The Hunt for Manitoba's Big Bruins

The Hunt for Manitoba's Big Bruins
(Photo courtesy of Brad Fenson)

(Photo courtesy of Brad Fenson)

Two hours after I had settled into my stand, I caught a glimpse of black ears far into the oaks. A big bear had come to investigate. The cautious old bruin sat watching for more than 20 minutes before he edged closer. I didn't move, and at times, caught myself holding my breath. Just when I thought the bear would venture out into the open, he turned and walked off into the thick timber.

This was my fourth night of bear hunting in The Narrows of Lake Manitoba, and I in the previous evening I had watched juvenile boars, along with some big sows and cubs, filter out of the dense scrub oak. It was like watching a National Geographic documentary on black bears. Although I have hunted black bears all over the Canada and the U.S., I always enjoy my time in Manitoba, for you never know just what the province's wilderness holds for hunters.

Truth is, Manitoba is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to black bears. Across the province, from the patchwork of agricultural field and wetlands of the Interlake Region to the central part of the province around Riding Mountain National Park all the way to the far north, black bears abound, with many of them reaching the level of maturity and size that would makes a hunter's heart skip a beat. Yet few hunters look at the central province of Canada as a black bear destination.


(Photo courtesy of Brad Fenson)


The fact that Manitoba often gets overlooked give hunters in the know an edge. Many of the province's outfitters specialize in hunting for black bears, focusing their efforts on providing a quality hunt for hunters who prefer to avoid the crowds. Plus, the smaller number of hunters, when compared to some of Canada's harder-hunted provinces, is just one factor in why the black bears in Manitoba grow big.

Bruins in the south and central regions of the province tend to have a growing advantage with protein-rich agricultural fields and long summer days for an extended growing season. They forage on everything from berries to acorns and do marauding runs into oat, barley, and wheat fields if they have the opportunity. The area's farmlands and forests are fantastic places to target large, mature black bears. Some of the biggest bears harvested in Canada come from this region.

The population of big bears stretches north through the Interlake country, where baiting is the most popular and productive way to hunt. Bears do extremely well in this unique habitat of scrub oak and boreal forest. Big lakes and wilderness areas are the final pieces of the puzzle to grow big bears.

(Photo courtesy of Brad Fenson)


Farther north, the habitat is a unique checkerboard of water, woodlots, and riparian areas, with some agriculture just to spice things up. Bears in this country aren't always visible, and they don't have to be to have all the comforts and security of home. Outfitters do even the odds and find ways to sneak a peek at the secretive bruins.

Whether you're in a popular area near one of the provincial parks in Manitoba or scouring the vast tracts of parkland, boreal forest, or Canadian Shield, you are going to find big bears.

And that's just what my friends and I found on my recent trip to the Narrows. Of the six hunters in camp, three tagged great, mature bears of the size that would be compete with black bears found anywhere in Canada. The incredible hides glistened with long, dark fur, but things got interesting when a bear of a honey-brown color was brought in by one of the bow hunters. To say he was excited would be an understatement. Brown, blonde, cinnamon, and a variety of other colors are always possible on a Manitoba black bear hunt.


Besides afternoon and evening hunts, my friends and I enjoyed some spectacular fishing for walleye, pike, freshwater drum, and schools of other gamefish native to the area. Mid-afternoon we trekked to our stands and sat until the sun had set well below the western horizon.

[caption id="attachment_30133" align="aligncenter" width="640"]The Hunt for Manitoba's Big Bruins (Photo courtesy of Travel Manitoba)[/caption]

On that fourth evening, my guides put me in a spot where a cagey old bear had been giving them the slip for years. After my initial sighting, I sat another two hours before I caught another glimpse of black moving through the brush. The old boy had returned, just before dark, utilizing the long shadows to sneak into the open. This time, I didn't give him the opportunity to leave and anchored him as he entered an open shooting lane. My scrub oak bruin was just what I came to Manitoba for.

There are many considerations when it comes to bear hunting, so dialing in on what is most important to you is the best way to whittle down your options. Do you want to do a spot-and-stalk hunt or sit on a bait site? Do you want long-range shooting opportunities with a special rifle and optics, or do you want to be up close and personal with your bow? Are you hunting for fun, excitement, and personal gratification, or are you looking for a the most mature black bear you can find. Is color phase important to you, and what are the options when it comes to color-phase black bears?

All this may seem overwhelming at first, but in Manitoba, you can have your cake and eat it too with big black bears and the chance that a color-phase bear could show up at any time during your hunt. Yes, Manitoba is a dreamland for bear hunters, and with the help of the Travel Manitoba website, it isn't that hard to find the hot spots.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

Top Ten Hunts

Top Ten Hunts

Here at Petersen's Hunting we have compiled the 10 best hunts caught on camera from the last 2 years of Petersen's Hunting TV. Enjoy!

Fare Game: Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Fare Game: Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Craig Boddington breaks down where hunters should aim on a whitetail that provides the best possible margin for error.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips. Recipes

Why Freezer Burn Matters

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Learn what freezer burn is, how it occurs, and how to slow it down with these tips.

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you. Conservation

Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd?

Jeff Johnston

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.

Are you leaving some of the best parts of your turkey in the woods? Recipes

Don't Waste the Best Meat: Wild Turkey Leg & Thigh BBQ Recipe

Michael Pendley

Are you leaving some of the best parts of your turkey in the woods?

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot. Guns

The Return of Lever Action Rifles

Craig Boddington - May 26, 2020

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.

See More Trending Articles

More Adventure

North America's largest racks bring Jim Bequette and Savage's Ron Coburn to the wilds of Alaska for Adventure

VIDEO: Yukon Moose Hunting Adventure

PHTV Adventures - July 27, 2011

North America's largest racks bring Jim Bequette and Savage's Ron Coburn to the wilds of...

I'm fortunate to live in a part of the country where hunting is a widely accepted and popular Adventure

Six Great Hunting Trips New Hunters Will Enjoy

Brad Fitzpatrick - September 06, 2016

I'm fortunate to live in a part of the country where hunting is a widely accepted and popular

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list. Adventure

5 Bucket List DIY Hunts

Craig Boddington

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list.

Walking along a forest trail, I come upon a large wetland, where a big bull moose stands chest deep Adventure

Manitoba Has Hunting at Its Heart

Brad Fenson - January 15, 2018

Walking along a forest trail, I come upon a large wetland, where a big bull moose stands chest...

See More Adventure

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now