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Sketches of a Manitoba Trip - Part II

During the week we continued hunting with most of us seeing one or multiple bears, as well as other wildlife, but no bears shot until Wednesday. But a hunt is not made only of sitting on a tree stand, observing bears doing what bears do and sometimes more than that…please, ask Brian fot his intimate bear video!

Anyhow, life was almost simple. A very light breakfast at each person’s convenience, a filling lunch between 1:00 and 2:00 PM and dinner at around midnight when everyone would be back from the evening sitting

One of the days we were having pork chops for lunch and Kim mentioned that she didn’t have a good recipe for it, and then Mark L volunteered me to prepare it, saying that I was a master griller! What are friends for? He saw me grill exactly once, and the lodge doesn’t have a BIG GREEN EGG, so I was forced to compromise on my principles and use a gas grill!

Pork being very mild and gas lacking the smokiness of lump charcoal,  I had to come up with a way to make it palatable. So this is the simple way to season the chops: plenty of Kosher salt, plenty of garlic (one full bulb peeled, smashed and then diced), fresh rosemary and fresher dill (finely chopped), and olive oil until the concoction has a consistency that allows it to coat all the chops. I am sorry, I am too sophisticated a chef to measure my ingredients!

It is better to start grilling in high heat to seal the meat and then let it finish in lower heat. Pork, like bear, should be fully cooked, but this is no reason to kill the meat a second time. To my surprise everyone said that they loved how the chops turned out and even asked for the recipe.

An important and disruptive factor was the unseasonable rains, that challenged the hunters will to be out and the bear’s willingness to present themselves. Finally, between Wednesday and Thursday five bears were taken. Not being my bears I can’t comment on the specifics of each story, but I think that this is a good time to talk about the hunters’ weapons of choice, as follows:

Mark L - Browning X-Bolt 6.8 Western Winchester Copper Extreme 162 grains

Mark C - Compound Bow

Rob - Marlin 45-70 Hornady LeveRevolution 325 grains

Joshua- Crossbow

Aaron - Marlin (Ruger) 45-70 Hornady LerRevolution 325 grains

Paul - Compound Bow

Brian - Ruger American 450 Bushmaster

Scott - Bolt Action Rifle 338 Win Mag

Jacob - Compound Bow

The Author - Sako 85L 375 H&H Barness TSX 300 grains

On Wednesday first I saw a most beautiful family, a cinnamon sow with two cubs, a cinnamon little boar and a really blond little sow, and later on the day I saw what I thought was a huge bear, clearly a boar, but he never came to the bait or presented an ethical shot. He kept to himself inside the brush, eventually becoming a ghost in the increasing darkness of the Manitoba sunset, just to haunt my memories as time goes by.

Thursday was a day of little bears, a long legged one in the morning and a small sow in the evening. And then we come to the last day…storms all over, wind and rain, lightning and thunder, but…apparently the only place where the sky was blue was the ranch. So after lunch that is where Mike took me.

I sat at a new stand and upon getting ready and and as comfortable as possible, my first order of business was to start reading “The Call Of The Wilderness- A Trapper’s Tale” written by Dave Vander Meer, a good read and excellent entertainment. We had met Dave and his beautiful granddaughter earlier that day.

I probably read fifty or sixty pages before the first juvenile bear came to the bait. Long legged and rubbed skin, he stood around for over a half hour, coming back and forth, but never at ease. Eventually he decided to leave, and barely made his way over a fallen tree that partially blocked one of the trails.

Not even five pages later came another young but bigger bear. He was much more comfortable in the surroundings, ate some of the bait and then laid on his back scratching his tummy. If my grandson was younger, I could say that he almost looked like Bot from Team Umizoomie getting ready to show something on his “Belly-Belly-Belly Screen!”

Again, eventually he also decided to leave me, and easily made his way over the same fallen tree. And also eventually the sun started to move towards the horizon, so distant in the prairies, but so close from the valley that I was hunting.

And one more bear came to the bait. I knew it was not a giant, but after observing close enough to convince me that it was a boar, and considering that I haven’t have bear meat in my freezer for several years I made the decision to bring the hunt to an end.

The shot and the kill are both anticlimactic and mournful. The hunter has taken a life, and now it is time to honor and respect the prey. And also to pray and be thankful for the blessings of nature and its bounty, new experiences and friendship, the most valuable treasure from our expedition, especially in these rather stupid times.

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