Mar 13 2019

Old Mountain Hunter: Ora Provence [Podcast]

By Clay Newcomb


           1965 was an epic year for many reasons. The national headlines buzzed with the news that Lyndon Johnson had been reelected as the president of the United States, and the death of Winston Churchill was only overshadowed in the news when the first US combat troops arrived in Vietnam. Back in Arkansas life went on as usual and when November arrived hunting traditions continued as they always had. Unknown to few in the world, Ora Lee Provence, (often called Oree) from rural Crawford County, Arkansas had a phenomenal year hunting public land in the Ozarks that will likely never be topped in terms of number of inches in a single year for this region. In 2019, Ora is now 91-years old and he recently sat down for a podcast with me. 

            Back in those days only neighbors and kinfolk would have heard of Ora’s incredible deer season. The rural Ozarks in the 1960s had little communication technology available, and anthropologists have noted the region was geographically and culturally isolated through the 1970s. With limited highway or interstate infrastructure, the interior of the Ozarks was just hard to get to – and still is. Electricity didn’t reach Ora’s home until 1948, and they still don’t have rural water to this day. Only in the 1970s did they get telephone service, before that Ora said, “Neighbors communicated with each other through CB radios.”

            The Provence name has a longstanding history with these mountains. Ora still has the original deed to an 80-acre tract of land that his great-grandfather got from the United States government when the land could be bought for penny’s an acre in the mid 1800s. Ora was born in 1927 in the hollow he still lives in and has never lived anywhere else. All these years he’s managed to forge a living out of the mountains, only having to get a job “in town” for a short period in 1954. Ora and his brother owned and ran a sawmill for years, cutting and sawing railroad ties. He also farmed chickens for 43 years.           

On this episode of the Bear Hunting Magazine podcast Ora tells many stories about his life growing up in the Ozarks and his first introductions to hunting. He tells the story of how he was drafted in the United State military and barely missed going overseas to fight in World War Two because a of 10-acre patch of tomatoes. He also tells the story of his incredible year of deer hunting in 1965 when he killed two giant non-typical bucks scoring 165” and 186” respectively (gross). This region has a lot of limestone bluffs and Ora liked to “slip hunt” the tops of the bluffs looking down on the bench below for bucks. “The deer can’t smell you when you’re above them,” he said.  

            In the 1950s the region Ora lives in was part of the reintroduction of Arkansas black bears. Regionally extirpated out of the mountains of Arkansas, black bears were reintroduced in three strategic locations that biologists felt would be good habitat for bears. These areas represented the most rugged and biggest blocks of unfragmented habitat in Arkansas. The episode of the Bear Hunting Magazine podcast, titled “Old Mountain Hunter: Ora Provence” is a must-listen for anyone who loves the outdoors and hunting.

                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.

Mar 06 2019

The Black Bear Color Phase Grand Slam [PODCAST]

By Bernie Barringer


Listen to the Podcast Here!

     Black bears come in a variety of colors, some of which defy description and some are multi-colored. But for the purpose of clarity, we can generally divide the colors into four categories. Black, cinnamon, blonde and chocolate. More than 90% of the black bears in North America are black in color. The western half of the US and Canada has all the other colors, of which chocolate is most common among the colors other than black. The vast majority of color phase bears are found west of the Mississippi River, and a line that would extend northward into Canada. Biologists speculate bear populations that bear that have lived in thick forest for thousands of years are darker, while bears in more open country can be lighter in color.

      The Grand Slam of Color Phase bears is when a hunter harvests all color phases. Sounds simple right? Chocolate or dark brown bears are found in a line from the western edge of Minnesota and Ontario south to Arkansas and west of that line. Cinnamon bears can be found scattered throughout the Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountains and west to California and much of Western Canada including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Blonde bears are found in generally the same areas as the cinnamons, but are more prevalent in the southern Rockies than anywhere else, where blondes and cinnamons can make up as much as 35% of the population. There are pockets in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta where blonde bears can make up to about 10% of the bear population.

 Do you have a Grand Slam of Color Phase bears? Let us know if you do:


February 26, 2019

Listen to the Campfire Podcast Here!:


              I like hard places and whitetail hunting was becoming less than hard. Good deer numbers and ample opportunity were making it something different than what I grew up doing. Deer hunting was hard when I was a kid. I needed to go back to a more difficult place, not just for me, but for my kids. Noticing the current trends of introducing young ones to hunting, I knew I had to do something different with my own to give them a similar experience that forged in me a true love for hunting. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining about robust deer populations and liberal seasons. However, we don’t have to go with the trend of “easier” all the time. What made me appreciate hunting in the beginning was difficulty at the start. Are we making hunting too easy for our kids? Here is a bigger question: are we raising kids that can carry the “conservation torch” when our time is over? Are they equipped with the right internal values to withstand the future battles coming towards modern hunting?

              I’m torn about the current philosophy of introducing kids to hunting. In essence, it’s usually a make-it-as-easy-possible mentality. This falls in line with the trend of giving all teams trophies at the end of the season and not keeping score. Really? You don’t have to look far to realize this is building dysfunction in some kids. Value is forged from the sweet cocktail of defeat mixed with the hard-to-come-by, and rare, victory. Our goal as parents should be that our kids value wildlife, wild places and conservation-based hunting. We’re creating a structure for them to value something, not just acquisition of cheap victory. Are we as parents making a mistake?

              I was raised in a family of three brothers with a dad who was a serious bowhunter. My father didn’t caudle us in hunting – at all. I was the only brother who navigated the gauntlet. The “tough love” philosophy worked for me, but it didn’t for my siblings. I’m now the father with four children of my own. I’ve adopted a mixed approach.  I’m using many of the great things I learned from my father, but also constantly adopting some updated strategies.

              You want to make it enjoyable, and to make success a real possibility without it overshadowing the possibility of failure. The common denominator between the most dedicated hunters I know is difficulty in the beginning. Initial struggles caused them to fine tune their hunting, and ultimately, value wildlife and success A LOT. Many would-be hunters; however, were casualties to the past introduction strategies that didn’t have any “caudle” at all. We can’t afford to loose any more hunters, or create hunters that can’t carry the future burden of wildlife conservation.

              I’ve adopted a two-fold strategy ripe with open dialogue between the kids and myself. The hunting near our house is great. Actually, we hunt deer 150 yards from our back door. My kids have experienced some great protein-gathering adventures just minutes out their bedroom door. Access is key, and they’ve had some world-class access. And it’s pretty easy. However, they know the internal satisfaction of killing a deer in the backyard isn’t as high as killing a deer in a “hard place” – even though the meat tastes the same. They know this because I’ve indoctrinated them to believe so.

              We have a “hard place” we hunt. We hunt there on purpose. My kids are learning hard is good, and self-imposed limitation is honorable. Our family culture values include being honorable over harvesting game. For many years we’ve traveled to hunt Arkansas public land in a region with low deer densities and difficult access. Rugged terrain and a monoculture of mature pine and oak timber make deer numbers low. We use our mule, Izzie, which they helped train, to pack into backcountry. Engagement in the process is critical, and them having skin in the game with the mule is high-octane motivation.

              We recently got back from a three-day rifle hunt near season’s end. I took my oldest son, Bear, who is 13, and my good friend’s son, David, who is 16. Burning a ½ day on both sides traveling in, we hunted two full days of the three-day hunt. The boys both hunted a total of 20 hours each, and they never saw a deer. Bear actually hunted 10 hours straight in the same location on the second day. He left camp before I did and returned at dark. Upon arriving back at camp I said, “Bear, did you come back to camp during the day?”

              “No Dad, I hunted all day.” He said.

              “You didn’t come back to camp for lunch?” I asked.

              “Nope, I had some Cliff bars and fruit snacks.” He replied.

              “Did you see anything?” I questioned.

              “Yup, a flock of turkeys.” He said.

              “Bear, you just hunted 10 hours in the same spot and never saw a deer. I don’t know many grown men that would do that,” I said with a heaping dose of pride. “Good job, son. Your dedication will pay off. I promise.”

              As the campfire crackled under a blanket of stars Bear told the riveting story of watching the flock of turkeys feed past him. He glowed as he recounted the event as if he’d witnessed something truly spectacular – and he had. He ended the ancient oral campfire ritual by saying, “The best part of the day was when I saw a giant…(dramatic pause)…grey squirrel! I almost shot it, Dad, but I didn’t.” David and I laughed out loud as we validated the philosophy building deep in his internal man - the hard places are fun, they make us strong, and give us identity. And harvesting critters isn’t the end-all of successful hunting, and good parenting includes making it hard on purpose sometimes.   

John McAdams

300 Win Mag vs 7mm Mag

            Most hunters probably agree that the 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum are both fantastic choices for hunting a wide variety of big game, including bear. They’re both calibers able to handle the longer range shooting of hunting the big ungulates, but also the big body structure of bruins. However, many people get confused about the pros and cons of the two cartridges.

300 win mag versus 7mm mag for bear gun

The 300 Win Mag on the left, and the 7mm Mag is on the right. They're both flat shooting, hard hitting and very accurate  cartridges for bear.            

In this article, I’m going to detail the history of the cartridges as well as their strengths and weaknesses in order to provide you with the necessary information to decide which you should use in various hunting situations.

            Remington changed the shooting world forever in 1962 when they introduced the Remington Model 700 rifle along with the 7mm Remington Magnum. Using a shortened .375 H&H Magnum case paired with a .284" bullet, the 7mm Remington Magnum offered a significant ballistic improvement over most other popular cartridges of the day like the .30-06 Springfield.

            Additionally, the new 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge fit in a standard length rifle action. This meant it could be used in many of the same rifle models popular among hunters during that time period chambered in cartridges like the .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield. With all that in mind, it's not surprising at all that the flat shooting and hard-hitting 7mm Rem Mag quickly caught on with hunters in North America.

            Designers at Winchester during that timeframe could see what direction the wind was blowing and they began work on a .30 caliber magnum cartridge using the case from the .338 Winchester Magnum (itself descended from the .375 H&H) as a model. The company formally introduced the fruits of their labor to the world in 1963 as the .300 Winchester Magnum.

            Like the 7mm Mag, the .300 Win Mag had a significant ballistic advantage over cartridges like the .30-06 and also fit in a standard length rifle action. For those reasons, the .300 Win Mag was also an instant hit with American hunters.

            You can see some of the differences between the .300 Winchester Magnum and 7mm Remington Magnum in the photos. The .300 Win Mag has a slightly greater overall length (3.34" vs 3.29"), but both cartridges are used in standard (instead of magnum) length action rifles. The .300 Winchester Magnum has a slightly longer case length (2.62″ vs 2.5″) as well as a shoulder that sits .156" further forward than the shoulder of the 7mm Rem Mag.         Though they both have the same rim diameter and are very similar in overall length, the .300 Win Mag has a 5-8% advantage in capacity over the 7mm Rem Mag due to its shoulder placement and longer case length.

            As you'd expect from the fact that the two cartridges are very close in overall size, the ballistics of the 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag are also pretty similar.

            The biggest difference between them is the size and weight of the bullets they fire. The 7mm Remington Magnum uses .284" bullets and the .300 Winchester Magnum uses .308" bullets.

            Everything else being equal, the smaller diameter 7mm bullets have a higher ballistic coefficient and a higher sectional density than the larger diameter bullets of the same weight from the .300 Winchester Magnum. However, the .300 Winchester Magnum generally uses heavier bullets than the 7mm Remington Magnum.

            For instance, the vast majority of 7mm Rem Mag loads shoot bullets in the 139-175 grain range. On the other hand, most .300 Win Mag loads use 150-230 grain bullets. 

            As you can see in the table below comparing 150gr Barnes TTSX and 168gr Nosler AccuBond Long Range loads in 7mm Remington Magnum to 165gr Barnes TTSX and 190gr Nosler AccuBond Long Range loads in .300 Win Mag, the .300 Win Mag has a small edge, but there isn't a gigantic difference in the ballistics of the cartridges.

            The .300 Win Mag has slightly less bullet drop and carries more energy down range. This is due in large part to the fact that the cartridge uses heavier bullets and has more case capacity. However, since the 7mm Mag bullets compared above have a slightly higher ballistic coefficient, the gap in kinetic energy between the two bullets closes slightly at longer ranges.

            The table below shows how a 10mph crosswind impacts those same loads out to 500 yards. As you can see, the Barnes loads have a nearly identical amount of wind drift, but the 7mm Rem Mag has a slight edge over the .300 Win Mag with the AccuBond loads.              For all practical purposes, there isn't a significant difference in the ballistics of the .300 Win Mag and 7mm Rem Mag at typical hunting ranges. They’re flat shooting, hard hitting, and very accurate cartridges.

            That being said, the .300 Win Mag has more recoil than the 7mm Rem Mag. For example, when fired from the exact same rifle, a .300 Win Mag load firing a 165 grain bullet has about 25% more recoil than a 7mm Rem Mag load firing a 150 grain bullet at a similar muzzle velocity.

            The .300 Win Mag and 7mm Rem Mag are both extremely popular magnum cartridges and consistently rank among the best-selling rifle cartridges in the USA each year. For that reason, virtually every ammunition manufacturer of note produces a wide array of high quality factory ammunition in nearly every major bullet model for both cartridges.

            Along with lots of choices for ammunition, there are many great hunting rifles produced by nearly every firearms manufacturer chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. Additionally, because the cartridges are the same length and have the same rim diameter, rifles of the same model chambered in each cartridge are virtually identical.

300 win mag versus 7mm mag for bear gun

The vast majority of 7mm Mag loads shoot bullets in the 139-175 grain range. Most .300 Win Mag loads use 150-300 grain bullets.       


        When using quality bullets and with good shot placement, both the 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag are excellent for hunting black, brown, and grizzly bear at all practical hunting ranges. However, since they are such flat shooting and hard hitting cartridges, the 7mm Mag and .300 Win Mag really shine in situations where hunters need to take shots out past 200-300 yards.

            The smaller caliber 7mm Remington Magnum is wonderful for smaller and lighter animals. By the same token, the lighter recoil of the cartridge also makes the 7mm Mag a great choice for smaller framed or recoil shy hunters. It’s also ideal for situations where a lightweight rifle is really desirable, like on a backpack or mountain hunt.

            On the other hand, since it shoots heavier and larger diameter bullets, the .300 Win Mag has a clear advantage when hunting larger, tougher, and more dangerous game.

            Don't get me wrong, you can absolutely hunt species like grizzly bear with the 7mm Rem Mag and untold numbers of hunters have successfully used it in that role over the years. There’s also nothing saying the .300 Win Mag isn’t suitable for smaller animals or that it isn’t appropriate for a mountain hunt.

            Like I said earlier, the 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum are both quite versatile, but each cartridge is just a better choice for certain applications. The fact that I have to nitpick the strengths and weakness of each cartridge like that really speaks to their overall effectiveness. All that being said, the difference between them isn't as great as it is sometimes made out to be and the animal will never know the difference if your shot is placed correctly.

            This article was first published by John McAdams on The Big Game Hunting Blog and is reprinted here with slight modifications for length with his permission.


View the original article at:


Like what you see here? Check out more great articles by John on his hunting blog or learn about the New Zealand hunting packages he offers on his web site.

Squirrels, Feists and Mules

By Clay Newcomb

January 22, 2019

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Watch the VIDEO: 

The Grey squirrels of the Ozark Mountains quickly transform into nuggets of gold, metaphorically speaking anyway, when two things happen. The first is when they’re being treed by squirrel dogs. A squirrel in the front yard doesn’t get a guy too excited, but when they’re being chased and treed by a trained dog – things get serious. The action of the dog increases their value exponentially. Secondly, when they’ve been skinned, battered, floured and put in hot oil. Squirrel meat is known as a delicacy in many places – the Ozarks of Arkansas being one of them.

            This last week we combined squirrel hunting with dogs and mules, the second being a passion of mine. My good buddies Trae Autrey and Michael Lanier are squirrel hunters, period. They take this stuff serious. They both run treeing Feists. These little dogs only weigh between 15 and 17 pounds soaking wet. They’re athletic and gritty little dogs that love to tree squirrels. Michael said, “Their size makes them easy to keep. Squirrels aren’t big animals and you don’t need a big dog to tree one.” When I asked Trae why he liked Feists he replied, “When the squirrels are moving good, a Feist will use his eyes, ears and nose to find squirrels. You’ll tree every squirrel in the woods with one.”

            Trae also rides mules. He and Michael often use them when hunting these late season “cat” squirrels (Grey squirrels). The Ozarks had very little mast crop last fall and there just aren’t many around. I can’t tell you where they go, other than they’re hard to find. When food source is limited the squirrels seem to go on lock down, biding their time and energy waiting for the first new food availability of the spring. Using mules allows a guy to cover lots of ground trying to find squirrels. On our hunt we probably traveled six or seven miles, and it would have been a tough day on foot. 

            On January 18th we left the truck around 8 a.m. and headed into an area that Michael felt was holding some bushy tails. “It’s the only place I’ve found that had some acorns,” he said. We treed two right off the bat and had them in the game bag in no time. Two of us were carrying shotguns and one had a scoped .22. After a few more hours and several miles of riding, we had only the two from earlier in the morning to show for it. We went back to the truck for a mountaintop lunch of fried potatoes and squirrel. However, this wasn’t just any fried squirrel, it was fried in bear oil (also known as bear grease). I brought a pint of rendered bear fat just for the occasion. Many might presume bear oil would have some gamey or “beary” flavor, but it’s actually very mild tasting oil. You can substitute it for any cooking oil called for in frying or any recipe. The squirrels were excellent.

            I learned quit a bit about Izzie, the mule I trained, on this hunt. She did fantastic and no problem around the gunshots, dogs and the other mules. As a matter of fact, I shot my 410 shotgun off her back four times. I’d shot a .22 off her before, but this was the first time I shot a louder-type gun. I took great joy in my feet hardly hitting the ground the whole day. That might sound lazy, but after all the training it’s highly rewarding to reap the fruits of your labor. It’s also a lot of good core-muscle exercise to ride a mule for eight hours. At the end of the day we’d had more fun than you could imagine.

            Watch for the video about this hunt on the Bear Hunting Magazine YouTube channel coming out on Tuesday January 29. It’s a ton of fun and I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m pretty sure it’s going to break the internet….or least I like it ton. 

Photos by Brent Reaves (Reckless Drift Media)

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

squirrel hunt on mules clay newcomb

Massive Manitoba Whitetail

by Clay Newcomb 

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    It was the final day of my hunt in one of the most iconic regions of North America’s whitetail country. It was November 3rd 2018. Time wasn’t just fading metaphorically; I had 14 minutes of legal shooting light remaining. Manitoba is known for massive, knarly whitetails, and I’d been after them for six-and-a-half days. While bowhunting earlier in the week a mature buck with impressive antlers bedded down at 75 yards, but never offered a shot.  This had been my only encounter with a target animal. The deer weren’t doing what they’d done the year before so I laid down the Mathews bow on day three and picked up the muzzleloader. They’d been patternable and visible last year, but they weren’t now. On some hunts, my goal is take an animal with a certain weapon. On other hunts the goal is take a certain type of animal. This hunt was the latter.

            I was hunting in the Southwestern third of Manitoba, known as the Parkland Region, with Tom Ainsworth of Grandview Outfitters. Hunting with Tom and Debbie is like going to a good friend’s farm for a week. Home-cooked meals were served at Tom and Deb's everyday. If professionalism, hospitality and personal connection in an outfitted hunt could be graded, it would be hard to find a metric to describe these people. They are old-fashioned rural Manitoba ranchers, farmers and hunters. Hard work, honesty, and clear communication are just how they operate.  They had a strong conservation and land-stewardship ethic before it was cool. Tom is a character of characters, an articulate orator, a student of wildlife and the history of the region. To a Southerner, he’s just fun to listen to talk. And he’s passionate about big Canadian whitetails.

Manitoba canada grandview outfitting

Southwestern Manitoba is big agricultural country that borders massive amounts of public land. Tom Ainsworth of Grandview Outfitting hunts over 3,000 acres of private farm ground for giant Canadian whitetails.  

            He’s got access to over 3,000 acres of private agricultural land, and he knows it all like the back of his hand. After 40 years of hunting these properties, his knowledge of deer behavior and movement is notable. Every drive to the stand was like a whitetail-classroom as Tom described patterns he’d seen over decades. He hasn’t been educated by the trends, and sometimes hype-filled whitetail media. His knowledge comes from the personal experience of four decades of observation. Some of his strategies and philosophy may not work in other places, but they work here. That’s all what matters.

            The year prior I’d taken a spectacular buck on the second day of the hunt with my bow. Could lightning strike twice? I was beginning to think it wouldn’t. The rut is compact in the far North. By November 1st, in much of the whitetail’s range, the bucks are cruising for does and rut-induced hunter opportunity is high. Here the bucks are still on a feeding pattern and even traveling together.  It had happened relatively easy for my hunting buddies, James Lawrence and Steve Schultz. They had tagged out by day two, but I couldn’t seem to catch up with a buck.

Manitoba canada grandview outfitting

James Lawrence of Arkansas harvested this 250-pound Manitoba buck on day two of his hunt with Tom Ainsworth of Grandview Outfitting. 

250 pound buck

grandview outfitters manitoba

 Steve Schultz took this fine 9-point buck on the first morning of the hunt in Manitoba.            

   On the morning of day six I saw two bucks 600 yards away on the back edge of a soybean field. I knew I had to get aggressive. I slipped out of the blind to stalk the bucks simultaneously with a coyote spooking them off the field. However, this gave me the opportunity to move into position if they returned. I cut the distance in half and made a brush blind on the edge of the field. It was now 9 a.m. I texted Tom and told him I’d be sitting all day. The high temperature for the day was 28 degrees, but I was wearing my First Lite Chamberlin Puffy jacket and Sanctuary bib overalls. I stayed warm. Miraculously, a rare southeast wind blew consistently all day, sending my scent into the large cut bean field. I waited.

clay newcomb manitoba whitetail

After seeing the giant Manitoba buck at daylight, he left the blind and closed the distance by 300 yards. He ended staying there for over 9 hours waiting for the buck to return. It was the last day of the hunt so he just had to do what it took!           

  After seeing several coyotes and just a few deer the whole day, nine-and-a-half hours later the buck appeared a mere fourteen minutes before the end of legal shooting light. Using a spruce limb as a gun rest, I made a 248-yard shot using Steve’s long-range muzzleloader. The buck dropped in the field.

giant manitoba whitetail

An iconic image of the giant Manitoba whitetail on the back edge of a cut soybean field just seconds before the shot. After appearing briefly at daylight, the buck didn't return until 9 hours later near dark.             

The buck had character for days, bladed tines, and the kind of mass any whitetail hunter would drive across the country to find. And the bean-fed meat? Lord knows my family and I will partake of it with incalculable reverence in a sacred dinner-table celebration of the hunt and our ancient, honorable and relevant way of life. Hunters are the good guys who care about wildlife and want to see them thrive. Long live the hunt, and long live the beast!

 Call Tom and Debbie Ainsworth for an affordable Manitoba whitetail hunt at 1-(204)-546-2751  or email at

clay newcomb giant manitoba whitetailClay with the giant Manitoba whitetail taken in the fading moments of the hunt. 
Clay Newcomb giant manitoba whitetailThe buck had lots of mass, just what you're looking for in a Canadian whitetail. The buck weighed 248 pounds. 
clay newcomb giant canadian whitetail The buck was 18.5 inches wide with 5-inch bases and 10.5 inch G2s. Certainly an older-age-class buck! Just what Clay was after.  

incredible mass manitoba whitetail

The buck had incredible mass. The G2 on the left side was bladed and nearly two inches wide and ten inches long. 

Look for the hashtag #huntfishmb for more great content and opportunities to hunt in Manitoba Canada. 

Visit for more information on hunting whitetail deer in Manitoba.

Giant Bear Harvested in Oklahoma

By Clay Newcomb


Watch the VIDEO: 

Listen to the Podcast:

            October 1st is a day I won’t soon forget.  Five years of effort and hustle culminated into my best day of bear hunting. I was bear hunting on private land in Oklahoma for my fifth year. In 2015 I took a 360-pound 20 8/16” bear and was thrilled, however there was a larger bear on the property that I named Batman. He wasn’t just “bigger” he was a lot bigger. He was extremely wary and rarely showed up during the daytime. It's hard to beat an older-age boar's nose. They understand the game. They live long because they come in downwind when they approach the bait – it’s that simple. Or they are 100% nocturnal. They rarely make mistakes. I knew to harvest this bear I was going to have to get extremely lucky, or find a way to be totally scent free - and luck can't be trusted. Your typical “wash your clothes” in scent free soap and spray down is a joke in the bear woods when you’re after a world-class bear.

Giant oklahoma black bear

Rare daylight image of the giant Oklahoma black bear named Batman. Pictures like this are pure gold for a bear hunter. For five years we've been getting pictures of this bear but haven't been able to harvest him. Several years he's been almost completely nocturnal. Note the Redneck Blind in the background.

clay newcomb oklahoma bear hunting

Clay Newcomb with "Batman" the 550-pound Oklahoma black bear he harvested on October 1st, 2018. Clay used a Redneck Blind to contain his scent while hunting the giant bear. 

        I thought about building an airtight blind that I could sleep inside of to stay on these bears when the season opened. Then it occurred to me, “There already is one….Redneck Blinds.” I contacted the guys at Redneck and discussed my plan to see if they thought it would work. “Will these blinds contain your scent?” I asked TJ Pugh at Redneck.

            “Almost 100%.” He said. The windows and door are sealed with rubber gaskets. I knew it would be hot with all the windows closed, but it would be worth it for a giant bear. I drove to Lamar, Missouri and brought back a Redneck Buck Palace blind in early August. I won’t spill the beans of the all the details of the setup and the hunt until a later issue of Bear Hunting Magazine – I harvested Batman at 6:21 p.m. on the first evening of the hunt. He never knew I was in there. It worked.

            Batman weighed 550 pounds on a digital scale and had a wingspan of eight feet (claw to claw in front). He was seven feet nose to tail. His skull green scores 20 2/16”. This is the largest body-weight bear I’ve ever taken. He was a true monarch and I felt privileged to breath the same air as him for the fleeting minutes I got to watch him.  

clay newcomb giant oklahoma black bear

Giant old boars indicate a healthy bear population. This giant Oklahoma black bear has a wingspan of 8 feet! Nose to tail he was 7 feet. Check out Bear Hunting Magazine for the full story. 
clay newcomb 550 pound oklahoma black bear The bear weighed 550 pounds on a digital scale. 

         Hunting older age class boars is a privilege and a testament to the management and conservation happening in Oklahoma. These big bears are “indicator animals” that tell us the habit is good and the population dynamics are strong. Hunters are the good guys who love and value wildlife more than any other people on the planet. Yesterday I went back to the property and felt a tinge of sadness that Batman wasn’t still roaming the property, but I knew in his absence other bears would thrive and another MONARCH-KING of the bear woods would take his place. Long live the beast….

clay newcomb giant oklahoma black bear

Clay was shooting a 250-grain Iron Will broadhead. He got tremendous penetration on the giant Oklahoma black bear. 

clay newcomb oklahoma black bear Orion Coolers

The wildlife related commodities that we get from bear are amazing! Check out this rack of ribs! Clay's planning to put these on the smoker!

You’ll be able to read a detailed article about this hunt in a 2019 issue of Bear Hunting Magazine. You’ll be able to hear a play-by-play podcast I recorded in the Redneck blind during the hunt by next week! (Bear Hunting Magazine Podcast) I even recorded the shot! Lastly, you’ll be able to watch the hunt on the Bear Hunting Magazine YouTube Channel in a few weeks.

Watch us setup the Redneck blind here: 

Check out Northwoods Bear Products. I relied heavily upon them for this hunt:

Special Thanks to Aaron at Outdoor American Archery in Springdale for letting me borrow his bow!!!

A bear camp full of firsts makes this journey to the North Woods an epic experience!


By: Brian Strickland

Check out this link for great Quebec Outfitters:


I really didn’t know what to expect when the wheels touched down at Montreal’s international airport. First off, whenever you travel to another country, even though it’s just across our northern border, it’s an adventure in and of itself. Preparing just for the initial journey seems to take on a whole new meaning, let alone the worries of luggage arriving when you do, delays, layovers and making sure you bring everything you need to help make the hunt successful. Furthermore, when I invited the fetching Mrs. Strickland  to accompany me on this North Wood’s adventure, you want the whole affair to go as planned. 

Lake Susie lodge in quebec

 The cabin the author stayed in at Lake Suzie Lodge in Quebec.

Prior to this, I had traveled to Canada several times to hunt bears and whitetails, and on all but one of those I made the long drive from my Colorado home. The one time I decided to fly I ended up waiting nearly two days for my bow to arrive behind me. Needless to say, when our feet touched the sweet Canadian soil on this trip, we were more than happy to see that all our luggage had arrived as planned. It was now time to jump into the rental car and start the eight hour journey north into the Canadian Boreal forest. 


When I was invited by Quebec Outfitters ( to hunt with Serge Dapra of Lake Suzie Outfitter (, I was more than eager to accept. Not only do I love hunting the most overlooked big game animal in North America, the Ursus Americanus, but I also truly love my hunting brethren north of the border. Every time I have ventured Canada, the hunting experience has been exceptional, and the people even better. After talking with Serge several times over the phone, I knew that this experience would be as good as all the rest.


Quebec is the largest province in Canada and is over 600,000 square miles. Its Boreal forest provides ideal bear habitat and is known for providing high success rates on black bears. An added bonus is Quebec’s 500,000-plus lakes with the vast majority of them brimming with lake trout, walleye and northern pike, just to name a few. Although Quebec is often overlooked as a trophy bear destination, a 250 to 300-plus pound bruin is a real possibility.  


Witnessing the changing topography as we drove north was stunning and the planned eight hour drive ended up taking us ten as we took in every ounce of the scenery. The farther north we drove the more remote it became as the paved roads turned into two-track logging roads in some cases. When we saw a moose lazily feeding in some un-named lake and a black flash of bear hide dart across the road, I knew that bear camp was just around the corner. After getting settled into our comfortable cabin, slinging a few arrows and enjoying an evening meal, we dozed off eager to get started the following day. 


One of the best things about bear camps are the people you come into contact with, and this one was no different. I’ll admit, when I first started hunting over three decades ago I was more of a solitary hunter and frankly preferred it. However, as my hair has slowly grayed and face began to wrinkle, so has my outlook of a hunt. Sure, my ultimate goal is to punch a tag, but making new friends and seeing the expressions on their face as they relive the excitement of a hunt has become just as important.


A Camp Full of Firsts


It wasn’t long before I learned that camp was full of first-time bear hunters, and when Tennessee hunter Torey Helton pulled into camp with his first bear, I knew he had a story to share. Like many, a Canadian bear hunt had been on Torey’s bucket list for a long time, and when he gifted his dad Elbert a bear hunt for his 70th birthday, Torey decided it was a good time to check off the hunt as well.


Torey had never seen a bear in the wild before and was eager to get started on his first hunt. Needless to say, he was a little disappointed when nothing slipped into the bait that first evening. When he arrived to hunt the same stand the following afternoon, he could tell nothing had hit the bait since he had left previously. Admittedly, he was a little disappointed.


Torey hunted hard for several hours, scanning the woods for any hint of movement but after sitting like a statute for several hours he had to stand and stretch. Feeling that the coast was clear, he began to stand and as soon as he did he noticed a pair of black eyes staring at him from 30 yards away. Because this was the first bear he had ever seen, he really didn’t have a baseline on which to judge his size, but his big head and plump body told him that he was big enough. As the bear eased towards the bait and Torey thought about grabbing his .270, but every time he tried the bear would stop and stare up at him. This cat and mouse game went on several times, preventing Torey from grabbing his rifle before the bruin slipped out of sight.

quebec black bear hunting

Andy with a great bear killed at Lake Susie Lodge in Quebec.  

Hunting is about highs and lows, and this encounter was definitely a low point for Torey. But like any season hunted, he knew another opportunity would come and a couple hours later it did. When Torey saw black hide coming up the same trail the first bear left on, he initially thought it was the same bruin and this time he was ready! As the bear stepped into the open the sling on Torey’s gun made a “ping” when it hit the stand. The bear immediately looked up and Torey could tell he was about to leave.


Upon squeezing the trigger the bear flipped on his back to Torey’s relief, but seconds later jumped back on his feet and bounded away. Concerned at first that he might have muffed a second opportunity with a poor shot, but was quickly relieved when he heard the distinct death moan seconds later.


Remembering a Friend


When I arrived back at camp on the third evening of my hunt, I was greeted by yet another first bear event, and this one was special. Serge Lestage calls northern Quebec home, and he first met Gilles Taillefer while on his family’s annual summer fishing trip. Serge was only 14 years old when they first met and in his young eyes Gilles was a giant of a man. Standing some 6-foot 2-inches tall, and pushing 200-plus pounds, Gilles was the iconic sportsman who hunted and hooked virtually every game animal or fish that Canada had to offer.


Every summer he spent time with Gilles during the family vacation, and over the years they became great friends despite their 24 year age difference. Although they never hunted big game together, they started to plan a trip to the Quebec bush when Gilles was diagnosed with cancer. After a tough three-year battle, Gilles passed away.

Lake Suzie bear hunting in quebec

 A beautiful black bear taken at Lake Suzie in Quebec. 

Surge had never hunted big game before, but like any good friend he wanted to finish what he and Gilles had started. With a rare .303 1941 Lee Enfield rifle that Gilles had left him, Surge found himself in a treestand hoping for a successful finish. On the second night of the hunt, Surge had a good bear show up, but having never hunted bears before he let him walk not knowing what a “good” bear really was. He later learned it as a great bear after showing the video of the bear to the outfitter.


A couple days later Surge had another opportunity at a good bear at a different bait site but this time he didn’t hold back. When he let the World War I British .303 bark, the bear flipped on its side and died just five steps from the bait. Like Gilles always said, “aim small miss small.” Surge did just that.


A Second Chance


I was down to the last days of my hunt when Pennsylvania Bowhunter Andy Granger rolled into camp. Like many of the others, this was also his first bear hunt, as well as his first time to Canada’s Boreal forest, and he was taking in every inch of it. After serving as a combat engineer is Iraq, whose job was to locate and destroy Improvised Explosive Devises, he had seen and heard things that put life into perspective. While he enjoys every aspect of the hunt, as a recent Sitka film so eloquently put it, the woods have become Andy’s “Place of Peace.” A place where he can forget about some of the awful things he experienced, if only for a little while. 


Andy’s first night on stand was action packed. He saw a total of five bears, one of which he knew at first sight was the kind he was after. He caught the bear’s pumpkin-sized head staring at him just a few yards away as he stood on his hind-legs resting his paws on a tree. As much as Andy would have loved to end his hunt on the first night, it just wasn't meant to be. The heavy coal-black body never paused at the bait like Andy expected, so all he could do was watch him fade into the bush.

walleye fishing at lake suzie lodge in quebec

 A full stringer of walleye's at Lake Suzie Lodge in Quebec. You fish after you bear hunt!

Needless to say, Andy’s anticipation was high the following days but he never saw another bear. Rainy weather seemed to be the biggest culprit for the lack of bear activity, and when he climbed into his stand that final day, it was much the same. For five hours he sat in a bone-soaking, cold, steady rain and was seriously considering throwing in the towel when a flash of black hide appeared in the bush. As the bear stood on his hind-legs once again, Andy could tell it was the same bear from the first day. It was obvious that the bear knew something wasn’t right, so with a hairraising grunt the walked away.


The next couple of minutes the bear would enter the bait site and then walk away, leaving Andy without a shot. The once mentally draining hunt had completely flipped upside down, and all Andy could do was hope his determination would be rewarded.


When the bear came in the third time he made a critical mistake when reaching his paw forward to move a log that was covering the bait. Fully exposed Andy pressed his Matthews bow into service and touched his release, putting an end to his Quebec adventure. 


I would love to end my recount of Quebec’s Boreal Bruins with another bear hide collected, meat in the freezer and the excitement of a hard-earned prize, but sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Surge and his guide Mario worked exceptionally hard to pull a mature bruin into range by keeping the baits full, as well as fresh, but with only a couple bears seen the first six days, I was down to my last.


Like magic his black hide appeared from the bush with just minutes to spare, and as I watched him ease into range I couldn’t help but think how this was the perfect ending to my Quebec odyssey. When the string touched my nose I released, and in a flash the arrow was gone. I told myself it was a good release, but the low impact of my arrow told me otherwise. The blood trail eventually ran out, as well as my time in the Quebec bush, but with a camp full of bear hunting firsts, and new friends, I was still pleased with the outcome.


Outfitter Sidebar


Lake Suzie Outfitter (

Surge Dapra loves hunting black bears, but also offers moose hunts in the fall. Being a bowhunter himself, he knows what a bowhunter needs in order to get close for a quality shot. Surge has been outfitting since 2008 and has exclusive outfitting rights to over 160 square miles of the northern Quebec bush, and when you add the 250 square miles of public land that surrounds him that gets virtually no hunting pressure from the locals, you have a chunk of ground to hunt. To top it off, he has access to over 100 lakes that are filled with exceptional walleye and northern pike fishing opportunities. Needless to say, a successful spring bear hunt can quickly turn into a rod-bending adventure on these remote lakes.

Lake Suzie lodge in quebec



Sep 10 2018

How to Render Bear Fat [VIDEO]

By Clay Newcomb


            Historically, rendered bear fat was a valuable commodity because it didn’t go rancid as quickly as pork fat, and was even used a medium of currency in many parts of the American frontier. The rendered fat of a bear symbolizes much more than just “fat.” It symbolizes the biological success of a species that was designed to live, adapt, and thrive in the rugged wilderness that we all appreciate so deeply. The fat of a bear symbolizes success. The feat of harvesting a bear once meant that your family would be well-stocked throughout the winter. It meant that the challenges of living in the Northern hemisphere would be less severe. A bear is a master at gathering calories and storing them. In the same token, those calories can be transferred to the hunter through this ancient ritual we call “hunting”. There was a time when the people in North America were trying to put ON calories, not take them OFF. Bear meat is rich source of organic, healthy caloric content.

In this episode of “From The Global Headquarters” Bear Hunting Magazine publisher, Clay Newcomb, shows how he renders bear fat into oil using a Fry Daddy. Just for kicks, Clay uses a bear baculum to stir the fat (baculum = penis bone). He and a friend just got back from All Terrain Bear Hunts in Manitoba and harvested the fat off a large bear. There are many practical uses for bear fat including cooking and lubrication, but also some folklorie-ish type uses including a baldness remedy and a using a clear jar of fat in a window to forecast the weather. This video shows all the steps for rendering bear fat. Here is the link to the

            The rendered fat of a bear, known as “bear grease”, was once an extremely valuable commodity financially and practically. In the 1800’s, and before, in most of North America there were no regulations on hunting and market hunters harvested bruins in excess. One of the main objectives of these entrepreneurs was to make ‘bear grease’. Bear hunting in many regions of the country was a lucrative business, especially where the bear commodities could be exported effectively to urban markets. One small town in Independence County, Arkansas, named Oil Trough, got its name because of the volume of rendered bear fat it produced. Records show that in the mid 1800’s bear grease could be sold for $1 per gallon and it was measured in “ells”. An ell was a unit of measurement used to contain, transport and measure the oil and it was made from the tanned neck of a deer/ The rendered bear fat or bear grease had many valuable uses back then and still does today.

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By Jacob VanHouten

This article appeared in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Bear Hunting Magazine

“Never give up” was the last thing I said before giving it “one more shot” at finding the lost black bear I and two others had been looking for the last 4-5 hours. The bear had been shot the previous night with a crossbow bolt at 16 yards. The hunter was sure he had made a killing shot with a clean pass through from a broadside angle.

            The arrow was located with blood on shaft and fletching…but only a small trace of visible blood at the shot location.  One pin-size drop of blood was located about 30 yards away and that was it.  The three of us had made numerous circles, grids, and moose trail searches without any luck. As we sat on a stump trying not to sweat to death in the Ontario August heat, I told the group I was making another run at it. 

blood trailing dogs

            Following a well-used bear trail that I had already checked out, I went about 200 yards until it slowly dissipated. I decided to “bush whack” and headed at a right angle towards a ridge…meandering through the path of least resistance, I went at least another 300 yards past the trail and there he was. Lying on its back was a nice big (400 lbs. plus) boar. The shot had entered well, but had angled out his groin and the wound had not bled at all externally.  It was eventually a lethal shot, but I had really gotten lucky (the harder you work, the luckier you get) and so had the hunter who had given up hope of ever finding his trophy bear. Getting that bear back to the boat and into camp is a whole other story. 

            After that experience and several “unrecovered” deer, I made a decision to do something about finding lost big game.




            If you are a bear hunter, (especially hunting over bait), the loss of a bear may either happen to you or someone you know during your hunting life.  An underutilized method to increase your odds of recovery may include the use of a tracking dog. I am not talking about traditional “bear hounds” used to run and tree. I am talking about “blood tracking” dogs following a bow, crossbow, rifle or shotgun wounded animal.

            The first time I observed a “blood tracking” dog was while volunteering as a deer tracker for limited mobility hunters participating in a NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen deer hunt.  Held during the first three days of the rifle season, the hunt allowed hunters to have a chance at bagging a buck or doe with the assistance of staff and volunteers. One of the volunteers brought along his dog, “Gus.”  Several volunteers and hunters were watching Gus, the “different looking” dog, wander around the meeting site greeting people as they arrived.

            “What kind of dog is that?” people would ask.  Gus turned out to be a standard wirehaired Dachshund.  To the untrained eye, this handsome dog did not appear to be a “wiener dog,” which is what most people think of when they hear “Dachshund” (and don’t say “dash hound”), in either size or appearance. 

            After a group of us “master tracker” volunteers could not locate a participant’s wounded deer, Gus came in and found the deer, with absolutely no visible blood, in less than 20 minutes. This was a serious “wow” moment for me. I kept the memory of that experience tucked away.  Fast-forward 10 years, after sharing the experience with my brother-in-law and loaning him the book:  Tracking Dogs for finding Wounded Deer by John Jeanneney, he purchased a pup. He had great success with his dog, which convinced me.


Background in using tracking dogs for finding wounded game


            The aforementioned book was written by the man that may be considered the “father” of on-leash tracking dogs in the U.S., John Jeanneney of Berne, New York.  First of its kind and in its 2nd edition (2016), his book provides everything needed to start using tracking dogs to recover wounded big game. Richard P. Smith (well-known Michigan native bear man) considers this book a “ground breaking volume” and also says, “This book should be required reading by all state and provincial commissions and administrators who are also responsible for setting regulations regarding the recovery with dogs.”

            A retired university history professor, John Jeanneney is a hunter, tracker, dog trainer/breeder (of wirehaired dachshunds) and author.  John began tracking deer in 1976 after being granted a research license from New York State’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation. Since that time, he has personally recorded over 1,000 deer “calls” for deer tracking/recovery, as well as numerous bear recoveries

            If interested in finding out more, the group United Blood Trackers ( provides a good starting point. They are “dedicated to promoting resource conservation through the use of trained tracking dogs in the ethical recovery of big game.”  The term “blood tracking” is most often used, even though it can be misleading in that usually when called into action, the dog will be on a track where there is little or no blood present.  With experience and training, dogs can track individual wounded animals by other scents. Although primarily used to recover whitetail, tracking dogs are used for many big game animals such as bear, moose, elk and hogs.




  1. Wounded bears many times leave little visible blood, but their strong scent makes them easy to track as far as dachshunds are concerned. They adapt almost immediately, even if they have never tracked a bear… although the dog may give you a “funny look” at first.
  2. Bears should not be tracked with a dog at night when visibility is poor.
  3. In my experience, mortally wounded bears won’t travel as far as deer, so if the track goes on for “miles” (literally), the bear will most likely recover and the tracking job can end.
  4. Most dogs that track wounded deer will track wounded bear without any specialized training.
  5. Bears can be hard to track by eye, but they are easy for a dog because the body and pad scent of the bear is overwhelmingly strong. 


The Puppy


            After the decision to purchase was made, the application and other paperwork was complete and accepted (yes, this is serious business), my wife and I made the trip to New York to meet John and his wife Jolanta (publisher/editor Teckel Time, Inc., to pick up our new puppy. Jolanta and John are an incredible couple that truly care about who will purchase one of their puppies and will spend at least half a day with the new owners demonstrating training techniques and other priceless information. The Jeanneney’s only offer one or two litters of puppies per year, so it is not cheap and not easy to acquire, but we were very happy to get one on June 3rd of this year.

            Seeing our pup for the first time in his pen with 5 other puppies, we fell in love with “Jager”… pronounced “Yager,” (the “a” has an umlaut in German), which translates to: “Hunter.” It was chosen due to his lineage being direct from Germany (the breed itself was developed there to hunt badgers and foxes. Dachshund translates into English as: badger hound). Tommy, the sire Dachshund for Jager, is a proven deer and bear tracker and came directly from Germany. 

            John and Jolanta spent time showing us how to use a liver and blood “drag” line to train our young puppy.  At only 9 weeks old, Jager readily followed a one hour-old line, which included three 90-degree turns.  Jager is a born tracker and is now a very happy member of our family.  He has made many dragline tracks since and is currently 5 months old and will be ready for his first real test this fall.  My family jokes that I got this dog only for “poor shooting relatives.”  Not true, but if needed, I am confident that Jager will be ready to try his first recovery this fall.

tracking dogs


Training and Use of Tracking Dogs


            There are many breeds of dogs that can be used for tracking bear and/or deer. These include the scent hounds such as dachshunds, beagles, bloodhounds, coonhound; pointers/retrievers like labs, golden retrievers, Chesapeakes; curs/border collies; and old breeds like jack russell terriers and German shepherds.  All have their own advantages and disadvantages, of course.

            The dachshund has shown to be a formidable and versatile breed for tracking wounded bear, deer and other big game. With their innate hunting sense, training of a newly purchased dachshund puppy can lead to an excellent chance of developing a usable tracking hound, by reinforcing natural instincts, basic obedience training, and motivating and encouraging a young pup, as well as “on lead.”

            The owner/handler must work in tandem as a team with the tracking dog. Communication with the hunter is important to determine perceived shot location or “wound” which will add to the successful conclusion of any track. Young dogs can be started on a “drag line” of liver and blood and even the preferred German technique of using “Fahrtenshuhe” (Tracking Shoes) which uses an actual deer leg attached to a boot or shoe.  The leg from an individual deer must always be used as dogs recognize individual deer through the interdigital gland found between the hoofs.  A 30-foot lead that does not easily catch on brush can be used (different types of line/rope are used).  Typical rewards at the end of a dragline include “nibbles” on the liver, hide/skin or leg.

            Like any other dog/handler “team,” it is essential that they work together closely. Each can recognize in the other behaviors that will result in the positive outcome of a wounded game animal tracking event, which is of course what the hunter is hoping for, either in the location of the wounded game, or the determination that the shot/wound was not lethal.


Learning more


            Obviously there is much to know and learn about tracking wounded big game such as bear and deer. Many books and videos are now available (other than the previously mentioned book), but a few other good books include: Tom Brown’s The Science and Art of Tracking (Berkley, 1999); Richard P. Smith’s Tracking Wounded Deer, How to Find and Tag Deer Shot with Bow and Gun (Stackpole Books 1988); and Niels Sonergaard’s Scent and the Scenting Dog (Denmark, 2006).

