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...for the blackpowder enthusiast

Alberta Blackpowder Blackies

Kathy Butt

I had every confidence in my gun, but why was I so dog-gone nervous? Guess I remembered ........ just how aggressive these bears can be."

I leaned against the fallen tree and attempted to get comfortable in my make-shift ground blind. It was 5:30 pm and the bears were reluctant to move early due to the unusually warm Alberta evenings. If I hadn't known better, I would've thought I was in Bermuda instead of northern Canada, it was 90 degrees and just too darn hot for bear hunting! But I wasn't discouraged, especially after finding some rather large footprints on the beach, evidence of a big boar using this baited area. Folks, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about sitting there all alone. The fact is the idea of sitting alone in a ground blind, a mere 30 yards from the bait, had me about as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.

A cool breeze befriended me, while at the same time being unmerciful in sending the stench of the most awful smelling bait pile I'd ever hunted over. My ground blind was situated so close to the beach that I could hear the water sloshing gently against it's sandy banks and occasionally hear the distant rumbling of a fishing boat. Bob and Tim, two friends who'd come along on this trip were trolling on Rusty's Lake for Northern Pike and Lake Trout and I'd already instructed them to head my way if they heard the roar of my black powder rifle.

This wasn't my first experience in hunting black bear. My husband, Foster, and I booked an archery hunt with McNalley and were so impressed with his new bear area that we decided to bring both our teenage sons back for the '95 spring hunt. Foster and I both took P&Y bears on our first hunt, with several of the other hunters taking trophy sized bears as well. A couple of months prior to our returning for the '95 spring hunt, Tony Knight of Modern Muzzle loading, Tony offered to send me his new Multi-Barrel System BLACK POWDER rifle to use on my Alberta black bear hunt and I heartily accepted.

I decided to top the .50 caliber MBS with a Simmons 8x36 Whitetail Classic scope (black granite finish). Sighting in the gun was a breeze and there was no decision to make as to which bullet I was going to use. My entire family used Bob Kearns' Black Belt bullets during last year's deer season with great results and the fact that I didn't even have to use a ball starter to load them was another enticing feature (one which cut my reloading time almost in half, and that was the selling factor for me).

A 348 grain Black Belt pushed by 100 grains of Pyrodex Select was an awesome combination and I had this baby sighted in to hit 1 1/2 inches high at 50 yards and dead-on at 100 in almost no time at all.

The quick-release scope mounts designed specifically for the MBS was a God-send at cleaning time, greatly simplifying the task and in coating the underside of my scope with some of Big Bore's bullet lube, the scope was much easier to clean. I was well equipped with a complete line of Rusty Duck cleaning supplies and packed an assortment of compact containers in my gun case. I was ready to go kill me a bear!

I had every confidence in my gun, but why was I so dog-gone nervous? Guess I remembered from last year's hunt just how aggressive these bears can be. These bears don't seem to have figured out, just yet, what humans are or know that they're supposed to be afraid of them, and here I was sitting on the ground all by myself. Oh well, I had the gun, he didn'!

Yep, I just kept telling myself that as I watched and waited patiently in my ground blind. The thick terrain looked bearish alright, I noticed, as I continually scanned the area for any sign of an approaching bruin. Trails led into the baited site from all directions and I took great pains to cover my back as well as the spruce-laden ridge ahead. After all, those large footprints led in both directions along the beach directly behind my ground blind.

Hunting black bear is different from any big game animal I've ever hunted. McNalley prefers to carry hunters to their stands or blinds around 4:30 or 5:00 pm and returns to pick them up at 10:30 pm. That particular hunting schedule really blew my mind the first time Foster and I hunted in Alberta. It never grew dark until 11:30 each night. The unusually long daylight hours was a real adjustment for this early-to-bed early-to-rise Tennessee gal. McNalley's theory on not hunting until the late evening hours is to give the bears confidence in coming freely to the baited sites, with all baits being no closer than 3 to 4 miles apart. This kept the bears from roaming from bait to bait.

At approximately 10:00 pm I spotted an ebony bruin cautiously making it's way down the ridge to my left. Ever so slowly, I eased my gun up onto the dead log in front of me and waited as the boar approached the freshly baited site. It was interesting to watch his reaction to the sound of the motor boat as it came around the bend of the lake. Every two or three steps he would stop, raise his head to look in their direction and listen to the fisherman's voices (which I could also hear) and then continue his journey to the bait. He didn't seem to feel threatened by human voices he was hearing human voices or by the sound of the motor boat skimming across the lake. With the crosshairs of my Simmons scope centered behind the boar's shoulder I followed the bear as he drew closer and closer. As badly as I wanted to shoot that bear before he drew any closer, I knew that I must wait for the right shot. When the black bruit walked broadside at 40 yards I took a couple of deep breaths, let it out and squeezed the trigger. My Knight rifle's loud ka-boom!!! echoed across the water and through the clearing veil of smoke I watched the boar whirl and run in the opposite direction.

He went down in a crash within 40 yards of having received a fatal shot to the heart and lungs. He then went into an eery death bawl, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and sent chills up and down my spine. The bawling bruin was blaring out his last will and testimony and Bob and Tim had heard the whole thing, thinking a bear had been wounded and I was fixin' to meet my Maker. It was almost comical as I heard the outboard motor immediately start up following the bruin's blood-curdling death bawl.

I wasted not time in re-loading, and after making sure my bear was down for the count, I felt I'd better step out onto the beach and let these guys know that I was okay, but hey guys, come look at my bear! He was a real dandy with only a couple of rubs on his hind flanks, nothing my good ol' taxidermist husband couldn't take care of.

We all headed back to camp to get guides Dave Archer and Kevin West to retrieve my boar. Getting this bruiser out to the beach and into the boat in one piece was a real chore but nothing these two young strapping guides couldn't manage. I watched as Dave and Kevin tied the boar's feet together on a pole and carried him out safari style. Yep, guides sure do earn their money, especially when the bears go down.

I'm looking forward to switching the barrels on my MBS and using the shotgun for the upcoming spring turkey season. A quick change of barrels is no problem with the new Knight MBS and even though I've yet to experience the blackpowder hunting turkey hunting challenge, I've got the gun that'll do the job. Now if that longbeard will just cooperate!

Author's Notes:

Long distance hunting trips can prove frustrating for some hunters, especially when trying to cut down on luggage. Hunters traveling into wilderness areas are required to keep their packing to a minimum and I found the following blackpowder accessories to help me do just that.

Cleaning supplies packaged in compact containers (field packs of dry cotton patches, black powder solvent pre-saturated patches and pre-lubed cleaning patches) by Rusty Duck were prefect for carrying on my wilderness hunting adventure and helped hone-down my packing considerably. Another thing I did was to prepare all my quick loads prior to departing. My quick loads were filled with 100 grains of Pyrodex Select and a 348 grained flat-nosed Black Belt bullet by Big Bore Express. I carried enough extra quick loads to shoot my Knight MBS 50 caliber rifle upon arriving in camp, just to make sure everything was intact and working well.

Alberta outfitter, Harvey McNalley of Poplar Ridge Outfitters offers spring and fall black bear hunts in northern Alberta. McNalley's area is fairly new and has been professionally hunted for black bear for two seasons, with hunters harvesting many bears meeting the requirements for P&Y registry. For further information on hunting with Poplar Ridge Outfitters you may contact:

Harvey McNalley
Box 125
Cadogan, Alberta
Canada TOB OTO
Telephone: +1 (403) 857-2465