This guided trip to northern Ontario
is a scheduled 6-day hunt with Missinaibi Outfitters of Mattice Ontario. Base camp
accommodations include three mobile home type cabins and one traditional style
cabin. All of these lodging units include electric, water, refrigerator and
even a microwave oven. Also included are beds, pillows and a TV. Hunters at
base camp have the option to bring their own food and reduce their overall cost
by nearly $300.00 or let Denyse do your cooking at restaurant located in the
There is an outpost camp approximately 2-1/2 hours drive
from Mattice at Mon’s lake. Mon’s lake is a rustic, do-it-yourself operation.
Take your own everything!
Finally, the day for my camera man and I to leave for the
North had arrived. We started planning for this return trip to Missinaibi
Outfitters almost a year before after a very tough and disappointing bear
hunting trip. Let me explain: When we arrived in Mattice last year at 2 A.M. we
didn’t know where the guide’s operation was so we pulled into a parking lot
next to a tractor and trailer, also stopped for the night, to sleep the rest of
the night. We awoke the next morning to police pulling the trucker from his rig
in a body bag. The poor fellow had a heart attack, pulled over and climbed in
the back where he passed away. This was obviously bad news for the man’s family
but it also didn’t seem like a great way to start our hunt either! Following
that odd occurrence we experienced torrential downpours every day of the hunt,
save one, that brought 100-year low water levels in Ontario right back to normal. To top it off
we shot a nice bear only to have another, apparently much larger, bear come in
and drag it off. We kept after it though and hunted hard; sometimes switching
to morning outings to mix it up, but in the end we departed empty handed and
soaked to the bone. On the way home we decided that we would definitely return
in hopes of better luck and better weather.
We arrived in camp at 11:00 A.M. on the 14th of
August after a quick but restful stay at a motel in Kirkland
Lake, Ontario that lies about 2
1/2 hours north of North Bay.
Actual driving time from central Pennsylvania
to Mattice, Ontario equaled just short of 16 hours.
Our arrival marked a reunion with the Denyse and Owen
Korpela, who own and run Missinaibi Outfitters. Denyse and Owen spend a week or
two in Ohio
every year to set up a booth at the Ohio Bowhunter’s Association banquet. This
year they happened to be in town over Super Bowl weekend and joined my family
for a party. We had a great time.
Denyse and Owen
During the first morning we unpacked, bought my license and
met the other hunters in camp. At the main base where we would be hunting there
were 9 bowhunters and 4 gun hunters. There were also six bowhunters at the
outpost camp on Mon’s Lake a few hours away.
The outpost camp is a bowhunting only operation that has produced many Pope and
Young qualifying animals over the years.
After a quick lunch we visited “Bait Central” and Owen put
together a couple of bait buckets.Bait
Central is full of sugar cones, peanut butter chips, pie filling, frozen beaver
and licorice. The sugar cones come in huge 200-pound bags and almost completely
fill the room. There must be 25 to 30 bags. Another hunter in camp, John
Lester, from Wisconsin
brings a load of cones with him every year to restock Owen’s supply.
Around 2 PM we headed out to bait our sites - the same two
we hunted last year. Both sites were hit. We hung our stands in such a way that
Tyler, my son and cameraman, would be seated somewhat higher than me for ideal
video footage. We also put up a trail camera at the site furthest out in hopes
of catching a big bear on film.
Once back at camp we finished preparing our gear and I got
the bow out and took a few shots to make sure everything was still in order. My
arrows flew true – we were ready. We visited the lodge for a while and talked
about everyone’s expectations for the following day’s hunt. We finally turned
in around 11:30 PM.
Jon zeroing in
We woke to bright sunshine and temperatures in the 50s the
second morning. Beautiful weather has a way of lifting your spirits and
boosting your confidence! The first order of the day was a delicious bacon and
egg breakfast with a butter toast chaser – it makes me hungry just thinking
Breakfast to fill the belly
We decided to hold off on the fishing until Tuesday because
the only thing on our minds was bear hunting. In our preparations that morning
we discovered that the connection plate that interfaces between the Canon XL 2
and the fluid head was missing. My heart sank. How is a 13-year-old going to
take video freehanded that would be worth anything? It is a task that has
humbled a few adults let alone a young kid. In an effort to “make the best of it”
we experimented with a rope slung over a higher limb and tied to the handle. It
worked well enough and gave Ty the support he needed to do a descent job.
Problem solved –at least as well as can be expected.