            As previously mentioned, the group United Blood ( is also a good place to inquire and gain further information, including “Find-a-Tracker” listing and regulations for each state that allows the use of tracking dogs.

            This season and in the future, whether using a bow, rifle, shotgun, crossbow or black powder, make every attempt to make a good lethal shot. However, if not, consider utilizing a tracking dog (either of your own, or from an experienced handler… check state regulations as well) to make your recovery.  Good hunting.

By Steve Herd of Bluff Creek Plotts

This article was published in the July/Aug 2018 issue of Bear Hunting Magazine

I have been asked by Bear Hunting Magazine to write an article about my many thoughts and theories about breeding hounds. To some, the process of breeding two dogs requires little thought. Put the male with the female or the female with the male. I was asked to write this article because I have spent 65 years breeding, raising, hunting and writing about my life with the Plott Hound. I will attempt to provide some ideas about what I believe, and what I’ve learned and some theories that I have developed. If nothing more, I hope it will be entertaining.

Bluff Creek Plott bear hound

 A pair of Bluff Creek Plott hounds. 



            Many young hunters evolve from just owning and hunting hounds, to the next step of wanting to breed their hounds, and if successful, they may have the desire to continue the process through three or more generations in order to develop a strain. A strain or line of hounds usually shows traits the breeder feels are most important to him. The breeder of a strain has control of the steering wheel and can move his line in about any direction that he desires. Some will breed for more nose, more speed, or harder tree dogs. Some breed for physical traits including size, color, among many other things.        

            There are no breeding police to govern how we breed our dogs.

It’s almost impossible for any one breeder to begin a new breed of hound that raises to the top of what we identify as top hunting hounds. It is also extremely difficult to even maintain a line of dogs who are of the highest caliber for more than three generations.

            Much of what I write is blunt and some may not approve of my style, but in order to breed hounds worthy of the best houndsmen we have to break a few eggs.

History has proven that it is difficult for a breeder to breed beyond three generations without diminishing what they started with. The desire of most breeders to want to change, in some way, the traits of the hounds that they are breeding has most often ended in producing lesser hounds.

bluff creek bouncer steve herd

Steve Herd with Bluff Creek Bouncer. One of his earlier hounds. 

            I am going to try to provide a strategy for producing a line of hunting dogs who would suit most hunters and also who will breed true enough to provide generation after generation of similar dogs. If a man is lucky enough to start with a few dogs who very closely reflect his ideal, then he should attempt to maintain that line of dogs in almost every new generation. The old adage of “don’t fix it if it is not broken” applies. I pride my self in the fact that my dogs look and hunt like the long ago ancestors back 12 to 14 generations.

            The first requirement is that a hunter/breeder must have had the privilege of hunting with a top dog or dogs from his preferred breed. If you have never hunted with one of the phenoms (a dog has that outstanding talented and above and beyond the norm) of your breed than you may not fully understand the extreme talent that certain hounds have attained.  While I was just beginning my own breeding program in the early 1970’s, I traveled to hunt with the dogs and the hunters who had risen to the top of the country in reputation, so that I could see and evaluate what made these dogs so special. At times I was disappointed as some dogs were better in their owners eyes that in the woods, but in the process I got to hunt with some incredible dogs.

            My beginning of my life long journey started just before I turned five years old. My dad DeWayne Herd, bought an impeccably bred, 13-month-old  Plott female, whose sire, North Carolina Tom, was known as one of the early great bear dogs of the newly registered breed of Plott Hound. He was from the most famous cross of his time, Smithdeals Smoky to Smithdeals Cubby. This female’s mother was Von Plotts Fanny whose mother, Lady Plott is now considered one of the blue hens to the Plott breed. I have to mention this part of history because this female who was to be registered as Herds Rio Grande Trouble (RG Trouble), became the foundation of our breeding program, and her influence spread far and wide within a short 10-year period.

Bluff Creek Drive

            The early beginning of my intense belief in line breeding, in breeding and even family-breeding began after Dad had bred RG Trouble four times. Her first mating was to a non-related male (an outcross) and the pups were no more than mediocre and were used to breed on. They had no value as breeding dogs.

            Dad felt that in order to reproduce RG Troubles caliber he need to breed her to a male similar in ability but also in pedigree. He chose here next mate, Herds Smokey, who was already inbred to Lady Plott. Smokey was a son of Lady Plott but whose sire was also a son of Lady Plott. Many frowned upon breeding this tight, but dad wanted to raise the best pups available. It worked. This litter was of a very high caliber and can still be found in pedigrees. Next, Dad chose another male, Ozark Chief, who also was a grandson of Lady Plott. This cross produced so well that it can be found in most Plott pedigrees of today and would have to be considered one of the important frame works of the Plott breed.  RG Trouble was bred once more to a grandson of Lady Plott and once again it produced to the highest level.

            The results of breeding a line of hounds without the use of close line breeding or inbreeding can be argued, but to me the proof is so obvious that I can see no way to maintain a line of hounds without the use of such a great tool.

            After I got out of college, I was hunting with my dad and I got an obsessive desire to once again hunt the dogs and maybe start my own strain. I found it very difficult to find the caliber of Plott that I was searching for. I had three females and they were just very watered down versions of what I had grown up with. In order to tree coon here in Kansas I had to spot light them and encourage the dogs to tree. At about the point of giving up my dad got ahold of Everett Weems in Illinois. Dad bought me a nine-month-old Plott male. This male was tightly bred around the crosses that my dad had made 15 years earlier.


The Prototype: Jud


            I named him Jud and could quickly see that he was of the old time Plotts that I had spent my youth with. He was high-strung, gamey, barked a little too much at anything that moved. Any rabbit, cat, chicken, or loose dog set him off. I was afraid to turn him loose for the first two weeks. It was late fall and one night I took the three females a mile north up the creek and left Jud home. I hunted by myself and could not handle an extra rowdy dog. I had walked about a half mile toward my house when I could hear a dog treed. The females were still underfoot so I did not know what I was hearing. Upon arriving at the tree I found the Jud pup, still tied to the front of his doghouse, but which had been torn off the sides. He was treed solid and had three coon up. I was in disbelief. I unchained him and we continued the hunt and treed two more coon. By the end of the season Jud tree over 90 more coon. He was completely straight on coon and he never even bumped anything else. If I attempted to bobcat hunt him he would pull off and tree a coon. He would never leave a tree and so at the end of a long hunt I would have to go get him. He became my proto type. I had to have more like him.

Everett Weems and Steve Herd

Everett Weems and Steve Herd. Steve got a pup from Everett named Jud that became a big part of his bear hound breeding program. 

            I began to study his long six-generation pedigree to see how a dog could be that complete in all the traits. It was with that beginning that I began my long adventure and complete obsession of breeding his type hound. Here are my thoughts, theories, beliefs, experiences, and advice on breeding better hounds.


How to Breed Better Bear Hounds


Establish a prototype - Find a dog who excels on your preferred species of game. If you cannot buy such a dog, use his offspring to begin your line. If you find such a dog spend time with the owner or especially the breeder, to find out how they produced a dog of that caliber. You must have a solid example of what you expect in a dog. As described, Jud was my template to begin my program. I found two females who were half sisters to Jud and bred them to a littermate male to Jud’s mother. The crosses worked in my first attempt. Those two litters were solid coon, cat, and bear dogs with dogs like Bearpath Gunner, Allheart Millie, Bluff Creek Sarge, Becky, Jody, etc. gaining national attention.

Crossing the best of those two tightly bred litters together again established my strain and I am now in my 8th generation and if you include my dads contribution, we are at 11 generations.


Words of advice for Breeding Bear Hounds


            Begin with the very best specimen of the breed that you can possibly find. Never settle for less than you want to spend your hard earned dollars and boot leather on. Let your experiences begin to build you judgment on what is good and what is great. Never let yourself be fooled by the difference between common and what is exceptional. When you have dogs worthy of breeding, and you get your first litter, study it. Picking the exceptional pup or pups from a litter is difficult but not impossible. Selection is a “gut” feeling at first and over the years and generations it becomes a gut feeling from experience. If you have the luxury of keeping a whole littler until they are around three months old, then it will be far easier to choose your next generation. If you are happy with the ancestors that are stacked behind your litter then use those ancestors as your pattern by choosing pups who closely resemble the parents and grandparents. Any attempt to change the looks, size, color, build, or physical characteristics from that of the ancestors may also have a negative impact on the hunting traits of the pups.

            Most outstanding hunting hounds from any breed have been bred, and hunted, and culled for many generations by hard hunters and master breeders until, if mated correctly, they can reproduce themselves at a very high percentage.

            As mentioned earlier, the tight crossing of dogs from the same family, having multiple common ancestors, is called family breeding. When breeding closer than that, using very close ancestors or multiple siblings in a short pedigree it is called linebreeding. The most risky but also the most rewarding in my experience is inbreeding. This is breeding 1/2 brother to sister mating. Mating a grandaughter to her grand sire, or grandson to his grandmother. At one time it was believed that such close mating’s would always bring out many unwanted, negative traits that weakened the offspring - well part of that is true. By close breeding many unwanted traits did surface, but the master breeder used that occurrence to cleanse his line. Pups and at times, even one or more of the parents were culled.

            Breeding tightly around closely related, outstanding, “purified”, mates sooner or later provided the breed with a male or female who were considered “pre-potent.” A pre-potent animal was so loaded up with the genetics that he stamped his desired ability into many offspring. The pre-potent traits could be physical traits easily identified by the naked eye (phenotype), or they could be hunting and behavior traits not identified until exposed to game and hunting conditions (genotype). The top males of a breed are exposed to far more females and can produce far more offspring in their reproductive life than a female. However a female can also be a pre-potent mate and when a male and female, both from the same family or line, both possessing the gift of pre-potency are mated to each other then we expect and often see offspring from that cross becoming what we like to call PHENOMS.

            My Jud male was from a pre-potent male and a highly pre-potent female. The level of his performance equaled both his sire and dams. I have been asked if a dog can be pre-potent if not from a tightly bred, line bred style pedigree. I am not aware of a dog from the breed of Plott hound that was pre-potent to desired traits, that was from an outcross pedigree. Some dogs produced size, color, behavior problems and other noticeable traits from many different mates but these were more of a mutation from the standard of the breed than a desired trait.


One of my less popular theories on Breeding Bear Hounds


Color and Hunting Ability - I believe, from past experiences, that color can and often does play a part in the hunting ability and the reproduction quality of certain lines of tightly bred hounds. I am convinced that some performance traits are somehow linked to the color of the dog. In my strain a light brindle dog will usually not have the nose power of the dark brindle mates. The light brindle will have more of a locating ability and possibly a sharper intelligence. If selecting pups for a coonhunter I will send the lighter brindle. If sending a young dog to a bear hunter or lion hunter I would pick a very dark individual. When talking to many, hard core, top bear or big game hunters over the nation, I find that many agree completely and search out the darker brindle dogs. We feel that the gene to produce the lighter brindle is attached to the gene that has some control over the nose and other hunting traits.

BLuff Creek Donna and Bearpath Gunner

Bluff Creek Donna and Bearpath Gunner were both great bear hounds that came out of Bluff Creek kennels. 


Size - After hunting with a breed of hounds for many generations, an observant hunter must see that there certain physical traits that effect a hound by making him more competent or less. So many people just like a big dog. I have known breeders who always kept the biggest pup from each litter. If bigger means leggy, then I understand as it takes good legs to fly on a track, but I could never see how a large boned, heavy, houndy-eared dog could be expected to compete with a more athletic dog. At one time the Plott breed was nearly overtaken by the 80 to 90-pound male dogs who did not represent the breeding done in the past to produce this breed of hound. Carrying an extra four to ten pounds can handicap a 1200-pound Thoroughbred horse. I feel a dog is also handicapped by too much bulk.


Looks - Another far-fetched theory of mine is that often a dog can be pre-judged by looking in his eyes. An intelligent, shiny eyed dog who seems to just “look right through you” is one of the unwritten qualities that you may have not read but it has been discussed throughout my life by the old timers. The hound who looks like his name might be dumbo, might be missing some of the grey matter that is needed to make all of his genetics work. Intelligence can at times be a noticeable trait according to the look in the eyes.

            Breeders of champion livestock including, champion horses, champion milk cows, grand champion swine, and even into the world of dogs, only have to bred for a few traits. Bare with me, a show dog just has to look real good or a greyhound just has to run fast. The breeder only has to breed for a very few traits. Establish that one or two traits and breed to embellish it and you are almost home.

            I know of no other animal that has to be bred to the same level of excellence for SO many traits as the trail/tree hound. List the traits of the best of any breed and it goes on forever; nose to trail, intelligence to follow a track hours old, speed to gain on the pursued game, straightness to not run off game, locating ability to find the smallest game up the biggest tree, treeing traits to keep a dog treed for hours, courage to stop big game on the ground with or without help, temperament to not clash with other dogs even though they may be rough under a tree for hours, conformation for speed, tough, tight feet for soundness, stamina, a voice clear and loud enough to allow the hunter to follow (before Garmin)...the list goes on. It may be easy to produce hounds that are not complete; who are used as pack dogs but this article is about producing to the top of the breed. A really true balanced dog, who has it all in ability traits but also physical traits, has to be considered one of the greatest of mans accomplishments in the animal world.


One last trait: DESIRE - I discovered in my first attempt of breeding hounds that in order to bring to life all of the genetics that a dog may possess, that there is a fuel to ignite all of those genes. It is DESIRE. My first great dogs all possessed this trait in spades. At times it was difficult to put up with a dog who would put their desire above their own safety. Digging into the earth to fight a denned coon on a riverbank. Trailing down a high way through traffic with no thought of quitting. Continuing to hunt with severe injuries or caked with ice in 10 degree temps. The desire to hunt with no pad left on their feet. A dog with super desire can almost always be usable because they may overpower their weaknesses with sheer determination driven by desire.


I hope that this article is an enjoyable read even if many will not be in agreement with many of my thought on breeding dogs.


Herds Rio Grande Trouble and Chief

Herds Rio Grande Trouble and Chief were some of the original Plotts owned by Steve's father.


By Bernie Barringer

Black Bear Hunting using Bait

Early in my education as a bear hunter I had read several things about doing a honey burn. I became convinced I had to use this technique, so I planned it as my ace in the hole when opening day arrived.

I had a couple bears coming to my bait site and my scouting camera showed that one was fairly consistent in coming to the bait in the last moments of legal shooting light. When opening day arrived, I loaded up my gear, including the materials to do a honey burn. When I arrived at the stand, I started the burn just as the experts had instructed me to.

A couple hours later, a bear appeared on the outskirts of the area, first as nothing more than a dark spot that moved through a small opening. Then I saw it again, sitting on its haunches up on the hillside overlooking the bait. He had the wind in his favor and he wasn’t moving. Smugly, I thought my idea of doing the honey burn was going to be just the inducement I needed to bring in this obviously cautious bear.

baiting black bears

Hunting black bears over bait is a great way to be selective when bear hunting. 

But it was not to be. He disappeared a while later and never appeared at the bait. Looking back over the many years since that day, I am now convinced that the honey burn was the reason he did not come in.

Bears become well accustomed to the sights, scents and smells of the bait site. Within the first couple visits, they have it figured out. I like to call it the “bait package.” The package includes everything to do with the bait itself and the movements of the humans and animals—including but not limited to—the other bears using the bait.

They eventually get comfortable with the bait package, and the more comfortable they are the more likely they are to approach the bait during daylight hours. If anything seems off, such as a new smell or sight, the more cautious bears, especially more mature males, may just use that as a reason to back off and wait a while before coming in.

Having the benefit of another 15 years of experience since the day I used that honey burn, I can see that what I did was really throw that bear a curveball. He hadn’t smelled that particular scent in all the other times he had arrived at the site, so he just decided his desire to get the good food wasn’t worth the commitment.

Lending credibility to that belief is the evidence from the trail cameras. He didn’t come back for a few days and then only after dark.

Over the years I have been quite cautious about the scents around my bait sites. I often bait for family and friends, and I involve them in the baiting a few times so their scent becomes part of the bait package.

