Getting the Word Out

At 20 years old, Nick Farace took over an Ontario bear outfit-and the struggle was real.
Jul 27, 2023
nick-farance

At age 19, Nick Farace (inset) became a full-time owner of a bear-hunting-guide service in northern Ontario. Now, approaching 35, he handles dozens of hunters each season and, during the summer, offers accommodations to tourists visiting Algonquin Provincial Park.

Nick Farace grew up in Toronto, but his mind was always on the rivers and big timber north of the city. Finally, he went bear hunting in that big timber, and he realized that he wanted to be a bear guide. He was 19 years old.

“When I first met him, I thought, ‘How old is this kid?’ ” said Kevin Brandel, an Iowa hunter who makes the 20-hour drive to Madawaska, Ontario, each year to hunt with Nick. “But within ten seconds, I could tell he knew what he was talking about, and he would be the kind of person I’d want to hunt with.”

When he was 20, Farace cashed in all his savings and bought out an Ontario outfitter’s bear-management area. His mother —catching the vision also—mortgaged her house for more capital and became the camp cook. Wild North Outfitters (www.guidefitter.com/wildnorthoutfitters) was born.

The guides he employed were old enough to be his father.“It was a crazy time,” said Farace, now in his mid-30s. “The previous outfitter had twenty-six clients. When I took over, only a dozen returned.”

After six years of hard work—making calls, going to hunting and game shows, handing out fliers at Cabela’s and Bass Pro stores—most of the original hunters returned, and he recruited new clients in the process. Now, he guides 50 hunts a year.

The business—in years other than 2020—has been strong. In 2020, considering the COVID travel restrictions to Canada, Farace had a tough year. He did have some people from Ontario who hunted bears and fished with him, but some regular customers from America, such as Brandel, couldn’t cross the border. Fortunately, Farace’s property is on the border of the famous Algonquin Provincial Park, and he was able to fill his rooms with park tourists during the summer. The accommodations at Wild North sleep 18 people. The main lodge sleeps up to eight people, and there there are several bunkhouses on the property.

“The summer tourists saved me,” he said.

bear-photo-wikimedia-commons

The bears in the bear-management area hunted by Farace and his Wild North Outfitters can reach 400 pounds but average about 150.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bear hunting, however, is his main line of business. Yes, the Opeongo River and Bark Lake are nearby and draw anglers and offer fishing for trout, walleye, and pike, but the sheer number of bears is what the area is most known for.

“If you hunt here for a week, you will have a bear encounter,” said Farace. “Some years we have one-hundred percent hunter success. There are that many bears here. We once had a hunter who encountered six bears before eight a.m.”

While the area is known for great numbers of bears, it’s not known for the very big bears. Here, black bears can reach 400 pounds, but the average is closer to 150. Unlike many other areas of Canada, outfitters here can bait bears. Farace takes his bait stations very seriously. While many other outfitters start baiting the day the clients come in, Farace starts baiting a month before the season to help make sure the guests of honor show up.

Any hunting tool—bow, crossbow, slug shotgun, or rifle—is legal. One downside is that hunters are only allowed one bear tag a year, despite the high numbers in these parts.

Farace has permission and permits to hunt 120 square miles of forest—his bear-management area as defined by the government. On that land, he has 60 bait stations with 60 trail cams.

The ecology in this part of Ontario is varied. The forests are thick with pine, oak, and beech trees along with dark, swampy areas. In addition to large numbers of bears, the area supports logging that opens the forest canopy to sunlight, which encourages the growth of forbs and wild berries.

“Many times these bears will know you are there in the blind or the tree stand — their nose is better than you’d think,” said Farace. “They’ll look right at you and go about their business. Sometimes they’ll walk right up and flip the bait barrel over or come in behind you and brush the ground blind.”

The area has a variety of game animals, including moose, wolves, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and elk. “It’s big timber. We get a lot of snow. It’s always an adventure,” said Farace.


John Geiger (guidefitter.com/johngeiger3) is a former editor of Guidefitter Journal and is the current managing editor for Safari Magazine.

From the Winter 2020 issue of Guidefitter Journal.

Author
John Geiger
John Geiger
Georgia
Featured Outfitter
Wild North Outfitters
Wild North Outfitters
Madawaska, Canada