This year’s annual trek to Maine was a little different than in years past. Our first day, we logged 17 hours to make it to Kittery. Kittery, Maine is the home of the Kittery Trading Post and Bob’s Clam Hut which has the most delicious scallops and haddock you have ever put in your face.
Since we were ahead of schedule we spent the next day in Kittery at our leisure. It’s a neat town; we could spend days in the Kittery Trading post in the gun and archery departments alone.
We headed to Freeport Maine on Friday and spent two days there. We stay at the Village Inn Bed and Breakfast and venture out to the surrounding towns looking for Marine’s best Lobster rolls. On this adventure we found Libby’s Market that boasts Maine’s #1 voted Lobster Roll and they were right. Talking with Libby was great, she is from Maine and they will give you a lobster buoy to take with you if you will send them pictures of the state signs that you pass in your travels. We were game and came back with a lobster buoy, which Jim is obsessed with and we took some great pictures along the way.
Sunday we headed to hunt with Ryan Shepard and his Father Dwight at Shepard Hunting Company located in Mt. Chase Maine. We would be staying at the Mt Chase Lodge owned by Rick and Sarah Hill. They have operated the lodge since 1976 and cater to hunters, snowmobile riders, fisherman and other outdoor enthusiast. The lodge is nestled on the shore of Upper Shin Pond and also offers private cabins.
We hunted with Ryan and Dwight two years ago and they are very serious about their bear hunting. They work hard for every hunter to have the best chance at a shot on a bear. Jim and I really like the fact that while in camp the mood is very light and Ryan and his Dad love to tell stories, which keeps us laughing. This year added to the mix was Randy Souza, aka “the Pirate”. He is a scallop fisherman by trade and is from New Bedford, Mass. He has been helping and hunting with Ryan for 6 years and is in the process of obtaining his guide license.
On Sunday it’s mandatory that everyone shoots to make sure their rifles, bows, pistols or crossbows are on and then after a hardy supper everyone draws cards to find out what stand or blind they will be hunting from the next three days. On Thursday, if you have not harvested a bear they will move you to a new location where they believe you will have success. All hunters are sent out with a radio in case they harvest a bear or there is an emergency. Your radio is to remain off at all time unless you need one of the guides.
Monday we left camp at 2:30pm, we had rain which makes it easier to get to your location without being detected by walking on crunchy leaves and sticks. Jim and I were in our Gore-Tex suits with our Real Tree leafy suits over that. We had our camo FX face concealer on and were ready for the hunt. As each hunter gathers their gear from the truck they are sprayed down with Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer. Scent control is extremely important when you’re bear hunting. Jim and I use the full regiment and now with the new Scent Killer Gold for Her I’m scent free and my hair is well conditioned. After all, you have to look good for your harvest shots.
I was in a 16” tree stand, twenty two yards from the bait. I had my new Mathews ZXT which was well equipped with a QAD HDX Ultra Rest, Pine Ridge Archery stabilizer and kisser button and lets not forget the Carbon Express Arrows tipped with 100 grain Muzzy broadheads. It also has a Sure-Loc removable sportsman special sight so I was ready for ole Mister Bruin to make his presence known.
Jim and I were the only bow hunters in camp for the week, everyone else had rifles. Dare to be different right?
Due to the wet weather all spring and summer the mosquitos were in full combat mode. Without the ThermaCELL Mosquito appliances there would have been nothing left of us but a shell. A few of the hunters didn’t have ThermaCELL’s so Randy and Dwight let them borrow theirs so they could sit still during their hunt.
During our stay at camp we met some great people. Morton and Tova were from Denmark. She has only been hunting two years and this was her first bear hunt. Ryan had met Morton during high school, Morton was a foreign exchange student. They have been friends and hunting buddies for many years.
We also met the Foglietta brothers, Ted and Angelo who were from Philly, they kept us laughing all week with their stories which were mostly of each other. Ryan’s uncle Rollie was also hunting, he is in his 80’s and this would be his first bear hunt. Needless to say we were all rooting for him. There were ten hunters in camp for the week.
Tova harvest a bear on Monday night, we were all excited for her as she was the only one to harvest on the first night.
Tuesday was looking great, we were all in the trucks a little early and headed to our locations. I was back in my stand and ready for some bear action. The wind was perfect, my stand was perfect, the temps were in the low 70’s and all I needed was a bear to show up. About 5pm I heard something off to the north, it sounded like someone dragging a barrel down a gravel road. Oh no, I thought please don’t let that be thunder.
I will hunt in any type of weather, snow, rain, cold, heat, hurricanes; you name it I’m in. One thing I won’t hunt in is lightening. I have almost been struck several times while hunting and it’s just not worth dying over.
So I sat there and it sounded as if it would go around. Fifteen minutes later it was on top of me. I knew if I turned on the radio and called Ryan it would be game over for the evening. So I decided to wait a few more minutes…..that is until the lightening started dancing behind me. Alright, radio on. “Ryan this is Lynne, Ill meet you at the road, the storm is on top of me, too much lightening, come pick me up”. I heard him say “ok” I turned the radio off and headed down the tree to the gravel road. When I arrived at the road it was pouring rain and the lightening was intense. I got to a clearing and hunkered down as low as I could get. I waited. Something told me to call Ryan again so I got out the radio, turned it on and called again. “Ryan this is Lynne do you copy”? A voice came back over the radio, ““Lynne I copy, what’s going on”? “Too much lightening for me come pick me up”. “I’ll be right there”, was the reply.
