Written by Taylor Rather in 2009.

During school on the 22nd of May, I was finished with my last SOL and was getting ready to leave for my next class. When I reached my next class, the attendance lady called me to go home. My dad had checked me out and we were headed for Fredericksburg, VA to spend the night with Kevin and his family.  Our trip for Manitoba Bear was finally ready to begin

After 3-4 long hours, we finally reached our destination. We joined Kevin in his garage and talked about the flight to Canada. We talked and tested the wireless microphones to make sure they worked for the upcoming bear hunt. We spent almost all night in the garage checking to make sure we had everything. Then we ate dinner and settled down to get some sleep.

We woke at 4:30 in the morning to get an early start to the airport. We were scheduled for takeoff at 8:15 and being early was better than being late. It felt like the drive took for hours but really it only took about an 1 and a half to get there.

When we reached the airport my nerves sky rocketed! I was so nervous because it would be my first time flying and I wasn’t to hip about being a mile or two off the ground. I tried to calm myself down as we entered the gate but that didn’t help. I waited as we checked in our luggage and then when we were finished, I walked slowly with Kevin and my dad to the gate for Minneapolis, St. Paul.

On the way we stopped at a little restaurant inside the airport to pick up some breakfast. I got a blueberry muffin, Kevin and my dad got a biscuit.

We walked over to some seats and waited. While waiting I saw our plane pull up to the port. Boy did my nerves flutter!  I was so nervous I lost my appetite and instead I chugged my apple juice down hoping it would calm me down. It helped a little bit but not much. As soon as I realized the time, the attendant called for first class to board and I knew we were next. As soon as she called our class, Kevin and my dad jumped in line and I was tagging right behind…

We boarded the plane and I soon found out that our seats were spaced from each other. Kevin sat one seat in front of me and my dad about two or three behind me. I quickly found my seat and the first thing I did was put my seat belt on. I sat waiting and a marine officer comes and sits beside me. We talked for a little while.

The pilot said we were getting ready to leave and to put our seat belts on. Well, I had already done that. So I just sat back and looked out the window. The plane slowly backed up and then like a car, drove to the airstrip. I watched as we lined up on the run way and as I said my goodbye to Virginia, we took off…

The flight took only two hours or so to reach Minneapolis and when we were almost there the pilot told us the weather and what he was going to be doing when landing. The plane slowly came back down and gently landed on the runway. Boy was I glad to have my feet back on the ground!

We walked out of the gate and into Minneapolis!  We started walking down to our next gate which was going to Manitoba, Canada. While walking, my dad see’s a guy in front of us and starts asking me if I remembered his name. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about and he shrugged by me and took off after the guy. We found out a little bit later that he was on the same flight as us. My dad caught up with his camera guy and asked for the guy’s name. The cameraman responds “O’Neil Williams” and that’s when the name clicked. It was O’Neil Williams from “O’Neil Outdoors TV show.”

My dad got several pictures of us together with O’Neil and I even got an autograph for my brother. We all sat and talked about what we were going to do when we got to Canada and come to find out that O’Neil was going to be a little ways from where we were on a fishing trip. While talking the flight attendants called our flight and we quickly boarded and took off again, leaving the USA…

Finally, an hour later, we arrived in Winnipeg, Canada. We checked through customs and entered into Winnipeg, Canada. Kevin videotaped us  entering through the gates and we watched some hockey players do an interview for the news and then we left. We watched as the hotel van pulled up and we loaded our luggage. We hopped in and was soon at our hotel. We went to our rooms and took a short nap. Then later we went to the Bar & Grill downstairs and had lunch.

We ate and then went to Cabelas that was right down the road and we shopped a little for fishing lures. We picked up a few fishing lures for some future pike and walleye fishing.

We settled in for bed to prepare for the upcoming day. When we woke that morning, I knew it was going to be a good day. We waited in the lobby for Harry Walker to arrive from Sandy River Outfitters to come pick us up. Keeping the wait short, Harry came through the doors and we loaded up the suburban. We had two other hunters we needed to pick up from the airport, stop by Wendy’s, then we were on our way to camp.  We stopped by a Safeway for some last minute snacks and Kevin picked up a some marshmallows.

When we arrived at camp, we were greeted by the two camp cooks and many others. The two cooks made us some very delicious sandwiches and we took our luggage to our rooms. We picked out our bunks and then got ready to go sight in the Tikka .308, I was going to be shooting.  This was my first time shooting a rifle with the Benchmaster and Pro Ears .  These were amazing as I could hear Kevin giving me instructions to get sighted in and when I pulled the trigger it cut the loud rapport from the rifle and did not hurt my hearing.  The Benchmaster was sweet, I pointed out the Made in America sticker to Jim our guide and when I shot with this rest, it really gave me confidence the rifle was set and helped to reduce the kick.

I took a 3 shot grouping and the rifle was perfect.  Kevin asked me to fire some more rounds really fast in succession to prepare me to being able to reload quickly and I knew I was ready to hunt. We headed back to camp and we decided to settle down and get some rest.

