A hunter must have a diverse diet and it’s important that he or she be prepared to hunt whatever is in season. I am a meat eater and over the years have been blessed with numerous successes harvesting food for my family. One of the best sources of good meat is black bear.
Like many of the wild animals on my list, the bear’s range has evolved in the last century because man has taken over much of its original habitat. North American settlers used, and in some cases over-used, the wildlife that populated the landscape. In the late 1800s hunters began requesting that the government set limits on the taking of wildlife.
Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s my good friend, retired Col. Bert Sanborn, shared a number of hunts with me up until his passing in 1993. A few weeks before his death he gave me a rifle he had purchased specifically to hunt bear with. “Sandy” simply said, “You like bear meat, so take this with you next fall and get a big one.”
In early September of 1994 I spent the better part of a week up in a tree stand in an area where bear regularly traveled. I was deep in the North Maine woods at a place simply known as “Number 9 Mountain.” It felt as if Sandy was with me all the time, helping to keep watch.
On September 2nd at 4:50 p.m., the woods, usually buzzing with small critters, took on a particular silence. No birds chirping, no red squirrels scurrying around, no ravens acting like clowns of the sky. Even the mosquitos disappeared.
From my left came a dark shadow, ever so quiet even in dry leaves. He was bulky, easy moving but very deliberate, seeming to have all his senses on high alert. But at 5 p.m. my five-day hunt was over and I climbed down from my tree-stand. He was a fine bear and would weigh over 300 pounds* that I would turn into steaks, back straps, stew meat, and — of course — chili.
On a cold winter afternoon there’s nothing like a hot bowl of chili — made, in this case, with a slightly Italian touch. So here you go. And for those who might wish to use other meat, my recipe works equally well with ground venison, buffalo, or even beaver.