May 15 2019
The most heartbreaking moments I have had in hunting involve making a bad shot and losing a bear. There's nothing quite like the sickening feeling of shooting something and not being able to recover it. I'm not an Olympic or champion archery shot by any means, and it's hard to blow a 15- to 20-yard shot on a bear. I have been fortunate that problem shots I have been involved in are mostly not caused by poor shooting, but by a poor choice of a shot angle.
Bears can contort themselves into angles that few other animals can. Deer, for example, can't just plop down on their butt, put their front feet up on a barrel, or simply lie down while eating. Bears will do all that and more. When a buck wants to look behind him, he turns his long neck and looks over his shoulder. A bear will curl his body into a C shape to look behind him.
Bowhunters need to be aware of the constantly shifting body positions of bears and how these body angles affect the position of the vitals before any arrow 1s turned loose. Getting a double lung shot or heart penetration will make your recovery so much easier, so watching for the right body angle is critical.
Back in the 1980s, a bear hunt was nothing more than a dream for this bow hunter. A buddy showed up at my house with a VCR tape about bear hunting over bait in Alaska. Watching it, I was surprised to learn that the narrator kept hammering home the theme that a bowhunter should never shoot at a bear unless the bear was slightly quartering away with its nearside front leg reaching forward. These guys were totally adamant that no other shot should be taken. It seemed downright obsessive and unnecessary to me at the time.
Now, having killed more than 20 bears with a bow, I realize that these guys weren't too far off. Considering their wood-and-wheel bows of the time were only reaching speeds and energy levels that would be laughable today, a pass-through was rare on a large bear. obviously, they didn't like tracking wounded bears with minimal blood trails.
Today's bows are lightning fast and our broadheads sharp so we have more options, but we must still be patient and wait for a good body position on a bear before we put pressure on the trigger.
Bears often look broadside when they are not. A small curve towards the shooter might mean the difference between a perfect double-lung and a long blood trail. It also means the scapula or front leg might reduce the size of your target. Bears have big, thick bones which must be avoided. I suppose this is the reason there is a common belief that we should shoot for the middle of the bear. In an article published in Bear Hunting Magazine, the author described how he likes to shoot for the "middle of the middle. But we need to be careful how far we take that line of thought.
A bear's vitals are a little bit lower and a little bit back from the location of the vitals on a deer. But every bear looks bigger than it actually is because of its long fur. This is especially true in the spring. Once you get the skin off the bear you realize just how small the perfect target can be. A shot in the middle of the bear will probably kill the bear, but that shot has no margin for error. Better to shoot for the ribs; if you are a few inches off and hit the bear in the middle, you still have a killing shot. If you aim for the middle but hit four inches back, you have a gut-shot bear. It can be very tempting to shoot a bear that's lying down, propped up on a barrel, sitting, quartering towards you or has a front leg covering part of the vitals. But bowhunters who do so will find that the bad post-shot experiences far outnumber the good. The beauty of hunting calm bears at a bait site or slowly feeding on a mountainside is that you have plenty of time to wait for the right shot opportunity and it will almost always come. If not, there will be others at a later time. Better to be patient, even to the point of passing up a bear, than to be crawling through the brush following the blood trail of a bear which may not be dead. I've done that and gotten away with it, but each time, I am wondering if this will finally be the time some wounded bear really ruins my day.
I'm afraid I have learned some of these lessons the hard way. I have assembled some photos that will help you analyze several angles. Take a look at each of the accompanying photos and the descriptions and it will help you decide what shots might have a more positive outcome.
Apr 26 2019
Bait, hounds, spot-and-stalk and sitting over water are the primary methods of chasing bears. Bear hunting is unique in the variety it offers hunters. All of these methods are exciting, but one method, not often utilized, provides the most heart racing excitement of all...calling. Using predator calls to call bears in close is not for the faint of heart, and if you’ve never tried it, this fall will be a great time to start calling.
