On August 26, we headed north bound from our small town of Goodhue Minnesota with a truck full of hunting gear, 2 chocolate cake donuts from Hanicsh Bakery, a bag of cherry licorice for snaking and an updated playlist on my iPhone for our 9 hour trek to Canada. We were making good time until Mr. Lead hand got pulled over for speeding. Luckily the officer was very nice and let us off with a warning. We arrived to Fort Frances, made it across the boarder and began the last leg of our journey where there was nothing but rock, trees and the occasional moose crossing sign with the words, "night danger" written underneath. With zero cell phone service and minimal traffic we wondered how the hell anyone would find us if something were to happen. By the grace of God we made it to the small town of Ignace, Ontario where the happening place is the local bait shop, Vern's Minnows and the graduating class of 2016 was a whopping 6 people. Just outside of town we turned onto the bumpy dirt road and pulled up into our bear camp, Rousseau's Landing. We were welcomed by a sign that read, SLOW THE TRUCK DOWN, FOR TRUCK SAKES, and Ryan and I both knew that these were our kind of people. I hopped out of the truck and stepped into the main lodge and was greeted by Mr. Jon Rousseau himself. We got checked in and headed to the cabin we would call home for the next 8 days. Jon and Patti immediately wanted to make sure that the cabin would be able to work for Ryan, they showed us around, let us get settled and said get some sleep tomorrow afternoon get ready to bear hunt! The next morning we journeyed out, checked out the camp and ended up switching cabins to one that worked easier for Ryan. The plan was set to head out at 3 and Jon would take us to our stand and bait the bear box for us.
Dressed in our camo gear, bows in hand we headed 6 miles out of camp to Creepy Hollow. This bait box had been consistently being hit by a couple smaller bears but also by a big 450 pounder. Driving into Creepy Hollow we knew instantly why they called it that. Thick full of trees and moss, with minimal light and mosquitos the size of small birds the erie sense came over us. We got settled into our very nice accessible tree stand and watched Jon as he slathered orange frosting on the tree trunks and filled the bait box full of Patti's finest bear food, put the cover on, set the rock on top, gave us a thumbs up, hoped in his truck and away he went. There we sat, hearts pumping, all excited, eagerly anticipating a bear to walk into our sites, hearing nothing but the squirrels, birds and occasional call of the loons on the lake next to us. Before we knew it darkness was setting in and I had to prepare myself for the trek back through Creepy Hollow to retrieve our truck. I walked down out of the tree stand, looked both ways down the road and went as fast as my little legs would carry me. Woods are creepy know matter what, especially at night, but woods with 450 pound bears intensifies the creepiness. We arrived back at camp with the disheartening news of no bears. By day two of bear hunting we had our routine down and started sitting morning and late afternoon into the evening. Mornings Patti would have a bag of popcorn for us to put out, who knew bears love popcorn, evenings we would bait the box and it never failed that when we would leave for lunch and arrive back in the evenings the box would be hit and popcorn would be gone. Day one through day three was spent at Creepy Hollow, the Buck luck kicked in and we saw not one single bear. The amount of squirrels sounding like bears was getting pretty old and we swear they were warning the bears that we were there.
On day four Jon decided to bring us to the other accessible stand they called, The Cliff Hanger. This bait box was being hit by a couple decent sized bears and a sow with two cubs. Even though it is illegal to shoot a sow with cubs at least we would be able to see bears come in, see how they act, and how they get into the bait box. Day four had ended and again no bears. Returning back to camp we hear of the other group of hunters getting bears and passing decent sized bears up. That evening feeling discouraged Ryan and I had a camp fire and Jon and Patti came over. They said this isn't uncommon, sometimes it takes a few days for the bears to get used to our scent. Patti told us to go with our gut on where to sit on day five. Any hunter knows that animals will do their own thing. The concept of bear hunting, especially bating a bear seems easy. You provide them dinner and they show up, but it doesn't always work that way. Hunting never goes with out putting in the time and energy. Patience is key and after a few days of not seeing anything your patience gets tested. Who will be more patient the hunter or the bear. Sitting in the woods in the peace and quiet certain senses become more heightened, your instincts on certain things kick in. We thought about what Patti had said and I told Ryan my gut was saying that we needed to be at Creepy Hollow. I finished my glass of wine, Ryan, Jon and Patti finished their whiskey and we said our goodnights. Our plan was set, Creepy Hollow we would go, and day five would be upon us before we knew it.
Stay tuned for our next blog post and the most exciting day of our trip!