After another quick practice round with my
headed to bait central to get a couple of buckets ready. A slow but
crept in by mid morning and the temperature rose to nearly 70 degrees.
could tell that we were nearing hunt time as the camp was buzzing with
activity. People were all over the place practicing, putting the final
on their packs, preparing bait buckets, telling stories and loading
It put me in mind of the energy you feel around kids on Christmas Eve!
everyone was ready to go and the first hunters pulled out of camp
PM. Tyler and I were not far behind. The Wisconsin gang headed west to
Shannon Rd, the “Ohio 3” made a 6-mile trek on their 4-wheelers back
the Missinaibi River and we headed east to Barker Rd. During
the monsoon of 04’ Barker was nearly impassable in places but the 05’
took care of most of it and we had a much easier time getting to out
Some rough trucking
Bait #1, which is what we call the site furthest back in, is
approximately 100 yards off of the road. A well-worn narrow path leads through
a dark green canopy until it comes to an opening that spans 25 yards across its
widest point. Our stands are hung to the left of the trail just as you enter
the clearing and the bait station is all the way into the clearing and to the
right. On the way in we found fresh scat and when we arrived at the barrel it
was “hit”. Definitely a good sign!After
unwrapping the barrel from around the small tree it was tied to I stood it back
up and put the bait in the small hole on top. The small size of the opening
makes the bear have to work for the goodies inside which in turn keeps them at
the site longer.
and baiting barrel
Before leaving I checked the digital trail camera to see
what was visiting the site but for whatever reason the shots showed nothing of
the bear, only rabbits and squirrels. The camera was relocated closer to the
barrel and reset.
Bait #2 is only 35 to 40 yards off of the road behind a dark
stand of pines. I was very surprised to find the site not hit – it was
literally the last thing I expected. We took the bait bucket back to the truck
and thought over what we should do. Our original plan was to bait #1 and hunt
#2 but that was assuming both would be active. In a move that I can’t fully
explain other than to say it just felt right, I decided to stick with the
original plan and hunt #2. We drove the truck up the road 200 yards around the
corner and quickly made our way back to the site and got situated in our
stands. It was 4:00 PM. The first thing we noticed was that our fix for the
camera mounting problem was not going to work because the tree we were set up
in was limbless almost to the top. Ty would have to try to do his job
We spent the next couple of hours watching squirrels,
chipmunks, and rabbits playing around the site and Tyler read a few pages from a ‘Lord of the
Rings’ book. Close to 6:00 PM I thought I heard a very faint sound far off. When
I slowly turned my head to ask Ty if he heard anything his face told the story.
“Did you hear something”, I asked. He shook his head in confirmation. “A bear?”
he responded with another wide-eyed head shake. “Where?” I asked. That is when
it got interesting. He pointed straight down!! The black ghost had come in and
was under our feet before we heard even the slightest sound. It was truly
amazing. Ty later explained that as he was reading his book the bear walked out
from under the pages nearly knocking him over from surprise! What an
Tyler slowly got the camera up and in position for just a
few seconds of video before the bear huffed and trotted off. Right then I knew
that it smelled the powerful bug spray that we had liberally coated ourselves
with. It was the kind that is scentless – yeah, right! I could hardly stand the
stuff myself. A mistake that will not be repeated. We had our Therma Cell
systems with us on the trip but forgot to pack them into the bush for the hunt.
I told Ty to stay ready because the bear would most likely come back again. It
did just that - 4 more times in fact but stayed 60 yards downwind sniffing and
straining to see what the source was. As evening drew near the bear appeared yet
again. Ty switched the camera on and we watched as the bear made its way back
to the base of our tree then circled out around to our right before committing
to come in. There were some branches blocking Tyler’s view just as the bear
approached the path/shooting lane so he smartly stood up to clear the view. It
worked perfectly. He slowly zoomed on the bear, held for a second, and video
taped my arrow hitting its mark. He did an awesome job of catching the entire
hunt on film – freehanded. I am a proud papa!
right before shot
The bear bolted off like a shot but I knew it was a good hit
and anytime I get my Rocket Hammerheads even close to my mark the deal is done!
The sound of the bear crashing off ended just as quickly as it started. I was
beginning to tell Tyler that I thought he was laying just out of sight when we
heard the death moan. At that point we knew the job was done and wasted little
time getting down from our stands and getting to the bear that went only 25
yards from the hit – again, all on video. Later we found that the broadhead
blades had center-punched the heart.
Jon with Black Bear
We took care of tagging the bear and then drug it a short
distance to an old logging road that I managed to get my truck back to. With
some considerable effort we hoisted the bear into the bed of my truck and
headed back to camp. Once there we learned that mine was only the second bear
taken that day. Elise, one of two women hunters in camp, had taken a sow early
in the afternoon with her 20-gauge shotgun.
with Jon's bear
After all of the congratulations were through and the
stories told the work began. John and his son Jason kindly offered to skin
and butcher the bear while at the same time feeding us supper! They are one
heck of a group of guys and I wish all of the people that we met in hunting
camps were of their caliber. Besides great hunting, the fellowship in camp made
and Jason checking weight
We finally ended our awesome day around 2:00 AM when we
collapsed into our beds.
