So... we asked Google Maps for directions. The roads were fine until about 15 miles away. Then the dirt road got rougher and filled with potholes and rocks. Then it turned to grass. What was a good 20 foot wide road was now so overgrown an ATV rider would've had to duck and hold his elbows in. We were making progress at about 5 miles per hour. Then we went downhill and the trees became a mix of evergreen, clearly a swampy area. My tires started spinning. Frantically I rocked the truck back and put it in 4 wheel drive. Then I got it going and kept it going like I was plowing through a snow drift. I was going blind, hoping I wouldn't get stuck or slam into a tree. I don't know how the trailer and canoes stayed on the way we were bounding around. But we finally made it. After a 3 mile paddle, which included a wet and slippery 30 rod portage, blindly navigating through a wild rice field, and doing a little fishing, we arrived at a pleasant campsite. It was big and had all the good amenities: Fire grate, latrine, several big log sections for seats, and even a bench, plus big trees for hanging food from. It was also right along a portage, so we had the relaxing sound of rapids in the background. Saturday we paddled up 1.5 miles through the burn area until we got to another portage and start of the green woods. We scouted for several hours, marking potential hotspots, before returning back.
Sunday we went out and scouted more, heavily scenting our best spots. In the evening when we were around camp, we realized that at our current hunting location it would take us 3 hours to get out without a bear, plus another 5 to drive home. We analyzed the topo map and decided to pack up Monday morning and head back to the entry point. We had located a little access further up the river in the Superior National Forest that lead into the BWCA, and would be much closer to our hunting spots. Thus, we'd be able to pack out meat and get home faster. Well, unknown to us, there were two sets of rapids. The first we navigated through, but the second was a bit too risky, but we couldn't find a portage anywhere. We struggled back up through the first rapids and found a portage. It was a long one, bypassing both rapids in one portage. And it wasn't even on the map. Faced with a decision (if we took the long portage we'd have to take it back, in the dark, potentially with meat), we decided not to take the portage and hunt on the near side of it. That meant the areas we'd previously scented would go unhunted, while we set up new scents for the afternoon's hunt. We found several sets of moose tracks and good looking bear areas. I set up my burn over a rotted log that had been torn apart in a little clearing above a saddle connecting two dark swamps. We sat all evening through a couple rainshowers with nothing to show unfortunately.
The plan has now changed. We planned on going back this weekend and again late September. Well, if we did that, we'd likely want to rescout the new area and place new scent, meaning we'd just be starting over again. Instead, we're now thinking of taking Sept 27-28th and Oct 4-5th. That would do a couple things. It would allow us to scent the same areas two weekends in a row. Also, fall colors would be peaking. Duck hunting in the mornings would be awesome (we had already seen countless mallards in the rice). Bears would be limited on food sources, and hopefully packing in everything they can before hibernation. Some leaves might have started falling, making for slightly better visibility.
-Canoes make a difference. My canoe was only 13'6", wide, and about 80 pounds with no yoke. It was a pain to paddle and a pain to portage. Longer, narrower boats can still carry as much gear but go faster, track straighter, and glide better. We weren't doing much for sharp turns. Kevlar canoes would make the portages much easier due to their weight.
-Bring a backup stove. I did, and I'm lucky. My main stove got a clogged fuel line and quit Sunday evening. I had to use my little DIY alcohol stove to cook breakfast. That also meant I had limited fuel for the sugar burns. I had been using a liquid fuel stove, but believe a canister stove, like the MSR Pocket Rocket, would be much more ideal for this trip. It's smaller, lighter, faster and simpler. The liquid fuel stoves only really gain an advantage in cold or high altitudes.
-Bring a bigger pot. My sugar burn pot was fairly small and had no handle. It made boilovers a problem and stirring difficult without knocking the pot off the stove.
-Bring more scent. Dan said it, and I believe he was right. We brought a lot, but I plan on bringing more, particularly some of the aerosol cans that get a ton of scent in the air quickly. Also, the marshmellow/jello-mix/sugar/maple syrup burns smell really good. And they taste great, I tried some
. In fact, after a long day of scouting when I was exhausted, I squeezed shot of maple syrup into my mouth for some quick energy. Worked wonders. That's what I call dual purpose bait.
-Hunt over fish remains. As we had discussed, it's not that baiting is illegal in the Boundary Waters. Baiting in the "traditional manner" is illegal because you'd be violating leave no trace ethics. You must bring out everything you take in... EXCEPT fish remains. Those you are supposed to dispose of in the woods well away from your campsite. They said it right in the video. There's no reason you can't hunt over fish remains that I'm aware of. So the plan might be to keep loading the fish remains into a pile, and perhaps roll some dead logs over it, then scent up the area everyday.
Even though the trip wasn't a success this weekend from a bear harvest standpoint, we had a ton of fun. The fishing was good, even though we only really caught pike. I caught one big one. I took a lot of video and think I got some really cool shots and timelapses, including a pictograph on a stone face. It'll take me a while to put together, so I may just collect the footage from our next trips and put it into one big bear season montage: