NAHC Sweepstake Winner Virgil Wilson

Virgil Wilson Tx. Life Member NAHCLIFE MEMBERS ON THE MOVE

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU HEARD the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is?” Well, that’s the first thought I had when I opened a packet from the North American Hunting Club. Simply put, it informed me I had won an “all-expenses-paid black bear hunt to Manitoba, Canada.” Needless to say, I read the paperwork nearly a dozen times, looking for the fi ne print and once I finally decided this was on the up-and-up, I started making calls.

     The first call was to Judy and Tom Usunier of Big Grass Outfitters in Manitoba, who confirmed that there was a drawing held by the NAHC, but they hadn’t yet been informed as to who the winner was. The second call was to Mary Stuewe at NAHC, who congratulated me and gave me all the particulars. After verifying everything, I called my cousin and best friend, Terry Brandon, of Corpus Christi, Texas. We were raised together and have hunted together our entire lives, and there was no way I was going on this trip without him.

Manitoba Bound Terry and I finally flew into Winnipeg on Saturday, April 24, and spent the day picking up eats and drinks for the week. Setting out the next morning for our 21⁄2-hour drive turned into a scenic 4-hour drive through Manitoba. We knew about where the hunting camp was located—within 10- 15 miles—but believe me when I say all poplar trees look the same after looking at a couple million of them. To make a long story short, Terry and I finally pulled onto a dirt two-track leading  through the woods to a farmhouse, and out came Judy, waving like crazy.  Monday morning we had another one of Judy’s scrumptious meals and then checked the zero of our guns. After that, Tom had a 50-minute presentation that he called “Bear 101.” Tom went over shot placement, sizing the bears, cubs, the hunting area, baits used and dang near  everything I ever thought about asking. Tom and Judy had 60 bait sites in the area. Each site contained one 55-gallon drum full of oats mixed with used French fry grease, one drum with meat scraps, and one 5-gallon bucket of pie filling. Kinda makes you hungry, doesn’t it?                                                   About 3 p.m. Tom had to go into town, so Judy and guide, Warren (aka Bird Man), took another hunter, Scott and I out to our hunting sites.

Wasting No Time My stand was located on a large farm that had never been hunted before. Judy loaded me onto a four-wheeler and drove about 11⁄2 miles back into the poplar forest. How they ever found this place is beyond me. We got to the site and I remember everything Tom told us during his Bear 101 lecture: no talking, get in the stand as quickly as possible and get settled. As I was climbing up to the stand, I noticed that bears had been using the tree to sharpen their claws about 6 feet up the trunk. This was not a good sign if you ask me. Once I was settled, Judy motioned to me where the game trails were and then headed out. As I listened to her drive off into the distance, I asked myself just what made me stupid enough to go bear hunting out in the middle of nowhere, sitting in a skinny little tree that bears have been using as a backscratcher. I didn’t like the answer.                                      I was in the stand by 4:15 p.m. and wasn’t going to be picked up until about 9 p.m., so I had to make my water and snacks last until then; I ate everything by 4:45 p.m. At 6:45 p.m. the first bear came down the ridge and made a beeline for the barrels. About 15 minutes later, a second bear came down to the bait site and started feasting. Neither of these bears were shooters; they were only about the size of the bait barrels. At 7 p.m. I started hearing a “popping” or “smacking” sound that I remembered Tom telling us it’s the sound an angry bear makes. I finally spotted the bear off to my left about 150 yards away, sitting on the trail. After the bear was confident there was nothing wrong, it came to the bait site and, as it walked past the barrels, I estimated it was about 10 inches taller than the barrel and was therefore, according to Tom, a shooter. I put the crosshairs on the bear’s shoulder—and fired. I shot one more time as the bear moved away, aiming between the shoulder blades, and dropped the bear about 10 yards from the bait site. I’ll be the fi rst to admit that I was shaking in my boots. The bear was a sow that measured 5 feet, 6 inches long and weighed about 250 pounds. I couldn’t have been happier.                                                                                                                        

     I can’t express how much fun Terry and I had with Judy, Tom and Warren of Big Grass Outfitters. It was one of the most professionally run outfits I’ve ever been associated with. Taking care  of their customers was priority No. 1 for them. Good friends are hard to come by and even harder to keep, and I can proudly say I’ve made three more for life.