Sep 22 2014
By BHM Publisher, Clay Newcomb
We’ve got some bears. I am pretty excited about the prospects of the upcoming October 1st opener in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Last year at this time you could see the White Oak limbs sagging from the weight of acorns. This year there aren’t nearly as many. We should have a much better year of bears responding to bait in the mid-south.
Recently, I’ve heard some negative banter about hunting bears over bait from inside the brotherhood – from other hunters. It’s funny how the things that we don’t do ourselves we often persecute from a position of pride and even insecurity. As bear hunters, we should be in support of all legal methods to hunt bears, whatever they are. The anti’s are clearly against us. The blood brothers should be standing together. Bait, hounds, spot-and-stalk and trapping are all viable, challenging and ethical methods to managing a growing North American bear population.
When I hear someone knock hunting bears over bait, insinuating that its easy and not sporting, I know they’ve probably never baited bears themselves. If they have, they’ve likely never targeted a mature boar and tried to tag him over a pile of donuts and meat scraps. Most of the time this type of hunting makes a Western spot-and-stalk seem easy.
Every method of hunting has an angle that is appealing. Spot-and-stalk is cool because you don’t interfere with the animal’s natural movements. Hunting over bait is exciting because you create a feeding frenzy and can attract multi bears into the same area. Hunting with hounds is a deeply cultural experience that really isn’t about the kill at all, but is more about the ancient connection between a man and his hounds co-laboring together for bear bacon. Trapping, which is still legal in Maine and several Canadian provinces, is an art and provides a very great method for harvesting bears. The uniqueness of bear hunting is found in its many methods.
Every region of the country employs the hunting methods necessary to gain the harvest goals of that region. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, we could never kill enough bears without the use of bait. It isn’t merely recreational, but it’s a management tool handcrafted for our region and likewise in other regions. Don’t be a hater.
Our Bears and Our Hunt
The bears are hitting the baits hard right now. They aren’t being very picky and eating lots of calories. The stage one base (there will be a stage two. Wait for it.) of my baits is bread, donuts and fryer grease. Right now the bears are eating all you can put out. I supplement this with corn, dog food, sardines and sweet bait additives.
Stage two will start one week out from the season opener. I will continue to feed bread and donuts (or whatever they seem to be eating a lot of), but will also start using popcorn and meat products. My secret weapon is beef trimmings from the butcher and pork fat. We’ve found that the bears get tired of the same old stuff and seem to leave the baits the last week before season. We’ll shift our base to popcorn and meat in the last week to keep them interested. I have a feeling it’s going to work beautifully this year to hold our bears through the season’s opening.
I also use a lot of commercial scents while baiting throughout the season. They are very effective for opening up a bait, especially a new one. My favorite product that I’ve used this year for the first time is the fryer grease additives from Bear Scents, LLC called Caramel Extreme and from Northwoods Bear Products called Gold Rush. This stuff turns normal fryer grease into something wonderful and powerfully sweet smelling. I won’t bait without the stuff in the future.
We should have a great week of bear camp starting October 1st. I’ll we be guiding our Arkansas Black Bear Association Auction hunters in Arkansas. I will also be guiding a unique guest in Oklahoma too. You’ll have to wait to see who it is. It’s going to be a great season and I look forward to sharing it with you.