Kyle Conselyea, 82, of Middletown, New York, harvested this 205-pound black bear sow while hunting in September in Aroostook County. Credit: Courtesy of Lento Sporting Camps

Kyle Conselyea absolutely loves to hunt, but it’s not as easy for him as it once was.

The 82-year-old from Middletown, New York, suffers from debilitating back issues, is unstable walking and requires hearing aids.

He didn’t let that stop him from pursuing his passion.

In September, Conselyea traveled with his son Darin and his grandson Jake to Mars Hill for a black bear hunt at Lento Sporting Camps. Kyle Conselyea had been on 42 previous bear hunts spanning several states, including more than a dozen in Maine and some Canadian provinces. He said his hunt in Aroostook County is among his most memorable.

Despite the physical challenges, Conselyea’s enthusiasm for hunting, and his sense of humor, haven’t waned.

“I was sucking down Ibuprofen like some kids eat M&Ms,” Conselyea said with a chuckle.

Registered Maine Guide Alisha Lento, who with her husband and fellow guide Mike Lento operates Lento Sporting Camps, was determined to make sure the Conselyeas had a great experience.

That included serving cake to celebrate Conselyea’s birthday, which was the day before his arrival.

The Lentos did whatever they could to facilitate ease of travel, accessing the bait site and setting up for the hunt.

“They treated me like I was 150 years old, and that was OK,” joked Conselyea, a retired disaster recovery manager for JPMorgan Chase.

Climbing into a treestand was not an option for Conselyea, so the Lentos built a natural ground blind for him.

Kyle Conselyea of Middletown, New York, harvested this -pound sow while hunting in September in Aroostook County Credit: Courtesy of Lento Sporting Camps

“We’d go in there and find some downed trees and move them across and would nail them together to make the frame, then we would get a bunch of shrubs and branches and just fill it in,” Alisha Lento said.

It allowed Conselyea convenient and comfortable access, but it was only the beginning. Heavy rains prior to the Conselyeas’ arrival in Maine meant getting into and out of the site was tough going.

Conselyea praised the efforts of Mike Lento in getting him into and out of the blind for his sits.

“I would never have made it without him,” said Conselyea, who uses a cane to walk.

“He would take the muzzleloader from me. He would take my pack,” Conselyea said. “He would be carrying the bait bucket and my cushion for the seat. The man had one free hand and used it to help me get through the mud and the water and everything.”

Alisha Lento took great pains to help Conselyea get a bear and set aside that bait site exclusively for him.

“I didn’t want anybody else in there,” said Alisha Lento, who formed a bond with Conselyea during their interactions prior to the hunt.

“He’s up there in age and just because it’s not as easy, and he’s not as young as he used to be, doesn’t mean that his hunting has to stop,” she said.

Lento Sporting Camps focuses on hunting bears over bait. Hunters are placed on stand early in the morning, retrieved for a meal, then taken back out for the afternoon session.

“It was long days for me and for everybody else,” Conselyea said.

“That early a.m. thing was a little unexpected and pretty challenging in its own right,” he added, noting that he had hoped to do some morning fly fishing as he had with other outfitters.

The first three days of Conselyea’s hunt turned into a bit of a cat-and-mouse game with the bear. The Lentos got him into the site and back out, twice daily.

It seems the bear was able to monitor their movements, likely through its keen hearing and sense of smell.

Twice, a game camera at the site transmitted photos to the Lentos’ cell phones of a bear hitting the bait only minutes after they had left.

The first evening, a music alarm of some kind went off among Conselyea’s belongings. Another day, Alisha sat in the blind with Conselyea and kept hearing an occasional faint beeping noise.

Conselyea didn’t hear it at all.

That evening, after some investigation, it was discovered that his watch was beeping periodically.

They subsequently tried tricking the bear by sending in an additional person for the scheduled midday pickup and having two people walk back out while Conselyea stayed put. Still, no bear.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, everything came together. During the lunch break, as Mike Lento prepared to refresh the bait, Alisha Lento got an alert on her phone showing a bear at Conselyea’s site.

This time the Lentos’ son, Registered Maine Guide Steve Lento, accompanied Conselyea to the blind. Finally, the bear came in.

“I slowly picked up the muzzleloader and fired — and of course I didn’t see a damn thing because of all the smoke,” Conselyea said. “I was confident that I hit him.”

While Conselyea stayed put, Steve Lento went to look for the bear, which he discovered a short distance away. Alisha arrived and met Steve.

“Then all I could hear was Alisha in the woods, yelling at the top of her voice, ‘Kyle’s got a bear, Kyle’s got a bear!” Conselyea said, laughing.

Mike Lento, who showed up shortly thereafter, returned to the truck to get a plastic sled to drag the bear out of the woods.

“I said to him, did you bring two sleds? He says, ‘No, why would I need two sleds?’ One is to get my fat butt out of the woods,” Conselyea said.

Their work had paid off. The sow weighed 217 pounds, field dressed.

There was one more surprise in store for Conselyea. Just prior to their departure, after picking up the meat from the butcher, there was news about the bear.

Conselyea had shot the bear with a single-shot muzzleloader, but there were two bullet holes in the animal.

Someone not affiliated with the camps had previously shot the bear — in the hind quarters. That projectile was not recovered.

“I don’t recommend shooting a bear in the butt,” Conselyea said.

What he does recommend is pursuing your passion as long as you can and finding great people to share the experience with.

“It was one of the best hunts I’ve been on and for all of those reasons, it was just terrific,” Conselyea said. “They were absolutely fantastic.”

Alisha Lento is gratified that Lento Sporting Camps was able to help Conselyea, and other clients, harvest a bear this season. But it goes much deeper than that.

“It is really the relationships that we’re able to form,” Alisha Lento said. “That’s the way our motto goes, ‘Come as guests, leave as family.’ When [Conselyea] left, I cried. He’s kind of like my grandfather.”

Correction: A previous version of this story listed the bear’s field-dressed weight incorrectly.

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Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...