Following up on my recent articles about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay: Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).
One evening, shortly after dinner, our guide Steve came storming into the lodge shouting “There’s a bear out there!” He grabbed outfitter Joe Stefanski’s 30:06 scoped rifle and ran back outside. Some of us didn’t take him too seriously for, as mentioned in a previous column, he had a drinking problem and could have been hallucinating. Things livened up at the table shortly thereafter when we heard a gunshot from outside. Several rushed outside to see if there really was a bear and if Steve shot it. Apparently, he missed.
We had just returned to the dinner table when there was another shot and once again fellows scurried out to see what was what. He missed again. This scene repeated itself one more time. There was no way I was going out with a guy running around in the dark shooting a gun. The bear got away again.
We were beginning to suspect that there was no bear at all when Claude, the handyman, came back in saying he shined a flashlight on the bear but no one was with him to shoot it. Later on, Steve came in holding a hip boot that was all chewed up. (Bears apparently like to chew on boots and waders.)
Mike S and I headed back to our cabin because he had left his waders on a clothes line to dry and he wanted to get them inside. As long as we were there, we called it a night and went to bed. I slept with one eye open that night. Our cabin was not that secure, with parts of the door rotted out and a very poor latch. The wind actually blew it open a couple of times earlier during the week.
Around 5 AM, I heard a scratching sound on the outside wall near my feet and thought the guys in the next cabin were clowning around, trying to scare us. It wasn’t until I heard a piece of plywood being torn off the outside wall that I bounded up to look out the window. I saw nothing there, listened next to our door and heard nothing and looked out another window. There I saw a black bear walking down the boardwalk heading away from our cabin and toward the lodge. I woke Mike S up and told him about it and we both peered out the window but we couldn’t see it any more. Mike went back to bed and as I was getting dressed we heard 3 gunshots come from the area near the lodge.
Gary Hebert and I walked toward the big house and saw Joe standing there in his underwear holding his rifle. The first words out of his mouth were “What’s a guy have to do around here to get a night’s sleep?” The animal had awakened him while rummaging nearby and he shot it.
Shortly thereafter, Claude joined us from the guide’s cottage and showed us the damages the bear did there. During the night, it scratched at their door trying to get it. It destroyed Steve’s backpack, scattered his fishing lures, chewed up a beer can, chewed up his sun glasses and punctured an aerosol can of OFF insect repellant (that’s possibly when it chewed up the camp water hose, probably to gargle). Sometime during the night, it also chewed up a couple of jerry cans near the boats. It tore off a chunk of plywood from our cottage and left it lying on the ground.
After bears had previously broken into one of Joe’s camps and totally destroyed his lodge kitchen, stove, refrigerator, etc, costing him thousands of dollars in damages, he doesn’t fool around with them anymore. From that day on, no fishing cleaning is allowed on the island or anything that will attract bears. He flies out the garbage when he goes for provisions.
Unlike the bears around here with frequent contact with humans, bears up there are hundreds of miles away from civilization. They never see humans and probably consider us another animal to kill and eat. I hated to see the bear being killed, but if not that day, then sometime in the future it would have caused someone serious trouble.
Joe had to get the dead bear off the island lest the carcass attract other bears. It was rolled down the hill to the water’s edge, attached by rope to a boat and towed out to a nearby small island which he calls Bear Island. He left it there where it will eventually be eaten by other bears or scavengers.
Later on, we kiddingly asked Joe what the proper attire was for bear hunting up there. “Fruit of the Loom”, he replied.
In some ways, Mike S and I were glad to leave because of the slow fishing, drunken guide, dangerous, slippery rivers, white knuckled boat rides through white caps, and marauding bears. On the other hand, the sights of the Northern Lights were remarkable as were the sights and sounds of the loons and, of course the occasional catching of big beautiful brookies.
As our plane approached, Mike Miller confided in us that he wished he was leaving, too. But he had to stay because his son Darren was flying in on that plane to fish with him and the other guys for the next several days. Did he have a premonition? Find out next week.