I’m 14 years old and live in Bemidji Minnesota. A friend of our family from Springbrook Wisconsin transferred a black bear harvest tag to me. They take about 7 to 8 years of preference points to get so I was privileged and thankful for the opportunity. One of the owners and guides from Big Timber Redbones and Outfitting, Annette Zeman, is best friends with my mom and went to college with her. Annette arranged the tag transfer for me through another person who was had enough points and thought it would be good to see a young hunter get a chance so decide to transfer the tag to me.

My family and I came down from our home to the Hayward area during their summer training season, which runs from July through August, a couple weeks before actual bear harvest season opens. Dave Samuel and Annette Zeman, the owners of Big Timber Redbones and Outfitting, showed us how they baited and ran the dogs on bear. It really helped us because none of us had ever been bear hunting. We helped sand some baits, so during the season we could see tracks easier. (We carried 5 gallon pails of sand into the baits which was hard work.) We saw a couple of bear the dogs ran and treed so we understood better what to expect. We learned from Dave and Annette it is more about the dog work then killing the bear.

Tuesday after school just my dad and I left to go on the hunt. We stayed with Dave and Annette because they were our guides and the owners of Big Timber Redbones and Outfitting. Every day we treed a bear just a lot of smaller bear.

Friday night the dogs got on a big bear and they trailed it and the dogs caught up to it and fought and bayed it for 3 hours until we ran out of daylight and had to catch the dogs. Dave took me into the woods and even though we got close enough to shoot three or four times I never had a clear shot where I was sure I would not hit a dog. The dogs walked right with the bear and did not allow us room to shoot because they were so close. It was a great experience though, being able to walk with the dogs and see them stop the bear and surround him. Even though it was a long walk through a lot of brush, pine trees, trees that had fallen, and the bear was in a big steep hole created when the glacier was there. (There is a marked sign in the area describing the glacier.) It was an amazing experience.

It wasn’t until Saturday that we got a good chance at a “shooter bear”. Saturday we got up at 4am like all the rest of the days and checked the baits. We found a couple of bear tracks that were good sized. We tried the biggest one and couldn’t get it going. So we went to our next best track. The dogs did a great job working together and found the bear. After good race the dogs treed the bear. We went in, tied off all the dogs and decided it was nice bear so I shot. I was shooting a 500 S&W Caliber single shot rifle with iron sights. I was having trouble hitting the bear because it got up in the top of a huge pine tree and we could hardly see it. The bear climbed higher and higher every shot until finally I was able to see it well enough to hit it and it fell and was dead. There was so much thick underbrush and down trees around the bottom of the tree it had climbed it was hard to find a clear spot to shoot from. The bear field dressed 187 lbs. I never realized how much work went into bear hunting with dogs until I did this. I had a GREAT time and our family enjoyed the experience so much we are hoping to go back each summer during training season!

Thanks again to Dave and Annette,
Erik Fitzgerald