Every bear hunter dreams of shooting a monster. It's what you dream of the week before your bear hunt. You know, that proverbial Volkswagen sneaking through the bush on his way to your stand. The one you hope to see on trail camera shots as you patiently flip through picture after picture. We're all looking for that "Bear of a Lifetime."
For Dan Wallace and Scott Boehl from Excalibur's Huntin' the Backwoods Television, that dream took them to Manitoba for a Fall bear hunt with Jim Hoard at Hoards Hunting Camps.
Jim Hoard's area is located where the Canadian record black bear was struck by a vehicle in 2001. That bear weighed an astonishing 856 pounds and provides one of two key ingredients that make this area a great place to take monster black bears… genetics.
Bears in this area have the same record book genetics as the 856 pound monster killed by a Mazda in 2001. Obviously this big bear has passed his genetics just as he received them. But genetics will get you only so far. You also have to have the second key ingredient - abundant food sources.
Jim Hoard's area is largely agricultural. An abundant supply of grain fields combined with the natural berries, acorns, and supplement food provided by Hoards Hunting Camps provides a diet that when mixed with the right genetics produces big black bears.
With all that in mind, Dan and Scott booked a fall hunt with Hoards Hunting Camps and waited patiently for the season to open. As the day grew closer, Jim sent trail camera pictures on a regular basis showing active bait sites full of potential shooters. Then, just days before their departure, one of those "Bears of a Lifetime" made an appearance.
The bear quickly became known as Coco - a giant color-phase black bear that dwarfed the 55-gallon drum he was seated next to. His broad shoulders, stout neck and pumpkin head would be enough to get any bear hunter's heart rate up. Dan posted the trail camera photo on social media sites asking what the bear hunting community thought this giant might weigh. Speculation rose quickly as people submitted their estimates, and Dan and Scott had their marching orders - try to get this big bear on the ground and answer the question definitively.
The hunt wasn't an easy one. High temperatures, strong winds and a full moon presented challenges for the boys as they hunted Coco. But mid-way through the week, Coco made an appearance. As Dan and Scott sat silently in their treestands watching a sow with her cubs feeding, Coco eased his way in to their stand cautiously surveying the area. The sow would have nothing to do with him, and quickly chased him away. While Dan was filming the encounter, Scott's heart sank deep in his chest. The adrenaline he had pulsing through his veins quickly replaced by the heartache of coming so close to the bear of his dreams.
But the hunt was not over yet. The sow grew more impatient with Coco and when she'd had enough she gathered her cubs and shoed them off to safety away from the big boar. With the coast clear, Coco became comfortable enough to ease his way in for a bite to eat. Once he settled in and Scott calmed down, he settled his Excalibur Eclipse on this monster's vitals and sent a Lumenok screaming through the air piercing the vitals and fulfilling his dream. Dan, who had caught the whole thing on camera while filming for the upcoming season of Excalibur's Huntin' the Backwoods, was as stunned as Scott. They both tried to take the whole thing in as they sat there in the tree listening to this monster crash in the bush. The giant color-phase bear was dead, and now the question would be answered.
After the high-fives and congratulations, Dan and Scott settled themselves down in the stand. Dan turned the camera back on and asked Scott to tell his story. The energy in the air was electric and Dan wanted to be sure he captured it for the show. As Scott was recounting the encounter with Coco he looked over and spotted another bear making his way into the stand.
At first Dan thought it was a big clod of dirt from where a tree had fallen over. He told Scott to keep telling his story, but when the "dirt clod" started walking the situation changed in a hurry. The boys quickly exchanged equipment - Scott grabbing the camera and Dan grabbing the Eclipse. He had to quickly reload the Excalibur without being detected. Once things were settled they got their first glimpse of another Manitoba giant.
Thirty minutes after Scott had taken Coco, they were back in the saddle staring at another monster black bear. Scott had the camera trained on the giant, Dan was settling in waiting for a shot, and neither one of them could believe what was happening in front of them. They had just taken a giant color-phase and now a second bear, easily as big as the first was easing his way into range.
With the camera rolling, Dan settled the Eclipse on the bear's vitals, squeezed the trigger and sent another Lumenok into the Manitoba evening. The arrow found it's mark and Dan and Scott watched as this massive bear took his last 12 steps and fell to the ground.
As soon as they could settle themselves down they called for Jim - they were going to need reinforcements. When Jim arrived they looked the two monsters over and couldn't believe their eyes.
The realization settled in fairly quickly that they wouldn't be able to drag these bears out of the bush. They were going to need some heavy equipment to get these bears back to camp. So Jim procured a front-end loader and hoisted two massive bears onto a trailer for the trip back to camp.
After all the speculation Coco ended up tipping the scales at 778 pounds, making him the largest color-phase bear ever taken by one of Jim Hoard's clients. Dan's bear weighed in at 801 pounds, just five pounds shy of the largest bear ever taken by a Hoards Hunting Camps client.
Dan's bear measured similar to a brown bear with a nose-to-tail total length of 81-inches, a 36-inch neck, a 66-inch chest, and 81-inch belly girth.
Regardless of the weights and measurements, though, they were both the stuff that dreams are made of.
To find that "Bear of a Lifetime" you have to go where they are. We all know they aren't behind every tree, but if you can find an area with the right genetics and abundant food sources, you stack the odds in your favor. Hoards Hunting Camps has the right mixture to produce monster bears - spring or fall - and is most definitely the place to consider to make that dream come true.