We woke that morning to the smell of bacon and eggs. I raced down stairs to find out that everyone were already up and eating. I had slept in late. I looked at the clock and it read 10:00 am. My dad told me that Kevin and I were going to the bait at 4:00 and I needed to get my gear ready.

After eating, I went into the living room to watch TV with Henry, Randy and his two brothers. We chatted a little and time just slipped by pretty quick. It was 2:30 and I still needed to get ready. I raced upstairs and got all my gear together, then put on my Sitka Camo. Walking down the stairs, I realized that what good would a gun do without bullets! So I quickly ran back up stairs and grabbed my bullets.

We rode four wheelers to our bait site and this stand had been hit a good couple of times. The signs around the bait can, indicated that there were some big bears in the area. We waited and then we talked a little. While I was talking, Kevin whispers “Bear!” and turns the comfortable atmosphere into a shocked one.

I was so excited and nervous at the same time that I was shaking so bad, that the tree was shaking. We waited and Kevin said he could see the bear about 100yrds away but I could not. I finally saw the bear run up the side of the little hill, then he sat on his back haunches and tried to wind us. Then as quick as he came in, he left leaving dust only behind.

We knew then that there were bigger bears in the area. We looked around but saw nothing. Just when I thought my heart couldn’t take no more, I heard a limb snap directly behind us. Scared to death, I whipped my head around and managed to catch a glimpse of a black ball running in a line behind us. Then, it went quiet again. I started looking to the right and then Kevin caught me off guard when he elbowed my leg to tell me that a bear was in eye sight of the bait can. That’s when my whole body tensed up and I felt like a statue with a death grip on the .308. I watched as the bear came in to the bait at only 11 yards away. When the bear came in, that’s when we realized that it was only a small bear but that still didn’t calm my nerves.

When the little bear finally got done taking his sweet time and reached the barrel, he started licking the molasses and then tried to get the beaver carcass. He succeeded after a few minutes and managed to take off with the whole beaver. In just a matter of minutes, another bear comes in. This bear was a lot bigger than the first but we knew we definitely could find bigger, so we just watched him eat bread crumbs from the barrel.

It finally came the time for the bear to leave and boy were we relieved to see Harry pull up on the four-wheeler. Kevin looked at his watch and read 11:30pm. Now I knew why I kept yawning. We climbed on the four-wheeler and head back to the truck, then back to camp. When on the back, we decided to go check up on Lorrie and her guide because they were not back yet. While driving down the road a very big bear runs out in front of us. We finally reached her bait site and found that they were loading a nice boar on the four-wheeler. We helped and videotaped Lorrie telling her story then we head back to the camp.

When we reached camp, everyone came outside to see the bear that was taken. We all grabbed a sandwich and went to bed because it was now 2:00 in the morning. After a good night’s rest, we took pictures and swapped some bear stories. We went ahead and skinned, cut and processed Lorrie’s bear.

It finally came our time to go back in the stands. It had been raining all morning but luckily it let up as soon as it was time to go to the bait sites and hunt. We loaded the truck and we all jumped in. While going down the road, Henry told me that he was pretty sure I was going to get a bear tonight. I told him that I hope I do because tomorrow would be my last day of hunting.

After we dropped off and wished good luck to Henry and Tommy, his camera guy, we drove to our bait site about 3 miles down the dirt track. While driving, I decided to take in a little bit of scenery but only to become interrupted by driving by a black/brown sow with two cubs in a meadow. We quickly backed up but we were a little too slow. The sow runs with the cubs in the direction of our bait site. We drove to the bait site quickly to beat her there.

When we pulled up, we all noticed a black ball about a mile and half down the road walking towards us. We jumped out the truck and looked through the binoculars and saw that it looked like a nice, big bear.  A really nice bear. So we waited. Harry told us that the reason for the bear walking all the way down the road was because there was swamp water on both sides and bears don’t like to cross it unless forced. I then knew that this bear had no choice but come only a few yards from us to get to the bait site. I got my gun ready and kept quiet while I waited. I watched the bear close in the distance in a matter of a few minutes. When the bear was about 400 yards, Harry told me to sit in the little meadow between us and the bait site. The plan was good…we were going to sit on a grass mount and shoot the bear when he crossed out in front of us at 20 yards and we were going to do all of this on foot!! That was the part of the plan that I hated!

As I got set up on the grass mount, Harry and Kevin were watching the bear close the   distance…100yrds…50yrds..,and then he turned into the trees to his worn down path that led straight to the little meadow where I was. Harry ran to sit beside me and Kevin went 20yrds. back to take cover in the trees and be able to film the hunt from a good vantage point.

We waited for the bear to come through the meadow but the bear never came through. Then, when we least expected it, Kevin yells “hey!” We turned to find the bear 20yrds behind us on the road, watching us. The bear got startled by our reaction and took off down the road. We ran up to the road to see where he went but we saw no sign of him. We kept looking towards the meadow to see if he went back that way. While looking, I had a small voice in my head that told me to look to my right and I turned to find the monster bear 5 yards from me, looking at me. I quickly got in my kneeling position, ready to shoot. Harry told me ‘when ever your ready to take him!’ so I already had my sights on his shoulder but when I asked Kevin if he was ready for me to shoot, his response was “ wait! I have to turn the camera on!” I waited but apparently the bear didn’t want to.

