Bear Hunting in Manitoba: Close Range & Big Bears- Canada in the Rough
When you think of bear hunting in Manitoba, the images that come first to mind are often that of tall coniferous stands, rugged Canadian shield, infinite lakes and waterways flourishing with fish, and bears around every corner.
If this is what you imagine, then the Northern Region of the province is where you'll find it! But that's not all you'll find, the Northern Region is also home to huge numbers of big mature boars and colour phase ratios approaching half the population.
It just so happens that All Terrain Bear Hunts, owned and operated by Corey Grant is located right in the middle of it all. Recently, Keith Beasley of Canada in the Rough and his son Kaden had the opportunity to make the trip up into Manitoba's far north to pursue the monarchs of the forest. Just Having his son along on the trip Keith knew it was going to be special. But what conspired while they were bear hunting in Manitoba was more than they could have ever asked for!
Bear Hunting in Manitoba with my Son Kaden - Keith Beasley
If you told me leading into this hunt that my eldest son Kaden and I would be heading home with coolers full of delicious bear meat and fresh fish. And would also experience the most intense and extremely close bear stand-off I’ve ever had. I would have told you it was a story that was too good to be true. Luckily for us this story is not fiction.
All Terrain Bear Hunts
Our Manitoba black bear adventure started with a thirty-one-hour drive from Southern Ontario to Northern Manitoba. We were headed to ‘All Terrain Bear Hunts’, operated by Cory Grant. Located on a large lake off the Grass River. This was my son Kaden's second bear hunt and his first venture to the Province of Manitoba. For us, the drive to hunt camp is a special one. As we get to spend quality time together while we enjoy the sights and share our excitement for the hunt.
For a thirty-one-hour trip, it went by faster than we thought. Broken up with a short stop at Cabela’s in Winnipeg to pick up our hunting and fishing licenses. Before we knew it we were pulling up to the rocky shores of an isolated lake east of Thompson Manitoba, where we were greeted by Cory. The gear was loaded into the boat and we headed for camp. This part of the journey would only take us ten minutes. But, as anyone who has ever boated into hunting camp will tell you. Boating adds something special to the whole adventure.
As we boated, tall spruce trees and the rocky Canadian Shield flanked our sides. As we came around the final bend, the beautiful log cabin camp came into view. The long dock lead to the main lodge, where we dinned liked kings all week thanks to our wonderful cook Christina. Off the main lodge is a walkway that leads you past the shower house and to the bunkhouse. This is what we would be calling home for our week-long adventure.
Bear Hunting in Manitoba with the Comforts of Home
We found comfortable beds and even a nice welcome basket of drinks and treats. After we had our gear unpacked, we had a wonderful dinner. Cory then showed us game camera pictures of some of the great-looking bears he had on the go. Cory has over thirty years of outfitting experience and started his operation back in 2003. Northern Manitoba is known for not only a very healthy bear population. But also a great colour phase ratio... Cory’s area is no exception with up to 40% coloured bears. Kaden and I both headed to bed, dreaming of what tomorrow may bring us.
Day One: Starting off with World Class Fishing
As our first official hunt day arrived, we began the day with a hearty breakfast. Outside clouds had rolled in and a light drizzle of rain had started. We decided to still shoot our crossbow just to make sure everything was still dialed in after our long travel. True to form, our bow was flying straight arrows. Cory generally likes to hunt in the evening for bears. So, with a few hours to kill we jumped in the boat and headed to one of his proven fishing holes. The fishery here is quite amazing. With extremely low fishing pressure and a healthy fish population. We were pulling fish into the boat in no time. Throughout the week we consistently caught a mix of large Walleye, Jumbo Perch, Northern Pike, and Sauger. Many outings resulted in catching well over twenty fish with a number of true beauties.
After our morning fishing trips, we would enjoy our big meal of the day just ahead of our evening hunt. This is an outfit where you don’t have to worry if you’ll like the food. This is a class above home cooking and we were always very impressed with the food we received.
