The sound of a bell echoing through Golden Eagle Camp signals success and ringing it is the goal of every visiting bear hunter.
Situated between Elk Lake and Matachewan on Highway 65, the camp owned by Mike and Liz Young sits on the banks of Sydney Creek, a tributary of the Montreal River.
Last summer, the ladies took the triggers. We arrived on Sunday and split into pairs. My wife, Karen, was accompanied by our youngest daughter and observer Aliyah, while I hunted as an observer with our oldest daughter, Abby. During the first two days, our bait barrels were visited by a variety of wildlife — including pine martens — but no bears.
There was some excitement in camp Monday night when hunter Steve Kolodziej thought he had a bear but didn’t. Karen and Aliyah changed stands on Tuesday, while Abby and I decided to give our spot another try as a bear had hit the bait when we weren’t there.
An hour in, Karen texted me, “Mike is coming to pick us up.” We got the story when we met Karen and Aliyah at the road. Their stand, named Devil’s Elbow, was situated about 80 yards from the barrels and Karen had taken a two-year-old bear (perfect for eating). She’d ring the bell when she returned to camp.
Back at our stand, Abby and I had no luck that night and decided to move the next day.
Record nearly 600 pounds
Bears at Golden Eagle average between 150 and 250 pounds, while the camp record is 598 pounds. In a normal year, Golden Eagle runs 52 stands, two for each hunter, in case one site becomes inactive. With the pandemic and no American hunters, there were only 21 bait sites in 2020.
Hunting during the second week of the season, we aimed to maintain our early success. About 80% of hunters are successful at Golden Eagle.
Our new site next to a creek was a strikeout on Wednesday night. Having a roads crew working on the nearby bridge didn’t help.
Eager for a bear and feeling confident, Abby was out by herself (the stand being too cramped for the two of us) Thursday at first light — again to no avail.
She returned to that stand by herself that night. I checked the barrel when dropping her off and it had been hit in the short time she left for lunch. After replenishing the popcorn doused in a mixture of dextrose, corn starch, and water, I was on my way. It was another silent night, with the smell of nearby anglers likely hampering bear activity.
Bell rings again
The bell rang that night as Kolodziej got his bear, a 140-pound male. In the fun spirit of the camp, the waterslide doubles as a victory slide for successful hunters — sometimes clothes and all. Although there had been hunting success, the cool, wet weather kept Karen and I off the slide.
Determined to change her luck, Abby proclaimed she would go out all day Friday — our last day. We hung around the camp, waiting for her call, where I had a chance to talk to Liz about the camp.
Bear hunters usually taper off in September, replaced by bird hunters, and then moose hunters, she said. They are visited by snowmobilers in winter before anglers return in the spring.
Although Golden Eagle caters to anglers and hunters, it is a great family facility. Canoes and kayaks are available for use and quads for rent. There is a waterslide, a playground, and a basketball net. It’s a real family atmosphere and we discovered many of those staying at the camp are regulars and friends — all of whom kept asking us all day if Abby had got her bear.
Last-chance bear brings smiles
While Abby hunted, the rest of us went fishing.
On Monday we hit the river for a short outing and landed a scrappy two-pound smallmouth. This time, we explored farther downriver. Once again, a smallmouth smashed my tube jig before putting up a spectacular, rod-doubling fight. After releasing it, I caught a small pike and Aliyah tied into a bass before we decided to head back.
We were barely in the door when Liz came by, excitedly telling us, “I think she got one.”
When we arrived at her stand, Abby’s story isn’t as promising — a bear came by but didn’t approach the barrel. She took a shot but wasn’t sure she hit it where she wanted. We searched for blood or sign that it was hit, with Mike and I both figuring it would head towards the river.
“If only we could find some blood,” I said. She looked down, replying, “Like this,” pointing at a single drop.
I stood by the spot while Mike, Karen, and Abby looked for more. A path emerged and we followed it. Mike and Abby spotted the bear at the same time in a tangle of brush at the creek’s edge.
Seeing Abby ring the bell that night, smiling broadly from taking her first big game animal, prompted two other smiles as her mother and I were proud of our daughter’s efforts.
Take Highway 65 west, between Elk Lake and Matachewan, in northeastern Ontario.
The six-day bear-hunting package is $1,699 per hunter and includes accommodations, a boat and motor, baited stands, and retrieving/processing of the bear.
There are 11 cottages with one to three bedrooms, plus a few trailer sites. Facilities include a beach, docks, sauna, store, and waterslide. Boats and ATV rentals available.
Golden Eagle Camp and Outfitting
Originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine