The photo above depicts a Canadian sunset over a placid and serene Lac Remigny. The photo was provided courtesy of Batavians Larry Smith and Paul Barrett, two longtime outdoorsmen who head to the North Country in pursuit of black bears.
It turns out the pair had themselves an adventure, one they chose to share with The Batavian. And as you will see from their photos, in addition to their pursuit of black bears, the pair took time to enjoy the scenery, the wildlife and the hospitality.
Their trip began in early June with an eight-hour drive to Remigny, Quebec, Canada, where Barrett and Smith renewed acquaintances with Mark Kepka and his wife, Gosia, the owner/operators of Camps Ronoda.
Barrett and Smith arrived at Remigny on Saturday, June 9th and the next evening ventured to their assigned hunting locations for the first time. Hunting 16 miles from camp and posted three miles from one another, both Batavians saw bears that first evening on stand. Photo above shows the roads and terrain they traveled through to get to their stands.
"I saw my first bear in the wild that Sunday evening," said Larry Smith, who was hunting from a ladder stand.
Heeding the camp owner's words, he passed on the opportunity to shoot even though the bear was within 20 yards of him.
"The bigger bears will tend to show up later in the week. Because you are a 'strange' odor in the area, the big bears will keep their distance until they get accustomed to your scent," Smith said, echoing his host's advice. "During that time you tend to see smaller bears. Mark told us to be patient, wait until midweek if we want to see bigger bears."
Instead of shooting, Larry put his camcorder to use and got some footage of his first bruin encounter.
That same evening Paul Barrett also had an encounter with a black bear, though a bit more confrontational than this marauding raccoon he photographed as it raided the bait bucket.
Unlike his companion, Barrett was not in a ladder stand, but instead situated on a rock outcropping overlooking the bait pail.
"A big bear came in from right to left, 12 feet below and 20 yards away," he said. "It sniffed the air then ran off into thick brush. Ten minutes later I heard his teeth snapping -- definitely not a good sign. The bear was by that time behind me, over my left shoulder about 20 feet away. Now above and behind me, the bear lumbered back and forth, trying to get me to move," he continued.
With his Remington model 700 338/06 custom-built rifle in his lap, Paul opted for his camcorder and, as his companion had done, got several minutes of footage, albeit in dense brush. The bear eventually walked off.
On Tuesday, June 12th, Larry Smith was once again seated in his ladder stand when, at about 8 p.m. he noticed movement on the ground below and to his left.
"She came in on the same path I had used to walk in four hours earlier," he said. "She stopped briefly at the base of my ladder and looked up at me before moving on. She went straight to the bait pail, situated 6 feet off the ground and full of ground up cookies and meat scraps." It was noted that the bait pails are placed at the 6-foot height to give the hunter an indication of the bear's size.
"She reared up on her hind legs facing away from me and began removing meat scraps from the pail, at which time I decided to harvest this bear." A single 180-grain bullet from Smith's Remington 700 30-06 did the trick. "She fell backward, then ran about 25 yards before she collapsed," he concluded.
By then it was getting dark in the dense woods and, having previously heard reports of wolves -- or even larger bears -- that will come in to a kill, Larry thought it a good idea to get the outfitter on his way.
"He needed to travel 16 miles and offload his ATV so let's get him started in this direction," he thought to himself. When Mark Kepka arrived the first words out of his mouth -- before spotting the bear -- were, "Is it dead?" His concern was tracking a wounded bear in the the bush, nighttime or otherwise. I was also informed Kepka carries no gun in such a situation, only a flashlight and a knife. The task of finishing off a wounded bear is left to the hunter.
Paul Barrett was also at the scene by the time Mark Kepka had arrived. And he had some news of his own.
"I was sitting on the same rock outcropping when I heard Larry's shot. I immediately texted him and learned of his kill. I then texted my wife, Kathleen, back home in Batavia to her inform her of Larry's kill."
No sooner had Paul done that when he had a visitor.
"Approximately seven minutes after texting my wife, a bear approached from behind and over my right shoulder. It then wandered off to my right for a couple of minutes before circling around me and heading directly for the bait. It stood on its hind legs and I put one shot right between the shoulder blades."
Meanwhile, Larry is back at his stand, not having heard the report of his companion's gun and waiting for Mark to arrive. At this time he, too, decided to text his wife, Julie, and daughter, Melissa. Like Kathleen, their reaction was one of excitement, delight and enthusiasm.
Paul's big boar weighed in at 400 pounds, while Larry's tipped the scale at 200. The bears were 5 and 9 years of age and by their calculations, they were taken 11 minutes apart.
"The morning after the bear harvest we had a photo shoot before Mark and his dad, Henry, skinned and quartered both bears before freezing them. We each brought back four quarters of bear meat plus the pelts," said Paul, who plans on having a rug made from his bear hide while Larry opted for a full standup mount.
Both Paul Barrett and Larry Smith pointed out that when they began the search process for an outfitter, the Kepkas came highly recommended and they actually met with them three times prior to their hunt.
"I would classify the Kepka's operation at Camps Ronoda as remarkable -- accommodations, meals, hospitality, amenities, all of it," Larry Smith said.
His sentiments were echoed by Paul Barrett who also lauded the culinary skills of Gosia Kepka.
"Truly remarkable. She cooked two meals a day, breakfast and dinner," he said. When I asked about lunch, he quickly added, "you don't need lunch -- the portions at breakfast and dinner are huge."
Camps Ronoda has been outfitting sportsmen since 1948. In addition to bear hunters, they serve fishermen, duck and goose hunters and offer grouse, woodcock and small game hunts.
They can be contacted at:
1337 Rue de L' Eglise
Remigny, Quebec, JOZ 3110