CANADA: Black Bear Hunt With Skyline Adventures & Kelly Ross

Big5

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A hunt with Skyline Adventures
My nephew, Aaron, was my hunting partner on a 2014 Manitoba black bear hunt with AH forum member Kelly Ross. Kelly and his wife, Wendy, are a highly experienced guide-outfitting team and owners of ‘Skyline Adventures’ (http://www.canadianblackbearhunt.com). This was a fall hunt that took place in hunting area 23, along the south side of Riding Mountain National Park, on the Manitoba Escarpment. The hunting area is known to have large populations of moose, elk, whitetail deer, lynx, cougar, wolf and the highest concentration of black bears in North America. I booked this hunt from an offering Kelly had posted on the AH site.

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1Bear.jpg

Aaron's big bear

Aaron’s account of our hunt;
My uncle met Kelly Ross of Skyline Adventures on the AH forum. They found themselves to be in agreement on many subjects so after a few direct email exchanges a friendship soon began. As most of their conversations were about hunting it didn’t take long for a Manitoba black bear hunt to be in the making. After my uncle pitched up the hunt particulars and a little about the area where the hunt was to take place I decided to jump on board. It sounded like a great opportunity for me to go on a “big” hunt and the first time for me to hunt outside the U.S.

Prior to this hunt my big game experience had been limited to several spot and stalk wild pig hunts in central California. Although each of those hunts had been guided and ended in success, they were not all inclusive as the bear hunt was to be. Since my uncle has done a great deal of hunting in many places I decided to pretty much just follow his lead on this one. But I can tell you that as the week of our hunt progressed I didn't need him or anyone else to tell me just how good Kelly and Wendy were as guides and camp hosts. They are truly top notch.

Since shots would likely be fairly close in an area dense with trees and other foliage I decided to take my 45-70 Shiloh Sharps. With 513gr bullets I cast from a Brooks Tru-Bore mold and moving them along at approximately 1120fps I felt a bear could be anchored rather quickly if my shot placement was good. Having the same thought in mind my uncle decided to take his well worn .340 wby with 250gr Nosler partitions.

When we arrived we met two other hunters who would be sharing camp with us. Apparently four hunters is the maximum number Kelly and Wendy like to hunt at the same time. Before going out on our first hunt day we all sat down with Kelly and Wendy to view recent game camera activity. This was a good time for me to learn about identifying the sex of black bears as well as how to judge size, which can be very difficult. To stay up on the bear activity they have a bunch of game cameras that they will regularly rotate between bait sites. Based upon recent activity they had determined which blinds each of us would be taken to before we ever arrived. Camera images showed that there was a very large sow with cubs that had been frequenting the bait site where I would be taken. Because it was a very large bear I was told that most hunters would likely shoot it in a heartbeat if they weren't patient enough to check for cubs. Except to also mention that large boars also frequented the site where I would be dropped off no other details were given.

As Kelly drove me to my elevated box blind we found that the large sow and cubs I'd been warned about were already on the bait. Although they moved off quickly as we approached the blind just seeing those bears right away was a good sign. I also felt that since the big sow and cubs had already been on the bait and moved off maybe I wouldn't be confronted with them again that evening.

I entered the blind by about 3:00PM with the expectation of being picked up a little after dark. The bait barrel was about 82 yards away and from what I gathered it was the longest shot of all their bait sites. After about two hours in the blind a bear walked out of a tree line to my right and sauntered right up to my blind. After a bit of sniffing around he then wandered across the open field between my blind and the bait site where he disappeared into the opposite tree line. A few moments later he emerged further down the same tree line and into the open area behind the bait barrel. For the next few hours I watched this bear pig out on the bait. I estimated him to be about 225 lbs and for a while I considered taking him. But I felt he was a minimum shooter and it was just too early in our five day hunt to have minimum standards.

At about 7:45PM the bear squatted and took a dump about 10 yards from the bait. After walking in a few circles he then casually began strolling off back along the tree line where he had come from earlier. All of a sudden this bear perked up and lit outta there like his ass was on fire. Kelly and Wendy had said if something like that happens there will likely be a much larger bear in the area. I knew it wasn't me that had spooked him because nothing but my eyeballs had been tracking him and I'd gone to some trouble to control my scent. Almost as soon as he lit off I saw a real bruiser coming over the center of a far hill in the field above me. I had been told about big bears having "presence" and walking with a certain swagger as if they owned the place, and this bear had all of that.

Even though the bear was about 130 yards distant in some fairly tall grass, I knew he was one big toad. He also had a beautiful and symmetrical white colored "V' mark in the center of his chest. I watched as he sauntered straight down the hill to a small marshy area before moving to my right to skirt it. Every time he lowered his head I would move the rifle from my lap and a little closer towards a firing position. By the time this bruiser crossed the marsh I was set and ready to take a shot. For another ten minutes or so he continued looking between the bait barrel and my blind and only occasionally taking a step towards the bait. He spent a lot of time with his nose up high obviously trying to sniff out trouble.