We didn’t see the light of day until almost 10:30 AM the
next morning. The activities of the day before had absolutely exhausted us and
it wasn’t easy giving up the soft beds and pillows! The weather was perfect
with nightly lows in the low 40s and daily highs averaging around 65 degrees.
It took nearly 2 hours for us to get showers, eat a cold cereal brunch and get
outside. It was going to be a lazy day!
Once we returned to the living world we got a couple of bait
buckets ready and headed out. I wanted to keep the baits active for other
hunters who may not be seeing any bear. Bait #1 was hit again but the trail
camera had zero pictures on it. After some confusion we discovered that I had
one switch in the wrong position – no pics! Why did I bring this camera?
After pulling the stands and climbing sticks we headed to the second site.
Bait #2, where I shot the bear the evening before, was also
hit! This bait site has become famous for a bruiser bear that preys on other
bear. Just last year he was credited with two take-aways; the one I lost and
another guy’s bear that hunted the same stand a week later. This bear was the
reason we didn’t waste any time getting my bear out of the woods!
On the way back to camp Tyler and I were talking about how
it would really top off the hunt if we were to see a moose. It wasn’t two
minutes later that a young bull moose jumped onto the road right in front of
us. He quickly disappeared back into the bush only to reappear 20 yards further
down the road with another young bull close on his heels. They ran down the
road for nearly 200 yards with us right behind them video taping the whole
thing. It was an awesome experience!!
Moose on the loose
The town of Hearst is approximately 20 miles west of Mattice
and is the closest source of most any need you might have. Mattice has a small
grocery store and convenience store but the selection is limited. We traveled
there to fill up the gas tank, wash the truck and eat at McDonald’s. Now, I
don’t typically eat at a McDonald’s but this one was special. The day before
when hanging out in the lodge, Owen’s daughter Elsa who is the McD’s manager,
told me that they still used the old style oil to cook their fries that the US
based McDonald’s had quit using a few years back. The fries were delicious and
were alone worth the trip to Hearst!
The rest of the day we relaxed and lounged around camp
talking with the other hunters and the Korpela clan. Troy, whose better half is
Elise, brought in the only bear that evening.
Well rested, we woke up early and put together a breakfast
fit for kings before heading out onto the lake for some fishing. A 3-day
license costs only $20.00. Owen provided the boat (he has four for hunters to
use), fishing rods, tackle and bait – basically everything. Tyler landed the
first fish, a small Perch. With the water levels extremely low from the draught
the fishing was tough. We did catch a handful of small perch and northern pike.
Fresh water Whoppers
One thing I would like to emphasize is that YOU make the
hunt – not your guide. Sure a truly bad guide can cause you to have a bad
experience or a truly exceptional guide will have you smiling all week but in
general, with an average outfitter, the hunt is what you make of it. Bear hunts
can take all six days to score and even then you may go home empty handed but
it is also common to be done on the first day. Then what? I would encourage you
to get involved by giving your guide a hand with his baiting work, fishing or
even go back out on stand to enjoy the outdoors and take pictures. We went with
Owen to bait all 8 sites on Barker Rd. The only thing hard about the task was
keeping Owen from eating all the bait – he was seriously chowing down on a
chicken loaf! Both of the sites assigned to us were hit again and we actually
chased a bear off of bait #1.
Back at the lodge we found that three outpost camp hunters
had returned with bear. Two of the three remaining at Mon’s Lake had
opportunities but decided to pass in hopes of something bigger.
We spent the rest of the day packing the trailer, fishing
and listening to and telling stories. Later that evening two base camp hunters
brought bear in. Steve from the Wisconsin gang shot a nice sow with his bow and
one of the Ohio residents took a good-sized boar with his bow.
We had a very satisfying experience in the north woods and
appreciated the camaraderie of Owen’s crew and the other hunters. The service
provided by Owen and his staff at Missinaibi Outfitters was top notch. While
the base camp accommodations are not rustic and thoroughly outdoors-like, they
are exactly what we needed and served their purpose by aiding in our enjoyment
of the hunt. We stayed in touch with Owen once we were home and he gave us the
numbers for the first and second weeks:
Outpost – 6 hunters saw 39 bear – 6 harvested – 5 male and 1
Main base – 13 hunters (9 bow, 4 gun) saw 36 bear – 7
harvested (2 with gun) – 3 male and 4 female
Outpost – 11 hunters saw 17 bear – 7 harvested – 4 male and
Main Base – 7 hunters saw 15 bear – 7 harvested – 6 male and
1 female Out of all the bear for the year 5 rough scored above
P&Y and 3 above B&C minimums!