Maine Bear Hunting Referendum: hunting with Bob Tigro

This is an incredible story. Refill your coffee and get comfortable. You’ll be drawn in quickly.

This is Bob Tigro’s story of bear and coyote hunting at Oxbow Lodge in Oxbow. What do coyotes have to do with hunting bears with bait, snares and hounds? If it weren’t for bear hunting Bob wouldn’t have made another trip to Maine this year to coyote hunt. He contributed more money on the road and at Oxbow Lodge.

Here’s Bob’s story.

I have been hunting bears on and off for a little less than 20 years. Residing in Pennsylvania, I always felt a little at a disadvantage in hunting bear. In PA you are not allowed to bait, use lures or scents and there are no outfitters. Most of the successful hunter belong to clubs and have members drive bears, in parties of about 25 people, toward a shooter. I still work tons of hours and unfortunately do not have the time availability to scout areas outside of the southeastern part of the state on my own and hope that a bear should cross my path.

north maine woods sign

Photo courtesy of Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

The last 3 years, I have ventured to outfitters in Maine, a state that allows for baiting, and I have an outfitter to scout for me. On my last two trips to Maine, (my third to Maine and my tenth bear trip between PA and ME in total) I partnered with Oxbow Lodge. The owner, Chad Deabay, took the time to get to know me, my strengths and what I expected out of a hunt. My first year hunting with Chad and Oxbow, there was an abundance of natural food sources for bear and other wildlife; it was a long week of hunting.

On day three, I was led to my site by Bernie, one of Oxbow’s top rate guides. As Bernie was leaving the bait site, I saw a shadow start moving in the foreground, it was a bear! As I took some time watching the bear come to the site, I had an opportunity to look at its size. It has been said that the black bear is the most difficult animal to field judge. I did not want to take a small bear. In Maine, the average bear size is about 225 pounds, this one looked a little larger than my Rottweiler at about 135 pounds. While I was not looking for a record breaking bear as my first bear, I made the decision to pass and let the bear walk. Now I would like to tell you that I second guessed myself, but I was completely comfortable in letting it pass. It left my tag unfilled once again.

I got a call from Chad just after the holidays to see if I would be interested in a coyote hunt. Having never been on one, I was game and recruited my friend Richard to come with me in January of this year. Again, we were greeted by Chad, who provided us with all of the details of the hunt and how they coyote were now mating and searching for food in pairs.

Richard and I hunted hard for the first night we arrived after driving 700 miles from PA. We turned in without firing a shot the first night and decided to head back early and hunt the sunrise. We head out and agree that we would meet back at the lodge at about 9:00 am to have breakfast.

First light, the crows come in and a beautiful bald eagle arrives for their breakfast! Now, I have rarely seen bald eagles for a lengthily period of time, but I got to observe this one for over 2 hours!  At about 8:45, as I am watching the bait pile, the crows scatter and the bald eagle takes off, I am now on high alert. My 30/30 is out of the blind window as I look for what caused the disturbance of my newly found feathered friends.

From my left, two coyotes come across the 15 yard “X” cutout in the woods where the bait pile awaits. They dash across the cutout and into the other side of the woods. I am slightly panicked. Did I miss my opportunity? As I continue to watch, I see the coyotes start coming back down the trail. I focus my Nikon scoped 30/30 on the lead dog. I calmly and smoothly pull the trigger and hear the crack echo through the woods. My Hornady LEVERevolution 160 gr bullet travels the 178 yards to the quartering to my coyote and hits the coyote just inside the left front shoulder. He drops like a rock. The coyote in the rear takes off and does not provide me an opportunity for the shot. The shot is heard by Richard and Chad back at the lodge and they come up the trail just a few moments later. I have taken a 45 pound Maine coyote! A 178 yard shot on a moving target with a lever gun? Yes, I had a very big smile on my face. Chad and Richard are congratulating me and have already started taking pictures as we re-verify the distance from the blind to the bait site.

Photo courtesy of  Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

Photo courtesy of Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

The fairly new year really has started out with a bang! We take some more pictures, hang the coyote on the pole and get cleaned up for breakfast. While eating, Chad tells us that the last time that Maine had such a bumper crop of natural food during bear season, the season that followed resulted in very scarce food sources and thus should provide opportunities unlike previous years. Well, you really did not need to tell me twice or provide me with hard evidence of the growing trend of food sources, I signed up before we left for the very first week of bear season, and luckily, I have a very supportive wife.