My First Called-in Bear
“There’s no way this is going to work,” I said to myself as the realization of what was happening sunk in. About 100 yards away stood a beautiful cinnamon-blond-phase black bear, sniffing the air, looking back and forth for the screaming fawn I was imitating. My mind raced as I tried to predict what the bear was going to do. I decided to be bold and make a fawn sound like it was getting a leg ripped off. I knew my aggressive action would either be met by equal aggression or the bear would get intimidated and run off. “Well, there’s one way to find out!” I blew the call with increased intensity.
It was a foggy September day in the backcountry of Colorado. The morning had been rainy and now the fog made the woods eerie, quiet, and dark. It was the kind of weather that puts a smile on my face. I felt the bears would respond to calling all day since it was cool.
I had decided to bowhunt even though the odds were against me. The success rate in Colorado for bear hunters was around 5%, but I had committed myself to the goal even if it took many years to accomplish. The area I was hunting was not conducive to spot-and-stalk because of the dense forests. I thought calling with a deer fawn bleat would probably be my best option. This area had a good number of mountain lions, so I’d have to be cautious. The bear sign I had found in pre-season scouting was encouraging. This was my second year bowhunting bruins, and I was learning a lot.
So, here I was on that foggy day, looking at this beautiful bear, trying to gather my courage to start another call sequence. I wondered if my nerves would hold out if it happened to work. The bear was getting bored while I wavered for a few seconds of indecision and it turned to leave. As it did, I blew on the call again and it immediately turned toward me and started walking, coming with a boldness that unnerved me. I stopped calling and it stopped too, this time at about 60 yards away.
“Wow, that was cool”, I thought to myself as I processed how it felt to manipulate such a creature by simply making a noise with a call. The bear again stayed for a minute or so and then turned to leave as it didn’t hear or see anything more. Again, I put the call to my lips and did my best fawn bleat/squeal and again, the bear responded with a hungry-looking, intentional walk, moving yet another 30 yards closer. I looked for an opening where I might get a shot if I could tempt the bear to come just a little bit closer. I noticed that there was a spot about 20 yards away that looked good. If the bear would pass by broadside there, I could throw a sharp stick at it.
Calling aggressively had worked so far, so my confidence was high when the bear again turned to leave and amped up the intensity. This kicked the bear into high gear and it came with a steady determination that surprised me. Thoughts of “Here we go!” and “What have I done?” simultaneously filled my mind.
The bear walked right toward the spot that I had picked for the shot. I drew my bow as its head went behind a tree and steadied myself for the moment of truth. Just as it got into my shooting lane, it turned and faced me, still walking with determination. Fifteen yards...ten...five. My mind raced and the bear kept coming, finally stopping as it looked right into my face quartering toward me at three yards! My pin settled and my arrow barely cleared the bow before striking right in the crease between the neck and shoulder.
I think it took only about 3 seconds for the mortally wounded bear to make it 20 yards before crashing to the forest floor and sliding to a stop. I shook my head in disbelief. Noticing how badly my hands now shook, I wondered how they had remained steady prior to the shot.
I took a deep breath, soaking in the moment and wondering if I would ever experience such an exciting hunt again. I knew that I would again look for adventure by calling bears. I wanted them in close enough to see the slobber running out of their mouth as they anticipate a fresh meal. I wanted to again hear their ragged breathing at close range. If action and adventure is what you want with bears, a call just might be the best way to get it.
1. A Game of Odds
Calling bears can be hours of minimal entertainment followed by intense moments of sheer excitement. In my hunting, I usually will set up and call at least 10 times before I call in one bear. That’s 10% odds of seeing a bear. The key is to make as many calling sets as possible. It’s a game of odds and the more you play, the better your odds get. I like to move around and call, not staying in one location for much more than thirty minutes to an hour. Don't expect a bear every calling set, but always be ready. I once started a calling and managed to call in a bear that ran in. He was at 10 yards when I first saw him and he got too close, too fast, less than 5 yards, while I fumbled to shift my feet and get my bow up. I was caught with my pants down, not really expecting such a quick response. Even though I didn't get a shot, hearing his ragged breathing and seeing him salivating as he expected a meal at point blank range was worth the price of admission. It took a good while to get my heart rate back to normal that day.
