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More and more Maine residents giving bear hunting a shot

As bear season enters its third week here in Maine, outfitters in rural towns are welcoming yet another group of hunters who pay good money to spend a week in the woods waiting for the chance to see - and possibly bag - a black bear.

But sporting camp owners and the guides they employ aren't the only ones enthusiastic about bear season.

More and more often, average Mainers with access to a piece of prime forestland have begun trying their hand at bear hunting.

They set up and maintain their own baits, rig a stand in a suitable location, and end up sitting for hours in a tree.

Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

Sometimes, it pays off. Today, I'll share a few e-mails about bears ... bear hunting ... and why at least one reader is upset with yours truly.

We'll start with an e-mail I received from Dwayne Chase of Garland, who recounts a special hunt enjoyed by his son.

"Here's a bear story for you," Chase began. "I had been baiting for a month, as the law allows, and on opening day I got out of work and went home to prepare for the afternoon hunt.

"My son, 18-year-old Brad Chase, was home, and I asked him if he wanted to sit on the bait. Now, he was to leave the next morning for Air Force basic training and he felt we would be wasting $30 for a permit on a one-day hunt. I said the memories would be worth it if he was to score on a bear."

Dwayne Chase explained that for the past two years, Brad hadn't had the chance to bear hunt at all: High school football responsibilities took priority.

After some discussion, Brad relented.

"He finally went down and purchased the permit, and we were off to the bait site," Dwayne Chase wrote. "I had given him a cell phone to [use] if he scored. It was a long 21/2 hours when the phone rang and a very excited 18-year-old, still in the tree stand, said he had just shot 'a big one.'

"Sure enough, when Brad's uncle and I arrived, a 239-pound field-dressed Maine black bear lay on the ground, and one excited young man was grinning from ear to ear.

"Thirteen hours later, Airman First Class Brad Chase headed for Texas with hunting memories from Maine that will, hopefully, make boot camp a little easier."

Reader Chris Atwood of Brewer checked in to tell his hunting tale ... and to make a few points on the upcoming referendum that would outlaw trapping bears and hunting them with hounds or over bait.

"I killed a 200-pound bear last week on a bait site that I did myself," Atwood wrote. "This is the best bear that I have killed and I got it with my bow, which was very exciting. The tracking job after the shot was a short 30 yards. Bear meat is excellent, and everyone that I have gotten to try it has found it excellent as well. Proper care of your bear after killing it is the key to having excellent table fare, as it is with any wild game.

"I hope that people will vote no on Question 2 so that hunters here in Maine will be able to continue to effectively hunt these great game animals. I know that my bear hunt this year was the most exciting hunt I have ever done, and it will continue to provide great memories for years to come.

"I would urge all hunters to vote "No" on Question 2 so that we can maintain our hunting opportunities here in Maine. We need to send a strong message to the anti-hunting groups that Maine is a hunting state and will continue to be a pro-hunting state.

"Trying to appease anti-hunters by giving up our opportunities will not make them go away or save hunting. Only a large turnout at the polls on Nov. 2 of hunters that are united, and [the] defeat of this divisive referendum question will keep anti-hunting groups from continuing to try to take away our hunting heritage," he concluded.

And finally, a reader from Liberty wrote to tell me that I'd made a major mistake, and that he wasn't too pleased about it.

"Dear John, Hank Holden's e-mail began. "I used to like you and your column. But now you've gone and done it!

"Did you have to go and tell the world how good bear meat is? I have a number of bear-hunting friends who, until now, would gladly drop off pieces and parts for me. Until your column, they would prefer to starve rather than eat bear meat.

"Now, I'm afraid many of them will try it themselves because of your column," he wrote.

Holden concluded his e-mail with a sentence I can't share with you. At least, I can't share the whole sentence.

It seems there are several other species that he likes to eat ... and that most folks don't bother with.

"Please, please don't ever say anything in your column about ... " he wrote, proceeding to specify three species that I've never eaten, and which, I assure you, many of you haven't tried, either.

Seeing as how I may have already unwittingly contributed to a decrease in Holden's yearly bear intake, I don't have the heart to tell you what else you're missing out on.

You'll have to ask him.

John Holyoke can be reached at or by calling 990-8214 or 1-800-310-8600.

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