The bear took off across the road and Harry and I took off to the meadow. We waited but the bear never came through. So Harry told us that he would sit us in the stand and we could just wait for the bear to come in.  We walked back to the truck to grab our gear and get ready and the bear popped back up in the meadow, apparently he slipped around us and was watching us.  We did not have a clear shot so we waited and finally he spooked.

We got in the stand and got all set up to wait for the bear. While setting up, we gave Harry a bag of marshmallows and he delightfully placed them on/around the bait can. Harry said ‘good luck’ to us and then left. Now all we had to do would be to wait. The setup that we were in kind of made me nervous because my ladder stand was only 10 ft. off the ground and there were three trails coming right beside the legs of the stand!

While waiting, Kevin tapped me on the shoulder to tell me something, and I got startled thinking it was a bear. Kevin asked me to do a quick interview for the camera. I felt disappointed because I thought I was going to see another bear. I had a feeling that I was going to get one and it come true when Kevin tapped me on the shoulder the second time and whispered ‘Taylor, I didn’t want you to get startled but there’s a bear 10 feet behind the stand and he’s coming!’ I got so excited, that not thinking, I whirled around In my seat and said ‘Where!?’

The bear jumped 5 feet off to our right on a well worn down path and landed in a pile of twigs. I could barely laugh because I was trying to figure out if he was a shooter or not. Kevin told me that if he said ‘1’ it would be a small bear but if he said ‘2’, then I better be ready to shoot!

It only took one look at the bear and Kevin determined it was a number 2 bear! My heart raced as the bear got closer and closer to the bait can. Finally, He walked into the opening and looked at the marshmallows. Now my goal on this bear hunt was: ‘My first bear would be the first bear that eats one of my marshmallows!’ The stands we were on the night before had at least two bears come in and none of them touched the marshmallows until today!

The bear walked up to the first marshmallow and immediately ate it. I was thrilled! The bear went to the right side of the can licking the molasses and then turned sideways which gave me a PERFECT shot! Kevin wanted to get more video of the bear but he didn’t want to pass up the perfect opportunity to shoot. So, Kevin said ‘When ever you’re ready to take him!’ I happily asked ‘ready?’ and as soon as he said yes, I pulled the trigger!

The bear hunched up and then took off. I was so excited I almost screamed but instead I teared with complete joy! I exchanged many high fives with Kevin and then grabbed the radio to call Harry. When I hit the button to call, I heard this weird noise that kind of sounded like a mad cow but deeper voice. My smile disappeared and my head whipped up to Kevin. Kevin laughed when he saw my terrified look and simply explained to me that that’s what bear’s do when their dying. Kevin called it a ‘Death moan.’ Kevin told me that the bear was dead and that we could wait till Harry comes back from baiting 3 other bait sites.

We waited and waited, then finally, we heard a truck coming and then Harry came on the radio to ask us if any good luck. We quickly replied ‘yes’ and Harry came in to help us with our gear and find the bear. It didn’t take long and we found the bear he only ran 30 yards and was piled up on the side of the swamp. Big time bear hunters always say that when a bear is shot, he will run either to the right or the left. I paid close attention to where I heard the crash and found the theory true. My bear had gone to the right.

We went to pick up the four-wheeler and then to pick up Henry and Jimmy from their stand. They had also taken a bear. We picked them and the bear up and then headed back to get my bear. We finally reached our bait site. When we walked up to the can, it didn’t take me 2 seconds to realize that everything was different. A bear had come through while we were gone and turned over the barrel and ate every marshmallow! I was shocked and I immediately looked around but was relieved to find the bear long gone.

We finally got the four-wheeler to the bear and it took almost 6 men to get the bear on the back of the four-wheeler. I rushed behind the four-wheeler all excited and didn’t watch where I was going and I fell in a huge hole filled with water. I picked myself up and shook off the dirt and wringed the water from my boot. I still followed my bear all the way to the truck.

When we got back into the truck we hit the road and met some of the other hunters, we found out that Randy and his brothers had some good luck also. Randy’s two brothers both shot black bears and Randy shot a cinnamon bear. We all got a bear on the same day and that meant a lot to me. We lined the bears up and took many pictures and exchanged some business cards. We had five bears taken in one night.

Taylor Rather Manitoba Bear
Taylor Rather Manitoba Bear

I had a really great time with Sandy River Outfitters and loved how beautiful the country of Manitoba is and how pretty it is around the cabin. It was definitely what you would call ‘bear country’ and I thought it was absolutely beautiful! I hated when I had to leave but it will definitely be a lifelong memory! And I would also like to thank Kevin and my dad for taking me to Canada because without them, I never would have experienced harvesting my first bear!