In what some might consider a move that’s overkill, I keep track of which types of lures I use at bait sites and try not to vary it too much. I open most all my baits with a mixture of cooking oil and Northwoods Gold Rush, an additive to the cooking oil that makes it smell like butterscotch. I’ll pick another spray scent for the bait and use it on the bushes all around the bait. For fall bear hunting, I like the fruit smells such as blueberry, cherry, raspberry and sweet smells such as Gold Mist, which smells just like Gold Rush.

As the baiting period goes on, I grab the same bear lure as I head into the bait site so I am not mixing things up too much. The trails become obvious over time, so I spray the bushes along the trails with the scent, which causes the bear to get it on their fur so they smell it all the time. It comes a part of their daily lives and gives them a feeling of comfort around the bait.

Older bears can be super cautious, so tossing a different smell at them from time to time can really put them on edge. Don’t give them any excuse to become edgy and possibly go nocturnal on you. Once they do, it’s very difficult to get them off the nighttime pattern. I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of bears who come more boldly to the site in the daylight when everything is more consistent.

Consistency in what time of the day you bait is important as well. Bears often smell your ground scent on the trail you use to approach the bait, and they know how old it is. If you normally bait, say, between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. the bears expect your ground scent to be five hours old when they arrive at 7:00 p.m., for example. Consistency gives them a feeling of safety. Don’t mess too much with your timing.

The same is true for the day you hunt. If they are accustomed to smelling five-hour-old scent but the day you hunt you come in at 5:00 p.m. and the bear comes at 7:00 p.m. as usual, suddenly your scent is much fresher. Any reason you can give them to exercise a little more caution might cause them to back off, and that’s never a good thing.

If you’ve bear hunted very long, you have noticed a bear that tends to circle around a bait site before committing. That’s not to say they will make an entire loop, but mature bears often walk a path along the downwind side of the bait site to check it out. They want to know if any other bears are at the site, they also want to know if the fresh food is there. And they are checking for anything out of the ordinary.

I’ve noticed that many of these bears are not just winding the location, but I think they are intentionally crossing my entry trail. I am convinced that they are checking the age of my ground scent I left while walking in. If there’s little to no variation in the normal pattern, that’s one more box they can check off that makes them feel safe coming to the bait. It fits into the normal bait package.

Of course this brings up the issue that one day, suddenly you are at the bait when you never were before. This is the hardest part of the variation in bait package to overcome. There are three critical things that must be done to improve your chances of that bear committing to the bait: using the wind to your advantage, scent control and movement.

I’ll bet you that movement has saved the lives of far more bears than being winded. They have much better vision than most people realize, and their eyes are optimized for picking up the slightest movement. It’s critical to stay still on the stand because you never know when a bear may be in the area observing. It’s rare to see a bear before he sees you if you are swatting mosquitoes, messing with your phone or eating a sandwich.

I do my best to choose treestand locations where I can use the wind to my advantage, and there are a few baits that I will only hunt in certain winds. I’ve had two stands at some baits for varying wind directions. But mainly I minimize my scent impact by using scent-killing products. I’m not an advocate of any strategy that accepts the elimination of human scent, but there is value in reducing it. Scent Killer spray helps with this, as do scent killing laundry detergents and antibacterial soaps, shampoos and deodorants. Keep yourself clean and as free from human scent as is possible. It’s not magic, but it can tip the odds in your favor when a mature bear is deciding whether or not the bait site looks and smells safe enough to approach.

When it comes to baiting patterns, scents and lures, and human odor, you might as well let the bears pattern you. They are going to have your habits pegged no matter what you do and consistency offers them comfort. You might as well use their tendencies to analyze every aspect of the bait location to your advantage.

baiting black bears

Shot Placement for Black Bear Hunting 

Here are two video links to shot placement videos on the Bear Hunting Magazine Youtube Channel: &

By Clay Newcomb

This article was in the May/June 2018 issue of Bear Hunting Magazine

After all the work of getting within shooting distance of a big bear this spring, you’ll need confidence in your ability to make a great shot. Bears are big, tough animals that are unforgiving when hit bad. Many new bear hunters carry with them shot placement and strategy derived from experience deer hunting. It’s similar, but different. Bear anatomy is slightly different, but more importantly, a bear’s body structure allows for some odd angles and considerations that the bear hunter must understand. Here are five keys to making a great shot this spring.


Go For A Double-Lung Hit (Heart shots are overrated)


            Bears seem to always be moving, especially when you’re hunting them over bait. Perhaps it’s a predatory instinct in humans, but seeing our prey move makes us feel like we have to act quickly. The impulsiveness to rush the shot is probably the biggest mistake that a bear hunter can make. My favorite shot is a broadside or slightly quartering shot with the onside front shoulder forward or straight down. A broadside shot gives the most room for error and the greatest opportunity for the most lethal hit of all – a double lung shot. In my opinion, the “heart shot” is overrated. A double lung will often kill an animal quicker, it’s a larger target, and the organs are further away from big bones that stop penetration.

            A bear has the body structure to put himself in all types of odd shapes. He can be sitting on his rump like a dog, or be in a “cupped” shape with his head and rump closer to you than the torso.  He could be sprawled out lying on his belly. He could be standing up on two legs. All of these positions are much different than a deer. During the magic time when a bear is in shooting range, he’ll more often be in a bad-shooting position than he will be in a favorable one. You’ll need to be disciplined and wait for a broadside shot – especially the archers.

            Hunting with firearms for bear is more forgiving. A high shoulder hit will drop a bear, but I’d still suggest a double lung hit. If you’ve got a big caliber gun, a frontal shot square in the sternum is deadly, but requires precision. If you’ve got the time, my advice is to wait for a broadside shot with firearm and bow.

Shot placement on black bear 

This is the best diagram we've seen for truly understanding bear anatomy for black bear hunting. We did a neocropsy on this bear to really see where the organ were. Click this link for a video on shot placement:              

Prioritize Getting Two Holes


            Bears are notoriously hard to blood trail. Long hair and fat seem to soak up blood that would usually be on the ground and used for trailing. Additionally, they often inhabit thick, dense brush making tracking conditions difficult. Whether you’re shooting a rifle or a bow, prioritize getting an entrance and exit wound. With a rifle, shoot a bullet that maximizes penetration over expansion (see side bar about bullets). When archery hunting, use a broadhead that maximizes penetration. Personally, I don’t suggest expandable broadheads for bear. However, the biggest issue will be shot placement and shot angle.

            The best opportunity to get a pass-through shot is going to be when the bear is broadside. If he’s at a steep quartering angle you won’t get a pass through and you’ll be trailing a bear with single entry wound. If you’re hunting out of a treestand it will be a high wound, and will bleed very little. The bear will die quickly, but without a blood trail he might be hard to find! I almost didn’t recover the largest-skulled bear I’ve ever killed, even though he was less than 150 yards from where I shot him.  A steep angled, quartering-away shot from a treestand left me with only an entry wound and no blood.  Luckily, we stumbled upon the bear the next morning. If I’d waited for a broadside shot, I would likely recovered the bear within thirty minutes of the shot.  


Middle of the Middle?


            We published an article a few years ago titled “The Middle of the Middle.” Many Canadian outfitters have had great results instructing their clients with this descriptive phrase for shot placement. I can’t say that I disagree, but I would like to make a slight adjustment – “middle of the middle and then back towards the shoulder a few inches.” If you take the original phrase literally you’d be shooting towards the back edge of the lungs and directly at the liver. I like to aim bit closer to the shoulder without hugging it too tight. The reason for the popularity of this has to do with the greater margin of error. Also, it seems that a bear shot towards the front section of the “guts” usually dies fairly quickly. I’m not suggesting a gut shot, but it is better than a shoulder shot with archery equipment.  With a rifle your margin for error is larger, but it’s still a good option for a gun.

            I’ve personally done a necropsy on a bear and found the lungs to extend back to the second-to-last rib. A bear’s elongated frame translates to lungs that are slightly (and I mean slightly) further back than a deer. Many bear hunters have been indoctrinated by whitetail shot placement, and it doesn’t completely translate to bear. Aiming towards the middle-mass (from an up and down perspective) of the body cavity is important. In summary, I like to shoot about 4-5 inches back from the shoulder on a broadside bear. Bears are soft skinned and the rib bones are fairly light. The biggest threat to penetration is the front shoulder – stay away from it.

Shot placement on black bear

This diagram shows the middle-of-the-middle shooting philosphy.  Click this link to see a video on shot placement on bear:

Consider Hair and Fat: Don’t Shoot Too Low


            “Low and tight” to the shoulder is a great shot on a deer. Hunters typically aim low when bowhunting deer because they drop at the sound of the shot. A bear doesn’t have the same “flight” response as a deer, so aiming extremely low isn’t necessary and can even be bad. Bears can often have a thick layer of fat on their belly, and they also have long hair. The bottom silhouette of a bear is deceptive. You’ll need to aim well above it to get into the chest cavity! I’ve witnessed multiple bears wounded because the hunter tried to “heart shoot” them like a whitetail. A deer has short hair and little fat. A bear really isn’t as big as he looks because of hair and fat. Again, this takes us back to aiming at the middle mass, not towards the periphery of the animal.

            A low-hit bear will often bleed very well for a period of time, then the blood will begin to turn watery and eventually disappear. It’s easy to go on “auto-pilot” when a bear walks up. I once heard the phrase, “You won’t rise to the occasion, but you’ll default to your training.” You’ve got to intentionally train yourself where to aim on a bear.


Don’t Get “Blacked” Out


            The Boone-and-Crockett-class black bear sashayed into the bait with confidence. He was only 11 yards away when I drew the bow and looked through the peep. I could see the glowing pin well, but my sight window was full of black fur! I had no idea where I was aiming. More than once while bowhunting bears at close range using riflescopes and archery sights, I’ve had this harrowing experience. The black color absorbs shadows making it difficult to distinguish lines and body parts. Through the sight window I couldn’t tell where I was aiming. The lighter fur of other game animals helps highlight the body with defining shadows – not so on a bruin.

            What should you do? Be patient.  Pull your eye away from the scope or peep and look at the bear with your naked eye, then look back through the aiming apparatus. After doing this a few times, you’ll get your bearings. Every time this happens I’m tempted to pull the trigger before being 100% sure where I’m aiming. It’s so close and it seems hard to miss. The only advice I have is to be patient and take an extra 10 seconds before shooting.

where to shoot a black bear





            Bears are not hard animals to kill with a firearm or a bow. A well-hit bear won’t last long, however they are extremely unforgiving when hit marginally. In summary, only take broadside shots, prioritize getting two holes, aim about four to five inches back from the shoulder on a broadside bear, and don’t shoot too low. Finally, that bear isn’t as big as he looks. He’s got a nice layer of fat and fur coat that may be three to four inches long.

By Tracy Breen

Bear season is right around the corner. If there is one thing every hunter enjoys, it is new gear. Below are a few must have items for the hunter who has everything but is always looking for something new.



It’s no secret that choosing a spot to aim on bears can be difficult. The long hair can make finding the vitals on a bear in the heat of the moment difficult. Bowhunters can solve that problem by shooting at a 3D Bionic Bear Target. Morrell Targets has a lightweight 3D bear target that is perfect for bear hunters who want to fine tune their skills this summer. Learn more at



Bears have a sweet tooth and are constantly on the prowl for food. One way to bring them in close is with Northwoods Powder. The powder comes in an 8-ounce bottle and is available in a variety of scents including Cherry Burst, Apple Addiction, Maple Burst, Blueberry Burst and Gold Dust. The powder attractant gives off an extremely strong odor and is reportedly 500 times stronger than sugar so bears love the stuff. Hunters can shake the powder onto their current bait to add an aroma that bears won’t be able to resist. Learn more at



Staying awake in the treestand or blind can be difficult when sitting for long hours. Hunters who want to stay alert and ready for action should check out Energy & Focus from Wilderness Athlete. This energy drink is packed with vitamins, contains no sugar and has very few calories. Hunters who want to stay awake without drinking a lot of calories should try Wilderness Athlete products. Learn more at



Bowhunters looking for an edge should check out the HuntWise App. This app gives you up-to-date weather information, the best time of day to hunt, a built-in social media platform and landownership boundaries complete with land owner contact information if they have a listed phone number. Hunters who are looking for a new place to hunt will appreciate how handy the HuntWise app is. Learn more at



Many bowhunters spend the summer getting in shape for the backcountry. The new Outdoorsmans Atlas Trainer pack frame makes that a little easier. The pack frame comes with a mounting bracket that allows the hunter to slide Olympic style weight plates to the pack frame so hunters can hike with weight that is safe and secure on the frame. Say goodbye to sandbags; this pack frame system will make training with a weighted down pack a breeze. Learn more at




Fourth Arrow, makers of the original vapor WYNDSCENT unit, has raised the bar this year with their new Grenade launcher.  Now you can attract bears with an automatically timed vapor scent dispersal with the ability to turn on or off with a remote from up to 40 yards away! Simply mount your WYNDSCENT Grenade or Wyndstick to the top of the

WYNDSCENT Grenade Launcher. After turning it on once a minute for a three second time frame, vapor will be emitted.  A variety of cover and attractant scents are available for deer, bear, elk, and predators. They have a bear scent called Donut Shop that smells just like fresh donuts. Heated vapor scents travel further than traditional scents, making them a great option for bear hunting. Learn more at



One broadhead that is worth mentioning is the Grim Reaper Carni-Four. This broadhead comes equipped with four blades. Two of the blades offer a 1-1/2” cut and the other two blades produce a 1-1/4” size hole. Combined, that is a 2.75” linear cut.  A hole that size will quickly bring a bear down and give the archer a little room for error.  If the shot isn’t perfect, chances are the bear will quickly go down when hit with such a devastating broadhead. Learn more at













By Clay Newcomb

Editor, Bear Hunting Magazine

Mechanisms of human communication are at a disadvantage and merely scramble to describe the week we had in Northern Idaho. Leaving early Monday morning from Arkansas, Forrest Teeter and I drove 26 hours to Clark Fork, Idaho to meet up with friend, Leon Brown of Clark Fork Outfitters. We returned yesterday afternoon with an ice chest full of lion-related wildlife assets not excluding tooth, fang, claw and meat. The wildlife conservation components of legally harvesting a mountain lion over hounds in an ungulate-rich region of the North American West have left my mind and spirit idling near giddy. This isn’t the whole story, but the highlights will do for now as we’ll be running a feature article on this Mountain Lion hunt in Bear Hunting Magazine in 2017.

clay newcomb mountain lion

In preparation for "shooting up" the author hoisted a black bear target into a tree for practice. It paid off when a similar shot presented itself in the Idaho wilderness. 

clay newcomb mountain lion

A 26-hour drive to Northern Idaho from Arkansas ended up being well worth the effort. The author hunted with friend and outfitter, Leon Brown of Clark Fork Outfitters. 

To expel any urban myths, hunting with hounds can be one of the most physically demanding and difficult hunts available to the North American hunter. Cold temperatures, long snow mobile rides, steep/snowy mountains and rangy cats are the tetrad of foes to overcome. However, defeated foes are the fuel of satisfaction craved by all hunters. Don’t let the difficulty, however, deter you from attempting a hunt like this. I’ve found that a positive attitude and a never-quit demeanor are more valuable than six months of cross fit training. You need to be in good shape, but don’t wait for the mythical “sheep-shape” syndrome to overtake your existence before you try a hunt like this.  That being said, this hunt was physically challenging.  Maybe one of the most I’ve been on.

clay newcomb mountain lion

Temperatures hovered in the single digits making quality cold weather gear a must. First Lite Sanctuary bibs and jacket were critical along with the Grizzly Cold Weather gloves. 

