Welcome To VIR: Your last place to be a Man

“Don’t think you’ll need a coat this afternoon, other than maybe to keep the sun off of you! Course, if you did wear it, might insulate you a bit from this heat!” commented Gildas Paradis owner of Riverside Lodge. “Normally, it’s not this hot in north central Manitoba. It gets warm, but seldom does it get into upper middle 90’s. Being from Texas, you should be used to scorcher…”

I cut him short. “Greatly dislike temperatures over the mid-70’s! Back home when the temperature closes in on the century mark, I stay inside! The greatest invention ever was cooling air-conditioning! During spring and summer months I try to travel to places where the temperature should be considerably cooler than at home.” Grabbing my phone, I pulled up a weather app, “It’s hotter right now here in Manitoba than in south central Texas where I live.”

“Not to worry,” I continued, “We’ll make the most of it. I know you have some of the biggest black bears in North America in your area. Recall bears having been taken in excess of 600-pounds near both the Riding and Duck Mountains and we’re between those two areas. I know, too, your guide area is home to an abundance of color phase bears ranging from nearly white blondes, to various shades of cinnamon, to chocolate, and jet black. In the past I have taken some really big black bears, but never what I personally consider a big color-phase bear. Another reason I’m here is you and I first started talking about hunting together six or so years ago; back then for whitetail!”

I initially knew of Gildas via his excellent whitetail area. The year I was supposed to hunt with him, his lodge burned a short time before the season opened. Now with a new lodge, which he runs with his wife Joanne and his four young daughters, I was going to get to spend time with him and hunt bears as well, thanks to being part a guest of a new outdoor television show, tentatively “Outdoor Legends”.

First evening hunt in a tree stand, overlooking a well-used bait I did not see a bear. But thankfully too, I was not pestered by mosquitos. I am certain the Thermacell at my feet contributed to a lack of the little blood-sucking vampires’ presence, but even walking out that night to meet my guide at the end of a lane I was not bothered by them. Late that night around the campfire I commented on the lack of bugs. “We thankfully do not have black flies in our immediate area, and usually mosquitos are not terribly bad.” Commented Gildas. The scarcity of bugs enamored me all the more to Riverside Lodge.

After three hours of sleep I met Gildas at the boat dock a few steps from the lodge in hopes of catching some walleye for an upcoming lunch. I caught one walleye which unfortunately was too big to fall within the slot limits. The unseasonably hot weather was also effecting the fishing. Fish or no, it did not really matter, I mostly wanted to talk with Gildas about bears and also some of the whitetail hunting opportunities he has available.

We told hunting stories for a couple of hours. Before heading back to the lodge I made arrangements to return for a whitetail hunt in the fall of 2019. I also asked my outfitter/guide about black bear.

“Know you’ve hunted black bear a lot of different places and under all sorts of conditions and circumstances, possibly even during the “black heat” we’re experiencing now. Before you arrived there were several truly big color phase bears on bait, but with the day-time heat those bears have gone nocturnal. Once the older mature boars start feeding after dark, they usually continue doing so. Unfortunately, long range weather forecasts call for hot weather the rest of the time you’re here.” Explained Gildas.

“I was afraid of that. I know for the show, they want me to shoot a bear, albeit, not a youngster. I’d really like to hold out of a truly huge black bear, or color phase. But, think it would not be a good idea to pass any bears in the 250-pound, six-feet squared range. And actually, that’s a good bear!” said I. Even though Gildas did not say anything, I could see he agreed.

Later that afternoon, I was seated in a comfortable tree stand watching bait. About 6:30 a bear slipped in. He looked like he might weigh a hundred pounds, a young bear. I watched as he fed hungrily upon the bait. Satiated, he waddled into the thick underbrush. I started watching jays and camp robbers flit around the bait.

About eight o’clock I spotted movement on the trail we (my cameraman Beverly and I) had walked in on. A sizeable black bear appeared, walked nearly under our tree stand. He stopped and immediately turned and walked back the same trail he had come in on.

I thought the bear might head to a nearby waterhole for a drink before returning and going to the bait. I was wrong. Moments after the luxurious coat, jet black bear disappeared I heard Beverly say, “He’s headed for the bait!”

Through underbrush I could see a black shape heading to the barrel. Soon as he stepped into the open I felt assured he would square over six feet (measured tip of nose to tip of tail, added to tip of right front claws to left front claws, then divided by two). I suspected he would weight pretty close to 250-pounds.

“Shoot when you’re ready!” whispered Beverly.   I placed the green center spot, lit reticle of my Trijicon AccuPoint on the bear’s broadside shoulder.   Then with a minimum of sound slid to fire the safety on my Ruger Number 1 chambered in Teddy Roosevelt’s “go to round”, the .405 Winchester loaded with Hornady’s 300-grain Soft Point ammo. I gently pulled the trigger. At the shot the bear rocked upward and backward, then ran forward. He took only six or seven steps before all was silent. I was convinced he was down. A few minutes later we confirmed my “black heat” bear was down. He was of the size I had thought and would make a fabulous rug. His delicious meat other than a couple of roasts and backstraps, I intended to have him made into jerky!

Frankly, I can hardly wait to be back hunting with Riverside Lodge for bear and whitetails. Hopefully the next time it will be considerably cooler!


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