My very first black bear hunt led me to Patten, Maine September 13, 2009. My flight from DFW to Bangor, Maine was a story in itself. Rain delayed my flight from Dallas to Philadelphia 2 1/2 hours and my flight from Philadelphia to Bangor, Maine an hour. The monitor at the airport failed to reflect a gate change therefore I missed my plane. I caught a 9 pm flight out of Philadelphia that arrived in Bangor at 10:30 pm. The rental car attendant hadn't had time to put gas in my car and the seats were covered with white dog hair. Be sure to pray for patience so you are able to stand the test. I left at 11 pm for the North Country Lodge, a 100 mile journey, on interstate 95.
The North Country Lodge is a beautiful log home nestled among tall pines, maples in brilliant fall colors, and the friendliest of people. The Lodge is owned and managed by the Dale Goodman family. The Goodman family has been in the bear hunting business for 25 plus years. Hunters were served three meals a day prepared by Dale's wife Ellie, Marie and their two daughter-in-laws, Holly and Linda Goodman. They waited on us with warm smiles and worked tirelessly to make each meal special.
There were four guides that drove us to our assigned stands each day of our six day hunt: Bert Goodman, Hank Goodman, Don Bryant, and trapper Don Dudley. After lunch each day hunters put on their camouflage clothing, got their rifles, and met their guides at their assigned van. It took about thirty minutes to drive to the vast forest owned by the paper company to hunt. The lodge leases 150 stands spread out through the forest accessed by logging roads. Our guide would walk us into the forest to our stand and bait the bucket while we sat down in our stand. Trapper Don filled the bait bucket with chocolate and secured the lid with a rock. A log is placed on top to help determine the size of the bear who presents itself. If the bears back is above the log he's considered a shooter.
I was armed with my husbands Remington Model 700 30-06 rifle using Hornady 180 grain SST ammo complete with a Simmons scope 2.5 x 10.50MM. Each afternoon while I sat in my ladder stand I prayed and sang hymns in my mind to pass the time. You have to sit motionless as long as five hours each day in order to increase your chances of harvesting a bear.
On Monday afternoons hunt the wind seemed to swirl around me from every direction. The only thing I saw were chipmunks scurrying about the bait bucket trying to savor the contents only to be denied.
Tuesday the wind had shifted to out of the Northwest which was in my favor. I walked to my stand alone and found the bait bucket toppled over, proof that a bear had made his presence known. The chipmunks visited the bait bucket again and a woodpecker tried to carve a hole in the tree beside me. Yet no sign of a bear again today.
Wednesday was a picture perfect day with hardly a breeze. I was feeling really good about my hunt that day. My guide trapper Don walked in with me and filled the bait bucket while I sat down in my stand. Don walked to the base of my ladder stand and gave me two thumbs up along with a huge smile. As Don left I dropped two bullets into my rifle and chambered one. I put my rifle on safe and propped it on the rail of my stand. I aimed the rifle right at the bait bucket and began watching intently for a bear to appear. At about 2:58 p.m. I saw a bear standing broadside behind the bait bucket. He was looking right at me! I blinked to make sure that I wasn't dreaming. Yep! There he was! As he turned to look straight ahead I took my rifle off safe. The bear lifted his head up into the air and began to sniff. I placed the crosshairs of the 30-06 on the outstretched neck of the bruin and fired. The bear dropped instantly and I began to sob uncontrollably. I cried tears of joy that I had finally harvested my first black bear and some of sadness for the bear. When I felt it was safe to do so I climbed down from my stand and hurried out of the woods to the logging road. My legs felt like they were made of jelly. I called my husband back home in Texas to tell him the news and I don't know who was more excited. I then called my guide trapper Don and soon all four guides arrived to help load my bear.
The next morning I was presented the prestigious North Country Black Bear Jacket awarded to first time hunters who harvest a bear along with a framed certificate/photo.
I'm so thankful my husband David introduced me to hunting, and that Deborah Wardlaw, director of the Texas State Rifle Association Womens Shooting Sports and the National Rifle Association continue to support women hunters.
I hope this story will encourage at least one woman to become a hunter. Come on Ladies who said only men can hunt? It's time to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors.