In 2008 my buddy Jay invited me to go bear hunting with him in Maine with Paul Laney Guide Service; this was to be my first bear hunt with an outfitter. We arrived in Grand Lake Stream on Saturday evening; Sunday Paul showed us the stands we would be sitting in on Monday, the opening day. He ask me what kind of weapon I was using, and I told him a Thompson Encore .50 cal. This brought an audible groan from Paul. “Muzzleloaders usually don’t pack enough punch to penetrate a bear to get a good blood trail” he pointed out. “Ok, I’ll shoot him in the head then” I responded, and Paul rolled his eyes.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were boring hours sitting in the stand with nothing but Pine Squirrels to amuse me. When Paul picked me up Wednesday evening at my stand he ask if I wanted to move to a different stand. I told him I had three evenings invested in this stand, I’d stay there.
5:40 Thursday evening, I saw a bear approaching from my right about 50 yards out. The bear came in to the bait barrel, then turned and ran away, three times he did this. Finally he came in, stuck his head in the barrel, the Encore found my shoulder, and I waited. Mr. Bear filled his mouth full of donuts, and stepped away from the barrel looking straight at me. The crosshairs settled between the bears eyes, and I squeezed the shot off, dropping the bear where he stood.
I texted Marie, Paul’s guiding partner that I had a bear down. She texted back to sit still (which is next to impossible for me) and she’d be right there. I walked out to the log trail and waited. When Marie arrived she was gathering her tracking gear, compass, gps, flashlight, etc. I said, “He’s lying beside the barrel”. “Are you serious” she mocked, “no one ever has a bear by the barrel, how did you manage that”? “I shot him in the head” I explained. We walked back, and drug my bear out.
We arrived back at camp, and the first thing Marie said was “well, he shot him in the head, right between the eyes”. The boar weighed in at 185 lbs.
2009, 2010, because of the economy I didn’t go to Maine. 2011, I got a hold of my pal Troy, and my good friend PK, and we made arrangements to hunt bear the first week with Laney Guide Service. Again we arrived in camp Saturday evening, Laney ask everyone what they were shooting. Troy was shooting his 7600 chambered in 30/06; PK was shooting a Marlin chambered in .444 mag. These choices made Laney smile, then he looked at me. “Thompson Encore .50 cal” this made his new guiding partner Mitch wince.
Sunday we fished, caught enough perch to have a nice fish fry on Sunday evening.
Monday we went to our spots, Troy shot a bear in the last hour of daylight, PK saw nothing, I had about a 200 lb boar come in. Being the first day I opted to wait. Tuesday evening, I had a sow with 2 cubs come in to the bait; because she was a sow with cubs I let her alone, PK saw nothing, and Troy spent the evening drinking beer,and fishing from the dock. Wednesday evening, I saw nothing, PK saw nothing, and Troy drank beer and fished. Thursday evening, just before dusk, a big boar appeared off to my left and walked across the shooting lane to fast to get a shot, and sat behind a big Spruce, all I could see was a bit of his back. Every couple of minutes he’d stick his head around the tree and look directly at me, then pull his head back. I decided to get ready, darkness was falling, next time he poked his head from around the tree I was going to shoot. All prepared, waiting, no head darkness is starting to creep in. Raising my head off the stock to look, I found Mr. Bear standing broadside 35 yards away, how he did that without me seeing him, couldn’t tell you. Crosshairs behind the shoulder, and let her smoke. He died within 100 yards of the barrel, down in the swamp.
He weighed in at 345 lbs.
Turning on my cell phone to call Mitch, I see a text from PK, he has a bear down. Great all three of us have scored. Back at camp high 5’s all around, and beer drank.. Maybe too much beer, I didn’t feel good the next day.
2012, PK informs me he invited our wives to bear camp, both non hunters. (That’s a different story). Our entourage arrives in Grand Lake Stream, Saturday evening, Laney and his guiding partner Marie stop by camp, and the three women fall in love with each other….oh god.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, no action on either PK’s bait or mine. Thursday evening we are informed we will be in different stands. Paul baits about 100 sites a year.
Sitting in my new stand I decide I hate it, I don’t like nothing about it, grumbling to myself, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. A huge bear stands on its hind legs not 4 yards from my stand and looks directly at me. Can’t move, in a second it drops to the ground and disappears in the undercover. Not to worry, I know he’s headed for the bait, I can’t see him, he can’t see me. I get my rifle in position, this year I’m shooting my Remington 760 in .270, 135 grain ballistic tips, I’ve killed a lot of deer with this combination.
After a half an hour I see a bear coming in to the bait, he walks around the barrel several times before deciding that it was safe. Approaching the barrel I notice his back is higher than the barrel, nice bear. Crosshairs behind the shoulder, he humps and runs at the shot. I heard the death moans almost immediately, and left the stand to look for him. In the darkness I lost the blood trail, Laney and Mitch arrive with a depressed PK, he missed one. (Why is it misses are always on huge game, no one ever says I missed a medium sized bear). Mitch, Paul, and dog Sadie, find the bear in the dark. I can tell the way Laney is walking it’s not a big bear, he’s moving to quick. What I didn’t notice was the barrel sat in a dip, making even a small bear look pretty big. My bear was 160lbs.
2012, PK, Ed, myself and PK’s and my wives returned to Maine. This year we went the second week, at PK’s urging, bigger, bears, more bears, he preached. Had vehicle problems with the Big Black Dodge the last three miles of the trip. But Laney’s Guide Service even repaired the truck. On this trip I carried a .308 Norma Magnum, shooting 165 gr. Ballistic tips.
The Norma Magnum was built for my Uncle’s Father in Law, a long range target shooter. The gun was passed down to my uncle, when he passed, my cousin got it, then my cousin died, and it came to me. This weapon had never been blooded. I felt it was my responsibility to take care of that chore, and then retire the gun. (.308 Norma Mag cartridges are $70 a box)
Sunday, Ed and I fished, due to a medical emergency in PK’s family they left Sunday, arriving on a rainy Monday. Ed and I were the only two guys in camp that sat in the rain waiting for a bruin. During our sit, 3.5 inches of rain fell on us, we were both soaked and saw nothing. Tuesday we awoke to more rain, but it cleared in the afternoon.
630 Tuesday evening, I saw her; it started as shadows changing in the undergrowth. Watching the shadow slowly change and move, I realized it was a bear. Slowly she appeared from the underbrush, walking towards my stand, she stopped 40 yards away staring directly at my stand. The Norma Mag was on my shoulder. Her nose went up, and she started sniffing, I knew she was preparing to bolt. The crosshairs found the center of her chest, and Norma roared. The Sow dropped where she stood. She wasn’t a big bear, but she was the only bear killed in the second week. So much for that idea PK!
So that’s it, 4 years, 4 shots, 4 bears.