'Killer' Miller and the Martineau River Bears By Jim 'Killer' Miller
Jul 16, 2010 - 11:22:30 AM
The crew - Happiness is a grounded bear. (l to r) Art Heinz, Harley Nault, owner of Martineau River Outfitters, Jim Miller, Guide Gary Neumann, Gary 'Buster' Bernard with his chocolate bear.
As all hunts start, there I was sitting "Wherever" and you know the rest of the story!! Well this hunt started with a phone call from my great old "and I mean Old" friend Art Heinz. Art called and wanted to know if I would like to go on a great Black Bear hunt and of course, I've never known anyone turning down a great bear hunt, if they have ever hunted Black Bears. Art was telling me about Harley Nault, owner of Martineau River Outfitters.
So there I was sitting on the phone trying to get in touch with Harley Nault and trying to book a hunt for the spring of 2009 in Saskatchewan, Canada. After making all of the inquiries, Art was right, this is the place to go for big bears. Harley has a huge concession for black bears, whitetails, mule deer and you should see some of the calcium laying around the camp house that they have killed over the years.
The trip up to Edmonton, Alberta Canada was uneventful, I did meet with several of my old archery friends John Musacchia of Muzzy fame, plus several big fans of Great Southwest Outdoors on the plane from Minneapolis to Edmonton. It was ole home week and of course the conversation revolved around hunting and especially bears.
We gathered our gear at the airport and rented a vehicle and went to our hotel for the evening where we were met by my good friend Helgie Eymundson of Wild TV and his lovely wife. What a treat, great food, friends and talking about hunting bears. We heard many stories that night shared by Helgie, Art, Buster and me.
Sunday arrived and after brunch we met up with Jerry Benge and traveled up to Northern Sask. There we met with Harley and Gary Neumann and then on to the hunting lodge. This trip was short and in no time we were at the hunting cabin on the Martineau River. It is a beautiful place with waterfowl galore, fish jumping and wildlife at every turn and bend of the river.
The first morning everyone was up early getting gear ready for the first days hunt. Bows were checked and rechecked then to the range to make sure the sights were on and all of the equipment was working well. We had a large breakfast and everyone was eager to go out to their areas to hunt. When we finally left Blake my cameraman / field producer, Pro Staff shooter Buster Bernard and I went with Gary Neumann, our guide.
May 25, 2009
The amount of game sign we saw included moose, deer, wolf and bear tracks on all of the roads, plus large tracts of cut over timber, perfect game areas. We dropped Buster off first and he was excited. This was his first real bear hunt. Although he had hunted with an outfitter the spring before and had got a real education on promised big bear hunt and it was a big scam! This happens but that's another story. After dropping Buster off we traveled on to our hunting area. We arrived around 4:30 PM and crawled into the tree stand. It was a beautiful evening, not too many bugs, birds singing, and lots of small game moving.
Time moved quickly and at 8:30 PM a pine cone rattled off of my hat and I just about jumped off of the tree stand. I looked to my left and here came a large black bear and behind her two small cubs! Oh great, a sow and cubs, there goes the neighborhood!
Our bait station was well stocked with meat scrapes, a big block of red licorice candy and a hanging beaver carcass. The sow climbed up the tree and jumped and (I mean jumped) from the tree to snag the beaver carcass in mid air. Bears love beaver carcasses. She picked the carcass up and ate a little of it and then carried it out of sight and buried it for later.
The sow was then all over the bait station when she suddenly stopped and started looking back to our left. We did the same and here came King Kong, slowly lumbering toward us. That was until he happened to scent the sow and cubs where he put on the brakes, turned on a dime and left change on the ground! He wanted no part of that sow!
We looked back to the bait and the cubs must have been 35 feet up a tree watching the show below. When the danger was gone momma gave a little snort and the cubs came back down the tree. It's always fun to watch cubs unless they climb up your tree and then the fun really gets S-E-R-I-O-U-S!
