It doesn’t get much more intense than spear hunting for bears.
Mitchel Yonkman isn’t your average hunter. He doesn’t spend the off-season pondering what he’ll do differently the next year; he spends it in the weight room. Wielding a spear isn’t easy to do, and when it comes to hunting bears at close range, there isn’t much room for error.
Yonkman, 29, lives near Edmonton, Alberta, where his father introduced him to hunting at a young age. However, he didn’t give spear hunting a shot until a few years ago when he realized it was legal method of harvesting big-game animals. Then, he decided to put in serious work to prepare for his first bear hunt, practicing roughly every other night for eight months, throwing spears at a 3D full-body bear target. He harvested his first bear during the 2015 spring bear season, which led him to completely immersing himself in the tradition of spear hunting.
“Spear hunting for me is the most exciting and most rewarding way to hunt,” he said. “The skill in being patient and calm and knowing the game more on their level requires you to be one with the animal. A lot more thought has to go into it, knowing each animal and waiting until the right moment to strike. The reward is like no other.”
Yonkman shot the color-phase black bear pictured above in the spring of 2017. The hunt was long and slow, as he spent several days sitting in a makeshift platform that he placed 6 feet above a bait barrel before his bear made an appearance.
That particular evening, he’d been sitting on his homemade stand for about three hours when his bear finally showed. He would have to wait for at least 20 minutes for the bear to get in close-enough range, which he estimates to be anywhere from 5-15 yards away. But this one walked right under his dangling feet.
“I calmed my nerves and waited until I had the perfect angle at his vitals,” he said. “I aimed behind his shoulder and and just right of his spine so I could get a clean pass through without hitting a major bone.”
For this particular hunt, he used the Cold Steel Assegai, which featured a 13-inch blade and a 2.5-inch cutting diameter.
Yonkman stresses the ethical nature of spear hunting on his YouTube channel, Yonkman Adventures. And, the primal method of hunting was clearly effective in this particular hunt, as this 4-year-old, 275-pound boar ran no more than 40 yards away before bleeding out.
Unfortunately, however, Alberta just recently banned spears for big-game hunting, so he’s still looking into alternatives. He says he plans to continue spear hunting for small-game animals (which is still legal) and hopes to try big-game spear hunting in Saskatchewan next year.
“I must say, it’s a shame that the very few people who do it have to succumb to the pressure the government got from anti-hunters just because of their feelings,” he said. “Weapons such as spears are no different than a bow or a rifle. Each weapon need a set of skills to be used correctly. A rifle or a bow in the wrong hands can be unethical if the user isn’t properly trained to use that weapon. Spears are just as deadly as a rifle, you just have to be closer.”
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