SIDNEY, Maine – In scenes showing Ted Nugent target shooting with fully automatic firearms on his "Spirit of the Wild" television program, he always reminds viewers: "You can't do this in France."
For the thousands of Pennsylvanians who annually book black bear hunts in Canada, those who enjoy the challenge of taking big game with a handgun have to use an alternate firearm. Because, government regulations are clear that when it comes to hunting with handguns: "You can't do that in Canada."
That presents a roadblock for hunters like Corey Neidlinger of Wind Gap, who is primarily a bowhunter, but eight years ago began hunting with a revolver. During that time, he took one doe in Pennsylvania, which whetted his appetite for bigger game – like black bear.
"Obviously, hunting with a handgun is a bigger challenge than hunting with a rifle, and I enjoy the challenge," Neidlinger said. "It's why I enjoy bowhunting so much. You get close to the game."
Knowing that a spring black bear hunt in Canada was impossible, Neidlinger packed his .44-Magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk and joined a friend on a September hunt in Maine at Katahdin's Shadow Outfitters. One of the reasons for choosing the lodge is that outfitter Andre Morin, who will be a vendor at this year's Early Bird Sports Expo at the Bloomsburg Fairground, Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 28-31, caters to hunters on an individual basis.
In addition to the typical rifle stands, Morin and his guides maintain specially designed stands for archery, handgun and muzzleloader hunters. In addition, he has oversized ground blinds and double stands designed for youth or novice hunters who feel more comfortable having a companion for support and guidance when taking a shot.
Located less than 30 minutes from the Quebec border, the land Morin leases for his clients produces many above-average bears. Having the potential to take a large bear is attractive to veteran hunters, and knowing that the chances are good of taking a bear makes his operation attractive to those looking to take their first bear.
"I don't like to deal in percentages because a hunter still has to make the shot," Morin said. "Last year, 88 percent of our hunters saw at least one bear, but some of them passed and some missed.
"Of those hunters who decided to take a bear, 65 percent were successful, and our clients ranged from junior to senior hunters using everything from bows to handguns to muzzleloaders to rifles. Those who used open sights are at a disadvantage because scopes gather light and allow hunting longer, and some hunters just aren't comfortable being on the bait when it gets late – which is often prime hunting time."
Darkness in the Maine woods is usually accompanied by the sound of howling coyotes, the bellowing of a cow moose to its calf and the racket of wild turkeys roosting. Neidlinger, however, never had the opportunity to hear those sounds after his third day of hunting.
One of three hunters being dropped off by a guide in area east of the lodge, Neidlinger's stand was the first on the loop and his hunted was over before the guide had dropped off the third hunter. Settling into his ground blind, he soon sensed that he had company, and shortly after 2:30 in the afternoon had a 150-pound boar on the ground.
"I heard clicking and woofing behind me, and it sounded like a bear," Neidlinger said. "It sounded like he was coming to the tree where the bait was, and then I saw him circling the bait.
"He gave me a perfect shot, and it hit him right where I held and aimed my red dot scope on my Ruger. He took 10-12 steps and went down in his tracks."
Although Neidlinger's hunt ended early, his adventure continued. Passing on the opportunity to fish in the Mattawamkeag River that flows past the main lodge, and holds both bass and trout, he went hunting with a camera – getting some photographs of wildlife.
Taking a black bear on his first attempt was a dream come true for Neidlinger. Being able to take that bear with a revolver made the dream all the better.
To learn more about guided black bear hunts at Katahdin's Shadow Outfitters, visit Andre Morin at the Early Bird Sports Expo, Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 28-31, at the Bloomsburg Fairground, call 207-649-9975 or visit the Web site at www.katahdinsshadow.com.