The real heroes of this hunt were the hounds. A historical appreciation of hound hunting is necessary to comprehend the breadth of what you’re partaking of. Leon and his family have bred Plott hounds since the 1960s and they aren’t just a means to end, but they are the end. The relationship of a houndsman to his hounds is unique and reflects a powerful component of our humanity. The ability to leverage the strength of domesticated animals to achieve goals unattainable by our natural capabilities is unique to our species and in essence defining a component of our humanity. Shooting a lion over the baying of a treed hound is in the same category as other human-only activities like “making fire” and altruism.

leon brown and plotts
Leon Brown and his family have been breding Plot big-game hounds since the 1960s. Bootjack, Leon's go-to 7-year old hound, prepares to be released on a lion track on the first day of the hunt. Clark Fork Outfitters guides for Mountain Lion between the first of December and February. 

clay newcomb mountain lion

Outfitter Leon Brown and the author in route to a treed lion on the first afternoon of the hunt. They ended up passing it because they couldn't get a bow shot. 

On this hunt I used a 64-pound takedown recurve bow made by Kent Roberts of Timberghost Archery in Springdale, Arkansas. I have to admit that it was the most stressful archery shot I’ve ever taken. Traditional bows have a knack for making a hunt special. A lot of investment was at stake and there was no room for error. However, the shot placement was excellent through a softball-sized hole between the cat’s shoulder and the tree. You’ll be able to watch the entire hunt on the next episode of Bear Horizon that will be released this coming Friday (December 23rd).

clay newcomb mountain lion

The author with his Northern Idaho Mountain lion on the third day of the hunt. He used a Timberghost takedown recurve at 64-pounds to make a complete pass through on the male cat. 

clay newcomb mountain lion

We treed two male Mountain Lions in three days of hunting and I passed the first, and larger, cat because I couldn’t get a bowshot. Northern Idaho is a mecca for Mountain Lion hunting, features spectacular American wilderness, and Leon Brown and Clark Fork Outfitters are the real deal. You will not want to miss the full article and the episode of Bear Horizon.

clay newcomb mountain lion

clay newcomb mountain lion

The Idaho wilderness was spectacular.  

*Gear Note: First Lite gear was made for a hunt like this. An arctic blast of cold air made daytime temperatures dip into the single digits during our hunt. Base layers of Merino wool and the Sanctuary bib overalls and jacket were the foundation of my warmth strategy. Secondly, the First Lite Grizzly Cold Weather gloves performed flawlessly on long snow mobile rides. However, my favorite piece of gear is the North Branch Soft Shell pants. They are water resistant, tough and were perfect for long hikes in the snow. I often slide down the mountains on my rear and they never tore or got wet.  I wore the Soft Shell Pants under my Sanctuary bibs. Gaiters are also crucial for traveling in snow by keeping it out of your pant leg openings.

forrest teeter Mountain lion

Forrest Teeter traveled with the author and filmed the hunt for Bear Hunting Magazine's show, Bear Horizon. The video will be released later this week.  You can watch Bear Horizon on Carbon TV, Vimeo, or on the home page of Bear Hunting Magazine. 

Leon Brown and Clark Fork Outfitters:

208-266-0795 (office)

clay newcomb mountain lion

All the meat from the lion will put to good use. Lion meat is a white meat and known for its great taste. 

By Clay Newcomb

Idaho is a refuge for trail-worn, old school American hunters that love wildlife, conservation, and large doses of hunter opportunity. As it stands, Idaho has almost every big game animal in the Big 10 excluding Musk Ox, Bison, and Caribou (some migrate in at times I hear). They’ve got moose, elk, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, mountain goat, antelope, whitetail, mule deer and most importantly to me this winter, mountain lions.

First Lite Clay Newcomb

The First Lite Sanctuary jacket and bib overalls will be a critical key to staying warm on my mountain lion hunt with Clark Fork Outfitters. My Plott hound, Jedi, isn't going but we'll be hunting with Plotts in Idaho. 

Good friend, Forest Teeter, and myself will be making the 28-hour drive from Arkansas to meet up with Leon Brown of Clark Fork Outfitting in northern Idaho. Leon and I had many mutual friends in the Plott hound circles and we hit it right off nearly charring the phone lines with excessive boredom with our near endless banter of Plott hound bloodlines. However, that was our connection point. We don’t have mountain lions in Arkansas, but I do hunt my Plotts on raccoon. They did, albeit, come from a long history of big game bear and mountain lion pedigrees. And some of our dogs even have similar pedigrees. I’m looking forward to seeing his dogs work.

First Lite Clay Newcomb

The new Grizzly Cold Weather Gloves are a great addition to my gear this year. Also, looking forward to wearing the new First Lite belt!

We’ll be cruising the roads next week hoping for fresh snow and lion tracks. If we need to get into some deep country to find lions we’ll be on snowmobiles pulling trailers carrying the hounds. On this hunt I will be carrying my trusty take-down recurve made by Kent Roberts of Timberghost Archery. As a backup however, I’ll be carrying the Ruger .44 Magnum Super Redhawk that my father gave to me as a high school graduation gift. If the cat is in bow range, I’ll take it with the bow. If the shot is questionable, I’ll use the pistol. I’m happy with either option. Getting a clean kill is critical with a cat, because you don’t want a wounded animal jumping out and scrapping with the hounds.

I just got a new order of clothing in from First Lite. My primary jacket that I will be wearing is the Sanctuary jacket in Fusion camo. This jacket is extremely warm, too warm really for active hunting. However, long rides on snowmobiles will require heavily insulated clothing. Secondly, I’ll be wearing the Sanctuary bib overalls, even though I got word from Ryan Callaghan suggesting they’ll be too warm, I plan to bring them. Ryan suggested I wear the North Branch Soft Shell pants, which I do plan to bring.

I’m quite impressed with the new Grizzly Cold Weather Glove. They’ve got a weatherproof outer shell and a removable glove liner on the inside. This is the ultimate cold weather glove that’s got leather palms, an articulating trigger finger, hang tabs, a “snot pad”, wrist and arm cinches and solid construction.

I’ve got in the line up for head gear First Lites Tag Cuff Merrino Beanie, a trucker hat, and an orange Brimmed Merino Beanie. I will bring more clothing than this including Merino base layers, Corrugate Guide pants, and multiple Merino wool tops. The key is going to be to use the Merino for my “on skin” layer. For a hunt where you may be sweating climbing a mountain, and then be on a snowmobile riding two hours out, you’ll need something that wickes moisture and keeps you warm even when damp. I find First Lite’s gear to be just right for this.

I will keep you posted on the Mountain Lion hunt, and hope to run an article in Bear Hunting Magazine sometime next year. This will be my first trip to Idaho and my first lion hunt, so I’m quite excited. 

Clay Newcomb Plott Hound

Leon Brown's Plott hounds he uses for bear and mountain lion in Idaho share some of the same pedigree as my hounds I use on raccoon in Arkansas. Mountain lion hunting is as much about the dogs as anything. If you've never tried hound hunting, you're missing out on a very traditional American hunting method that is crawling with excitement. 

By Clay Newcomb

It may seem out of timing, but now is the time to start considering a spring bear hunt for 2017. The primetime for hunting Canadian bruins is going to be mid-May through mid-June. However, in the United States many spring seasons start in April. If you’ve never considered a big-game hunt during this “off season” time, 2017 may be the time to start. The peak of all most all of our big-game hunting is in the fall, but how unique is it to be able to hunt in May and June?

 Things to Consider and Tips for Planning a Spring Hunt:


Outfitted or Unguided?


You’ll need to make up your mind if you’re going to use an outfitter or go on a do-it-yourself hunt. Most outfitted bear hunting takes place in the Canada, but there are many good outfitters in Idaho, Montana and Maine (and other states). Bear hunts range in price from $900 (semi-guided) to fully guided wilderness hunts in trophy destinations at $3,000-plus. Most hunts are 5-7 days, and all vary in what they provide. You can find some quality outfitters that are priced cheap, but usually you’ll be hunting smaller animals. Higher-end black bear hunts usually mean bigger animals.

 A DIY hunt pretty much means it will be a spot-and-stalk hunt. This will take a lot of planning and will be a lot more work, but that’s what makes it fun. Montana and Idaho are great DIY states with liberal bear seasons and lots of public hunting ground. Basically, most public ground in the Rocky Mountains that is open to hunting is going to have bears, however you’ll need to do some research on specific locals. I’ve found that you’ll spend about ½ as much on DIY hunt.

Bear Pro Safaris

Jared Sommers killed this bear in Saskatchewan with Bear Pro Safaris in June 2016. This hunt cost around $3,500 and was a wilderness, boat-based hunt. 

 Which Canadian Province?


            Each Canadian province has a reputation for the type of bear hunting that it provides. Here are some generalizations:


British Columbia has expensive hunts, big mountain bears, and spectacular views and landscape. Known for its spot-and-stalk hunting with prices ranging from $5,000 to $7,000. Most known for the beauty of the landscape in the bear hunting regions.

 Alberta is known for its two-bear spring baited hunts, spectacular wilderness camps, and color-phase bears. Hunts are typically $3,000-$5,000 USD. The two-bear hunt is probably what this province is most known for. 

 Manitoba is known for large bears, lots of color phase bears, and baited hunts. Hunts will range from $2,500-$5,000. Probably most known for its color phase bears. 

 Ontario has a lot of outfitters, a lot of bears, and the hunts are cheaper. Expect to spend $1,500-$2,500 on a hunt in Ontario. Also expect some fishing opportunity. For the price this is a great province with great opportunity. 

Quebec is known for its hospitality, fishing combo hunts, quantity of bears, abundance of outfitters. You’ll spend between $1,000 to $2,000 on a hunt in Quebec. Known for its well-priced hunt and opportunity. 

 Newfoundland is known for its two-bear baited hunt and big bears. You’ll spend around $2,500 on a guided hunt here. No color-phase bears to speak of. Newfoundland is known for bears with large skulls. 

 Nova Scotia (only fall hunting) and New Brunswick are relatively new to the bear-outfitting scene, but offer some great hunting at a great price. These areas are easily assessable from the New England states. No color phase-bears to speak of.

bear skull

Bear tags are relatively cheap. They usually cost between $150 to $200 in Canada. 

What if I want to stay in the United States?


            There are some great guided spring bear hunting options for those who don’t want to cross the border. To make a long story short, Idaho and Maine are going to be your go-to states for a guided spring bear hunt. In Maine, there is a spring hunt on a few Native American reservations. Several outfitters have outfitting rights and this is a coveted hunt. Most of these are baited hunts. Secondly, Idaho offers spot-and-stalk, baited and hound hunts in the spring. There are lots of great outfitters.


How Can I Trust an Outfitter?


            If you’re going to entrust a week of your life and a chunk of your change with an outfitter you’ll want to be 100% convinced in their ability to do what they say they’ll do. The two best things you can do is call the outfitter and talk extensively with them. Let your gut tell you if the outfitter is legit or not. Never be afraid to ask any questions, don’t assume anything, and let them know what is important to you. Whether it’s big bears, great fishing, wilderness experience, comfy lodge accommodations, color phase opportunity, food, travel distance to the hunting area, access to the Internet, or whatever it is. Your definition of a “bear hunt” may be different that theirs. This is important and many people don’t understand this.

            Secondly, the other thing you’ll 100% want to do is call their references. Any good outfitter will have references available. Talk to people about them and ask that person the same questions.

Clay Newcomb bear hunting magazine

 Accomadations will differ with each outfitter. Be sure to quiz them on the details and check all their references. 

What to expect in bear quality?


            Basically, spring bears aren’t going to have the weight that a fall bear will. Don’t think that you’re going to be hunting 500-pound bears in the spring. There are a few that will get that big, but it’s rare. A male that weighs over 300 pounds in the spring is a big bear, especially in the far north. Secondly, hide quality is going to be at its peak in the early spring. Expect long guard hairs and thick under fur. Bears will start to rub later in the spring when the temperatures are warm. This usually doesn’t start happening until late June or July in most parts of the bear range.


Bear Rut?


            The bear rut is a great time to hunt. Expect to see boars cruising for sows starting in late May and running through the month of June. Anything could show up at anytime. That being said, early May is often a great time to catch a big old boar locked down on a feeding pattern. They’ll be eating a lot trying to catch up on weight before the rut. It’s a toss up when the best time to go is. My favorite time to bear hunt in the northern Canada is the last week of May. You start to get into some rutting activity, but you’ll also catch some boars locked on food.

Bear Pro Safaris 
Fishing can be a great perk of spring bear hunting. Ask the outfitter is you should bring your own gear or if they'll provide it. 

By Clay Newcomb

 As an update on our Arkansas bear baiting, four of five baits have been hit, and hit hard. Our new bait has yet to produce a bear, but that isn’t too surprising at this stage. We’ve got some really nice bears coming in and I’ve included a few pictures from one of our baits. Within a short period of time we had at least six different adult bears coming, including one giant (but only at night). This bear has been coming to this bait for years and only once during legal shooting light have I gotten a picture. This isn’t necessarily our best bait, but it’s the only pictures that I’ve personally seen, as James has been checking the other cameras. As some of you may know, I bait about two-hours drive from where I live here in Arkansas. James reported four of five baits were completely cleaned out with lots of bears on every camera. 

arkansas black bear

This is a double-decker barrel so the picture is decieving. This bear's shoulders come almost even with the rim of the 55-gallon drum. This is a good male. 

Our season opens on September 24th, so we’ve got less than 10 days. Next week I will start adding pork fat to keep the bears interested.  This is what I call a “bait switch” technique. I will keep feeding them the same thing, but add something totally new from a different food category (protein). You can buy pork fat from just about any butcher. Secondly, my 13-year old daughter, River will be hunting my number one stand this season. I will be sitting with her in hopes that she’ll get a crack at her first black bear. That being said, I’m not going to let her shoot a giant if one walks in. I’ve never been the type of parent that wanted my kid to kill a giant animal on their first hunt. My kids will have to earn their big bears, and I don’t want to make it too easy. My dad helped me a TON in my hunting, but nothing was ever handed to me on silver platter and I think that has made all the difference. River has killed several deer, but this will be her first bear hunt. If a big one walks in I will be shooting it and she’ll be watching. This has been clearly stated from the beginning and I am not the slightest bit ashamed of my position.

arkansas black bear

Bears are thriving in Arkansas. This healthy sow has two first-year cubs with her. A friend is currently feeding 14 first-year cubs between three different baits in Zone 2 in Arkansas. Is hunting hurting bear populations? Nope. 

In the Ouachitas and Ozarks of Arkansas, the mast crop seems spotty. There are plenty of acorns, but they aren’t everywhere. This should make for a good season opener, considering that it will be “early” this year – September 24th. The AGFC has decided to let our bear season open with the deer season, which is now the fourth Saturday in September. In the cycle of the calendar, this is probably the earliest season opener we’ll have until the AGFC gives us back our September 15th opener in Zone 2. I do believe that we’ll have it back one day, because it does make management sense. In Zone 2 we’ve only meet the quota two years in the last 15 seasons. The most recent population studies indicated an increasing bear population all across the state of Arkansas. Thirdly, from a boots-on-the-ground management perspective, I’ve talked with multiple people in Zone 2 that have LOTS of young bears on bait. One of my friends currently has three baits and is feeding 14 first-year cubs. It appears that the population is expanding rapidly.

arkansas black bear
Two more bears on the same bait. One has double-yellow ear tags indicating that he was trapped in some type of study at one time. Red tags are nuisance bears. 

Thirdly, the data from the last several years has indicated a healthy sow harvest. This was originally why they took away the September 15th opener – too heavy of a sow harvest. The earlier in the fall you hunt, typically, the heavier the sow harvest. However, hunters are becoming more conscious about not harvesting sows and targeting males. Additionally, the years of heavy sow harvest were only on years when we had a gun season during the first two days. Since they did away with the gun season, the sow harvest has been reduced to acceptable numbers. We appreciate what the AGFC is doing with our bears, and we hope that they’ll realize the early opener is beneficial in Zone 2 for us to kill mature boar bears and reach the target harvest goal of 150 bears. This would be a management win for parties involved.

arkansas black bear

The image quality is poor, but this is a giant male bear. From other pics I've seen I would guess he's over 500 pounds. He's been on this bait for years and I've only had one day-time picture of him. This is pretty typical of some bears that are getting some pressure. I'm pretty sure there are a few other bait sites within a 1/2 mile of this one. 


