Whether it’s watching one somersaulting in the living room or looking at one down the shaft of an arrow, there’s little that holds as much excitement for the Cupps and their guests as a black bear.
Each fall, about 15 hunters pass through the Cupps’ home to take advantage of the bear hunting and hospitality the couple offers. They spend 12-14 hours a day out in the bush, and the evenings in the house or nearby trailers.
The Cupps both have jobs outside the home but for 22 years, the couple has been guiding bear hunters through the bush near Blackhawk and surrounding area. It’s been a hobby as they have enjoyed the company of avid hunters as well as watching the bears.
Hundreds of bow-hunters, some of whom have never seen a bear outside a zoo, have spent evenings in the Cupps’ log home telling stories. And like the Cupps, simply seeing a bear is a highlight for the visitors, most of whom come from across the U.S.
“A successful trip is just if they’ve seen a bear. We sit around in the evening and they tell the stories over and over, and some of them get down and act like bears to tell their story,” Lorraine Cupp laughed.
“This is a really fantastic job because we meet so many people.”
The Cupps keep in touch with many of their visitors as the evenings of story-telling are half the reason they host the hunters, many of who return year after year.
“We heard about the Cupps through a friend. We came up two years ago and they were very hospitable, not hostile,” joked Tim Spath, a Chicago resident who returned for this year’s fall hunt.
“I’ve only seen them [bears]. My buddy shot one here, though,” he added.
The Cupps regularly bait areas to lure the bears and every fall, hunters wait from tree-top stands for a bear to walk into their sights. Guns usually are not allowed at the sites, adding to the challenge of the hunt.
But for many hunters, just spotting a bear makes the trip worthwhile.
“One guy saw five bears in one night and never drew his bow,” said Rod Cupp.
Often, hunters will find a baited area frequented by young bears or mothers with cubs. But rather than move to a different area, they will sit and watch the bears—even videotape them—for hours on end.
“The nickname of the bear is the clown of the woods. They somersault and the things they do they’re just so funny,” noted Lorraine. “I guess they’re entertaining themselves.
“We had one who got caught in a five-gallon pail,” she added.
The Cupps are avid hunters themselves but they haven’t gone bear hunting for a number of years. Hunting advocates have long touted that the best conservationists are the same people who hunt and fish—and the Cupps certainly fit that mold.
The business began when a friend and former resident, John Bunnell, asked the Cupps to keep baiting an area after he moved away so he could return with his bow for successful hunts.
“He said ‘I’ll give you a case of beer if you bait it,’” Lorraine Cupp recalled.
“I thought people where crazy to hunt bears with a bow and arrow,” noted her husband, who had been hunting with a rifle since his teens.
“My first time out, I was scared [silly]. I was doing everything wrong,” recalled Rod, who ended up killing an 18 3/4” bear that made it into the Pope and Young record book for archers.
At least four other bears bagged at the Cupps’ also have made it into the book.
Although the Cupps say there are as many bears now as ever, the constant addition of regulations is making things tough for hunters.
The Cupps have to pay for land management areas to hunt, the new gun regulations continue to discourage American hunters, and the cancellation of the spring bear hunt has cut their business in half.
“We’ve got people who said they won’t be coming back to Canada,” Rod Cupp said. “All the industries across Canada will suffer with these regulations.”
Still, the Cupps have their own bear stories to tell—from Lorraine being chased by a bear to a young abandoned cub which spent months in a diaper on their living room couch before being returned to the wild.
They only take in hunters who hunt fairly and with respect for the animals, but acknowledge there are still those who will kill an animal for its gall bladder, leaving the rest to rot.
“I have a feeling there’d be some problems if I ran into somebody doing that,” Rod Cupp said.