2. If a Bear Isn’t There, He Won’t Respond
Scouting is key to finding quality calling locations. Primarily, you’re looking for an area with a good population of bears. If a bear isn’t there, he won’t respond. Additionally, if he can’t hear you, he won’t respond. Look for scat, overturned rocks or logs, and tracks. The fresher the sign, the better. In the fall, calling near berry patches or places with concentrated hard mast is a good starting point. You’ll have more confidence if you know bears are in the area. Call from locations where the sound can travel long distances, like at the head of long draw or on top of ridge. It doesn’t do much good for your calling sets to overlap, so cover some ground or go over the ridge before you call again.
3. Play the Wind
Just like any good calling setup lots of factors are going to need to be in your favor, and wind is one of them. If a bear can get downwind of you, he probably will. Set up your calling location with the wind blowing into areas he can’t get to, or likely won’t go. For instance, calling from a ridgetop with a perpendicular wind will have your scent traveling high above the valley to your back. However, no set up is perfect and sometimes you just call, knowing that there’s chance he’ll wind you. Again, this is game of odds so just keep calling.
4. Fawn in Distress Call
I like using a fawn distress sound in the spring and fall. The actual sound of your call may not be as big a factor as simply finding a curious or hungry bear within ear shot. You’ve just got to make some noise and sound convincing. Having deer in the area will add authenticity to your set up, and most of black bear’s range has some type of deer. Deer will often respond as well to protect their young, which can also add excitement to the hunt. Be aware that other predators, including mountain lions, may also find your calls enticing, so use a healthy dose of caution if the big cats are around.
5. Keep Calling
Bears tend to be a bit lazy and they lose interest quickly so keep calling to keep them interested. This is difficult because you often don’t know when a bear starts his journey towards you. You just have be disciplined and continue calling in short sequences for long periods of time. You don’t have to literally call non-stop for 30 minutes, but call in one to two minute sequences take a short break (20-30 seconds) then call again. Many times my impatience has spooked a bear when I give up and move to a different spot too quickly.
6. Be Cautious When Calling Bears
One caution about calling bears is that a sow with cubs may tell her cubs to stay put while she goes to the grocery store. In some cases it may be difficult to determine whether a bear is legal to take if a sow that has cubs comes in alone looking for a fresh meal of venison. Look for nursing sign on the bear if it appears to be a sow. I would encourage you to try calling for bears. It just might add an extra bit of excitement to your next bear hunt.
Apr 26 2019
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!
Apr 26 2019
The silent emergence of black fur into view is an indescribable feeling that keeps all bait hunters coming back season after season. For me, the first five seconds of seeing a bear stirs an initial adrenaline rush and an abrupt increase in heart rate. This epitomizes the excite- ment of hunting bear over bait. How can such a big animal move so quietly? The question at hand, however, involves the point of view from which you’ll perceive the majestic entry of Ursus Americanis. Will it be from an elevated tree stand or eye-level from the ground? Several factors play into this discussion, and both have pros and cons.
Pros of Hunting Out of a Treestand
Hunting out of a treestand is usually going to be the best way to conceal your presence visibly and your scent. Many Canadian hunts take place in low- elevation treestands, sometimes just 8 to 12 feet high. This usually works because many of these wilderness bears just aren’t that concerned about humans. Usu- ally, the less contact bears have with humans through- out the year, the more they’ll tolerate humans at a
bait site. In contrast, bears that avoid humans all year long in more populated areas are typically skittish of humans at bait sites. Hunting over bait in Arkansas or Michigan, I wouldn’t want to be sitting in the wide open, 10 feet off the ground.
Hunting at low elevations isn’t going to do much for scent control, but if you are serious about being undetected, you can get higher to avoid being smelled. Just like in whitetail hunting, hunting at 20 to 25 feet or higher gets your scent up off the ground, and if the wind is in your favor, it can get those skit- tish bears in close. This is one of the biggest advan- tages of treestand hunting. Most hunters sitting over bear baits aren’t hunting at 30 feet off the ground, but I’ve done it before trying to fool a smart bear. And it sometimes works.
Being elevated has another advantage that plays into the biology of black bears. A bear in a tree is a display of submission. Correspondingly, a human (or any threat) up in a tree is perceived as an act of submission. A bear may know you are there, but not perceive you as danger because you’re off the ground. Many big bears that likely wouldn’t have been killed if the hunter were on the ground were killed out of trees.
