Sep 29 2015
James Lawrence of Shady, Arkansas with a beautiful opening day Arkansas, Zone 2, black bear.
The Arkansas bear hunt has come in strong in 2015. Two days into the season, they’ve check about 215 bears total for both Zones 1 and 2. James (my bear hunting buddy) and I had a good start, but not as strong as we’d hoped for. James did great by taking a bear that we estimated to weigh 280 to 300 pounds. I’m kicking myself in the rear for leaving my scales at home, but I did, and we couldn’t weigh the bear.
When it came right down to time to hunt, we really only had one bait that was cranking hard with daytime, shooter bears. The other baits had been covered up with shooter bears earlier in the week, but they gradually started to fade the closer we got to September 26th. By the time we hunted, I was sitting on baits that hadn’t had shooters on them in the daylight in a few days. Welcome to Arkansas bear hunting.
An old warrior that my buddy Ryan Greb has named “Chief” showed up this week. He’s one of the most impressive bears I’ve seen in terms of skull size and character. Half of his nose is missing and he’s got notched ears. The bear is clearly very old. Bears add bone mass to their skulls as they age, though most potential is reached genetically by the time they become mature at around 6 – 7 years old.
I can’t complain, and James may have been upset with me, but I passed a 225 to 250 pound boar on opening morning. We had two other bears that were bigger, and one that was an absolute toad (500-plus) on the bait, so I wasn’t going to burn a tag on the first morning. I sat the next two days without seeing a bear in the daylight. On day two, I did spook a bear that came in after dark when I was getting down. It was well past shooting light, but I could see his silhouette as he trotted off when he heard me fumbling my gear – not a good feeling.
That being said, I plan to do some more hunting over bait in Arkansas this week. Sometimes after the bears initially leave for acorns, they’ll swing back through in a few days and lock back on the bait for a short time. Hopefully, I will catch a good one on pattern again. If I don’t kill one over bait, I will set out in my National Forest Quest again this year. Very few people kill bears on purpose in the National Forest in Arkansas – very few. Deer hunters bump into them and kill them, but not many people set out to hunt them like deer. I believe it is the most challenging big-game hunt in Arkansas. I took a big bear in the National Forest in 2013, and it’s ruined me. For some reason I love hunting for days without seeing game, or any sign of game. If you hunt the big woods expect a lot of failure before you find success. Build’s character? I think so. Sometimes as hunters we’ve become addicted to the need to see game every sit. I’m guilty, but hunting the mountains will break you of that!
A beautiful cinnamon sow with a blonde face. Amazing bear.
I am looking forward to the opening of the Oklahoma bear season on Thursday, October 1st. As of September 27th, I still had some phenomenal bears responding to bait in the Sooner State. I will check cameras, and rebait on Wednesday, then hunt Thursday. I’m after a big one in Oklahoma. We’ll see if they stick around, and if I can make it happen.
Bears are finicky when you start hunting them over bait. All it takes is one negative experience they will leave and never come back (or go nocturnal). Since last week my baits have decreased in activity by 50%. The bears are dropping off like flies. The question is will they hold until Thursday? I’m sure some will, but I’m after a big one, and there is a never a guarantee that a shooter will be the one that remains.
I’m learning that hunting exclusively for big Ouachita Mountains bears is tough….well, I already knew that. If I was just trying to kill a nice bear that would be one thing, but I’m after a 400-pound plus type bear – not an easy tag to fill. My standards may drop quickly if I the big bears become unkillable, but I will eat a tag before I shoot a small bear.
James and I will both be hunting Oklahoma. His success is my success, and I hope we can both be successful. Look for an update from me after the hunt. I will be filming for an episode of Bear Horizon that you’ll be able to watch whether we are successful or not.
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