and dragging his bear out of the woods and back to the truck. Back at camp, Kaden excitedly shared his story with everyone and got to revel in the joy of a successful hunt. The next morning the work continued, and after getting some pictures with his bear, Kaden learned the ins and outs of skinning and butchering. His excitement from the previous night’s action had been replaced with the excitement of bringing back bear meat to share with the rest of the family.
With Kaden’s bear down, it was Keith’s turn with the bow. Sitting in a stand overlooking a creek with a large ridge running behind it, the next three nights of hunting can be described as nothing less than magical. Barely an hour went by without some kind of excitement, whether it was young bears crossing the creek or walking down from the ridge, skunks or rabbits or birds or squirrels moving about, or the coolest encounter of the week: a sow defending her two cubs from a nosey intruder. The sheer power of these creatures was on full display as the two bears collided, the sow coming out the victor and the defeated bear retreating to the woods. With all this exciting action keeping them entertained, Keith and Kaden were more than happy to hold out for a couple of days for a chance at one of the more mature bears in the area.
One of the best parts about bear camp in the spring, especially at a place like Dog Lake, is the opportunity for other great adventures outside of hunting. Keith and Kaden share a passion for fishing, so they couldn’t wait to test the waters for some walleye in the mornings. Their dream week got even better when longtime guest of the resort Jimmy agreed to take the boys out and show them some of his favourite spots to fish on the 18-mile-long lake. The firsts continued for Kaden, as he got to fish with live bait for the first time, and after landing several great fish, not to mention the largest catch of the day, he learned how to filet his fish for a shore lunch. The guys found a secluded beach and fried up some fresh walleye and bear meat—a lunch fit for a king.
The week was capped off with another amazing night of bear encounters. The sow and cubs returned, scaring off a smaller boar. Then, with the sun low behind the trees, the sow and cubs suddenly ran off. Keith and Kaden waited cautiously, as a boar appeared on the creek bed and slowly walked towards the clearing. With the sow growling from the woods behind the stand, the bigger boar calmly walked in, and Keith made another perfect shot. Father and son rejoiced again and then got back to work.
The next day, during the long drive home, the crew reminisced over the amazing week we’d spent with Paul, Ron, Irene, and Lorrilee, and all the memories we’d made. For Kaden, it was a defining moment in his young hunting career and a unique look at everything that goes on behind the camera during his dad’s hunts. And for Keith, it was a chance to share everything he loves about hunting and the outdoors with his oldest son, and a chance to let someone else tell the family all about the week for a change.