Bear season countdown begins before the tires find my driveway. I get myself a T/C Dimension in .30-06, topped off with a Nikon scope and loaded with Hornady Superformance 150 gr SST bullet sighted to 200 yards. My wife Linda and I arrive on Sunday, the day before season; my wife and I are warmly welcomed by Chad and his wife Jody. We feel like we are at a relative’s house for an extended stay. Chad has confirmed all spring and summer that the natural food sources have been barren and that the baits and the bears showing up on trail cams are on a feeding frenzy! The normal safety talk after dinner takes place with a presentation on field judging bears, a great season is about to be underway!

I am placed in a group of three other hunters with our guide Darren, and we all quickly become friends. Darren loads us into the truck and begins to drop us off at various stands in the Great North Woods of Maine. As I am on stand, I think of previous hunts and come back to a jovial saying that I came up with two years prior, in mocking a George Clooney movie, Men Who Stare at Barrels (well, I thought it was funny). As night falls on the first night, I have not heard a shot nor have I seen a bear. I walk out to the pickup sight still high on the possibilities that remain for the rest of the week.

Darren pulls up and as I tell him I have heard nothing and saw nothing (I feel like Sergeant Schultz).  We pick up the next hunter, he reports bear down! We agree to pick up the remaining hunters and come back to gather the bear. We arrive at the next hunter, he reports, bear down! We are now 2 out of 3 for success. Again, we agree to grab the last hunter and return to gather the bear. We arrive at the last hunters’ location and guess what? He reports bear down! This is going to be a long night! We are 3 of 4 for success and I am the lone holdout. I am happy for my new-found friends’ success. We all participate in the retrieval of all of the animals. We arrive back at Oxbow at about 12:30 AM the next morning. We hang the bears on the pole and grab a quick bite and off to bed we go, tomorrow is another day.

I am skunked for the next four days. I have seen raccoons, cubs, cubs and wet sows and more birds than you can shake a stick at. I have had two chipmunks less than a foot in front of my face on a log and one jump on my shoulder. I have hunted hard, been patient and have done my best to stay odorless. It is now Saturday, the last day of my hunt; I am doing my best to stay positive.

As Darren and I are driving out to the area to hunt, he tells me he is still trying to decide where to place me. He tells me on one site there is a beast of a bear. On the other he tells me there is a sow and three cubs and some other bears. He asks me what my thoughts are.

I am honestly at peace. I have seen 5 bears during the course of the week; ok so four of them are cubs. But, I had a cub appear from behind me just fifteen feet from where I was sitting! Talk about a shot of adrenalin. I decide I want the site with the sow and cubs. If I see another set of bears, I can be completely ok with another empty tag. Darren gets me to my site at about 2:00 PM; he sets me up, he places fresh product at the bait and wishes me good luck.

The wind is gentle as it softly brushes my face. The sun is warm. I can hear a loon cooing from the nearby lake. My rifle always at the ready and I get comfortable for a good few hour sit. About an hour later, a bear appears at the bait site! I try and judge its size with the size of the logs at the site. I see three cubs appear. I get to watch them play and eat and play some more. I am in awe of their dexterity and how they are really more aware of their surroundings than what you would think. Several times the cubs stand on their hind legs and look to the trail to the right of the site while mom remains calm and continues to eat, prepping for their winter nap that will soon arrive. I never give it another thought. They gorge themselves for about a half an hour and calmly go up the trail and fade off from sight. I feel like my week is complete and if I did not harvest an animal, I am content.

About an hour later, I am still staring at the bait site and a larger black figure appears! I try and remember the size of the sow that was just there an hour ago in an effort to see if it is a shooter. It is considerably bigger than the sow; I wait to see if any cubs appear. I wait and I wait some more. Nothing. I am going to take this bear! I raise my Dimension to my shooting sticks. I place the cross hairs of the Nikon on the bear,s shoulder. I squeeze the trigger and release the Hornady 150 gr. 30-06 Superformance on its way to the bear. I feel no recoil; I see smoke at the end of the rifle. I see the bear still sitting at the bait site.