Baiting Oklahoma


            We started baiting Oklahoma this week, too. The Oklahoma season opener is a week later than the Arkansas opener, so we started baiting a week later. If you watched Bear Horizon last year, you would have seen me arrow a Boone and Crockett bear which is currently ranked #2 in Oklahoma in the BC record books. I will be baiting the same spot, but we moved the bait about 50 yards away. I believe the new location will be slightly better for scent control, as it’s right on top of a knob. Secondly, the stand was directly in the sun last year and it was hard to make a long sit staring directly into the sun. I have high expectations on this site, so we’ll see if some big bears show back up this season. I will show you some pictures next week.

*We've really enjoyed using the quality baits from Big Woods Bear Baits in Wisconsin. I am a strong believer that quality and diverse bait is essential for holding big bears in the fall. 

clay newcomb bear baiting

Gary Newcomb (my father), James Lawrence, and myself stand proudly by the bait in Oklahoma. It took us about 3 hours to move the stand and trim out the new stand site. Baiting bears is an extreme amount of work and it's an extremely challenging hunt - especially if you are targeting big males. Those that talk negatively about baiting bears have most likely never done it ON THEIR OWN (ask them). Don't knock it until you've tried it. It's a powerful management tool. 

oklahoma bear bait

We moved the bait about 50 yards away and filled it with Big Woods Bait from Wisconsin. 

 Gary Newcomb

My dad comtemplating the stand placement. It was a little bit close, but I may be using the traditional bow this year. 


This is the third article in Bear Hunting Magazine's series on Legendary Bear Hounds

By Clay Newcomb

The legacies and stories of the dogs included in the Legendary Bear Hound series epitomize what we love about hound hunting.  Bearpath Gunner and Shamrock’s Timex, both Plotts, were the first two in our series. In this article, we’ll look at a legendary line of Walker hounds. Dogs that stand out from the pack because of the their drive, toughness, nose and intelligence intrigue every houndsman, beckoning memories of their own hounds.  The truth of the matter, however, is that most bear run and treed are done so behind good dogs or even average ones. Legendary hounds are few and far between. They aren’t the norm and you don’t have to have one to have an excellent, effective pack. Though everybody is looking for that great hound.

            As we move forward in this series, I continue to be struck by one significant impression. The men and women that have raised and handled the hounds we’ve highlighted, from my observation, have exemplified the true spirit of the houndsman. All of these men have been committed for decades to their respective lines of hounds. They are committed to conservation and the continuation of hound hunting as a viable and valuable aspect of science-based bear management in North America. Lastly, they are upstanding people that have been a pleasure to deal with. None of them have sought ought recognition or are driven by a competitive spirit to out-do another. Though they take pride in their hounds and their accomplishments, they’ve all spoken highly of their fellow houndsman, careful to never take anything away from another handler or breed of dog. I appreciate that.

Keith Huff Nance Bred Walker bear hounds

Troy Huff with a fine pack of Nance bred Walkers and a Michigan black bear. Check out the Michigan Bear Hunters Association of which the Huffs have been long time members and supporters of.

            Keith Huff of Michigan fits right in with the aforementioned qualities. Two data points can be arbitrary, but three data points is beginning of a trend. Keith is the third houndsman that I’ve interviewed in this series. Born and raised in Michigian, now 70 years old, Keith served as the president of the Michigan Bear Hunter’s Association (MBHA) in 1972. Since that time, both of his sons, still heavily involved in hound hunting, have served as president in later years. According to Keith, “The MBHA has been the salvation of our hound hunting in Michigan, along with other dog associations.” One of the prerequisites for hunting with the Huffs is that you’ve got to be a paying member of the MBHA. Keith is a believer in a united hound community, and that strength is gained by numbers.


The Nance Bred Line


            If you know much about Walker lines, then you are familiar with the Nance line of breeding. Starting in 1932 in Indiana, a coonhunter by the name Lester Nance started breeding a line of Walker Foxhounds that would later be recognized as Treeing Walkers. Nance knew he had an excellent line that was different than their “Running Walker” relatives and had a strong desire to tree.  Nance is indisputably credited as the father of the Treeing Walker breed.

Nance’s first Walker was a dog he named ‘White River King.’ Nance promoted his dogs at the World’s Fair in the 1940s and labored diligently to promote this new line of treedog. He first worked with the Full Cry Kennel Club (started in 1940) to officially recognize the breed in 1943. Two years later the United Kennel Club (UKC) began recognizing the “English Coonhound” that would later, in 1978, be officially recognized as the Treeing Walkers, which was what Nance originally called them.

Keith Huff Nance Bred Walker bear hounds

Huff's Rufus was one of the best bear and cat hounds that Keith has ever owned. 

            Keith got involved with the Nance Bred line through a man by the name of Roger Redick. In 1947, Redick brought some Nance bred Treeing Walkers to Michigan to hunt bobcats. When Redick hunted, he stayed in a trailer on Keith’s father’s land. Corresponding with the line of dogs arriving in Michigan, in the 1950s, Carl Johnson, a state official with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, pushed heavily for hound hunting for bears to be allowed in the state. This was the perfect setting for the new Treeing Walkers to thrive in Michigan.

As a teenager, Keith hunted with Redick’s hounds, and to make a long story short, in 1967, after getting out of the service, he took over the Nance line of breeding in Michigan. Since that time Keith has overseen 67 generations of Treeing Walkers. “I am very selective in my breeding. I don’t just pick a pup from a litter, but they have to be good on two sides. The male and the female have to be top notch.” Keith says.

            The Nance bred dogs are known to have all the traits that make bear dogs great. In Keith’s breeding program he is looking primarily for four things and in this order: cold nose, speed, aggression and endurance. “The ability to jump game is very important to me.” Keith says. He also added, “Walkers are typically bred for coon hunting in the south and that’s what they prefer to chase, but these dogs love to chase bear. My dogs are also known for their aggression, if they bay a bear they won’t leave.” This may be the defining characteristic of the Nance line that Keith runs. That being said, “We run the same dogs on coyote that we do on bear, but they never run coyotes when we’re in bear country.”

            Keith says that the best dog that he’s ever owned was named ‘PR’ Huff’s Rufus. The dog was born in 1972 to a litter of six dogs, which all turned out to be outstanding tree hounds. “Rufus had the best nose of any dog I’ve owned. He had grit, intelligence, common sense and stamina. He was very balanced between ability and intelligence.” Keith recalls. Rufus was also an excellent bobcat dog, but preferred to run bear. One of his outstanding traits was his cold nose. “If a track was made within the last 24 hours, he would tree the bear.” Keith said. His only faults where, “He was a large dog, probably 70 pounds.  And When he was older, he couldn’t back track himself very well and he’d get lost.” Keith admitted.

            Common thread among the legendary bear dogs we’ve written about has been their performance when they were young. Keith knew that he had a special hound when, at six months old, Rufus jumped out of the truck window and joined a pack of hounds running a bobcat. The young dog joined the race and treed hard. “He was just such a natural.” Keith said.

Keith Huff Nance Bred Walker bear hounds

A beautiful Michigan bobcat. Keith likes to have dual purpose hounds that run bear and cat.  

           A second common theme among many great dogs is their ability to handle and be trained. Rufus never had to be led on a leash and he stayed in the house most of his life. Keith said, “When in the house, you would tell him to “go to his room” and he’d go and lay on the his rug and stay there. When it was time to doctor him, you’d tell him to sit down and he’d open his mouth and take medicine. You could tell him to jump in the back seat of the vehicle and he would.”

            How many treed bears was Rufus involved with? “We treed between 40 and 60 bears per year and Rufus lived to be 12 years old.” When you do that the math, as a conservative figure, Rufus helped tree over 500 bears in his lifetime. Additionally, Keith estimates they treed between 15 and 18 bobcats per winter during his lifetime, too.

            Overall, the bear hunting branch of the Nance line of Treeing Walkers, bred through Keith Huff, have a proven record of being excellent big game hounds. Keith has sold hounds all over the country and literally has dogs from his line in every state that has a bear season. Many people also use them for cougars in the West. Keith has been a member of the MBHA since he was ten years old - that now tally’s to 60 years of membership. He’s a firm believer in the strength and effectiveness of organized hunting associations, and believes they are keys to the future of hound hunting. It’s the legacy of men like Keith Huff that I’m confident will help fight for the rights of houndsmen across the country and continue to preserve the sport of hound hunting. 

Subscribe to Bear Hunting Magazine for the latest in our Legendard Bear Hound Series. 

This aritcle appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Bear Hunting Magazine

By Clay Newcomb

The connection between a houndsman and a hound is hard to describe. Certainly, it’s a unique bond that outranks the bond between a pet owner and their pet. A hunting dog is a provider. He is a hunting companion. He is the hunter’s connection point to the wild game they pursue.  Hounds that achieve “legendary” status are few and far between. They are a special class of hound. Though some dogs are blown out of proportion, a real houndsman knows when a dog is the real deal. Such is the case with a 40-pound plott named Shamrock’s Timex.

            You won’t have a full picture of Timex until you know her breeder and owner, Joe Hudson. Joe is a Michigander from birth and has been hunting with hounds since he was 11 years old. In 2015, at the age of 67, he’s still as passionate as ever about chop-mouthed tree dogs. Joe trained bear hounds and guided bear hunters for a living in Michigan between 1975 and 1995. For over 20 years, he hunted or trained hounds five days a week. His faithful hunting companion and wife, Nancy, took part in the hunting and training too.

            When Joe was asked why he loves hound hunting, he replied, “It’s like an off-road race from start to finish. The degree of excitement is astounding. A still-hunter gets five minutes of excitement when a bear shows up. A hound hunt is non-stop action. To this day, when I walk up to the tree my heart is about to jump out of my chest. I haven’t shot a bear in years. It’s about the dogs how much stamina, grit and desire they have.” He said, “Then to turn around and see them be so gentle when they aren’t on a bear. My grandbabies can crawl all over these Plott hounds and I never hear a growl. How they bring that energy down is beyond me. They pump themselves up so hard on a bear. It’s amazing.”

Joe Hudson and Shamrock's Timex

 Joe Hudson and Shamrock's Timex with a Michigan bear. Shamrock was born in 1981 and died around 1990. 

Shamrock's Timex


            Timex was born into a litter of only two puppies on September 10th, 1981. The sire of the litter was Joe’s dog, Shamrock’s Pete. According to Joe, “He was the first dog we had that was the real deal.” Pete was the pick of the litter from a cross that Joe instigated with a friend. At first the friend didn’t want to make the cross, but Joe sweetened the deal by offering to give him the sire in trade for the pick of the litter. That pick was Shamrock’s Pete.

            He was an impressive hound that carried the characteristics that Joe wanted – grit, stamina, desire and a powerful treeing instinct. Joe bred Pete to Shamrock’s Annie, a Cascade Big Timber female, and the litter had a male and a female pup. The female would later be known as Timex.

            Joe fondly recalls how the dog got its name. “One day the four-month-old pup got off its chain. At the time, I had a 30-pound male coon and the pup got after it and I had to break them up with a broom stick!”  The pup laid into the coon and an all out fight broke loose! The pup stood its ground with the boar coon almost twice its size and never backed down. “At that age a lot of dogs would have quit and never wanted to do it again. We sewed her up and doctored her for weeks. From day one she had that kind of grit.” The hound carried white scars on her muzzle her whole life that came from the coon fight. After the scrap, Joe made the statement, “She’s like a Timex watch, she takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’.” From that day forward she was known as Shamrock’s Timex.

Joe Hudson and Shamrock's Timex

Shamrock's Timex wasn't a big dog. Joe estimates she weighed around 40 pounds. She had extreme grit, stamina and tree power. 

            At eight months old, Timex ran her first wild bear track to tree. According to Joe, “She never missed another tree after that.”

            The characteristics that made Timex legendary were her grit and stamina. She once got in a tussle with a bear on the ground and three of her ribs were crushed. During the fight she also got a hernia. When Joe arrived at the tree she was treeing hard, but they had to carry her out of the woods, straight to the veterinarian. The vet removed three ribs, replacing them with a wire screen. The doctor said the dog was otherwise healthy and could start hunting again as soon as she felt up to it. Joe said, “We let her rest the next day after the surgery, but on day two we started hunting again and she hunted for 33 straight days.”

            Timex’s reputation began to spread far and wide when she was young. Joe also said, “When she was two years old, Dwayne Smith from Vermont called and asked me if he could breed his female to “him.” He thought Timex was a male and was shocked when I said she a two-year-old female.” Dwayne replied, “How can a two-year-old female be so well known?” She was known from coast to coast at only two years old. Joe recalls, “I’d say close to 100 houndsman came and hunted with Timex over her lifetime. They came from Washington and Idaho and put their best dogs to run with her. Most walked away shaking their heads.”

            Once, while hunting in Ontario, they lost the dogs on a track early in the morning. The dogs wore yagi antennas but couldn’t be located for over nine hours because of the bouncing signal. Based upon their readings, the dogs were treed early in the morning and were still treed when they arrived. The dogs were treed solid for nine hours. Timex was hunting with her father, Shamrock’s Pete. The next day Pete was tragically killed in a river by a bear.

Joe Hudson and Shamrock's Timex

Most assumed that the scars on Timex's face came from a bear, but they actually came from a coon she fought when she was very young. She got the name Timex because "she took a lickin' but kept on tickin'."

            One day in Michigan, Joe and his wife met up with a fellow houndsman in the woods. The man explained how he’d been running a track most of the day, but his pack couldn’t tree it. The man had a youth hunter with him and they wanted to get the lad a bear. He asked Joe if he would turn Timex out on the bruin. Well, you can predict what happened. Timex and a few other of Joe’s dogs hit the track and after a long race they treed. Upon arrival at the tree, the intensity of Timex impressed the other houndsman. Joe said, “He pulled out a key from his pocket and handed it to my wife and said, “Go turn that dog off. She’s a like machine!”” Needless to say the young hunter got his bear that day.

            How many bears did she help tree? Joe replied, “I hunted five days a week guiding bear hunters and training bear dogs. For 20 years I was treeing 60-70 bear per year. She was on well over 500 bears. In 1987 we ran 43 days in a row with the same five dogs and caught 39 bear in Michigan and Wisconsin.”

            The beauty of breeding hounds is that legends can live on even after they’re gone. Timex died in 1990 at nine years old. She was a good reproducer and had numerous top litters. Joe has line bred off of Timex for years and still runs dogs that have her on both sides. Joe is a true houndsman. He has raised and hunted with hundreds of top dogs, but by his estimation, he’s never owned one better than Timex. 

You can save a good deal of money on your next bear hide if you flesh and dry it yourself. After drying you can send it a tannery for finishing it into a buckskin tan. Most tanneries charge $25-$30 per foot (from nose to tail) to tan a dried hide. A six-foot bear would cost under $200 (plus shipping). Compare this to last year’s taxidermy bill and it might motivate you to break out the fleshing beam. 

  1. Use a fleshing tool and fleshing bear to scrape off the fat and excess meat on the skin. It’s best if the hide is cool or crisped in a freezer before you begin. (We did this in May in Arkansas and it was too warm and muggy, but it turned out fine.) These tools are cheap and readily available from trapping supply companies. It’s messy, but you’ll be surprised how easily that fat scraps off the hide.
  2. You’ll need to joint out the paws all the way down to the claws. Use a very sharp knife and take your time. A Gerber Vital with scalpel blades is a good option. You’ll need to split the lips and turn the ears (
  3. Stretch and nail the hide to a piece of plywood. Then liberally salt with non-iodized salt. Table salt from the grocery store will work. I used about 20 pounds total for this bear and it cost less than $6.
  4. Elevate the hide on a slight angle so it can drain. The salt will pull out the moisture and you’ll see some wet spots – this is good. Preferably keep it indoors (garage) or at a minimum under a roof. After a few days, scrape the wet salt off and resalt until approximately 80% of the moisture is gone. You may have to salt two or three times.  
  5. Box up the hide and mail it to the tannery. Check out or call them at 218-722-7742

fleshing a bear hide

fleshing a bear hide

fleshing a bear hide

how to flesh a bear hide

how to flesh a bear hide

how to flesh a bear hide

A litter of seven Plott puppies were born in Protection, Kansas on October 17th, 1975.  Every time hounds are bred the anticipation of what the cross will yield is exciting. Dwayne Herd and his son Steve, who got started in Plotts in 1952, crossed their male, ‘PR’ Bluff Creek Bouncer to a female out of Idaho, who would later be known as ‘PR’ Bluff Creek Donna. The female was owned by Paul Noble of Idaho, but would later be owned by the Herds. Dwayne knew the bloodlines of the two dogs and thought it would produce some good hounds. Little did he know how right he would be. Out of the cross came several very good hounds, but from a young age one stood out above the rest. They called him Bearpath Gunner.

