Spent the week of September 6th 2015 hunting Black Bears over bait with Bob and Jaye Parkerís Stony Brook Outfitters in Wilton Maine. Below are a few paragraphs and pics from last yearís hunt that include general info on the operation. Anyone interested in checking out the 2014 hunt can follow this link:
Bob has two operations. Fall and winter hunts for bear, whitetail, moose and bobcats are conducted from Bobís home and lodge in Wilton Maine. Bob also offers spring bear over bait and summer fishing from his Sunset View lodge in McAdam, New Brunswick.
Bobs Maine lodge is his home and is very nice, with all the comforts of home including satellite TV. There are a mix of bunk rooms for groups and single rooms for couples or single hunters. Bob does his best to keep groups separate in their own bedrooms. There were plenty of bath facilities. The food was very good and plenty including fantastic scratch made soups and deserts daily.
Fall bear hunts are either over bait or are dog hunts behind Bobís pack of more than 14 hunting hounds.
The hunting area is huge, consisting of more than 3500 square miles to the north and west of Wilton in the Rangeley Lakes region. Bait hunts and dog hunts are done in completely different areas miles apart. Bob has about 200 registered bait sites throughout that area. The advantage of hunting such a large and remote area is that you are certain to be alone with virtually no chance of interruption; the disadvantage being that the ride to your hunting area will take at least 45 minutes and can be as long as 1 Ĺ hours. Each guide is assigned his own area and baits which they maintain on a daily basis.
The 2015 hunt:
I arrived at camp Sunday September 6th and spent the afternoon meeting the other hunters; we had 5 archery hunters and 8 firearms hunters, 13 in all. One of the more interesting aspects of going on these hunts is meeting hunters from other areas and states, and learning about the traditions and conditions in their home area. On this hunt we had hunters from Pa, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire and Arkansas. Pennsylvania was well represented with hunters from western, eastern, central and north central Pa. I knew going in that the weather conditions were not going to be conducive to a great bear hunt with the forecast for temps near 90 degrees the majority of the week, and that proved to be the case.
The hunt began Monday afternoon and found me in a ground blind in thick cover about 25 yards from the bait site. I had a view of maybe 20 yards surrounding the bait and 50 yards behind the bait where two small dry washes came off of the hillside, as well as a narrow lane to my left that went out to maybe 40 yards; not much to look at. The evening came and went with no bears sighted and nothing interesting happening.
Monday and Tuesday stand
Three of the bow hunters in camp saw bears: Jarron, who was hunting with me and his father Rob, had a bear come in and had a good shot opportunity but he passed it up thinking the bear was small. Several minutes later as the bear milled around he realized it was better than he had originally thought, but he spooked it raising his bow to draw. A fellow named Dan had a very big bear come in but it never went to the bait and never offered an opportunity for a shot. A bear was hit by a bow hunter named Steve but it got away. He felt heíd made a good shot and had a good blood trail. They followed it up for 2 hours that night until the bear crossed a woods road, when they pulled out till morning. Returning the next day they found it had rained heavily during the night eradicating the blood trail; they looked all morning but never found the bear.
Tuesday, I sat the same bait and had some action. My guide Matt had told me that the bears usually come in from behind the bait up and over the dry washes beyond, and that a real good bear in the 300lb class had been showing up on the camera in good light at least once a week. Sure enough, at about 7:15pm, here comes what looked like a nice bear up over the draw. I have no idea if it was the big one as they are so hard to judge. It continued to come straight on to me and to the right of the bait. I put the cross hairs on it planning to shoot if it turned toward the bait. It turned, but as it walked directly in front of the bait barrel in the dim light, I completely lost the cross hairs on the black hide and black bait barrelÖ unfortunately, my brain had already sent the signal to my trigger finger to pull and I shot. At the shot I saw the bear running from my right to my left, heading toward the steep mountain to the left of the bait. It did not appear hit but I did hear a little commotion as it ran up the slope, giving me some hope that Iíd hit it. It was so near dark and the official quitting time of 7:30 that I just backed out and waited at the road for Matt.
When Matt arrived we went back in and found I had hit the barrel very low and had more than likely shot under the bear, which jived with my impression of my sight picture. Sure enough we found no sign, but as the sound I had heard bothered both of us, we returned with the dog after picking up Jarron and Rob. The dog had no trouble following the bear up the mountain and we found where he had scuffed up the ground running up a particularly steep place not far up the slope. We were certain that that is what I had heard and that it was a clean miss. I was just thankful I had not made a bad hit. I donít recall anyone else seeing bears that evening.
Wednesday afternoon we changed stands, standard procedure, two nights on a stand then move. This stand was much nicer than my first one and I had a commanding view of about a hundred yards up a relatively open timbered hill in back of the bait. Itís deceiving in the picture below, but I could see good openings clear up to the top of the hill and from my front to my right for an expanse at least 100 yards wide. On my level to both my left and right were thickets. Matt said the bears tended to come off the top of the hill and work down to the bait.
