By Clay Newcomb
I learned early on after baiting over 10 sites for multiple years and having varied results at each. I could have predicted the outcome of some of the sites, but others surprised me. Outfitters and serious bear baiters agree, certain locations are better than others and it isn’t just chance. Bait sites that produce big bears year after year have some common trends. Here are seven characteristics to great bait sites. Every site will not have all of these characteristics, but are the trends of the best I’ve seen.
The best bear baits are typically far away from human activity. Placing a bait in a secluded location away from any type of civilization is important. Roads, man-made openings, houses, or places with increased human activity are things I want to avoid. This doesn’t mean that bears aren’t near these things, but you’ll more likely to get a bear into your bait in the daylight if he’s secure. And he’s most secure when he’s away from these things. Even though some bears don’t act that afraid of humans, they don’t want to be around us. I’d choose seclusion over just about every other variable.
2. On the Upwind Side of Where the Bears Are
The best baits are situated so the prevailing winds for the time you’re hunting will blow the scent of the bait into the areas where the bears are. I once had a bait located on the edge of a rugged wilderness full of bears. However, the prevailing southerly winds blew the scent from the bait back into the cattle country that bordered the wilderness. Very few bears ever found the bait. If the winds had ever switched during the time I was baiting I’m sure I’d have gotten some bears, but during the 30 days I baited it rarely did.
3. Located Along Drainages
Topographical drainages are wildlife and scent highways. Animal and air movement patterns are influenced by drainages. By placing the bait in natural travel corridors you’ll greatly increase it’s desirability to bears. Historically, bear baiters have emphasized the value of water being close to a bait. Undoubtedly a bear that’s eating a lot of food is going to need to drink multiple times per day. However, most of the places I’ve hunted bears water isn’t a limiting resource, meaning that it’s everywhere. However, proximity to water isn’t something to ignore being near a drainage often means you’re close to water.
4. Put in Thick Cover
Biologically speaking bears are animals of the shadows as evidenced by their black coat. Even though they do feed in open areas, they’re much more comfortable in the cover. When human presence is involved bears are even more cautious and prefer the cover. It’s tempting to put a bait on the edge of an opening because we’re used to hunting deer around edge cover. However, if I’ve got a choice I will place my bait in the cover and chop out the shooting lanes. The overall strategy is to make the bait site location as secure and inviting as possible by removing as many threats to security as possible.
5. High Rather Than Low
I bait bears in mountainous terrain while many bait in relatively flat country. The applicability of this characteristic may vary, but the principle can apply whether we’re talking about a 20-foot elevation difference or a 500-foot difference. Winds typically swirl more down low and are more stable up high. A bait placed higher in elevation are greater chance of good scent dispersal, which is valuable in a bait site.
6. Put it Where Bears Want to be
I learned quickly when baiting bears that you can’t hold them in a place they don’t want to be. Many think you could put out bait anywhere near bear country and entice them in. You might be able to occasionally and for short periods of time, but you’ll need to be in an area they want to be anyway during that time period. It’s proven that bears utilize different parts of the their range during different times of the year. Finding this place is often a discovery process that comes with some trial and error. Throughout the bears range they prefer unfragmented wilderness, however you’ll find bears eating crops in many regions of the country near civilization. If the bears historically are feeding on oats in the fall, then place a bait back in the cover near the oats. Put it where the bears want to be.
7. Best for the Bears, Not Easiest For You
The limiting factor for most hunters is time and we’re always looking for the easiest way. However, when it comes to bait site placement, easy isn’t always best. “Easy” will sometimes work, but going the extra mile can produce the long-term benefits of more big bears. It’s all a game of give and take, “Do I put the bait another mile back in there? Or do I make it easier to access?” You’ll ultimately have to be the judge and make the best decision based upon your goals, but don’t let the easy way cheat you out a big bear. Good luck baiting bears in the fall of 2018!