There is certainly no shortage of black bears in my home province of Ontario, and I have hunted them a couple of times and even managed to bag a decent one a few years back. But spending most of each hunting day hanging around camp waiting to go out in the late afternoon and sit up in a tree for a couple of hours overlooking a bait barrel just isn't my cup of tea. I need something a little more "active".
The first time I heard about the fantastic bear hunting that Vancouver Island has to offer, I knew that was exactly what I wanted, and years of daydreaming began. When the gift from my wife for Christmas one year was a hunt of my choice, I quickly decided that the time for daydreaming was over and the time for planning had begun.
Non-residents are required to use the services of an outfitter, and there are a number of good ones on the island, but after doing my research and speaking to numerous references, I settled on Trophy West Guide Outfitters for a spring hunt. Outfitter/head guide Glenn Venus and his family offer hunts for Roosevelt elk, cougar, blacktail deer, grizzly, mountain goat and wolf, in addition to their black bear hunts.
The preferred method employed for spotting a trophy quality bear is to drive up as high as possible on the endless labyrinth of logging roads in their exclusive guiding territory, and then find a nice vantage point to glass down into the lower elevations, searching for hungry bears that have just emerged from their dens and are greedily devouring the succulent, newly emerging green growth along the edges of the logging roads, in the logging slashes, or in the first growth of timber. Many "beach bears" are also taken each year as they feed on seaweed and other delectables washed up on the shorelines of the island.
Trophy West's outfitter territory also includes a section of the mainland, just across the Strait of Georgia. That is where I ended up taking a beautiful bear on a tidal estuary, after a long hike through old-growth coastal rain forest.
Days usually begin at the gentlemanly hour of 8 a.m. or so, after a hearty, home-cooked breakfast. You are hunting from virtually the moment you leave the lodge, and you don't stop until close to dark. With the lengthening days of spring, that makes for a long day, with plenty of time to hunt and simply no need to start before dawn. The bears rarely do.
Vancouver Island has the densest population of black bears anywhere. I saw 34 in five days, but it's possible to see many more than that if the weather cooperates. They also grow large, with 7-footers being common, and sport big, pumpkin-shaped heads.
To top it off, the scenery on this rugged island is spectacular, with vast forests, raging rivers and snow-capped mountains, and blacktail deer, elk and bald eagles are common sights. This is also a great trip for a non-hunting spouse to come along as an observer.