Everyone loves a good story, especially hunters sitting around a campfire. And when a tale gets told next to a fire crackling underneath the starry blaze of the Milky Way heavens, a story about Quebec bears and bear hunting is sure to bring a number of big smiles.
Brian Strickland, a Colorado Springs, Colo. based bowhunter who is a frequent contributor to Outdoor Sportsman Group magazines and digital platforms, knows all about that smile having made two treks to the Canadian province of Quebec with a bear tag in his back pocket.
As someone who hunts with both a compound bow and a traditional bow, Strickland started out his stick-and-string career preferring to spend his vacation time pursuing elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and whitetails.
An insurance agent by trade, the Colorado hunter admits that he simply wasn’t interested in chasing bears for a number of years. Until one fateful September evening that is, when Strickland had a close 25-yard encounter with a large, mature black bear wandering through a mountain meadow.
With no bear tag in his back pocket, Strickland could only watch in awe as the bear locked eyes with his, ran down the mountainside and disappeared into the gathering shadows.
“I knew in that moment, that I was going to be a bear hunter in the future,” said Strickland.
That explains the number of trips he’s made in recent years with Ursus Americanus as the sole target of his bow-bending adventures, including a recent spring outing in 2018 as he returned to the spectacular wilds of Quebec.
“The Boreal Forest of Quebec is spectacular, and it only takes one look at that wild country to know it holds an ample supply of bears,” said Strickland. “Best of all, opportunities abound for both the hunter and the angler. Not only does it (Quebec) hold good numbers of bear, but there is an endless supply of lakes as well that are filled with walleye, pike, lake trout and brookies.”
With bowhunting treks to various U.S. states and Canadian provinces now a standard part of his yearly schedule, Strickland admits that he has grown fond of chasing bruins in Quebec, something evidenced by his two recent trips to the province and his plans for more in the future.
For starters, there is the voluminous wilderness to be found in Quebec. With more than a half million square miles of land in the province, nearly half of that provincial landscape is forested.
Then there are the bears themselves, a big-game species that is plentiful and then some. In addition to the province’s robust and steady bear population, most of Quebec’s numerous bears are good size too, with the average weight being upwards of 200 pounds. Occasionally, much larger bears are tagged by hunters and only a few hunters return home without seeing numerous bears and getting an opportunity for a shot.
A bear hunting adventure is pretty easy in the Canadian province, thanks to the myriad of outfitters that offer bear hunts in Quebec, many of them members of the Quebec Outfitters Federation. With one of the most impressive websites out there for finding an outfitter, booking a hunt, and having a successful hunting adventure, it’s hard to go wrong using the ample resources that Quebec Outfitters provides.
And keep in mind that with generous spring and fall season dates and a variety of hunting weapons to choose from (rifle, muzzleloader, bow and crossbow), there’s plenty to like about a bear hunting adventure in Quebec.
“What sets Quebec apart in my mind at least, is affordability — plain and simple,” said Strickland. “Although you have to hire an outfitter, you can find a quality hunting experience for $2,000 or less. There is no other bear-hunting experience in Canada — or the Lower 48 for that matter — that can provide that for the price.”
Quebec outfitter Sophie Rousseau, owner of Wapus Lodge agrees: “If someone really wants a hunt that is going to be memorable, I would say that bear hunting in Quebec is a good way to seek that kind of adventure. Moose hunting can be memorable too, but it is a little tougher. But with spring bears, hunters usually see a good number of bears coming in each day. To me, hunting spring bears in Quebec is just the kind of trip that will give you the hunt of a lifetime.”
Rousseau says that the lodge she owns, in business since 1967, takes up to 30 hunters per spring, but never more than 10 in one week. She notes that like most outfitters in the province, her operation relies on privately leased land, and vast quantities of that.
“Most of our hunters come in on a combination American plan, which means that everything is included like your license, bear tag, usage of boats and motors, gas for boat motors, hunting and fishing rights, three meals a day, help from the bear guides, skinning, quartering, preparation of a hide, etc.,” she said.
While some hunters will opt to climb into a bear stand during the morning hours, Rousseau says that most success comes in the evening. Most of those who come to a Quebec spring bear camp will get up, have breakfast, go out to fish, come back for lunch and then head for either a treestand or a ground blind where they will hunt the afternoon and evening hours until darkness falls.
Quebec outfitters generally set bear baits in early May, but it tends to take a couple weeks for the bears to start regularly visiting such sites. That’s when the hunting kicks in at across the province, running from later in May until late June.
While the majority of hunters will have numerous sightings over the course of their stay, Quebec bruins are like any other big-game animal, wising up to any mistakes a hunter might make in the woods — things that include making noise, moving too much, or not hunting the wind right.
“They don’t get to be big and wise for nothing,” said Rousseau. “Big, trophy bears — the kind that weight 250 to 300 pounds — have been around for a while and get pretty wise pretty quick.”
Keep in mind that in addition to Wapus Lodge, there are plenty of other worthy bear hunting outfitters in Quebec, something evidenced by the tremendous website maintained by Quebec Outfitters. But regardless of who you ultimately choose to go with in terms of booking a Quebec spring bear hunt, do your homework urges Strickland.
“Research the outfitter,” he said. “There are a ton of them to choose from, but not all offer the same thing for your hard-earned dollars. Quebec Outfitters offers a number of vetted outfitters to examine on their website. After that, it’s time to make some calls and do your research.”
After selecting the outfitter you’ll hunt with, pay careful attention to their instructions, advice, and hunt packing lists so that you’ll have a great hunting experience. A case in point is to remember to bring a Thermacell unit to ward off mosquitoes, something that is a must during the spring months!
When you’re finally on the ground in Quebec, enjoy the experience, soak it all in, and wait for the bear that sends your adrenaline surging towards redline levels. But don’t let your excitement cloud your in-the-field judgement either.
“Study the anatomy of bears and know where to aim,” said Strickland. “And don’t shoot the first bear you see unless it’s a target bear. Quebec has a lot of bears, so you can be more particular on the quality of bear you’re after. Although it’s not known for giant bears like some other Canadian provinces are, killing a mature 250-pound bear is a distinct possibility.”
The Colorado hunter knows what he's talking about, having taken a good bruin on his 2018 hunt with his recurve.
“I had great accommodations, the fishing was great and the bear hunting was excellent, too,” said Strickland. “Several hunters in camp killed good bears and I killed one on the fourth day.”
In the end, Strickland walked away with some bear meat, a beautiful hide for the wall and another story to tell around the campfire. Not to mention even more love for his newfound hunting passion — the chasing of spring black bears with a stick and string.
“To me, the best memory is always looking up and seeing that bear slipping into the bait,” said Strickland. “It’s an adrenaline-charged moment for any type of hunter, but for the bowhunter, you’re close, it’s intense, and when the arrow hits the sweet spot and you see him fall in sight, there’s nothing better.”
And that’s a successful hunting tale that gets told many times over around a campfire that is crackling deep in the wilds of Quebec, all the while as the stars of the Milky Way Galaxy blaze silently overhead.