The First Evening Bear Hunt
With the rain continuing to fall, we headed out for our first evening sit. Our first spot was located just inside a tall spruce bush, on the edge of the lake. We would be hunting from the ground this week. Our homemade natural ground blinds made by Corey were awesome. We set up quickly and sat quietly. Unfortunately for us, the bear woods stayed quiet all evening. We had a cold front pushing through, dropping the temps. The cold temps combined with the rain that didn’t let up, we believed attributed to the slow evening. We still enjoyed our time watching the many birds and squirrels and stayed fairly dry tucked under the trees. Back at camp, we enjoyed a tasty snack before hitting the hay.
Snow & Rain Delay
The next day we woke to a wet snowfall. The temps had continued to drop and as the day slightly warmed up a couple of degrees the snow turned to heavy rain and extremely strong winds. This lasted all day and night. In fact, it was a record-setting rainfall for this time of year, dropping over 55 millimeters of rainfall and raising the lake significantly. We weren’t able to hunt on day two, but we got back into the bear woods on day three. Again sitting at the same spot as the first day.
Amazing Manitoba Black Bear Encounters
We had a very mature dry sow come in, and I could see my son’s eyes grow two times bigger as it made its way in and fed only 17 yards away. She was a very impressive-looking bear with a nice thick coat. Cory had known about this sow and over the last several days she had been accompanied by a large boar. As we watched her we scanned the surrounding woods patiently waiting for the boar to appear. But tonight she seemed to be solo. Non the less we still enjoyed the close encounter with this great bear.
Better Weather is on its Way!
Eventually, the cold front pushed through. The clouds parted, the winds laid down and the temperature started to rise into double digits again. Our experience has shown us the higher temps and low winds create ideal bear hunting conditions. We were very excited to see if this would be the light switch we have been waiting for. Sure enough, Cory started seeing great bear activity on his cameras again. So, on day four we headed to a new post. This time we were set up on the ground overlooking an old bush. Out in front of us were many trees knocked down from a storm a long ago. This allowed for great viewing abilities.
Twenty minutes after Cory dropped us off we spotted our first bear working through the downed trees. As it approached the bait we determined this was a mature sow, she sported an extremely dark muzzle and fed for a bit before continuing on. Not long after we spotted our second bear taking the same path she did. Another sow, this one visibly larger than the first. She was a bit more cautious coming in, but eventually worked in and also fed for a while. We both sat as still as we could as we watched her eat. Then she looked up and looked back to where she came from and decided to leave in the opposite direction.
Soon after we spotted what she had seen. Another Bear working in on the right, a third sow came in and fed. While feeding she kept a close eye on all her surroundings. I could tell my son was really enjoying all these different bear encounters, as was I. As we sat and watched, I caught movement back in the bush. A fourth bear started making its way across the down trees.
Mature Black Bear Inbound
Taking the same path the rest of the bears had taken. We could once again tell this was an immature bear but not sure about its sex yet. The third sow continued to feed as the fourth bear slowly made its way towards the bait. Before it arrived I spotted more movement in the back. This time what emerged was no doubt a very large bear. it was following the exact trail of the fourth bear and made me think this was probably a boar following a hot sow.
The third bear retreated after spotting the large fifth bear. As bear number four and five arrived at the bait our suspicions were confirmed, this was indeed a very mature boar following a mature sow. She didn’t want any part of him and even bluff charged him to let him know she wasn’t interested in his advances.
What Bear Hunting in Manitoba is all About
As they settled down at the bait, Kaden slowly eased into his crossbow. Wanting to be ready for the shot when and if the moment pretended itself. At only 17 yards and being on the ground. The boar looked menacing as he scanned the woods looking for any potential danger. After seemingly feeling comfortable that he and his companion were the only ones there. He relaxed and started to drink from some flooded pools of water from the recent rain. Unfortunately for us, he had stopped to drink quartering to us, not allowing for an ethical shot. We collectively held our breath waiting for him to move to allow for a shot. Eventually, he lifted his head and started the move.
Kaden got ready and just as he was about to settle in for a shot, the bear continued his drinking with his right leg closest to us pulled back blocking his vitals. Again, Kaden didn’t have a shot and had to patiently wait for the boar to move. As we are waiting for the boar to take a step, the sow walks between us and him. Coming as close as 6 feet from the blind. Luckily we stayed still and weren’t detected. Finally, the boar had enough to drink and took one step. That was all Kaden needed, as the bore stood broadside he squeezed the trigger and made an absolutely perfect shot. The bore took off in a dramatic fashion and stopped only thirty yards away, still in full view of us, and tipped over.
Success: An Emotional Celebration
Kaden and I were flushed with emotions as we hugged and celebrated this incredible moment we just shared together. Non-Hunters have a hard time understanding the number of emotions that come over you after you successfully harvest an animal. The combination of the countless hours shooting your bow practicing for this moment, the time spent hunting waiting passing animals in hopes of an encounter with a mature specimen, and the adrenaline of so many bears so close to you within an hour and a half. All accumulate to an overwhelming amount of emotions.
As we approached Kaden's bear we couldn’t believe our eyes, it’s not often the animal gets bigger when you approach it but this bear definitely and grew. We shared a special moment with the bear before we called Cory to help us retrieve it. Back in camp we quartered the bear and let the quarters rest overnight. Then fully processing all the wonderful bear meat the following morning. Cutting and wrapping all the meat into roasts that will be enjoyed by many people over the next several months.
Last day at All Terrain Bear Hunts
As our last day arrived, we once again hit the water for a little fishing before our last evening's sit. Again we got into a number of great walleye, sauger, pike, and jumbo perch.
For the last evening, I headed back to our first spot as Cory’s game camera had shown another sow and boar had reappeared at the site. Kaden opted to enjoy his last day fishing back at camp. I didn't blame him one bit for wanting to enjoy such a great fishery. I settled into my ground blind and scanned the woods for any movement. A few hours passed and I felt like I may not see anything on my last sit. To be honest, I was okay with that. To share my son’s bear harvest yesterday was more than enough for me.
A Black Bear Encounter for the Ages
Shortly after 9:30, something caught my eye to my left. I figured it was just another red squirrel but no this was a bear, and it was working my way. As I watched what seemed to me to be a mature sow, another bear head appeared from behind a tree at only twelve yards. As the bear continued to emerge from the cover of trees I held back a gasp. I was seemingly locking eyes with a very mature boar and he was headed right for me. I held still, crossbow cradled into my shoulder, and readied for a shot opportunity.
However, the boar kept slowly walking right at me with an authoritative presence. I held my breath as he came to stop at ten feet. He began scanning the blind looking for anything out of place. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to have a large mature bear eye level at only ten feet. Though I had my bow ready this bear could easily get to me if he wanted to.
Doubled up on our Manitoba Bear Hunt
Content with his search for anything out of place, he turned and gave me a perfect broadside shot. But he was so close I could only see black in my scope and didn’t know exactly what part of the bear I was looking at. I decided to not shoot and wait for him to get a bit further back. He slowly walked straight away from me and my heart started to sink. Did I just blow my only shot? At twenty-five yards, he stopped and turned to take one more look back in my direction and I didn’t hesitate. I squeezed the trigger and watched my arrow hit him perfectly.
The boar took off in a hurry, with the sow scattering in the other direction. As I watched the boar run through the dense bush he crashed only thirty yards away. I was in complete disbelieve at what just happened. Not only did I just shoot the second big bear of our trip. But to have a heart-stopping encounter like that is what we all live for. That was an encounter I will never forget.
Cory and his crew greeted me in the woods after I had recovered my bear. We quickly got loaded and headed back to camp where I was finally able to show my son Kaden who was overjoyed for me. That night the team got busy processing the bear meat once again before eating a late-night dinner around the fire.
Bear Hunting in Manitoba: Creating Memories for a Lifetime
Sitting here in the truck on the way back home I still can’t really believe what a week we just had. Hunting for me is about enjoying adventures outside, meeting new people, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. The harvest, though enjoyable and important, is only a small part of the whole hunting experience. To enjoy this week with my son is something that is priceless.
Not only is hunting with family or friends extremely enjoyable. But it’s vitally important for all of us to do our part and get the next generation into hunting and the outdoors so they to will have the opportunity to enjoy and pass on this great tradition themselves. If you’ve never been bear hunting in Manitoba or fished in these northern waters. Let me tell you, it’s an adventure, and I highly recommend you give it a try one day. Cory Grant and his crew at ‘All Terrain Bear Hunts’ is an outfit you can trust to help you create new hunting memories that will last a lifetime.
For more information on bear hunting in Manitoba with All Terrain Bear Hunts, visit the All Terrain Bear Hunts website.