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Manitoba Bear Hunt: Leaving the World Behind

Wilderness bear camp is good for the soul!

Manitoba Bear Hunt: Leaving the World Behind
(Author photos)

Bowhunting isn’t about the kill. It’s about the experience.

That was especially true during the June 2023 black bear hunt Associate Editor Mark Demko and I enjoyed at All Terrain Bear Hunts in Manitoba, Canada. You see, for Mark and me — and countless thousands of fellow bowhunters who live in the densely populated, heavily developed Northeast — finding a true wilderness hunting experience close to home is impossible.

But thanks to the miracle of modern air travel, we started the first day of our trip by boarding a jet in the shadow of New York City and ended it 16 hours and 2,000-plus miles later at a remote lakeside lodge where wolves howl in the nearby forest and northern lights dance overhead. Such a setting not only provides a bowhunter with world-class bear-hunting opportunities but a rare opportunity to unplug from the frenzied pace of the modern world and recharge the soul with an energy only Mother Nature can provide.

Setting the Stage

All Terrain Bear Hunts is based out of Thompson, Manitoba, a town of roughly 13,000 people that lies 475 miles north of Winnipeg and only a 250 miles south of Churchill, where polar bears famously roam the shores of Hudson Bay.

Considered the gateway to Manitoba’s northern wilderness, Thompson is — literally and figuratively — where the blacktop ends, as all more northern roads in the province are gravel. There are no deer here; winter temperatures regularly plunge as much as 50 degrees below zero, and deer simply cannot survive. Nor are there any snakes, ticks or other small animals common further south, such as raccoons, skunks and porcupines. There is, however, a great population of larger animals such as moose, black bears and the aforementioned wolves.

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A mature boar at the bait. As you can see, Grant sets his stands to provide bowhunting clients with high-odds shot opportunities.

For Outfitter Cory Grant, who has operated All Terrain Bear Hunts for more than 20 years, helping others enjoy wilderness adventures is an extension of the only life he’s ever known. “Living in northern Canada, it’s the outdoors and hockey,” Grant said, “and that’s about all we’ve got.”

Well, if that is true, I assure you Manitoba has a lot to offer visiting sportsmen. The bear hunting in Manitoba is world-class, thanks to a robust bear population, plenty of mature boars and a good number of color-phase bears featuring blonde and cinnamon coats that make spectacular mounts and rugs.

“Manitoba has a fantastic bear population, and it seems like it’s just getting better and better,” Grant said. “I have access to 400 square miles to bear hunt, exclusive to me as an outfitter, and we don’t touch nearly all of it.”

That’s because he doesn’t have to. The client opportunity rate for Grant’s baited bear hunts is 100 percent, with color-phase bears comprising 20-40 percent of the annual harvest. All Terrain Bear Hunts is also known for producing some exceptionally large boars. The biggest ever taken by a client squared at 7 feet, 11 inches, and Grant said numerous 7-footers weighing roughly 500 pounds visit his bait sites each spring.

That kind of potential is enough to get any archer excited, and after a long day that included two flights, a lengthy truck ride on gravel roads and a boat ride into camp, Mark and I were eager to see what the week would bring.

But First, Walleye!

One of the best things about a baited bear hunt, at least in my opinion, is that hunting is typically done only in the evenings. So, that means extra sleep in the mornings and plenty of time to shoot your bow and fish before heading afield.

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The walleye fishing in northern Manitoba is insane! Editor-In-Chief Christian Berg shows off a typical four-fish limit.

The walleye fishing in the Grass River system where camp is located is nothing short of incredible — neither Mark nor I had ever experienced anything like it. Each day, we were able to head out in a small fishing boat and catch our four-fish limit of walleyes in less than hour, using nothing more than some basic jig heads and frozen minnows. And these weren’t scrawny fish, either; after putting three on the stringer, you’ve got catch-and-release for a while before creeling the fourth, lest the fun end too soon.

