Like a moth to a flame, the idea of sitting by a campfire on the edge of a remote Northern Ontario lake was pulling me in. Catching my fill of walleye and northern pike in the mornings, then sitting in a bear stand in the afternoons was all the motivation I needed to book a week-long expedition with Saul Outfitters in Matachewan. Matachewan is a small town located northwest of Temiskaming Shores in Northeastern Ontario. The drive to Matachewan is easily done in less than a day from most parts of Southern Ontario. Once the asphalt ends, the BIG adventure begins.
The drive from Matachewan into camp is all logging roads. Now, this drive may feel endless to urban-dwellers who are used to finding everything within a couple kilometres of home. Everything but solitude, of course. To find this exquisite peace, the logging roads are the promised land, and Northern Ontario is full of them.
Saul Outfitters runs two camp locations—one on each side of town. Our camp was on the edge of an old mining area and nestled up against a beautiful lake. A couple of extremely large outfitter’s tents provided our accommodations, complete with wood stoves and comfortable cots. The lakeside vantage provides a beautiful view and the melody of loons calling nearby, as well as a constant breeze which kept the bugs away, even on the hottest of days.
In his mid-30’s with two years of running the business under his belt, Byron Saul’s level of experience as a guide and outfitter will surprise you. His grandfather used to run the outfitting operation and it’s clear that the knowledge of the land, the knowledge of the animals and the ability to put bears in front of hunters has been passed down the line.
I came on this adventure seeking a quiet get-away to catch a few fish and hopefully harvest a black bear, but the additional activities in the area caught my interest as well. The network of logging and mining roads sprawling across the landscape offer incredible opportunities for exploration and ATV riding. I’ve never been one to seek out joy-riding on my ATV, but this trip quickly changed my mind. Riding the trails was a lot of fun, and a great way to explore the vast tracts of undeveloped wilderness surrounding our camp.
The number of lakes in the immediate area surely out-number the citizens of Matachewan so there’s almost no pressure on the fish. While exploring near camp we found an excavated hole from the old mining operations that had filled up with crystal clear spring water. This incredible swimming hole was the perfect way to beat the heat on those hot days.
With so many exciting side-bars to the trip, some days we almost forgot that we were there to bear hunt. Almost. The do-it-yourself style of hunting gave us the freedom to create our own schedule, filling the days with activities that each of us liked most. Each day, either Byron or his father Ed came in to check on the camp and make sure we had everything we needed. Once they showed us our bait, we were left to enjoy ourselves and the wilderness.
Both the solitude and the diversity of activities gave us the choice for something exciting each day and, if we needed a day to recover, we could simply recline in a camp chair, sit by the lake and enjoy the breeze. Each afternoon we would cook up a big meal and jump on the ATV’s for the 5 to 10-km ride out to our bear stands. The bear hunting action was hampered by heavy wind and rain storms for the first few days of our trip but, despite the tough hunting weather, my hunting partner and I each harvested two beautiful bears with incredible coats that will provide many great memories and great meals for my family.
Each night I looked forward to coming back to camp and sitting around the fire, my favourite snacks in hand, sitting under a blanket of bright stars and listening to the hunting stories of the other guys in camp. From the first loon call each morning to the sound of my hunting partner snoring at night, our days were full. I look forward to coming back and experiencing this again some day with Saul Outfitters.