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Evaluations : Jon E. Silks
Last Updated: Feb 22nd, 2007 - 18:37:03

Ontario Bear Hunt
By Jon E. Silks
Mar 2, 2006, 00:39

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To Field Evaluations by Jon Silks


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 lodge.

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!

Jon Silks

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.

DAY 1:

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.

  Outpost camp

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.


Bait central

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


DAY 2:

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 about it.

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.


  Ty using camera 


After another quick practice round with my Allegiance we headed to bait central to get a couple of buckets ready. A slow but steady wind crept in by mid morning and the temperature rose to nearly 70 degrees. You 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 touches on their packs, preparing bait buckets, telling stories and loading 4-wheelers. It put me in mind of the energy you feel around kids on Christmas Eve! Finally, everyone was ready to go and the first hunters pulled out of camp around 2:00 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 along the Missinaibi River and we headed east to Barker Rd. During the monsoon of 04’ Barker was nearly impassable in places but the 05’ drought took care of most of it and we had a much easier time getting to out sites.


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.


  Scat 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 freehanded.


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 experience!


   Bear under stand

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!

   Bear 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.

  Ty 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 the trip!

Owen and Jason checking weight

We finally ended our awesome day around 2:00 AM when we collapsed into our beds.

 DAY 3:

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.

    Troy’s bear

 Day 4:

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.

 Owen baiting

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 female

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 3 female
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!

Missinaibi Outfitters
PO Box 10
Mattice, Ontario, Canada POL 1TO


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