PITTSTON ACADEMY GRANT – Wayne Bosowicz uses one phrase when leading bear hunters into the experience of woodland silence and isolation found at a bear blind.

“Nothing is a problem.”

It’s a mantra that has led him through four decades as one of Maine’s best known black bear guides, including television exposure on ESPN and with rocker and hunting advocate Ted Nugent.

In a profession where others diversify, Bosowicz has fashioned a life around that night traveler and silent forest dweller that is the black bear.

“They have a mystique about them,” he said while driving down a quiet logging road.

Now 66 and a grandfather, Bosowicz isn’t about to give up his day job — and doesn’t have to.

Today Maine remains the kingdom of black bear on the East Coast. State bear biologist Jennifer Vashon said the state’s northern forestland has loads of them.

There were an estimated 23,000 black bears in Maine at last count, in 1990, but Vashon thinks when that number is updated in the next year, it could be nearly twice that.

“The population has been increasing for a number of years. Everything suggests we have more bear,” said Vashon.

“Because of the unique nature of the state of Maine, the vast forestland, we can have a big bear population.”

Maine hunters have been stalking bear this year since Aug. 30, and will continue until Nov. 27.

The hunt began with hunters using bait the first four weeks, and continues with the use of dogs for seven weeks before it remains a hunt by stalking alone.

But Vashon said it’s important to remember that the number of bears taken by hunters may not be indicative of the size of the population. The hunting harvest may be up or may be down based on weather conditions and natural food.

A telemetry study used since 1975 — one of the longest running in the country — is one method she uses to gauge if the population is increasing or decreasing.

“What is more important to me is not the number of bear, but that the population is healthy,” Vashon said. “And there is a lot of opportunity to hunt them and to view them, and there is a segment that likes to do that.”

Meanwhile, the hunt in Maine is still a tough one, with about 30 percent of bear hunters bagging a bruin.

The first week of the bear hunt out of Pittston Farm in September was a rainy one, and windy. Bears were not coming into bait piles or if they were, it was late.

Some of the 30 hunters who employed Bosowicz’ help were growing concerned about their hunt by day three.

But Bosowicz was hopeful because he had been seeing bears and signs of them in the woods.

Selecting one of the top bait sites, he drove the better part of an hour to put a wildlife photographer next to it in a blind.

A bruin had been there the day before and the bait bucket strung up and hanging off a limb was full.

But by 6:30 p.m., after three hours of waiting in silence, the only movement was the wind through the canopy overhead. Right before Bosowicz’ truck returned, a pack of nearby coyotes called out. But there were no bear here, at least any that came into view.

“Well. We gave ’em hell,” Bosowicz said with some disappointment.

After 30 years, he knows bear are nearby, and that predicting their actions is fool’s play.

“What a deer hears a bear smells and a wolf sees,” Bosowicz said.

As he drives the dark logging road, his spirits lift when he’s told that elsewhere in the vast working forestland, bear did come into bait.

morning two husky bruins were hanging up back at camp and the New Jersey hunting party was gathering for photos.

“This is my third bear. I was probably 15 to 20 miles in (the working forest), a good hour ride. It pays to take a trip like this, you couldn’t do it at home,” said Keith Sochalsky of Union Township, N.J.

Others in the party were still hunting by day four, like James Lear. But the veteran hunter was not discouraged.

“I’ve seen bear on this trip, but it’s a question of being in the right spot at the right time. That’s why they call it hunting. I’ve taken five bear. But I’ve been on hunts where I didn’t get one. This is my ninth bear hunt,” Lear said.

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]