If you’ve ever thought about taking a trip to Canada for a giant black bear, have I got the spot for you! A few years ago I met Mike Lembke, owner of Wollaston Lake Lodge and Cochrane River Outfitters, at the Eastern Sports show in Harrisburg PA. Although Mike runs a “World Class” fishing lodge for Northern Pike, Walleye and Lake Trout, what really intrigued me was his bear hunts. Although most bear hunting is done in the Spring, Cochrane River Outfitters offers a fall bear hunt. Mike only hunts his area for one week in the fall, running two spike camps with 4 hunters per camp. With a quick look at the map showing the enormous area that Mike hunts and with such a limited number of hunters, I became even more interested. Looking over picture after picture of the giant bruins that Mike’s hunters have taken, he didn’t have to twist my arm to book a trip!
Now, for any of you that have followed me through my articles and work on the various outdoor networks, you know I love chasing big whitetails, but my second favorite big game animal are bears – I love hunting giant bears! I’ve hunted black bear just about everywhere you can but Northern Saskatchewan is by far my favorite spot and that’s exactly where Mike Lembke operates Cochran River outfitters. If you are looking for a
true wilderness experience in some of the most remote area that Canada has to offer, this is the place! In all honesty, there are animals here that have probably never seen a human being! The vastness of this country is incredible and the mixture of forests, lakes and rivers are inhabited by an amazing amount of trophy animals.
When I arrived in camp it was obvious these guys ran a first class operation and for being in the middle of nowhere, these spike camps had it all! Each camp was equipped with outfitter tents, large sleeping cots, hot showers, cook tent and 2 guides per camp. They didn’t scrimp on the food either, the guides were excellent cooks and nobody went
hungry, I swear if given my choice for a last meal I’d have to choose a shore lunch! The guides even ran trail cameras on all the baits, something I’ve never witnessed at any of the two dozen other bear hunts I’ve been on. Within the first few days of having the baits out, most stands had a giant showing up already so picking a spot to hunt wasn’t easy. I had my mind made up before my trip that I really wanted to shoot a big color phase bear first and foremost, and if one didn’t show a B&C black would definitely work.
On the first day of the hunt, everybody was excited to get to the stand early, so after choosing our spots we all headed out around 1pm, I opted for a stand that had a chocolate phase bear on the trailcam. The stand was situated at the far back end of a cove where two large tracts of forest where pinched down to 80 yards, with a small stream connecting two lakes, it was a perfect funnel. I climbed into my stand about 60 yards uphill from the lake and what a view, I could see very good in every direction except right behind me, something else I’m not used to on a bear hunt. The wind was perfect, blowing to my downhill side and out across the water. Within the first 2 hours I had a really big black phase show up, along with a smaller one, then a sow and young cub, unfortunately the young cub turned out to be the chocolate bear from the trail cam photos. I was a little disappointed the color phase bear wasn’t a shooter, but what a cool experience to watch, even after two of them tried to climb into the stand with me!
I guess an hour had gone by after the first 4 bears had left when I heard something down in the water. Moments later a nice black bear was heading uphill towards the bait, with a GIANT in tow! There was no doubt in my mind this was a book bear! As the big bruin approached I prepared for the shot, waiting for a perfect broadside target. When I
released I knew I made a perfect hit, and the huge animal confirmed my thinking when he
piled up 20 yards away! With 2 hours of daylight left, and because I was filming the hunt for Intrepid Outdoors, I got down and filmed my recovery in good daylight. As I approached my bear there was no ground shrinkage with an enormous head atop his 450-500 lb body. After wrapping things up, I went back to the stand, set my bow and camera down ( big mistake) and climbed back up the ladder to wait for my guides return at dark. Before my butt could hit the seat I heard something, as I swung around to see the biggest black bear I have ever seen, standing right at the bait! I couldn’t believe it. I just shot a giant and here is another one even bigger! As he inspected the bait, he turned and looked right up at me, then at my bow and camera at the base of the tree, uh oh! Must have been my lucky day, because he headed down to the lake ( leaving all my gear alone) got a quick drink and headed back up hill behind my stand, and downwind of me and my trophy (UH OH)!! That’s when all hell broke loose. When the enormous bear got his first nose full of us, he began knocking over trees that were as big around as my leg, at least 8-10 of them. Then he went for my bear! The sheer power that it would take to pick up 450 pounds in your mouth, then shake it like a rag doll is unbelievable and it took my breath away! When he finished showing me he was the king of this hill, he walked down to my stand and looked up at me one more time as if to say “your next”! I was more than a little rattled by now, especially with my bow on the ground and no way to protect myself, way to go dummy! When the giant bear walked over the hill and out of site, I couldn’t believe what i had just witnessed, or how lucky I was things didn’t turn out worse.
It ended up taking 6 of us to load my bear into the boat that night and after watching my footage back at camp we knew there was only one thing to do, go kill that giant! The next day I hung a new stand directly behind the one I had shot my bear out of. Plan was to film my good friend Joe Miles and hope you know who showed up again. Well, he sure did and Joe’s bear was definitely bigger than mine, well over 500lbs. This was really a trip of a lifetime and I’m not sure how you top two B&C bears, but I’ll be back next fall to try!
If you have any interest in the hunt give me a call (614-496-2542), I’d like to get a group together to go again, only 7 spots to fill! Of course you can go online at: WollastonLakeLodge.com or Cochrane River Outfitters or call Mike Lembke direct at 1 866-484-4868.