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Close Encounters with Ontario Bruins

Corine Armstrong with her first Northwestern Ontario bruin. • Credit: Tom Armstrong
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Close Encounters with Ontario Bruins

Tom Armstrong and his wife participate in the Ontario Spring Black Bear Hunt

I froze as my wife Corine pointed out the blind window. Clearly, she was seeing something that I couldn’t from my spot in the blind. I sat stock-still, waiting. A long black nose appeared, mere feet from the blind, as the bear slowly walked past. It hadn’t come from where we’d expected, and we were caught off guard as it walked directly beside our blind.

Apparently, our scent control worked. The bruin continued past, stopping at the bait site 15 yards away. After our pounding hearts settled down Corine got the crossbow up, and within a few minutes was offered the perfect broadside shot, and harvested her first black bear.

Thunder Bay Bruin

This was the scene that unfolded for us last spring outside Thunder Bay as part of Ontario’s Spring Bear Hunt Pilot Project. With high bear numbers, the Thunder Bay area provides excellent opportunities for Ontario hunters in the spring and resident and non-resident hunters in the fall. Surrounded by wilderness, Thunder Bay is situated within prime habitat and offers an accessible and healthy population of black bears.

Hunters can take part in do-it-yourself hunts, baiting and hunting on their own, or go on a pre-baited hunt with one of a number of bear hunting outfitters in the Thunder Bay area.

Spot-and-stalk hunts can also be effective, hunting bears early fall in blueberry patches or stalking them in cutovers. This sort of hunt can be done without bait and even in conjunction with a small game or moose hunting trip

a trail camera Ontario Bruin A trail camera catches this Northwestern Ontario bruin a approaching a bait site.

Business Is Good

I spoke with Andrew Romu of Boundary Waters Guide Service, just north of the Minnesota border. He runs his operation out of his country childhood home, where he’s been guiding bear hunters since 1988. He says bear numbers are clearly on the rise, and he hasn’t seen bear numbers this high since he started guiding. He also notes that it appears the number of older bears is increasing, offering hunters a better chance at that mature bear they’ve been chasing.

Romu says they have had 100% shot opportunities for clients and most hunters have seen multiple bears. With numbers as they have been, he says he is confident that this trend will continue.

In addition to the numerous black bear outfitters, the Thunder Bay area offers a variety of accommodation options for the do-it-yourself hunter, from hotels to lodges to campgrounds. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter looking for somewhere new, or a new bear hunter looking for a place to start, the Thunder Bay area offers some of the best opportunities a bear hunter could hope for.

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