By Steve Osminski
I've had opportunities to hunt big game in plenty of western states plus black bears in Canada. But I knew someday I wanted to hunt bears in my home state of Michigan. After extensive research I decided on a unit with limited tags, a long season, and ample ATV access. I put in for the tag for 11 years, drawing priority points for each application. And when I received rejection letters from all of my western state hunts, I decided this would be the year to cash in my points in exchange for a tag. And then the real work began.
I immediately started building baits with the help of three fellow members of the Professional Bowhunters Society, who offered free resources on the art of bait making. Then, with the help of my 12-year-old son Daniel, I started pouring over maps and setting up baits. Every weekend either Daniel and I or the whole family would head north to refresh my three chosen bait sites and check the trail cameras.
Each week, the trail cameras confirmed that the baits sites were being heavily frequented. I couldn’t wait for the season to get underway.
Opening day finally arrived. I planned to refresh the bait sites in the morning, and then sit a stand with favorable wind in the afternoon. At 5:30 p.m., I spotted movement from the north... a two-year-old cub was on his way in. Following right behind him was a monster momma bear! She had a big crease in her head and rolls of fat on the back of her neck, a stone-cold trophy. I was lucky she didn’t come in first, as I would have gladly taken her. Thanks to the little cub, she was safe. They hung around for an hour and provided plenty of excitement.
The following evening, I chose a different bait setup as the wind had shifted. Around 6:00 p.m., a big lone boar came in. He spent 20 minutes 15 yards from me not once offering an ethical shot opportunity. I was kicking myself as he walked off, but was hopeful I’d get another crack at him the next night. However, Monday proved to be uneventful with not a single bear sighted.
As the Tuesday sit began, I could feel the fall chill in the air. Perhaps the shift in weather would get the bears moving. As I looked over to my right, I saw my bear emerge from the swamp and amble through the young hardwoods. As soon as I saw him, I knew I would take him if given the opportunity. He was jet black and just about glowed in the sunlight. He wasn’t one of the giant bears I had on the trail cameras, but he was big enough for me.
I came slowly to full draw, engaged my clicker and pulled, pulled, pulled. He was slightly quartering and there was cedar covering most of his vitals to the rear. I knew I had to put the arrow tight to his shoulder.
As I followed through, my arrow blew a silver dollar-sized hole in the near side ribs before exiting through the meaty lower part of the shoulder. The bear wheeled, and struggled to run off. He was fatally hit. I said a prayer of thanks for my family and for making a clean killing shot.
After 40 minutes, I got down from my tree. The shot was too good to doubt. As I started down his trail, I found my broken arrow shaft with the broadhead attached. I methodically scanned the area for blood and found plenty on both sides of the trail. Then, there he was. Moments like these are always full of intensity, relief, sadness and joy, all in one breath.
All the hard work was worth it when I called home to let the family know I'd be home early. It was a special hunt for my kids as they were able to touch the bear they helped me work for. He is a trophy bear in many, many ways to me. As I pulled into the driveway, there was Daniel with the buck-skinning knife.
"Dad, can I help you skin him?"
I'm deeply grateful to have shared the joy of this bear with my family.