My cameraman and I had flown into Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to film a black bear hunt with Linda Powell. She was Press Relations Manager for a firearms company and was hosting a hunt with a group of outdoor writers. My cameraman, who I'll call Larry, and I were going through customs. He was carrying a huge camera that was probably two feet long. I breezed through customs, but a female agent who spotted the camera confronted Larry and asked him a number of questions. We were vaguely aware of a Canadian work permit, but didn't have one. We'd been to Canada many times before with no problems but we'd heard the agents were cracking down. Larry invented fib after fib as the agent kept up the interrogation. He said he was just tagging along as a friend and filming the hunt for personal use. Finally, the agent stuck her finger in Larry's chest and said, "I'm tired of your bullshitting. You guys are up here on business. I'm deporting you right now." And she led Larry away where he went to a departure gate for a flight back home. Work permits protect Canadians who could do the work, rather than an American. In other words, I could have hired a Canadian cameraman. I was ok to go because there's only one me. No one else could obviously fulfill my role on my TV show.
So I met up with Linda and the writers. On the first day of the hunt, she and I were sitting in separate tree stands where we could communicate. It was strange being there without a cameraman. Several bears approached, but she passed on each. Normally, Linda defers to the writers so they could score first, but I successfully argued that she should take the first bear. There were plenty of them in that area. She passed on 4 or 5 bears, and suddenly a giant waddled in. Bears aren't easy to judge, unless they're very small or very big. This one was very big. I gasped, and so did she. No words needed to be said. She whacked that monster soundly.
When the guide came in to pick us up that evening, he took a look at the bear and was amazed. "We'll need help to load that thing," he said, after the three of us had no success loading it on the ATV. More help came, and we got the bear to camp. A giant bear for Linda, and no cameraman. That bruin measured over 7 feet. Sometimes, stuff happens.
On another Canadian hunt, this time in Manitoba, I was hunting with an outfitter I had gotten to know very well. I'd done half a dozen bear hunts with him. I loved that hunt. Ron's lodge is on the shore of a river loaded with big northern pike, one of my all-time favorite fish. Since bear hunting over baits is most effective in late afternoon, I'd fish for pike all morning, and then we'd take off for the stands in mid-afternoon. On one occasion, Ron and I started to drive away from the lodge. Suddenly he slammed on the brakes. He glared at me and said, "Jimmy, are you wearing bug dope? Dammit, you know better than that. Go back inside and take a shower and change your clothes." Guilty as charged. Indeed, I was wearing repellent when I was fishing. The mosquitoes up there are especially hungry in the spring. So I took a quick shower and put on different clothes, with a big grin. Ron and I can talk nasty to each other because we know each other well. I wasn't offended. He's adamant about foreign scent while in the stand, and, in fact, has several pairs of extra rubber boots in various sizes so hunters without boots will wear Ron's. That's a must. Without rubber boots you won't hunt unless you get some.
We climbed up in the stand, which was three planks between two trees. Simple but functional for two people. Ron liked to sit with hunters to help evaluate the bears. He was a rare guy who could tell the difference between a 6-foot bear and a 5-10 inch bear. He wanted his hunters to get at least 6 footers. My cameraman was in a stand a couple yards away.
The first bear that came in sniffed around the baits, and walked to the ladder beneath us. He climbed up, and licked my boot. I didn't shoot, because it was a smallish bear. Finally he left, worked on the bait, and disappeared in the woods. Three more bears came in. The third did the same as the first. It walked over to the ladder, climbed up, and glared at us from a yard away. Finally he left. When the next bear walked in, Ron tapped my shoulder and gave the thumbs up sign. "Give him the news," he whispered." Then he held out 6 fingers. I gave the bear the news, (that was Ron's unique and amusing way to tell someone to shoot. I loved it) and there was one less 6 foot-plus bear in Canada. The funny part is that we wore no scent-free clothes or spray. We smelled like humans but the bears could care less. In fact, when we dragged my bear off I looked back and saw another bear under the stand, despite all the noise and smells from retrieving my bear. I'm sure glad I wasn't wearing mosquito repellant!