Arkansas and Oklahoma Baiting Begins

By BHM Publisher, Clay Newcomb

Sept. 8, 2014

    My local hunting is my favorite block of outdoor activity for my year. I do enjoy traveling to hunt, but I get more satisfaction out of doing it myself. I find that someone who can be successful at home, wherever that is and whatever they are hunting, is usually worth their salt when it comes to hunting prowess. (FYI: Salt was basically a form of currency in ancient times and the phrase means that a person is “worth their pay”…I had to look this up.)

Red Bull Jeep Gary Newcomb

   I spent the weekend with some family and friends setting up seven baits in Arkansas and Oklahoma in preparation for the October 1st opener in both states. I’ve got some guests coming to hunt with me that should make for an exciting bear camp.

   I am fortunate to be from in a region of Arkansas that borders Oklahoma. Though the out-of-state Oklahoma tag is, as far as I know, the most expensive bear tag in North America ($506), I am looking forward to both hunts.  However, my plan at this time isn’t to hunt Arkansas over bait, but rather save my tag for a spot-and-stalk Arkansas hunt like last year. However, I will be going after blood in Oklahoma.

Big Tire

            As you saw in the video blog in early August, I jump started a few baits in the Sooner State in late July. The first of the three baits was hit within 14 hours in the new area. A color phase sow and her cub were the first to the bait (I’m using a rock ledge to put the bait under because we’ve got a quarter-mile walk back into this area.) We also got a hit from a bear that we call “Mule” and a collared bear.

When you get hits this quick in a new spot that has never been baited you are in a “core area”. The bears are already there. This would be contrasted by “fringe” baits, which are always less productive as you are pulling bears to areas they don’t typically frequent. There are many shades of grey in between these two extremes when it comes to bait sites, but these terms help describe the differences in baits.

Oklahoma sow and cubs

            Our bear baits are always in competition with fall mast in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Acorns, hickory nuts, persimmons and beechnuts are major competition to any bait site. It could be compared to having trays of your favorite foods lying around your house while dinner is being cooked. By the time it's ready to eat you’d already be full from the tempting snacks, even if the dinner were also a favorite. Animals have no ability to be reason. They will not chose to pass by an acorn in hopes to save their appetite for the donuts at the barrel. It may not be that they “prefer” mast over bait, but rather their instinctual drive to eat at every opportunity influences their perceived preference and there are more acorns than donuts.

Collared Oklahoma black bear

            It’s only speculation, but it continues to amaze me how a bear will leave a bait when the acorns really start to fall. Our strategy is usually to start two to three weeks before the opener and gradually increase the amount and frequency of bait. At the beginning I will bait every five or six days. By the time season rolls around I will baiting every two to three days, making sure the barrel doesn’t run out. I’ll be making a lot of trips in the next few weeks and I always use this time to involve my children. They love these trips and the pictures of the bears that have been there since we left. Sometimes we get lucky and will see a bruin.

Oklahoma Black Bear

            I am the director of the Arkansas Black Bear Association and will be guiding a hunt that raises money to help print our Arkansas Bear and Buck Journal. This is our “All Arkansas, All Hunting” print magazine. So far we’ve had 100% success on the Auction Hunt. Like I said, our season opens on October 1 and it can’t get here soon enough. We will keep you posted on what is coming to our baits.

 

Picture 1: Gary Newcomb, Bear Newcomb and James Lawrence stand by the “Red Bull”, my father’s 1997 Jeep Cherokee rigged out for back country bear baiting in the Ouachitas.

 

Picture 2: My son was excited to be recruited for the epic trip into the mountains. He chased a couple of snakes.

 

Picture 3: Color phase sow and cubs

 

Picture 4: Collared bear in Oklahoma

 

Picture 5: The “Mule Bear”

Video - My dad's "Red Bull" creeping up a steep V-ditch on private land in Oklahoma.