Did I miss? The bear drops to all fours and begins to rush up the trail away from the bait site! Away from me! No sooner does the bear disappear from sight into the bush, I hear the crash that every hunter wants to hear. The bear is down! I wait. I wait some more. There is no death moan. The sounds of the woods slowly return to normal. In my awe, I remember I have not chambered another round, I do so.

I begin to walk slowly down the trail to the bait site. I find blood at the site. There was a hit! I return to the stand and begin walking towards the pickup location and wait for Darren to arrive. I make note of the shot, 4:05 PM. I walk the quarter-mile to the pickup point to find a bucket upside down for me to wait. I relive the two hours on stand. I think of how the sow and cubs will be still feeding, packing on the needed pounds for the upcoming winter. I think of how these beautiful animals can have such thick fur, be so heavy and still remain silent in the woods. Never hearing a stick crack and just magically appear, they truly are the ghosts of the woods. I think of how I am sitting in the middle of nowhere, not hearing a sound out of place. I think I am a lucky man.

Two hours later, the silence is broken by a truck coming up the road. I see Darren slowly approach the crest of the hill and begin to park, until he sees me. There is still an hour of daylight. The trucks engine roars as he drives towards me, the grin on my face his new destination. I begin to tell him of my adventure, he begins to smile and I see his excitement for me. He has gone 4 for 4 this week!

We load the bucket and my gear into the truck and go back to the stand. We quietly walk down to the bait site and I show him the scant blood trail and begin to follow it past the curtain of lush leaves that served as a backdrop to the site. We have made a pact; I must be the first one to touch my bear. We see a large black mass on the right side of the trail and he encourages me to go forward. I hear him state, that is a big bear. I approach the bear; Darren has his .357 at the ready. I tap the bear’s bottom. The bear has expired. Darren pulls out a camera and begins to take pictures as I wrestle the bear to the middle of the trail. Again, I hear him say a really nice bear and he begins to smile. Darren wants to quarter the bear to get it back to the truck, I refuse knowing there is an old army stretcher in the back of the truck I also want my considerably understanding wife to see the bear whole back at the lodge. Darren relents and goes to get the stretcher.

Photo courtesy of  Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

Photo courtesy of Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

I am alone with the bear and feel like I am having a religious moment. It is a dry sow; we guessed about 7 years old and figure about 330 pounds. Her fur was magnificent, thick, dark, and full and black as night. She is beautiful and she is mine. We field dress the bear. The shot found the right shoulder passed through both lungs and through the opposite shoulder. Night begins to fall and there is a two hour ride back to the lodge.

A crackle on the Mears radio breaks our conversation. It is Chad asking our status, we tell him we are bringing home a bear. I now hear the excitement in his voice. My wife later tells me Chad was running through the camp telling everyone, “Bobby got a bear!”

Bob and Linda Tigro with Bob's bear.  Photo courtesy of  Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

Bob and Linda Tigro with Bob’s bear. Photo courtesy of Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

As we arrive and pulled to the pole at the lodge, everyone still at the lodge comes pouring out, smiles on all their faces and cameras in hand. I was beginning to think my bear and I were on the red carpet in Hollywood! People started congratulating me, shaking my hand, slapping me on the back and camera flashes going off every few seconds.  As we were scheduled to check out the next day, Chad suggests that we skin and butcher that night to allow the meat and hide to cool for the transport back to Pennsylvania and reality. I agree and am in awe at seeing all four guides and Chad skinning my bear, never crossing knives in the process. The on-staff butcher starts the task of making roasts, chops, stew meat, steaks and loins and cryovac sealing everything. The whole process was done in less than 2 hours.

Photo courtesy of  Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

Photo courtesy of Chad Deabay, owner of Oxbow Lodge

I continue to relive the events of that week through my mind. I am thankful for the friends that I have made, Chad, Darren, other guides and guests of Oxbow Lodge, Facebook helps keep us in touch. I am also very thankful for the opportunity to enjoy this hunt of a lifetime and for my very understanding wife. My freezer is full of bear meat and the hide is being made into a rug, which will be a fine addition to the family room. January is quickly approaching; I think there is another coyote trip in my very near future. I will make another trip to Maine and Oxbow Lodge for black bear. I continue to be in awe of these magnificent animals and have a desire to see and harvest another. Again, I have a very understanding wife.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.