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Guide: Big game hunting not for beginners
CHAD NATION , Staff Writer

Submitted photos - Rob Brodhagen's North Caribou Camps (inset, upper left) are located in northern Ontario. Their picturesque beauty and fishing make them a hideaway for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
DRYDEN, Ontario - Is it worse to be caught in between a mother bear and her cub or a moose and her calf?

Canadian hunting outfitter Rob Brodhagen advises that people should try to avoid both situations, but - if he had to choose - he would take the bear.

"Fur trappers up here in the Great North have always said that it's worse to be between a cow moose and her calf," he said.

Brodhagen will be at the River City Hunting and Fishing Expo at the Mid-America Center this weekend, dropping knowledge from his more than 35 years of experience guiding, hunting and fishing in the Ontario outback.


Brodhagen, 55, has run his ownoutfitter/guide business in Ontario for more than 25 years; and he operates North Caribou Camps (fishing) and Bear Creek Outfitters (hunting) in the northern part of the province.

"I grew up in southern Ontario and originally moved up north to work at my uncle's camp near White River when I was 21," he said. "I've been in the business ever since."

His business is still a family affair; his two sons - Dusty, 27, and Jeremy, 22 - work with him.

He spends his summers running North Caribou Camps headquartered out of Pickle Lake, Ontario.

"It's the last frontier in Ontario," he said.

All roads north end at Pickle Lake. From there, his customers hop on a plane and fly to a private lake - also called outposts - to spend a week or more fishing in the pristine wilderness.

Whether his customers are fishing for walleye, lake trout or northern pike, they will not be disappointed.

At the River City Expo, Brodhagen will hold a seminar and discuss his Canadian fishing experience on Friday and Saturday. He will offer insight into what anglers should bring and offer tips on finding fish on remote, unchartered lakes.

"Reading a lake is what I try to teach and learning how to pack for the trips," Brodhagen said. "People are only allowed about 100 pounds - 75 pounds of gear and 25 pounds of food. I try to offer them insight on how to pack for a trip and not bring 600 pounds of gear."

In the winter, and during his down time, Brodhagen can be found in Dryden, Ontario, operating Bear Creek Outfitters. He hooks hunters up with guides to hunt for moose and bear.

He operates a territory of more than 850,000 acres of exclusive hunting ground.

Bear hunting season runs from Oct. 30 to Dec. 15, and moose season begins in the third week of September and lasts for three weeks.

But big game hunting is not for the novice. Brodhagen demands that his hunters be experienced. The hunting business is looked on by a lot of people as uncivilized, and Brodhagen doesn't want to perpetuate that image.

Hunters on his territory must be skilled at taking an animal down with a minimal amount of shots.

"There is no amount of money that someone can pay me to shoot at a living thing without planning to kill an animal humanely," he said.

This year Brodhagen's business will offer deer hunting on more than 2,000 acres of private land. He said that it is something that he did in the past, but got burned out on.

Recently, the illegal shooting of a record setting buck in Ontario has ignited deer hunting in the region once again.

"It's a great deer hunting region, and it is a heck of a lot cheaper than hunting in western Canada," he said.

On Sunday at the expo, Brodhagen will discuss hunting game in Canada.

During his hunting seminar, Brodhagen will discuss how to pack for a hunting excursion and different bow hunting techniques for hunts on isolated lake locales compared with road accessed sites.

He will also answer hunter's questions about border crossing post-Sept. 11.

"I try to put a positive spin on a negative situation," he said. "I know this, boarder attendants do not have a sense of humor."

Crossing the border is a lot like boarding an airplane, he said. Sometimes you get to the airport two hours early and they speed you right through, while other times it takes the full two hours.

Any gun brought across the border must be registered, and two forms of identification are usually required. Brodhagen has found that most of the problems at the border are not over hunters bringing firearms, but about cigarettes and liquor.

"The only time I have ever been held up at the border was when I purchased cigarettes for my father," he joked.

To speed border crossing along, he recommends that hunters check the Internet to see how much paperwork can be done beforehand, and have everything that they are going to claim through customs in plain sight and readily available for inspection.

As for trouble with bears - or moose, for that matter - Brodhagen has had a few hairy encounters. But he said that they haven't stopped him from enjoying the wilderness.

"I am more careful now than I used to be though," he said.

If one encounters a bear, Brodhagen said that the best thing to do is hold your ground and try not show any fear.

Easier said than done.

If you feel that the bear is not going to leave, slowly turn around and walk away. If you run, the bear might think that you are prey.

"If it chases you, you have to face it and stand your ground," he said. "That's the only chance that you've got."

Brodhagen will have two booths at the upcoming Expo, and he said that he looks forward to seeing some old friends while in Council Bluffs.

"River City was a good show last year," he said. "I don't know what they are doing to make it so great, but it is better than a lot of the others that I have been to."

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