The last advantage of hunting from an elevated treestand is visual concealment. Some stands I've hunted out of with outfitters don't give you much visual concealment, but they offer more than if you were on the ground. A bear’s sight is very similar to a human, and they often see you in the tree when they walk in. However, being elevated is a key to visual concealment. Being off the ground also gives you more liberty to move while in the presence of a bear. Bears are top predators and aren’t as jumpy as a prey animal. Getting above their sightline is a positive thing. Even though bears can be more tolerant than deer or turkey, treat every bear as if it was skittish until you determine the bear’s mood.
*An elevated shot position also increases the chance of a low exit wound, which is a positive thing for blood trailing bear.
Cons of Treestand Hunting
There aren’t many cons of treestands. However, they can be a hassle to hang. Removing them from the equation makes for easier hunting. This might seem elementary, but ground hunting is just less complicated. No need for safety belts, pulling equipment into the stand, or the preparation involved in owning and hanging a treestand. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of treestand hunting is a more difficult shot angle on bears.
High elevation stands make for very difficult shot angles. Be prepared for this and practice at
steep angles. Big brutes are unforgiving when shot poorly, and elevation does increase the risk of poor shot placement. Steep angles decrease the surface area of the vitals.
Thirdly, and perhaps we’re grasping for negatives, but hunting from a treestand is usually less comfortable than hunting from the ground. You never quite have enough room for all your gear in a tree, but the ground provides plenty of places to comfortably store your gear.
The biggest con of treestand hunting is the limited options you have in trees to hang your stand. Sometimes you end up hanging the stand in a less-desirable location that is the best option for amount of trees at the bait site. A tree has to be big enough to support the weight of the stand and a hunter without excess movement from the wind or when the hunter moves. Secondly, your best tree may not be situated for the best wind direction. In short, treestand hunting limits the possibilities of your killing location. However, bait place- ment should be chosen with treestand placement in mind to avoid such issues.
Lastly, a treestand is functionally a permanent fixture, meaning that you can't move it easily if the wind direction is different than what you planned for. Treestand hunting limits your options when the conditions change. When hunting from the ground, it’s easier to adapt and move.
Pros of Hunting Bears off the Ground
If you’ve never hunted off the ground for bear, then you've missed out on some tremendous excitement. Perhaps this is the biggest draw to ground hunting - being eye-to-eye with one of North America’s top predators. The close-range, ground level view of a black bear is amazing and is totally different that being on the ground with a whitetail, mule deer or elk. This is the first pro ground-hunting statement. It can be more exciting than sitting in a tree.
In terms of adding an element of success to your hunt, one of the biggest advantages of ground hunting is the unlimited possibility for your location. Ground surrounds every bait (unless you’re up against some type of water), so your placement is unlimited. If you want to be 10 yards from the bait or 50 yards from it, you aren’t limited by where a
tree is located. Secondly, changing wind conditions can be compensated for more easily by changing locations on the ground. If the wind is doing something different than you had planned for, you can just move locations (more to come on hunting out of a commercial blind or natural ground blind). Or you can build more than one natural ground blind at a bait for different wind directions.
Secondly, hunting off the ground gives you a more advantageous shot angle. This is the biggest advan- tage of ground hunting. When shooting at an animal on ground level, what you see is what you get. Ground level shooting offers the greatest exposed surface area for the vitals. No need to compensate the aiming point for the an- gle – just aim where you want the arrow to hit. Many bears have been lost due to poor judgment out of a treestand regarding shot angle, either shot too high or too low.
Cons of Hunting Bears Off the Ground
In my mind there is no question that hunting bears off the ground is more dangerous than hunting them out of a treestand. Dangerous in two ways: getting in a sticky situation with an aggressive bear is number one.