Although he had by now moved out near the middle of the clearing he just wasn't comfortable enough to cross the field. He then started to turn in place as if to go back towards the near tree line and heavy foliage. I knew if he started moving I wasn’t going to see him again. So as soon as he turned to show me a broadside shot I dropped the hammer on him. By now it was dark enough that the smoke from the muzzle was full of sparks and a little blinding. But the sound of the bullet making a loud "whack" was very reassuring. I was squinting to look through the smoke when I picked him up as he was just starting to move. I watched as he got about 3-4 good pumps in before disappearing into the trees. I was certain I had done my part, but at the same time I began doubting myself because his bounding gait looked perfect before he disappeared. I had completely forgotten to reload like I had practiced and instead grabbed for my phone to let Kelly and Wendy know what had happened.

It took a while to get through to Kelly and Wendy, but the cavalry showed up with a trailer carrying a 4wd quad with an attached sled. We looked for blood for a few minutes and when we couldn't find any I really began doubting myself. I was comfortable with the shot and I knew I must have hit him hard due to the loud whacking sound, but why no blood? Had it just become a little too dark for us to easily spot any blood? Kelly then cautiously entered the tree line and located my bear piled up dead a very short distance away. Needless to say, I was not only relieved I was ecstatic!

1Shot.JPG

Nice shot placement

On our way back to the house I learned that my uncle had taken a beautiful white timber wolf. The season had been closed for 13 years and had just opened this fall. As far as Kelly and Wendy knew he was the first to take a wolf since the season reopened. If there was a trophy my uncle had been coveting over most others for a long time that was it! I knew from previous conversations that in all of his North America hunting he never seemed to be in the right place at the right for a wolf to appear and get a shot. So I know he had to be extremely happy.

Fortunately for him our Manitoba bear license included a wolf. The only stipulation about taking a wolf was that it had to be taken before a bear. Once the hunter has taken a bear the wolf tag will then become invalid.

Besides me one of the other hunters also took a respectable bear that first evening. That now left my uncle and one other hunter in camp still looking for bears. On the third hunt day the other hunter took his bear. That bear was skinned and squared out at 6' 10" and weighed in at approximately 275 lbs. My bear weighed in at 385 lbs with a skull measurement of 20 4/16” making it eligible for B&C book entry. Because of the preparation needed for a trophy mount my hide was not cut in such a manner as to allow for a squared measurement.

Now my uncle was the only one in camp who hadn’t taken a bear. He’s a pretty discriminating and patient hunter who had already taken several bears including black bear, coastal brown bear and a couple of grizzlies. So it came as no surprise that he was prepared to hold out and go away without taking a bear if he didn’t see the particular bear he wanted.

He was looking for a traditional all black boar with no markings rather than any blonde, cinnamon or chocolate color phase bears that also frequent the area we were hunting. At that point in the hunt he had already seen several bears come to bait including a chocolate and a cinnamon color phase but he wanted to continue looking for that all black boar. So while my uncle continued hunting the three of us who had already taken a bear spent our remaining days having a great time fishing for walleye on a nearby lake. By the end of the hunt my uncle had seen more than a dozen bears come to bait, just not that one ‘particular’ bear he was looking for. He couldn’t describe it further other than to say he would know it when he saw it.

Throughout the week our group of four had seen approximately 20-25 individual bears and a whole bunch of repeaters come to bait. That's a lot of bears when you consider there had only been a combined total of 11 hunt days where someone was actually out at a bait site. One of the beauties of hunting over bait is the tremendous opportunity to view wildlife and to be very selective about the game. We all saw various other species besides bears. I should also mention that a week before we got there another hunter took a 510 lb bruiser of a bear with a skull that went over 21" if I recall.

I have never experienced this level of hospitality in my life. "Above and Beyond" just doesn't cover it. All meals were taken at Kelly and Wendy's home. Three times a day we had multi-course meals that included juice, coffee, deserts and wine where applicable. Timing was always perfect with coffee or other beverages always being ready before we stepped through the door. Kelly and Wendy were always juggling with meals, running baits, clearing beaver traps (they get a lot of those), feeding their cattle and sheep along with trophy preparation and running hunters out to the blinds. There wasn't a single hiccup the entire week. They even dropped their 16' outboard boat in the water for the walleye fishing I mentioned earlier. We whacked those walleye pretty good too!

