Destinations North

Manitoba

Say what you will about the black bears in the Lower 48, but nothing compares to Canada in terms of size and numbers. I've made about 15 bear hunts in several provinces there and most have been exceptional. If I had to pick the one area with the highest concentration of bears and the best chance of success, I'd select southeastern Manitoba and hunt with Bird River Outfitters, owned by Ron Alexander. His headquarters is a 7,000-square-foot log lodge that can accommodate up to 28 people. The lodge is situated on the banks of the Bird River, about 90 miles northeast of Winnipeg. Airport pickup is available. During spring and fall seasons, you hunt over baits in a region that's absolutely loaded with black bears. During the peak of the spring hunt (early April through May) Alexander's operation might have upward of 30 baits out, each checked and replenished by guides every morning. Hunters sit in comfortable tree stands that are permanent, sturdy and accessible by secure ladders. Most shots with firearms are no farther than 30 yards; bowhunter stands are placed 15 to 20 yards from the baits. I've hunted this area of Manitoba a number of times with Ron and can recall only one evening out of more than a dozen when a bear didn't show. One year, nine hunters from Colorado took six bears the first evening. My last hunt at Bird River took place in the spring of 2000. The bears cooperated nicely and so did the Remington Copper Solid Sabot slugs employed by the small group of hunters I was with that week. Five bears were taken, and none ran more than 30 yards after being hit. Bear hunting over bait in this part of the country is a leisurely sport. In fact, you can sleep until noon at the lodge or catch up on your reading. The guides put hunters on stands late in the afternoon, which allows guests the morning to enjoy the scenery or other endeavors. If you like to fish, it's possible to catch walleyes and northern pike off the dock. Or you can hook up with a guide and sample what other stretches of the Bird River have to offer. The fall bear season runs from early August into October. Manitoba also is one of the best places in North America to hunt ruffed grouse and whitetails. Ron books hunts for them, too. A bear permit, good for spring and fall in the same year, costs $185. You're allowed one bear in a calendar year. A deer-hunting permit costs $185 and a grouse permit costs $100. Contact: Ron Alexander, Bird River Outfitters, 451 Moray St., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3J3A7, 204-345-2820; www.birdriver.com.