Number two, dangerous in terms of being detected by a shooter bear and missing an opportunity. However, we’ve got to keep in mind that bear attacks on hunters are almost statistically non-existent. It's highly unlikely that you'll be mauled by a black bear while hunting one over bait. How- ever, things can get sticky when hunting off the ground. Bears are very curious and the problem bears are often the younger ones, who are curious as to what you are. This can be a negative. Your ground blind, whether it is a com- mercial pop-up blind or natural blind made by limbs, will attract the attention of bears. The worst-case scenario is that you’d have to intentionally try to spook a non-shooter problem bear away that gets too close. In doing this you could be unknowingly spooking target bears nearby. If I had a bait with 10 different bears coming into every even- ing, I would likely choose a treestand. If I had a bait one or two bears, a ground blind could be a good fit.
Last year while hunting in Oklahoma I ran into what I would call a “bad bear.” Within minutes of getting into my ladder treestand, a 180-pound sow came into the bait. Within a minute she had climbed up my tree a mere two feet from my stand popping her teeth and woofing at me.
She proceeded to harass me for 45 minutes. She circled the tree, shook the trees around me, woofed and showed a lot of aggression. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the ground with that bear. Perhaps if I had been she wouldn’t have been
as aggressive, but I wouldn't have wanted to find out. I have no doubt that things would have gotten sticky if I’d been ground level. That day I was happy to be in the tree.
Scent control is going to be more difficult on the ground. The ideal situation would be to set up with a natural barrier like a bluff, lake, river or field opening as a backdrop with prevailing wind blowing into the barrier. However, a situation like this is rare. Most of the time when hunting off the ground, the bears are going to know you are there and will often come in from behind you. It’s up to you to decide if that is an issue or not. On a wilderness hunt it may not be an issue, but in the lower 48 states where bears seem to be more skittish, it may be a problem.
What type of ground blind to use?
I have hunted wilderness bears in Canada out of pop-up blinds with good success. We just popped the blind up on the day we hunted and it didn’t bother the bears. On a hunt in Northern Alberta in 2014, our party killed four 19-
inch bears out of pop-up ground blinds that were set up on the day we hunted. However, I would never dream of doing that in Arkansas with our skittish bears. It all has to do with the tem- perament of the bears you’re hunting. I have also seen good success with natural blinds made of treetops and branches.
This method is less intrusive, can be done days in advance, and is a natural material that is less attractive to bears – which can be a big advantage. I would never want to leave a pop up blind around a bait site for days at a time. In most situations the bears would get curious and tear it up. A ground blind made of limbs, however, they wouldn’t tear up.
What’s best for you?
Making a decision of hunting from a ground blind or treestand is a matter of personal choice. Ground hunting is going to be more challenging, but offer a more intimate and exiting hunt. However, I make my decision based upon multiple variables, of which the most important to me is how
human-tolerant the bears I’m hunting are. In short, in Canada I like hunting them off the ground, especially if I’m using my traditional bow. In Arkansas and Oklahoma I will almost
always choose to hunt out of a treestand because the bears are more skittish. In most situations, hunting out of a treestand
is going to be more advantageous for success. However, the excitement of ground hunting bears is unmatched and should be tried by all bear hunters. Good luck in 2016 and always keep safety as a top priority, but don't let it stifle your sense of adventure. I think you know what I mean; after all, you're a bear hunter.
Apr 16 2019
1. Not Enough Variety in the Menu
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also a key to a good bear bait. Bears are like humans; they've got individual preferences. I once heard of a bear that despised lemon-flavored pies so much that he raked his tongue with his paws. Bears are also driven by biological urges that push them towards feeding on optimal food sources that achieve their strategic goal. A bear’s goal is to “get fat quick.” Having multiple options for quality types of bait in different categories creates nothing but positive outcomes.
Different categories of baits would be sweets, carbohydrates, proteins, and I consider grease a fourth category all by itself. Sweets would include candies, jellies, pastries, frostings, or anything with processed sugar. Technically, fruits would also be considered sweets and can work great if you can find them in good quantity (i.e. apples or cherries). The second category is carbohydrates, which would include bread, pastries, chips, popcorn, cookies, or grains. This could be anything with processed flour, corn, or grain but could include sugar, too. It would also include whole oats and corn. A third category is protein, which would include any type of meat product. This could be a beaver carcass, butcher scraps, pork or beef fat, canned fish or any other type of meat. Nuts could almost be considered their own category, and they are characterized by large amounts of fat with some protein. Grease is the fourth category. Grease combined with a commercial grease additive is probably the greatest bear-bait additive of all time. It has caloric content, lots of fat, lots of scent, it sticks to everything, and doesn’t wash away easily with rain. Having variety in the bait will increase the chances of multiple bears staying on your baits.