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Of course, all that great fishing resulted in plentiful walleye fillets that had to be eaten for dinner each evening. We suffered through it, along with other local, field-to-table delicacies such as arctic char, moose steaks, smoked bear shoulder and spruce tip pudding. I assure you no weight was lost during our time in camp!

Bears, Bears, Bears

While it can be difficult to pull yourself off the water when walleye fishing is that good, we were in Manitoba to hunt bears, and Grant has that down to a science. And with no more than six bear hunters in camp each week, there are always more than enough active bait sites to go around.

Grant begins his annual baiting program weeks before hunters arrive and monitors each site with trail cameras. He also takes great care to place his mix of natural ground blinds and treestands so that hunters are presented with high-odds, broadside or quartering-away shots at ranges that average less than 20 yards.

Before heading out for our first evening, Cory showed us numerous trail-cam photos and asked whether I would be interested in going after a handsome, cinnamon bear that was a regular visitor at the bait site. I readily agreed, as having taken several black bears in the past, a color-phase bear was at the top of my list. Although my first night in the blind passed without seeing any bears, the cinnamon bear appeared on evening number two and I was able to make good on a 25-yard shot opportunity with my Mathews Phase 4, later locating the boar piled up less than 60 yards from the clearing.

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Berg was thrilled to take his first color-phase bear with a gorgeous, cinnamon coat.

Tagging out early is always a blessing at bear camp, as it leaves even more time for walleye fishing! I also enjoyed shooting my bow, sitting on the deck watching bald eagles fish in the river and helping Cory go into the nearby forest to cut and gather firewood for camp — even chores are fun in the wilderness! I also joined fellow bowhunter Mike Carver of Minnesota on stand one night as a volunteer cameraman. We were treated to a spectacular show with no fewer than five bears making an appearance at the bait, including a pair of bears that fed for nearly an hour and stood just a few feet from the base of our ladder. Mike was holding out for one of the biggest boars in the neighborhood and decided not to shoot, but it was a highly entertaining evening nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Mark was enjoying a great hunt of his own, seeing multiple bears and taking a great trophy on the fourth evening. That left us each a full day to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the north country together before it was time to say goodbye. We agreed the bear hunting was merely the marquee attraction in what had been an incredible experience.

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Associate Editor Mark Demko also enjoyed a successful week in bear camp, taking this fine trophy on the fourth evening of the hunt.

With work and family commitments piling up back home, the “civilized world” was awaiting our return. Still, as we threw our gear and bears into the boat, stepped aboard and took our last looks at camp as Grant fired the motor and headed for the mainland, it was hard not to feel as though the “real world” was the one we were leaving behind.

Special thanks to Travel Manitoba for connecting us with All Terrain Bear Hunts and helping make our hunt happen. The agency has an excellent website highlighting hunting opportunities across the province at huntfishmanitoba.ca.

All Terrain Bear Hunts

When it comes to outfitted hunts, black bears are a relative bargain. All Terrain Bear Hunts charges $4,350 for a five-day, all-inclusive hunt out of its remote lakeside lodge, including transportation to/from Thompson, all meals and lodging, use of a fishing boat and trophy/meat care for your bear. Having been on several outfitted bear hunts over the years, I can say without hesitation that All Terrain Bear Hunts is, hands down, the best.

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All Terrain Bear Hunts typically operates from late May through June.

Because of its remote location, All Terrain Bear Hunts typically conducts its bear hunts from late May through June. This allows time for ice to fully melt off the river and allow boat access to camp. The upside for visiting hunters is comfortable weather and hunting dates that closely coincide with the black bear rut, when big males are on the move, visiting bait sites regularly in search of hot sows.

Camp is spectacularly beautiful and surprisingly comfortable considering its remoteness. During our hunt, Mark and I had a spacious cabin with large beds all to ourselves, and the entire camp has electricity via a generator. There’s also propane heat for those chilly nights, a gravity-fed water system for hot showers and even Starlink satellite Internet to keep in touch with family (or check in with the office, if you must).

For more information about All Terrain Bear Hunts, visit their website at atbh.ca or contact Outfitter Cory Grant at 204-679-0735.




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