By Dick Scorzafava
Bear Hunting Magazine
Mar/Apr 2010 Issue
It has been almost 40 years since I started guiding hunters on bait hunts for black bear. When I started to bait it didn’t take long for me to realize it was a science and I would have to think like a trapper to be consistently successful. Setting up a bait location is very much like setting out a steel trap. The only difference is a hunter will attempt to ambush and shoot the bear rather than catch him in the trap’s jaws.
If you think like a trapper and use quality gland lures and sow estrus urine based attractants you will attract more bears, especially mature old boars, to your bait. I trapped for years and I can honestly say I don’t know a single trapper who purchases any of their trapping supplies from the local K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Of all the great lures I have used, none are straight urine or glands from a bear. They are a blend of ingredients that have been tested in the field. To achieve maximum effectiveness it must be able to trigger more than one response from a bear.
Bears in the wild communicate with each other by utilizing the olfactory messages contained in their urine and internal glands. Other bears quickly accept these messages that are picked up and translated by the small receptors in their brain.
Sow estrus lure attractants have musk and scents from a sow in heat. These attractants can, if used properly, make an old boar drop his guard and come into a bait because he will think a sow in heat was, or still is, in the area. I use these on any bait I know a big bear is visiting to keep him coming back.
We have had good results using quality sow estrus urine lures early in the spring season and prior to the actual mating season. They will bring out responses from natural, sexual and even curiosity urges in those old boars we all want to shoot. Estrus urine based lures are great attractants for bears because they mark their home range by urinating in a variety of locations. These urine based lures, especially ones containing estrus urine, will elicit a territorial response that will persuade a boar to continually investigate the bait. I have scouting camera images of a mature boar that actually bedded down where we placed this type of lure. I assumed he was waiting for the old girl to come back and did not want to miss her appearance at the bait.
A quality gland attractant that is manufactured using the glands of a bear also creates the elusion that another bear is in the area. These gland lures play on the territorial nature of a bear. Every mature male bear has a large home range that they will defend from another boar intruder. The scent of an invader to their home range will trigger a response to investigate the scent so they can determine who the intruder is that has infringed on their home turf.
Just before the season opens I like to spray or use a gel based glandular attractant on trees about four foot high around the bait site. I also soak a big scent wick with the same attractant and hang it as high as possible in a tree. I repeat this process every time the bait is replenished. My goal is to have the wind currents take the scent from my attractant deep into the woods and attract more bears, and in most cases it does just that for me.
The day hunting season starts, on my way to the bait, I use a large drag soaked in sow estrus urine. I drag it along a trail to the bait from a direction that will give me the best opportunity using the wind currents, hoping a mature boar will pick up the scent. At the bait location I position the drag in a spot that will give me a perfect broadside shot if he shows up, and I never leave it there when I depart for the day. I place it in a sealed plastic container and repeat the same process the next day.
In theory all attractants or lures present a smell all bears will find attractive and will investigate the scent’s source. Any attractant or lure will be most effective, however, when they are used at baits that are located extremely close to a bear’s natural line of travel. Bears are a lot more likely to explore a smell that is close by than one that is very far away.
The thing most hunters fail to consider when they are selecting a location for setting up a bait station is that a bear first must smell the attractant or lure they plan to use for it to be effective. The scent of all these attractants or lures will travel in the air currents. When there is a steady, established wind direction or air current a bear that is traveling on the upwind side of the attractant or lure will not be able to smell it so it will not be attracted to the location. Keeping this in mind is critical in selecting your locations to use the attractants and lures.
Let’s face the facts. Using attractants and lures is not a substitute for reading bear sign and understanding the habits of the bears we are hunting, but they sure can tip the odds in your favor if used in the right place at the right time.