We watched the sow and cubs till 10:15 PM and it was still light in the North Country. We could hear the 4-wheeler coming to pick us up and when it showed up the sow took off but the cubs climbed a tree about 20 yards from our tree. We wasted no time getting out of our tree and out of there pronto! I was riding in the little bait wagon and Blake was on the 4-wheeler, hanging on for dear life as Gary gave us the ride of our lives thru the bush, mud holes and creeks. Gary could cover some ground on that machine and as we slowed down my compadre Buster jumped out of the brush and screamed at us.
Blake, almost launched off the 4-wheeler squealing like a little girl and headed for the woods! I yelled (a manly yell of course) and swung my bow at Buster and, lucky for him, just missing his head. Buster was all pumped. Earlier we had no more dropped him off at his bait station when he had four bears come to the bait. Two of the bears took off chasing the 4-wheeler and the bait wagon and two other bears started to eat their daily ration of the smorgasbord that was served.
Gary 'Buster' Bernard, bear hunter and 'cook' with his trophy bear.
One of the bears was a huge dark chocolate colored boar and Buster put a Carbon Express 350 thru him. He ran maybe 20 yards and took his last breath. The rest of the evening he sat and watched and filmed the bears come in and out of the bait station. What a way to start a week of bear hunting.
The second day started with a big breakfast and a long morning walk, shooting our bows, filming the area and checking bait stations, a typical day in bear camp along with a little fishing for some of the guys. We had a good group of guys and now we had a full time cook. The Cajun, Buster had stated," When I kill my bear I will be the Cook" Now, he be the cook!
May 26, 2009
Overcast / rainy
Wind: 10 to 15 MPH
We went out that afternoon and traveled to a different bait station to get away from the sow and cubs. The new area was one of those perfect spots; huge cedar swamps on three sides and two tracks to the bait area with some rolling sand ridges across the road with plenty of water all around. This station had a ton of bear trails coming in and out and bear scat was everywhere. 'This is the spot' I thought!
We climbed into a two man ladder stand that was about fifteen feet off the ground in a huge Spruce tree. It was perfect as we could see bears coming from any direction and had plenty of cover in the stand. As Gary drove off on the 4-wheeler it started to thunder and lightening in every direction and then the rains came. No matter where I went in 2009 it rained and I don't mean just rained but frog strangling gully washers. OK, we can handle some rain but then the lightning hit. It came down like Zeus had just decided he didn't want us anywhere near where we were. It came as a loud, white thunder bolt that lit up everything within a mile. You know the white, sizzling kind and I mean it jolted us off our seats, made our hair stand up, rattled our teeth, sucked the breath out of us and stopped our hearts. And not only were we wet, up a tree but we were butt tight in a metal stand that was firmly grounded. Time to go! And I mean right now!
Out of the stand we bailed and moved down into the thick spruce swamp. When it's lightening its best to find a low spot and get rid of your bow or gun so you won't have any kind of metal in your hands. Not good holding a lightening rod when it's lightening.
Now it was really poring even with my Gamehide rain suit on and my old trusty cowboy hat, water was running down my back like a river. The longer we stayed in the spruce swamp the harder it rained. Finally, after about a half an hour it started to let up. Not ready to let us go back unscathed now the wind kicked up out of the north and we went from lightening scared and soaked to the bone to down right cold. I suggested, to Blake that give it another shot, go back to the stand and try to hunt again. But, as we got close to the ladder stand another storm roared in and we decided it was time to go for today. We started to make the three mile walk out of the swamp and back to the main road hoping the truck would be there. The good part of the walk was it helped warm us up. We did not see any wildlife anywhere, everything was hunkered up under cover dodging lightening and major downpours. As we returned to the truck Gary was waiting on us and I was ready to get out of there and back to a warm lodge. When the rest of the guys came in, Jerry Benge said he had seen three bears and Art Heinz had seen five bears but all were very small. I was just glad to see the warm, dry lodge and get a great hot meal, along with one of those warming drinks.
Our third morning Buster, now our camp cook, got up early and started cooking his rue, as he was going to cook(Lord I hope I get this right) 'Sauce Pecon' Cajun beef stew and he cooked that dish for hours. Finally, about 2:00 PM he announced "Dinner was served". Buster served Artie first as he was up in a flash a plate of rice in hand and Buster ladled on the Sauce Pecon. Buster, after slaving away on his creation wanted to know what he thought of the dish and Ole Art without blinking an eye looked up at Buster and stated, "Buster, you could have opened a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and it would have tasted the same".
