Kim Roering of Alexandria is a keen bear hunter. She has prepared and packed for this year’s hunt to Northern Minnesota. Since she doesn’t have a license this year, she will be helping to bait the bears. Her boyfriend, Brian, has a license and will hopefully fill the freezer for the year.
“If a person is lucky, they will get a license every three to five years. It’s tougher to get a license in St. Louis County, with the lottery. Counties around central MN are non-quota so it’s easier to get a license,” she said. “The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) monitors numbers every year. When you kill a bear, two of their teeth have to be sent in to DNR along with the sex of the bear, license info, date it was shot, area of state, and whether it was shot with rifle or bow.“
Kim grew up on a small beef and hog farm near Osakis. Her dad was a deer hunter and she grew up around firearms, but she didn’t hunt then.
She met Brian in 2006, and discovered that he and his dad went deer hunting in North Dakota every year. Kim was not able to hunt that first year with them, since she had not ever taken a hunter safety class. (She later took the class with a group of youth and earned her hunter safety certification.)
A couple years later, the boyfriend of a coworker asked if Brian and Kim would be interested in learning to black bear hunt with him and his girlfriend. They said yes, and their adventure began. Kim’s two sons, Steven and Devin, have also hunted bear with them. Devin is an enthusiastic bear hunter while Steven hunts mostly deer.
“Many people think that black bear hunting is an easy sport, that all hunters do is sit over bait and wait for the bear,” said Kim. “That’s far from the truth. We begin prep for the hunt at least six months in advance, even though we do not know if we’ll get a license or not. The lottery drawing is generally in May and licenses need to be purchased before August 1. We can begin baiting in mid-August and the opener is September 1.”
During the years when one or more of the hunters in the group receive a license, everyone is able to help with all the tasks for the hunt. They can do the baiting and then, the skinning, quartering and freezing of any bear.
Preparation for the hunt includes finding all of the bait that will be used throughout the season. Young bear love donuts, so those are often part of the bait. The older bears love fatty foods that will stick with them throughout the long, cold winters of hibernation.
“Every bear hunter has their preferences for what they use for bait and we keep this information to ourselves,” said Kim. “The best way to learn is to find someone who hunts bear and go with them to experience it yourself.”
Because Kim and Brian camp in the woods for a couple of weeks during baiting and hunting season, they have to pack everything that’s needed for the entire adventure. That includes tents, four-wheeler, freezers and generators, hunting gear, food and much more.
“We are very remote so we tend to go into town only one or two days for necessities during the hunt,” she said.
Kim went on her first bear hunt in 2009. She had a license but didn’t end up with a bear.
“I really didn’t know what to expect. Baiting was hard work and I sat in the stand for hours watching nature,” she said. “You have to be very quiet and not move, as bear have great hearing.”
There can’t be any scent clinging to the hunter at all. Every piece of clothing, gear, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. has to be scent-free. Mosquitos might be annoying but they can’t be swatted, because that makes noise.
“Bear are very quiet for their size. You rarely hear them coming and all of a sudden, they are there,” she said.
She got her first bear in 2011.
“My first bear was a 21-year-old female who came into the woods just as I was pondering leaving, since it was getting dark,” said Kim. “It gets dark in the deep woods quicker than it does outside so even though you can hunt anytime throughout the day, we are generally done before sunset. I had a good shot but hadn’t prepared myself for how quickly the woods darkened. I called in the guys who hadn’t been hunting to help get her and as I was leaving my stand, my flashlight was losing strength. I went back in the stand and waited for reinforcements.”
Unfortunately, they were unable to find a blood trail and couldn’t retrieve the bear until morning. Because it is still hot in September, the animal needs to be processed immediately in order to save the meat. The bear was found under a pile of logs a short distance from where she had been shot.
“Lesson learned. I did not use a good hunting round and my bullet didn’t exit her body (the reason for no blood trail),” Kim said. “The bear fat sucked back into the entry hole. The wolves in that area got to her before we did so there was damage to her hide, but I was able to save the top half of her.”
Unlike deer hunting, bear cannot be party hunted. There have been some years when no one in the group has won the license lottery.
“Those years are spent in the Northwoods enjoying nature and touring around that area of the state,” said Kim. “We also bring our scuba gear and check out the local sights.”
Once the bear season has finished, but before deer hunting begins, Kim’s family hunts prairie dogs. Their first year doing this was 2021.
“It’s a fun way to practice our skills while eliminating a critter that causes damage to property and livestock,” she said. “Because of the disease that the animals carry, we don’t go near them, but shoot from a distance of 200-300 yards.”
During the rest of the year, the Kim and Brian maintain an active life. They are certified in scuba. Kim has earned the PADI Rescue Diver certification and Brian is a PADI Certified Dive Master. They fish throughout the year. Kim works full-time in the healthcare industry and part-time at Guns Galore in Osakis. She is also the membership coordinator/secretary of the Alexandria Gun Club.
Hunts are about so much more than the excitement and satisfaction of the baiting and hunting. For one thing, there is the amount of meat brought back from a successful hunt.
“We eat all of our venison, eat all of our bear. We process it all ourselves because we have the resources to do that. The meat could also be taken to locker plants,” said Kim. “We fill our freezers with the venison and bear meat and have a friend who assists in rendering the bear fat for soaps. We are firm believers in not wasting the animal.”
Hunting can also be a very peaceful, relaxing time.
“While deer hunting, I have watched the sunrise and sunset. Being alone for hours of waiting for deer or bear involves being patient and the anticipation, but I’ve observed so many things that I otherwise would not have noticed. Chipmunks playing. Birds landing on me. Porcupines walking under the tree,” said Kim. “I’ve watched all of nature, truly anything that you can imagine. I just love being out there.”