Intro by Len Gransch:
Even after over 20 years of coordinating our Youth Hunter Education Camps, I still become excited when our students take what they have learned at camp and are able to turn it into a successful adventure. Better yet is when they stay in touch and keep me apprised of what they are up to with their outdoor ventures.
In 2019, Mike Li, along with two friends Blake and Jonathan, attended our Youth Hunter Education Camp. Mike’s dad, Hong Wei Li, also attended as a camp volunteer. The three youngsters were totally committed to the camp and gave 100% effort. Hong really stepped up to the plate and assisted the boys with all aspects of the camp including studying. The boys all passed with flying colours.
I was delighted to receive an email from Hong informing me that Mike had successfully harvested a bear and included some photographs of the adventure. Mike agreed to write up his hunt to share in our Conservation Education magazine.
By Mike Li:
I was introduced to hunting and fishing at a very young age. I was only six years old when my dad had taken me fishing for the first time, and over the years, fishing slowly evolved into hunting. Obviously, back then I was not able to actually hunt and I could only stay home and watch my dad and his friends go out all over Alberta and hunt game of all different shapes and sizes. When he came back from these trips I would marvel at the multitude of animals that he would bring back. As the years passed my dad would bring back more and more game, inciting the spark of hunting within me, and soon enough I had grown to the age of 12 and I was old enough to enroll in the AHEIA Youth Hunter Education program. This program was a five-day camp that would teach me about gun safety and hunting regulations and, provided I passed the exam for the youth firearms licence and the youth hunting licence, I would be all set. Thanks to the program’s helpful instructors and easy-to-understand classes, I passed both tests and I was ready to go out hunting and, later that summer, I would get my first chance.
Just a few weeks after I completed the program my dad got the chance to take me duck hunting. At first it was extremely difficult. Despite doing well on the tests there were many real-world factors I had not accounted for, but over the course of the day, I encountered more and more chances, and eventually, by the end of the day I had hunted quite a few ducks. This first hunting trip gave me some insight into what hunting was truly like and gave me an introduction to the world of hunting. However, this was only the tip of the iceberg and I was hungry for more, so almost a year later, my dad decided to take me bear hunting.
It was the beginning of May this year and I was only 13. My dad and I woke up early and prepared ourselves for the six-hour ride to the hunting site. When we arrived, we set up our firearms and prepared for an epic adventure. As we entered the hunting site, my excitement grew as I realized this was it, the moment I had been waiting for! My excitement quickly died down since, for the first two days, we saw absolutely no signs of life, not a single bear, nor any animals whatsoever, not even any other hunters. The only sign that we hadn’t been transported to a desolate wasteland absent of life were the sounds of birds that chirped in the morning. Thankfully for us though, on the third day, our luck turned around and just as we woke up and started making our rounds on the gravel road, there it was, a black bear. My dad hurried and rushed out of the truck, set up the rifle and fired a shot, the bear ran into the woods and, after a short search, we found it dead on the ground. This was my first time fully experiencing the hunting of a bear and I was one step closer to hunting and getting one myself. All I had to do was shoot one.
Later that day, as we were driving around, I got my chance as there was a bear feeding on the side of the road completely unaware of our presence. However, it was way too far away to even think about shooting at, so I got out of the truck and walked slowly through the surrounding woods and towards the bear. Sadly though, the bear saw me walking towards it, and it turned tail and ran away. I never got the chance to shoot, but still I had pursued an animal and therefore I was again one step closer to hunting a bear myself.
The next day, around noon, I received my second chance. As we turned a bend, we saw a bear crouching in a ditch by the road not even 200 yards from us. I jumped out of the truck, set up the tripod and took aim. However, just before I pulled the trigger, the bear moved and, unfortunately, I missed. Despite that fact, I still fired a shot, which meant I was once again one step closer to hunting a bear myself. That night I went to bed excited and nervous for the next day.
The following day, which would be the last day we had on this hunting trip, was my last chance to hunt a bear. That morning we had driven past a stretch of land that we had yet to explore and as our truck rumbled along the gravel road, there it stood, a very large black bear. Since it was in the morning and we weren’t prepared, it heard our car approaching and ran away. Many times that day we saw that exact same bear, in the exact same location, so that afternoon my dad decided to stake out that location and stay there for a bit, just in case the bear showed up again. We positioned ourselves on the side of a hill looking down the hill and we both had our firearms ready and tripods set. We waited there for half an hour and there was no sign of a bear. That was when my dad realized that the bear might have appeared over the hill and out of sight, so we decided to carry our rifles over the hill and be ready for the bear to be there. When we walked over the hill, low and behold, there it was, the bear feeding on the plants by the road. It didn’t notice us, and it was, at most, 150 yards from us. A perfect opportunity. So I set up the tripod and placed the gun on top, and I shot. The bear dashed into the woods and. It wasn’t clear if it was actually hit or not. But we acted as if it was, and therefore we wandered further and further into the woods to find the bear. Three hours of searching later we had no luck and the bear was nowhere to be found. Defeated and disappointed, we walked back to the truck, and since it was 7:00pm already, we decided it was time to go home. That night as I was lying in bed, I felt greatly disappointed at my own performance, and my dad also felt uneasy because the purpose of that trip was for me to shoot a bear, and we had failed. So two days later, we decided to give it a second try.
When we set out for the second time, we were not feeling too optimistic. We were thinking that if I shoot a bear that’s great! But if I don’t, so be it, there’s always next year, and we were only planning on going hunting for three days, so we had to work hard if we wanted any chance at all. On the first day, however, things didn’t look up for us, as it began raining which made the gravel paths near impossible to navigate and we didn’t see a single bear. Thankfully though, on the second day, we finally got lucky.
It was about 1:00pm, and we were driving past the stretch of land on which we saw the bear on the final day of the last trip, and we were feeling optimistic. We had driven past this stretch of land many times before with no luck, but something felt different this time, and just as we went over the crest of the hill, there it was, the exact same bear. It was standing right beside the trees and it had not seen us yet, so I immediately sprang into action. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. I got out of the car, set up the tripod, aimed, and fired. The bear jerked back like it had the time before, but this time, instead of dashing into the woods, it merely walked in. This was a clear sign that the bear had been badly injured, and when we walk up to the site where the bear had been shot we saw a splatter of blood on the nearby leaves. Excited, we walked into the woods and just a few metres in, there it lay. When I saw it, I was ecstatic! I knew then and there that these two weeks of hard work had finally paid off, and not only was this my first bear, but it was also a big bear measuring six feet long!
This was an incredible experience, one that was undeniably one of a kind, therefore I would like to express a massive thank you to AHEIA’s wonderful Youth Hunter Education Camp, the brilliant team that works there and to Len, my instructor, for allowing me to have this remarkable opportunity. It was their dedication to every student’s education, as well as their commitment and expertise in their field, that allowed all this to happen. If you are an aspiring young hunter and need a licence I strongly suggest giving this camp a try. It is a truly unforgettable experience.