By Clay Newcomb

Publisher Bear Hunting Magazine

I can hardly sleep and I’m borderline giddy as I go about my daily routine here at the Bear Hunting Magazine global office. It’s September 4th and I just checked my trail cameras for the first time since I put out bait on August 31st. People who’ve never baited bear probably don’t understand the excitement, but being able to interact with such a reclusive animal through baiting is an amazing experience. I consider September to be my month with the bears. What an awesome thing?

Big Woods Bear Bait

The author and his father drove to Wisconsin from Arkansas to get a big load of bear bait from Big Woods Bear Bait - Floyd and Linda Gasser.

What’s even more spectacular is how well bear in Arkansas and southeast Oklahoma are doing. Conservation through hunting is an ingenious solution to utilizing and actually helping our renewalable wildlife resources. People who don’t support hunting are choosing to look away from the facts of conservation through hunting. Quota systems and regulated hunting seasons protect bears from overharvest while making populations stronger.  Bear hunting is a scientific and necessary management tool for large carnivores all over North America.

Bear Hunting Magazine

Big bear on bait just days after putting out bait in the Ouachitas.

Bear-baiting comrades, James Lawrence and my father (Gary), and myself have seven baits out in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The last five years we’ve guided an auction hunt to raise money for the Arkansas Black Bear Association (www.arbear.org).  Essentially we’ve given our number one spot in Arkansas to the auction winners and have had a blast doing it. However, I knew that in 2015 something needed to change. After last season, I told James, “Next year is our year to hunt.” He agreed.

Hunting the Ouachita Mountains in late September is no chip shot. Acorns begin to fall and muscadines ripen in the latter half of September and big bears are extremely hard to hold until the season opener. This can be a heart-breaking hunt after spending tremendous amounts of energy baiting bears, only to have your target bear leave two days before season. It happens more often than it doesn’t.

Bear Hunting Magazine

A second mature boar on the same bait in the Ouachitas. 

This year I traveled Wisconsin to Big Woods Bear Bait to buy bait. I’m hoping that this will be a game-changer in terms of holding big bears. Typically, I use bread, donuts, dogfood and grease as my primary bait. This year we’ve got cookies, frosting, gummy candy, pie filling and kettlecorn. Will increasing the quality of bait hold them longer? We’ll see. I think the answer is yes, but these acorn-loving Ouachita bears are hard to predict. Floyd and Linda Gasser of Big Woods are great folks that love bear hunting more than just about anybody I know.

I’ve included a few of the good bears that we’ve already got on camera. It’s hard to speculate weight on these bears, but they are both as tall as the barrel and shooters in my book. One of my baits we have five adult bears and two cubs (seven total) after just five days. Another bait has multiple sows with cubs. One of the sites was hit within four hours of putting out bait. The other was hit with 18 hours. You know you’re in good bear country when they show up so fast. That’s usually the sign of a good bait site.  

*The Sept/Oct issue of Bear Hunting Magazine is out on Newstands and in the hands of subscribers as we speak. We had a very diverse issue that covered Kodiak brown bear hunting all the way to hunting with Plott hounds in the mountains of West Virginia. Bear hunting is an extremely diverse sport and it’s critical that as bear hunters, no matter the method, that we stick together. Good hunting this fall and look for more updates from me throughout the fall season.