Each evening there was ample time to talk about what had gone on during the day and to share a few stories. Kelly and Wendy have a combined 70 years of hunting experience between them and it was a real pleasure listening to their stories. Through the week I kept thinking that there was going to be a balance due simply because they were doing so much for us. Even the $300 bear license was included in the cost of the hunt. The only additional cost to be incurred was if a hunter wanted them provide round trip transportation from the airport to camp. That trip is about a three and a half hour drive each way. Finding the cost to be a reasonable option my uncle and I elected to do just that rather than renting a car for the week.

In the end our hunting experience went exactly like they said it would. You will not find more honest and humble people than Kelly and Wendy anywhere! It was such a good experience that we’ve already booked a return trip with them for the upcoming fall season.

3Bear.jpg

Aaron's terrific Boone & Crockett Black Bear
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My thoughts on our hunt;
As Aaron mentioned I've been on several bear hunts over the years. My black bear hunts have including spot and stalk, running them with dogs and hunting them over bait. But I’ve never come close to seeing as many bears on any hunt as I did with Kelly Ross of Skyline Adventures. Besides seeing many bears I also feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to finally drop one of those elusive and sneaky timber wolves on this hunt.

The aggressive critter first exposed itself by charging out of the dense cover and running an adult bear off the bait site. I truly was surprised to see a full grown bear run off that way without hesitation. After snatching a chunk of beaver the bear dropped as it ran off the wolf turned on a dime and quickly disappeared back into the foliage from where it came. There was simply no way I could have gotten a shot off. While rubbing my eyes in disbelief over what I’d just seen I decided to ready myself for a quick shot just in case the wolf returned. I knew there were at least two adult bears in the vicinity so I honestly didn’t think the wolf would take a chance on returning. But just in case the wolf’s successful beaver chunk grab and run hadn’t satisfied its hunger I wanted to be ready for a quick shot.

After about ten minutes of complete stillness around the bait (no bears, squirrels, hares or even a bird) I caught a glimpse of movement. Although the foliage behind the bait site was much too thick and shadowy to actually see what it was, the tiny specks of white glinting through the dense cover told me it must be the wolf. I therefore remained fixated on those white specks waiting for something to happen. After several minutes with the white specks remaining motionless I could now see very slow movement heading toward the clearing around the bait barrel. Upon reaching the clearing the wolf stopped and only exposed its lowered head to begin cautiously listening and looking about. At the very moment it turned to look in my direction with those eerie yellow eyes I capped off a round at its neck. Fortunately it was a well placed shot and that stealthy wolf dropped right in its tracks. To just say I was pleased would be an understatement.

On this hunt more than any other I found myself in a position to see many bears and to do some picking and choosing. Although I didn’t take a bear on this hunt it’s not because I wasn’t presented with several opportunities to do so. As my nephew mentioned it was a terrific hunt all the way around. That’s why we’ll be returning to do it once again this fall. I’m anxious to return and continue looking for that one special bear I have pictured in my mind. But on second thought, who knows? Maybe by this fall my mental picture will have changed and I’ll be looking for one of the big color phase bears I passed on during the last hunt. To me that’s what hunting is all about.

What I’m certain about is that Kelly and Wendy put on a great hunt in a beautiful area that holds lots of bears. The accommodations are terrific and the overall service they provide is second to none. I also know that I’m extremely happy to have finally taken a timber wolf and for having the opportunity to see so damn many bears that I couldn’t decide which one to take.

Wolf1.jpg

My being 6-3 and 290lbs will show the relative size of this wolf

Wolf2.jpg

Even without a winter coat the wolf appears substantial in size

 
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Wheels

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Big5,

Congratulations on the wolf. Certainly a special trophy.(y)

Thank Aaron for helping write the report and a big congratulations to him on a great bear and becoming an international hunter. It sounds like Aaron may need to head to Africa soon.:)

Thanks for sharing your story and photos.

All the best.
 

BRICKBURN

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Well done.

Thanks for sharing your hunt.
 

gizmo

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Great hunt and report!
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Great report, well done!
 

gillettehunter

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Great report. Looks like a great time was had by all. Congrats on the animals. nice pics. thanks for sharing. bruce
 

jeff

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Great report, thanks for sharing. That wolf is awesome!!
 

Big5

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Thanks to everyone for the kind and positive comments . . . . Good hunting to you all.
 

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Thanks for posting. I don't live far from where your hunt took place, there certainly are some huge bears that come out of that area. Be patient and you'll get that one you're looking for (y).
 

Big5

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I don't live far from where your hunt took place, there certainly are some huge bears that come out of that area. Be patient and you'll get that one you're looking for (y).

Thanks Powdermaker. I'm looking forward to returning in the fall and doing a little more 'picking and choosing'. It's nice country up your way and the bear hunting is second to none.

Good hunting to you!
 

Royal27

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Well done!!!

I'm fascinated with wolves. Don't know quite what it is about them, but man they sure are cool.
 

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