It took Ryan about 5 minutes to get to me from his location, it was raining so hard I could not see my hand in front of my face. When he pulled up I threw my soaked gear in the back and climbed in the cab with my bow. I was very happy to see him. I told him I had called twice; he never heard the first one, he was replying to someone else. I was glad I listened to my gut and called him again. The storm was getting worse and he said that where he had been that it was not storming but it was moving fast in that direction. Only one other hunter had called to be picked up and Ryan had a very hard decision to make. Pull the hunters for safety or leave them till they called to be picked up.
He sat there a few minutes and called the other guides and told them to pick up all the hunters. He didn’t want to take any chances and this storm was getting nasty. All the hunters were picked up safely and we headed back to the lodge for an early evening. Ryan apologized to everyone at the lodge but it is always better to err on the side of caution.
Wednesday was a beautiful day, blue bird skies, temperatures again in the low to mid 70’s. Today would be Morton’s turn and he took a 175lb boar. He was the only one to harvest a bear today. Team Denmark was on the board.
It was not a typical Maine bear hunt this year. There was a huge mass crop and the bears were not coming to the bait like they usually did. There was plenty for them to eat in the woods so they were deciding not to cooperate.
Thursday we were all moved to new locations. We left early so everyone could get adjusted to their new area. Dwight was my guide for my new area. I was in a built ground blind in dense forest, 20 yards from the bait and had good cover to be able to draw my bow. This was a place that as soon as I got settled in I had a good feeling.
The afternoon was far from uneventful. I had two pine martens come in and play and a fisher cat. They are beautiful creatures with one super nasty attitude. I sat motionless and could not wait for prime time, I would not be disappointed.
I had my bow positioned on my leg, as I always do in a ground blind, so I don’t have to do anything but slowly draw if the moment of truth arises. As I watched for motion I saw something behind the bait and a huge black figure slowly emerged from the timber. He came in very cautious and nervous. He walked up and sniffed the top of the barrel with no effort, he was a big bear. He was nervously paced back and forth behind the bait continually looking in my direction. The wind was perfect I just had to wait for him to commit to the bait so I could draw. After what seemed like an eternity he finally knocked the bait over and jumped like he had been shot when it hit the ground. He jumped back in the trail and it took him a little while to come back out. He again paced back and forth behind the bait, no shot. Finally he came around front and began to work on the logs that were in the opening of the barrel. I slowly drew my Mathews ZXT as he worked on the logs in the opening of the barrel. As I settled my pin he looked down the trail and took off like he had been lit on fire. He was slinging debris and getting the heck out of dodge.
I let down my bow and just sat there wondering what happened. He never looked my way. I know he did not see me draw and the wind didn’t shift. I ran every scenario through my head. I sat there with my bow on my leg thinking and rethinking that event and figuring that was the last I would see of that bear. But, I was wrong. After about 10 minutes he came back, now in my world this never happens, but for some reason I got lucky. He was nervous but his belly won the battle and I was running out of light fast. He stayed behind the bait and was reaching across the barrel trying to get his paw in the hole. No luck, still had to many logs in the opening. He put his front paw over the barrel and rolled across the barrel hoping to be able to push the logs out, to no avail. He finally came around to the front again, still constantly scanning the area. He looked down the trail to the right and again he took off.
All I could think was there was another bear in the area. By this time I was out of shooting light. I was done for the day but what a great encounter. Right at dark I saw something moving in the timber. My bear was back. I could barely make out his hulking figure but it was him. He was still nervous but this time he came around front and was cautiously working on the logs until he heard the truck 80 yards on the gravel road.
When Dwight came to get me I was in my usual manner of noodle legs after such a close encounter. Due to the fact that my legs were not up to par I stepped in a very wet hole on the way to the truck and got my Lacrosse Alphaburly boots stuck up to my knee in muck. Dwight pulled me out of the hole while he laughed and we were back on our way.
I told Dwight what had happened and he said that there was a sow bear with cubs in there. That a big bear would act like that in fear of ole mamma bear seemed strange to me.
One of the hunters shot a bear and after Ryan and Randy searched for it they decided to come back to camp and get one of the hounds to track it. After several hours of searching they found the bear and were back at camp around eleven pm. There is nothing like working with a great dog.
Friday I was back in my ground blind hoping for another encounter with the bruin. I settle in as Dwight refilled the bait, I lit my ThermaCELL and gave him the thumbs up as he faded into the forest. It was another perfect evening, the wind was perfect but there would be no bear tonight. After we were back in the truck Dwight told me he was right about the sow and cubs. He said the barrel was licked clean, a big bear can’t clean a barrel but a cub will get in the barrel and lick up every crumb. You learn something new every time you hunt.
At Shepards Hunting Company you get a full 6 days of hunting but we had to cut it one day short due to our two day ride home and we had to be back at work on Monday.
I’m not sure if we had more fun in the woods or in camp. Thanks to Ryan, Dwight and Pirate Randy we had a great time. Camp is always lighthearted and fun and the hunting is professional and spot on. They work very hard and want all their hunters to be successful but weather and conditions are just out of their control.
Even though Jim nor I harvested a bear that does not mean our hunt was not successful. We had the opportunity to hunt with great friends, made new friends and are already looking forward to another great adventure in the north woods of Maine.
For information on booking a hunt:
Ryan Shepard – Mt Chase Maine
Shepard Hunting Company
for more from Lynne go to: Lynne Frady