Wednesday Night Stand
At about 6:10pm I saw a bear coming off the top to my right, angling down the hill toward the bait. He stopped behind some brush halfway down the hill but eventually continued on, passing 15 yards behind the barrel but walking right through into the thicket to my left. I would have had a 35 yard walking shot but held off, partly because it appeared to be a small bear, but mostly because I was thinking about the previous nightís miss. For the next 20 minutes or so I could hear him rooting around in the thicket. I held my gun and concentration on the bait because if he came back in from that direction heíd be right here, right now. As I said, Iím in intense concentration directly to my front towards the bait, when out of the corner of my left eye I catch movement literally right beside me. I cut my eye over as far as possible and, Holy Cow, the darn bear is in the blind with me! I could have touched it with my left hand! I wasnít concerned as it was small enough that I figured I could deck it with a good right hook, but I didnít want to spook it as there might be a good bear on the hill. After several seconds I sensed, more than saw, that the bear had moved off. I sat perfectly still for several minutes before daring to turn my head, sure enough, the bear was gone.
At about 6:50pm I looked up the hill to see a bear standing near the top of the hill directly to my front. The bear was angling away slightly, facing up hill with its front paws on a log and hind feet on the ground so that he was stretched out a bit. It looked like a decent bear to me, and a classic pose right out of a magazine. I lined up the 220 Savage on its shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At the shot, I saw the bear tumble off of the log, fall back toward me, and disappear. I was certain he was DRT. I intended to wait for Matt but at 7:10pm it started to drizzle. I walked up the hill to the deadfall I thought the bear had been standing on but it was a mess up there, massive rocks with deep pockets between them. I was sure Iíd find the bear dead in one of the holes but no bear. After searching till near dark I had about given up when it occurred to me that maybe I wasnít looking high enough on the hill. Walking toward the top I shined my light into a little fir standÖ there he was.
It had to be the same bear; he must have worked his way behind and below me and circled back up the slope in the brush to my right. He was a yearling and went 75lbs but I was delighted. One of the other hunters saw a sow with first year cubs that evening and Joe from western Pa. saw a good bear that offered no shot. Again, the picture below is deceivingÖ the shot was about 75 yards and the bear was standing at or near the hinged snag in the background:
View of kill sight from the stand:
Thursday would prove to be a good hunt. Since I had killed the previous night I rode with Matt. The areas are so remote that the guides stay in the hunt area and spend the afternoon freshening up baits, checking camera cards and listening for shots from the hunters. After putting Rob and Jarron out we had some unusual business: I wonít go into details for obvious reasons but we had arrangements to meet with local Game Protectors on site as we had observed some suspicious activity in the area. We spent several hours showing them around as they seldom get up that way, it was quite the experience. After that we made the rounds. Checking the cameras was very interesting and was proof that almost all of the baits were being hit nearly every night, by some very good bears as well. Itís difficult enough to convince a nocturnal animal to show itself during shooting light, more so with daytime temps hovering near 90 degrees. The bears are there, thatís for sure. The downside was looking at several really big bears that had hit the baits I had sat, LOL.
Our work done, at least Matts work as Iím afraid with my emphysema Iím not much help anymore, we drove close to the top of Stewart Mountain which overlooks Matts hunting territory, with commanding views of Sugarloaf Ski area and Flagstaff Lake. The last 700 yards to the top are too rough for the truck so we walked to the top. I didnít think I could make it but after 40 minutes I came chugging over the ridge sounding like a steam train. It was worth it, Wow, outstanding views:
View of Matts Territory from Stewart Mountain. Flagstaff Lake is in the center and Sugarloaf is to the left in the distance. The mountain we were hunting is in the right foreground:
Zooming in on Sugarloaf Ski area, from Stewart Mountain:
Crossing a brook in the truck in the hunting area:
Matt and I were walking back down to the truck about 7pm when we heard Rob shoot. Another shot 20 seconds later signaled a dead bear for sure so we went to pick him up. Sure enough, he was waiting by the road and said heíd killed a nice sow. We walked in to his bait and it was a very nice sow indeed, uniquely marked with a brown face, brown patches on the back of her ears, and a brown chest blaze, very rare. She went 165lbs and was the best bear we killed all week.
Robís sow at kill site:
Matt with Rob and his bear:
As I said, it was a good night. Tiny from Clearfield Pa. scored on a small yearling male, Ron from Douglasville Pa. killed a 159lb sow, and a fellow named Joe from western Pa. missed what he thought was a very nice bear.
Hopes ran high for the Friday hunt as it was the coolest day of the week and the bears had moved the evening before, but no such luck, no bears were sighted.
Friday evening after dinner Jaye Parker held her traditional Shirt tail cutting ceremony and three hunters were unfortunate enough to suffer the indignity, including yours truly for my Tuesday night miss. Even though Jaye allows the hunter to choose an old tee-shirt for the cutting, I insisted and dully noted that in my case it would be the actual hunting shirt that would be sacrificed, after all, the darn shirt missed a bear, LOL.
Loridr surrenders as his shirt is summarily executed:
The deed is done; Jaye donít fool around:
It was certainly a slow week for bears but several of the hunters were treated with sightings of deer, moose, pine matins and fishers. All of the hunters were great guys with positive attitudes and a pleasure to share a camp with. This was my third hunt with Stony BrookÖ Iíve killed three bears, and Bob, Jaye and the guides are great people. Iíll have to skip this trip next fall as Iím booked for an early fall Moose hunt in Newfoundland, but Iíll be back hunting with Bob soon, maybe a 2017 spring hunt at his New Brunswick camp, if not the Maine camp fall of 2017
Hope to see you there.