Mar 08 2019
Baiting bears is simple, but when it comes to the execution of a bear-baiting plan many realize the difficulty and complexity of the task. How much bait do I need? Where do I get it? What do I use? How soon before hunting should I put it out? These questions need answered, and everybody has an opinion. Cory Carlson of Lucky 7 Bear Bait in Minnesota has been selling commercial bear bait since 2000, and in these almost 18 years he’s learned a lot. It started out as part-time, but now Cory and his wife, Jenny, operate it as a full-time business.
“One of the biggest questions I get from first time bear baiters is “How much do I need?” Cory said, “And the answer isn’t very simple.” Many questions need to be answered, but most can’t be before you start baiting – sounds complicated. How many bears are you going to feeding? How big are the bears? A good analogy can be used here, “Are you feeding the football team or the Girl Scout troop?” A 400-pound bear eats more than a 100-pounder. Three bears don’t eat as much as six bears, etc. Each site is going to be different. You get the point. The principle, however, is, “You’re going to need to put done some bait.” Cory says. In many cases, his hunters are putting thousands of pounds of bait at each site. Cory believes that you’ve got give the bears variety and plenty of food to keep them consistent. “If you’re only putting out 5 gallons of bait each day and the guy next you is putting out massive amounts of bait, the big bears are going to set up camp at the other guy’s bait.” It’s just that simple.
Bears are similar no matter where you live, but the time of year and availability of natural food affect how they respond to bait. Cory said, “My top three favorite baits all of time are trail mix, chewy granola, and cookie dough. I know bears will eat this anywhere.” He also likes them because they can take some rain. “Here in Minnesota we can’t use a barrel on State land, so our baits have to be fairly water resistant. Donuts can’t take the rain and create a sloppy mess that even the bears don’t like.” Bears do love donuts and other pastries, but they’re hard to get in bear baiting regions because of the high demand. “I’m most interested in baits that can take some rain, and these three can.” Cory said.
One of the bear baiting staples of most Canadian outfitters is oats, fryer grease and beaver carcasses. Cory’s has seen a lot of outfitters start using commercial bait with great results. Beaver carcasses will always be some of the best bear bait around, but the commercial-type bait seems to hold the bears better than just the fryer grease and oats. “Many like it because they can just order bait and be done with it. No dumpster diving or hassle.” However, aside from the ease of aquiring it, does it work better? Outfitter Kolby Morrison used commercial-type bait last year in conjunction with oats and grease. He said, “The trail mix we used last year seemed to hold bears better than just fryer grease and oats. The cookie dough seemed to help also. I think the high calories, fat and protein in the nuts helps hold them.” In past seasons he’d almost exclusively used grease and oats.
Cory went on to say, “People from different places have different ideas of what works for their bears. When guys call from Maine they usually want chewy granola. For years the guys in Alberta always wanted cookies. I think it was because they had a cookie factory there and that’s primarily what they heard of people using.” Many people are stigmatize what works best and are unwilling to try something different. Variety is key, in Cory’s words, “Nobody just wants to eat cheeseburgers for every meal. And bears are the same way.”
- Related BHM Podcast w/ Northwoods Bear Products on commercial scents for bear baits.
When starting a bait, it’s important to use some high-powered commercial scents to broadcast the bait’s location. Many of these baits don’t have extremely powerful scent. “You’ve got to put the scent on them.” Cory said. “I tell guys to put out scent every time they go into the bait, and soon they’ll have 360 degrees of scent going out.” Established baits will draw in the bears quickly, especially if you bait at the same time each year. It’s not uncommon to see sign of bears “checking” the sites weeks before the bait arrives. A bear hunter in Arkansas once documented through trail camera the same adult boar bear arriving at his bait on the same exact day two years in a row before they put out bait. It was as if the bear had marked it on his calendar to check for bait. They have any uncanny ability to remember food sources and check them at certain times of the year. Established baits have a head start on new baits and they get better, attracting more and more bears until they reach their full bear-drawing potential.
Buying commercial bait does cost money, but it has better drawing and staying power than most things you can gather. You can also purchase it easily in large quantities, making it more effective. Many are doing it simply to reduce the hassle. Regardless of what method you use in 2018, get out bait some bears.