My adventure with Pine Acres actually began at the All Canada Show in Milwaukee. I had absolutely no intention of booking a bear hunt when I went but when I passed by the Pine Acres booth at the show I was intrigued by the fact that their only business is hunting. They are not a fishing camp that dabbles in hunting like most outfits seem to be. I spent quite a bit of time talking to Chris (the owner) at the show and was very quickly impressed by his years of experience, obvious deep knowledge of bear behavior, his unique approach to bait site setup (to assist the hunter in sizing a shooter bear), the huge area (8 bear management areas) that he has access to and the opportunity to do a spot and stalk hunt if the local blueberry conditions and timing were right. I had hunted Bear once in Wisconsin using a guide previously and while I was very satisfied with that hunt, in comparison to that experience the total package offered by Pine Acres seemed to be an exceptional value. After a quick call to get concurrence from the better half I pulled out the plastic and booked my hunt. Upon arriving at camp I found the cabins to be really first rate. Clean, well stocked and very comfortable. I even watched a NASCAR race the first night in camp. I also had very good cell service which was new to me on Canadian trips and was appreciated as I made the trip alone and was not part of a group for this trip. After unloading gear I headed to the lodge to spend some time with Chris and get briefed on the hunt. I also met Chris's guides/helpers/workers who were all very personable and hard working young men. Being relatively new to bear hunting I found Chris to be very patient and very willing to answer all questions and offer his advice. I was disappointed to learn that a spot and stalk hunt would not be available due to the brush growing to high to see the bears in the clear-cut areas where the blueberries were. However, after seeing the trail cam pictures of the bears at my stand I was really excited to get started. We also talked at length about hunt logistics and the "what to do" and the "what not to do's" of bear hunting. Turns out that was time well spent. With access to 8 huge areas, Chris had like 70 active bait sites spread out over a huge area. I believe he told me it was approximately 1000 square miles. That makes for a bit of driving to get to the stand sites, and much of it is on logging roads. I was lead out to my stand the first afternoon by a couple of Chris's guides. While they replenished the bait I climbed into the ladder stand nestled into a pine tree and got comfortable and ready for the evenings hunt. Before leaving the area the guides came over, wished me luck and said they had some left over bait and would leave it at the bottom tree stand so that I could rebait before I left for the evening. As they left I ranged the bait site and determined that I had a 23 yard shot. As things quieted down and I got acclimated to the area I looked at the bottom of the tree stand and thought to myself that the bag of bait sitting down there was probably not such a good idea. I looked up to see two little cubs racing each other to see who could get to the bait site first. One of them had a beautiful blaze on its chest. I thought it was kind of strange that there was no mother around as Chris had told me that generally a sow will come into the bait site first, check it out and when she determines that it is safe will call the cubs in. These were all by themselves. I enjoyed watching them eat for a couple minutes and then caught movement about 25 yards out and directly in front of me. It was the sow and her eyes were locked on me. The wind was in my favor, I never made a movement or a sound but that bear knew I was there immediately and was none too happy about it. She proceeded to "visit" me up close and personal 3 times in the next 20 minutes with jaws popping, and plenty of aggressive posturing. Naturally the third visit resulted in her finding the bag of bait at the base of the ladder. Can anyone say adrenalin? Ever feel like a prey item? After cleaning out the bait and standing up to get another good close up look at me, she headed back to the bait site again with jaws popping, collected her cubs and left in the same direction they had come from. Upon returning to camp, I had told Chris and the rest of the folks in camp about the evenings entertainment. He thought it strange as no sow had been caught on the trail cam at that site previously and thought maybe she was just passing through. So I headed back to the same stand the following night a bit uneasy shall we say? Everything was fairly quiet until a half an hour before dark. Then from out of the bush the same two little cubs appeared, again racing for the bait. Just like the previous night, the sow with the bad attitude appeared several minutes later, again completely aware of my existence and determined to show her displeasure. She again approached to within 10 feet of my stand from 2 different directions, with jaws popping, and after what seemed like an eternity headed back to the bait to eat with the cubs. She then came back to visit me one third and final time, but this time she came right to the base of the ladder, stood up and put her front paws on the rungs of the ladder, which caused even more shaking in the ladder than what was already going on. Her head was no more than 3 feet from my feet, again with jaws popping. Lucky for both of us Chris had prepared me for an encounter such as this by saying, do not move, do not make direct eye-contact, do not yell. The bears are typically curious and once they determine you are not a threat they will go on about their business. Thank God that was the case, although I would describe her demeanor more as challenging than curious. I will admit that after the first night I had brought my rifle with me as backup and was prepared to end an argument rather quickly. She moved back to the bait with her cubs, cleaned it out and left just as total darkness hit. When I got back to camp, I again explained what had happened and quickly requested that I be moved to another stand. Chris theorized that the sow had moved into the area and was so aggressive that she had chased all of the other boars using the site off. He provided a couple of new stand/area options and I told him to take me where he was most confident I could fill my tag. I ended up tagging my trophy bear the next night in the completely new area. AWESOME experience altogether. The other cool thing was we had couple of guys filming a hunt for TV in camp, and they needed some additional bear footage. I suggested that they may want to head out to my stand as I was sure the sow and cubs would put on a good show for them. They did, she did, they got it all on film and I am told it will air on an episode of Hunter Specialties TV sometime in the spring of 2012. It will be nice to see that sow again, at a safe distance and through the TV screen that is. Several other points to make. Camp is pretty quiet in the morning. While you can catch Chris in the lodge early trying to drown himself in coffee, for the most part he and his guides are out scouting and baiting for most of the day. Remember this is a semi-guided hunt so if you want to talk to him, you will probably only find him available in the early morning and at the nightly dinner. There is also an area to warm up with your bow, but it would probably be a good idea to bring your own portable target. You will probably also have the opportunity to go out and help Chris and your fellow hunters recover the bears that could not be recovered the night before. That was actually a very enjoyable part of the experience. Fishing opportunities are available close by either from shore or at several areas Pine Acres keeps boats at. Chris's wife Lonnie seems to be the best source of local fishing information and can get you started with whatever you need. Also, speaking of Lonnie, the meals she prepares are outstanding. If you leave hungry - it is your fault. The other nice thing is their location right in the middle of Vermilion Bay. You will have no problem finding anything you may need during the week. You can find groceries, hardware, sporting goods, fuel and even a good if not pricey barbeque place right down the street. Also make sure to venture over to the town dump at night to watch the bears that feed there. After spending the week with them I honestly believe that you would be hard pressed to find a better value, with a more knowledgeable and harder working operation than Pine Acres. They will at least work as hard as you do to make your trip successful. Free free to contact me with questions at [email protected]
None to date. If you are the outfitter please email us.
Usually in the high 70s to low 80's during the day. Stands were setup for prevailing winds and worked well. Do bring a thermacell - bugs were an issue without it during the later evening.