2. Failing to Interpret Your Bear’s Appetite
If I go back to my bait after three days and realize the bears ate all the food in the first 24 hours, I have failed to interpret the bear's appetite. Most of my experience is with fall baiting, and I prefer to feed the bears ALL they can eat. The bears I deal with leave when the food runs out and are often lost to natural food sources. I want my bait to be so full that it doesn’t make sense for them to go anywhere else. I hear a lot about rationing bait to create competition. In my experience with fall baiting in Arkansas and Oklahoma, it just doesn’t work. When the bait barrel is empty, the bears leave and don’t come back. If the little bears eat all the food before dark, the big bears won’t have any reason to hang around – and they don’t.
Many Canadian outfitters are running 25-plus bait barrels may not have enough bait to fill every barrel 100% full, but if they did, I think they’d have better results. It's just not financially feasible, and they've found ways to kill bears on lesser amounts of bait. However, for the do-it-yourself hunter with one or two baits – keep them FULL. Again, this is my experience baiting fall bears in the south, but I am adamant about it for success here on big bears. However, I’ve been on Canadian bait hunts that I know would have been more successful if the outfitter had used more bait.
*Sometimes spring bears are so hungry and natural food source is so limited it’s hard to go wrong and limiting food availability can create competition. My point is, however, don’t let that philosophy be an excuse to use small amounts of bait because it doesn’t always work.
3. Lack of “Bait-Quantity” Management
Almost every hunter is limited by the quantity of quality bait they have. You’ve got to be strategic with how you use it so you don’t end up a week before the season opener without good amounts of quality bait. Secondly, you can’t start baiting so early that you run out. I’ve started baiting too early and run out of quality bait towards the end. If I had used a better time- frame strategy, I would have had better results. I don’t have any formulas because it’s hard to predict how many bears you’ll be feeding or how much they’ll eat. However, you’ll have to estimate, plan, and ration so you’ve got great bait at the end when it really counts. I would rather bait a shorter time period with more quality/quantity of bait than a longer period with less quality/quantity.
4. Choosing a Bad Bait Location
I think the biggest blunder that can be made in bear baiting is choosing a bad location. With a bad location you can do everything right, but still not have good results. If you’ve got a great location, however, you can make a lot mistakes and still have good bears on opening day. Don’t put your bait 30 yards from a gravel road. And don’t choose your site based upon ease of access. Seclusion is the key. Locations need to be in areas where bears feel comfortable and not threatened (think dense and thick). You’ve got to think like a bear to choose a good location, not like a human looking for a place to bait a bear. It’s got to be in an area the bears already want to be for the time of year you're hunting. It's got to offer close proximity to safety cover, water, and areas void of humans. It needs to be located where the prevailing winds blow the bait scent back into wilder- ness-type areas that hold bears. The prevailing wind direction is key and it is underestimated by many bear hunters. It needs to be an area that you can hunt and access without spooking bears. If you’re “pulling” bears from a long way they won’t stay and they won’t be there during daylight hours. Your bait has to be in a core bear area, not on the fringe of bear range.
5. Not Keeping a Routine
Keeping routine in bear baiting is critical to making bears feel secure at the bait. If a bear has no idea when you’re going to arrive to bait he’ll be nervous all the time. The environment becomes less secure and predictable. However, if your arrival is like clockwork, they'll know what to expect. Predict- ability is security. I always bait my barrels between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. I will never go to a bait site after 4 p.m. I just won’t do it. I’ve found that the bigger bears are more comfortable coming in the daylight if you keep to a rigid routine. This is a challenge for some weekend bear baiters, and I understand that, however, set the routine and don’t break it. If you show up at 8:00 a.m. one day and at 6:30 p.m. the next time, the mature bears will mark this as an unpredictable area that’s not safe to be during the daylight. My advice is to KEEP A ROUTINE! Routine is your best bet towards holding daylight bears.
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