Man, you could have heard a pin drop but then Art started laughing, and then that large Cauldron of Cajun Beef Stew just disappeared. Happy hunters are well feed hunters.
May 27, 2009
Wind: Very little
That afternoon we went out to another stand, where Gary had let us know there was a large number of bears coming in. He had a multitude of photos on from his Reconyx Camera so we knew there was some monster bears in the area.
As Gary, was driving off from the bait station, I was perched in my ladder stand and Blake was in a Loc On Stand above me. We watched Gary drive off and as I looked down I saw a bear walking right under my stand and head for the bait for his afternoon snack. Before he could start slurping up the grub another bear came in and ran him off. Another meal spoiled by a larger, more aggressive bear.
As the evening progressed we had bears all around us, bears chasing bears, bears climbing trees retreating from other bears, sows and cubs, sows in heat and boars walking right behind them. We even had a sow walking down a pipe line about 60 yards to our right with a boar right behind her and right behind the boar about 40 yards were two more boars following them. This is why I love to hunt in late May or early June. The rut was in full swing. We had a very good boar come in and he was very nervous and was doing circles around the bait station. Finally the boar came in but was always facing me straight on. He finally got to the barrel but that put a tree between me and the boar! Drats! No shot!
The boar saw, heard, or smelled something and suddenly he was gone. I usually take a book with me, this time (RAGE by Wilbur Smith) to make the afternoons go by faster till the action picks up. I will read a page and then look around to see if anything is moving, all of a sudden Blake thumped me in the top of my hat with his Bi Pod sticks and whispered, "Hey we're trying to shoot a TV Show here so act like you're hunting!" I looked up and whispered back, "I'm reading and when a big bear comes out I will put the book down and kill the bear"
The rest of the evening was like that bears everywhere; we must have seen thirty bears total! However, the real excitement started when we got down to leave. Gary was coming in on the 4-wheeler and pulling his little wagon behind, making all kinds of noise as he pulled under our tree stand. After I got down, Gary asked what we had seen. Then he casually pointed to a bear coming into the bait with us standing there. We hunkered down and were watching the bear. Gary said, "Not a big bear and bad angle" as we sat watching this bear I noticed movement to my left and here came a really good boar. Gary said, "That's a very nice boar" I looked at Blake and he was filming and on the bear, he gave me the nod to shoot, if I had a chance. I drew my Reezen 7.0 back and settled the pin on the boar, low right behind the front leg. The wicked 2 inch 2 bladed Rage was launched!
Author with his bear taken on the ground, at 10 yards.
The Carbon Express blew thru the bear and the telltale lighted green nock disappeared only to show up immediately in the moss on the opposite side. The boar turned inside out and took off back the way he had come. At about ten yards he stumbled, fell down but got back up. He never made it twenty yards. The boar, started to give the death moan and I knew it was over. I had a trophy bear and memories of a lifetime. The shot was perfect and the deadly Rage broadhead had done its job. Never have I seen such devastation in such a short time frame. Exactly what you want in a broadhead to do!! The hunt was over that quick and then came the shakes and excitement that always come. Especially when taking a large bear, on the ground at ten yards.
Final thought, this hunt with Harley Nault, was one of the best bear hunts I've ever been on, and not because I took a bear but for these reasons. The Lodging was very nice, a log cabin in the north country with northern lights running wild, Wolves howling every night and loons letting loose with their eerie night calling on the river running in front of the lodge. There was some excellent fishing, a practice bow rang and meals that kept you coming back for more. The best part thought was that everyone killed a really good bear in addition to everyone having seen a lot of bear. The icing on the cake was that all of the bears were taken using a Mathews bow. Four days and four dead bears. By the way don't tell Buster if you ever visit with him that we all thought he was a great Cook. We don't want to give him a big head. I also want to thank the board of Tourism for Saskatchewan for their support on this hunt. These are great folks to work with.