            Plotts are known for their grit, drive and bold trailing instinct. The Plott breed is truly American, conceived in the Smoky Mountains of Bute County, North Carolina. The hounds are decedents of German Hanoverian hounds, brought over by Johannes George Plott in 1750. Plott was only 16-years old when he traversed the Atlantic with the dogs that would be the foundation of a powerful, big-game-hunting breed. Like many other things, the New World was a breeding ground of innovation that would become the bedrock of American identity. The Plott hound breed was just that.

bearpath gunner

Mike Rychoch with Bearpath Gunner in Wisconsin. Bearpath Gunner was born in Protection, Kansas and was bred by Dwayne and Steve Herd of Bluff Creek Kennels. 

            Plotts were originally used in North Carolina as bear dogs and for catching feral hogs. Their strong treeing instinct, however, caught the attention of coon hunters as the popularity of the breed grew. They are the only breed of tree dogs that didn’t descend from European fox hounds, thus the brindle, unique look. Plotts are known for their distinctive, loud chop on the tree.


Bearpath Gunner


            Dwayne had a large whelping pen, still in the same spot today, where they let the young dogs learn to become hounds. Steve remembers, “One day my father put a cat in the pen with the pups and he had to get in there and rescue the cat from Bearpath.” Later, when he was only three months old, Bearpath trailed and treed that cat, staying on tree for a long time. At this point they knew the dog was special and their expectations about Bouncer and Donna were spot on.  

            Dwayne got a call from Willard Woodby in Idaho who was looking for some pups from the Bluff Creek line to add to his pack. He told him that they had a “litter that was special” and that he should give them a try. Willard, also known as “Woody,” drove 19 hours to pick up a pair of pups in south-central Kansas. A male and a female, he named them Bearpath Gunner and Millie. Putting these hounds in the hands of someone that loved to hunt and lived in a prime bear hunting locale was critical for their development. At that time in the 1970s, bears were relatively unpressured and numerous. It was a great place and time to make a good bear hound.

bearpath gunner

Mike Rychoch with Bearpath Gunner in Wisconsin. Bearpath Gunner was considered one of the best male bear dogs in the country at the time. 


Willard never penned or chained Gunner for the whole time he owned him. Bearpath rode in the cab of Willard’s truck and slept in the house every single night. This is very unusual for a hunting hound. The dog had extreme intelligence and according to Steve Herd, “He never knew he was a dog, he thought he was a human.” Certainly Gunner’s raising helped make him an easy dog to work. Mike Rychlock, who would later own Gunner, said, “When I went to pick up the dog in Idaho, he was like a darn Labrador. He would roll over and he slept in the house!”

            By the time Bearpath Gunner was 11 months old he was running and treeing bear in Idaho by himself. It was said that there weren’t many hounds in the state that could out-tree, Gunner, even before he was one year old. Millie was also an exceptional dog, but was tragically killed before she was one year old when a dead bear fell out of a tree and killed her.

            Gunner continued to develop and his reputation spread throughout the hound circles. He was a good-sized Plott, weighing over 60 pounds. What made Gunner special was his speed on track and ability to trail with his head up. Steve said, “He had a great ability to tree a cold track quick.” He continued, “If you were chasing someone on a motorcycle in a field you wouldn’t run the exact path they drove, but you would cut across in a direct line to them – you would cut them off. Gunner had an uncanny ability to cut off a bear, to wind him. His nose and winding ability weren’t anything less than a freak of nature.”

            Woodby trained and raised Gunner in Idaho until the hound was around five years old. In 1979, Mike Rychlock began searching for the top hound in the country to breed his Plott female. He had heard about Gunner and contacted Willard. “I drove from Wisconsin to Idaho to have my female bred by Gunner. Willard and I just hit it off,” Mike said. Mike and Willard developed a friendship and began hunting together. Long story short, in 1980 Mike purchased Gunner. By the age of five, Gunner had been involved in over 250 treed bears. Mike recalled, “We didn’t rig bears in Wisconsin like they did in Idaho. When I hunted with Gunner I was impressed by that.” Gunner would rig off the hood of the pickup. To this day Mike is a serious houndsman who lives and breathes bear hunting. Mike says, “Gunner had the whole package”.

            Many people across the country hunted with Mike, Willard and Gunner. He hunted Gunner in Wisconsin, Michigan and Idaho in the five years before Gunner’s death on June 4th, 1985. According to Steve, “Many people considered Gunner to one of the best strike dogs of all time.”

            Gunner’s intelligence was notable. Mike remembered, “The whole time I owned Gunner he slept in the house and we wouldn’t let him get on the couch. I remember lying down and pretending to snore. When I did, Gunner would slip over like a snake and get on the couch. I would jump up and get on to him! In over 250 hounds I’ve owned, he was the only house dog.”

bearpath gunner papers

Bearpath's UKC papers. Note the Bluff Creek sire and dam.            

Gunner seemed to prefer to run bear but he was also an excellent cougar and bobcat dog. By the time of his death, Gunner was credited as being involved in over 500 treed bears.

            According to Mike, “In the 1970s there weren’t as many top bear dogs as we have now. Lots of people have top dogs these days. Technology has increased our ability to train them. Out in Idaho in those days the bears were like squirrels and it made it easier to make a great dog. Gunner was no doubt a great dog, but we’re still making great ones today.”

            Bearpath Gunner was a legendary hound whose bloodlines are still strong in the Plott breed. Certainly, there are many unknown hounds that have had the raw ability to be great dogs, but didn’t have the context, training or opportunity to fully be developed. From Gunner’s breeding, to his training and finishing, he reached his full potential from all sides of the equation. 

An ad for Bearpath Gunner in the 1970s made by Willard Woodby, the man who trained and raised Bearpath in Idaho. 

bearpath gunner ad

Quebec is the largest province in Canada covering over 600,000 square miles. It is bordered on the west by Ontario and the east by New Brunswick and Labrador. Its southern borders include the states of New York, Vermont and Maine. Quebec is an excellent spring bear hunting destination that is convenient to travel to, especially for hunters coming from the New England states that can simply drive across the border. For the 2016 spring bear season, Quebec Outfitters ( has partnered with several outfitters in Quebec to make some special hunting packages for hunters coming from the United States. At the time of printing, one U.S. dollar is worth $1.37 in Canada, making for great deals. It’s a great year to spring bear hunt in Canada.

More than 95% of Quebec is covered by the Canadian Shield, making it generally flat with some mountainous terrain. However, the Lauratian Mountains in southern Quebec, the Otish Mountains in central Quebec, and northern leg of the Appalachian Mountains stretch into the southern part of the province providing some mountainous terrain. The highest point in the province is Mount Caubvick that reaches over 5,000 feet in elevation. Needless to say Quebec has some of some great bear habitat and bear densities.

Quebec is a province known for providing high success rates and great opportunity on black bear. By holding out for a larger bear and letting some smaller bears walk, you’ll have a good chance at a 250-300 black bear in Quebec, maybe bigger. One of the biggest attractions of hunting Quebec in the spring is the fishing. The outfitters are equipped and ready for bear/fishing combination trips that will guarantee an excellent adventure. Check out for the special package made for the readers of Bear Hunting Magazine. 

quebec bear

James Lawrence Arkansas

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.

Oklahoma bear

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.

Subscribe to Bear Hunting Magazine, the nations only all bear hunting print magazine!


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 (  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. 

The month-long NW wind continued through the final three days of spring bear hunting so I took my spike camp gear back up to Otter Pee Island. There is a 200+ acre meadow there that is prime brown bear habitat this time of year, and the Island is about 2 miles downwind. It's a safe place to camp in grizzly bear country. The odds of a bear swimming 300 yards just to eat a skinny senior citizen are very low.
In an average year the coastal grizzlies of Southeast Alaska begin appearing on the beaches in mid to late April. However, this past winter was very warm and spring vegetation that normally emerges in late April was up and green at the end of March.

Last Monday my friend Lee and I walked up one of our river valleys to check for signs of bear...
“Is her head up?” asked Myron Means, the Large Carnivore Coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). His is assistant, Alex, replied, “Yep, she’s looking right at me.” He had just crept into a sow bear’s den and shot her with a tranquilizer dart.
As hunters, we are truly fascinated by antlered game and rightfully so. Antlers are unique, one of a kind and make fantastic memory stimulators, i.e. trophies. Bears offer, however, as much or more “bang for your buck” (pun intended) than antlered game, just in a different way. Bears can be overlooked as amazing trophies, but with some enlightenment you’ll understand why. Here are six reasons why bears are a high-end big-game trophy that should rival your best whitetail.

Bear Mounts are epic:
Nine mistakes you don't want to make during the spring 2015 bear season.

1. Under estimate/over estimate the power of mosquitos

I hear a lot of negative murmur about mosquitos on spring bear hunts. Mosquitos are like a vaccinatable disease – if you get vaccinated you don’t have anything to worry about but if you don’t, they’ll make you miserable. There will definitely be mosquitos in large number wherever you spring bear hunt but with the advent of modern technology they really aren’t a problem anymore. I carry...
1. Affordable:

Bear hunting is one of the few outfitted hunts left that can be very affordable. In correlation with your odds of success it is probably the best type of outfitted hunt available. You can go on some quality hunts in Maine & Ontario for $1500 and less. Perhaps a more appealing option for trophy quality is to go on a top-end bear hunt in Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia or Saskatchewan for $3,000-$4,000. Outfitters will often work with you on payment plans in advance of the hunt. Additionally, you can finance a hunt through your bank for pennies on the dollar and pay it off over a couple of years. For people with good credit and collateral, banks are eager to make these small loans. Be wise, but consider the options.
Before you decide how you are going to cape your bear, you’ll need to know what you are going to do with the finished hide. There are basically three options: make a flat rug, mount the bear or make a 'case skin' for hanging on the wall. With some practice you’ll be able to make quick work of the big bruins you’ll hopefully take in 2015. Here are three methods for how to cape a bear and why you’ll need to use that method.
When it comes to bear hunting outfitters, not all are created equal. Comparing outfitters one to another can be difficult, because you often aren’t comparing apples to apples. Different types of hunts are designed for different types of hunters. People often call and ask me to give them a blanket referral to an outfitter, however, without some more information this can be difficult. Are they looking for a trophy-class bear or just a rug for the floor? Do they have $6,000 to spend or $1,500? Do they want a wilderness adventure in a tent camp or a relaxing hunt based out of a lodge? Do you want to hunt over bait, spot and stalk or chase them with hounds? Here is a simple break down...
Bear hunting is a great hunting venue for being able to pursue your passion in two separate seasons throughout the year – spring and fall. However, bears are sleeping right now and the sows are rearing cubs that have just been born. It’s a magical time with the vast majority of black bear cubs being born in January weighing less than one pound. Bears have a 60-day gestation period that usually begins in early November.
Bear hunting is becoming more and more of a necessity in North America as bear numbers continue to rise across the continent. Though the last 20 years has seen its share of hunting opportunities decrease with the close of several spring seasons – including Colorado and Maine. However, hope remains and we are optimistic that seasons will again begin to lean more in favor of hunter opportunity. Maine’s victory over the Humane Society of the United States to ban hounding, trapping and bait hunting was significant. 2014 was the “year of the bear” as many states/provinces saw a rise in human bear conflicts. Bear hunters, get ready for the next decade. It’s my prediction that the states will be calling upon you to help them more and more.
Video Blog Nov 10th, 2014: Congratulations from BHM to Mainers on the massive victory in defeating the Bear Referendum. Learn about incrementalism and how your state can be protected against the HSUS in the future.
Admiralty Island in SE Alaska is known to the Tlingit native people as Kootznoowoo or the “Fortress of the Bear”. This 5.7-million-acre Federal wilderness area has the highest concentration of brown bears in the world, about 1.6 animals per square mile. But in 2014 many streams that normally hold spawning salmon are barren so bears are concentrated on the streams that do have fish. This account describes a 2-mile hike up Chiak River (Shy-eek) that I did on the west coast of Admiralty.
The Humane Society of United States (HSUS) has an overall agenda to stop all types of sport hunting in North America. The HSUS is responsible for putting the bear referendum on the ballot in Maine. This wasn’t an “in-state” generated movement, but rather
People don’t realize the drama that an Arkie/Okie bear hunter goes through during the approaching days before season. In the fall, these bears can be real shysters and will leave you without a day’s warning. During this time we become like paranoid
We’ve got nine bear baits set out in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Most of them were started on September 7th. I personally have not been able to get back to the baits, however, my bear baiting partner has checked several of them and they’ve all been hit.
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.

Video Blog - July 28th

Big Bear Back & New Bow

By Clay Newcomb

Check out the mount that won second place at the national taxidermy competition and see Clay's new Timberghost bow. 

I had tremendous four days in Missoula, Montana attending the Boone and Crockett Measurer's class. We were instructed, in great detail, in the proper methods of scoring 38 categories of North American big game. Learning to score was a highlight, but it certainly wasn't the emphasis of the intense pow-wow. A branch of B&C keeps records of big game horn, antler, skull and tusk measurements, but the clubs primary purpose and influence has been in habitat management and conservation of big game as a renewable resource. B&C is the oldest hunting/conservation organization in North America - the big brother of conservation.
When it comes to hunting gear and gadgets I consider myself to be a minimalist, but after hearing from so many friends and their success with calling black bears I figured I'd get a sow-in-heat call and pull it out if the right opportunity presented itself. It just so happened that on the very first hunt I guided this past spring in Alaska I was able put my new call to use.
As I told you last week, I will be going to Alaska in mid-August on a Coastal Brown Bear hunt. Any type of weapon is legal for the hunt (that meets the AK regulations for archery and rifles). However, Brown Bear with archery equipment is indisputably one of the top challenges North America offers the archer. Behind the Polar Bear, the Brown Bear is the largest land carnivore in the world. Kodiak Brown Bears can even rival the size of the largest Polar Bears.
The next couple of blogs I will be discussing my preparation for an Alaskan Brown Bear hunt this August. I will be discussing a few of my equipment choices and analyzing my training and preparation for this hunt of a lifetime.

Jun 09 2014

Broadheads for Black Bears - June 9th Video Blog

Broadheads for Black Bears

The introduction of expandable broadheads in the mid-1990s effectively divided the bowhunting community. The previous broadhead options just weren't that different. Were you going to shoot a three-blade Wasp or Thunderhead was sometimes the extent of the banter. I'm sure Native Americans had similar discussions over campfires debating the effectiveness of the different styles of stones points of their era. One thing hasn't changed, hunters don't like letting their target animal get away after it's been shot.
I just arrived back in the States from the best week of bear hunting that I've ever been a part of. My eyes appear tired from the last nine days of travel and hunting, but I'm energized and still reveling in my true northern bear hunting experience. It was a full emersion into the northern Alberta wilderness, a week long Bear-apalooza.

May 19 2014 - May 20 2014

Sprint Week at BHM - VIDEO BLOG

timberghostThis week at Bear Hunting Magazine is the beginning of a sprint of magazine production, video work and spring hunting.  I will be heading to Alberta Canada to hunt with Bighorn Meadows Outfitting on Friday, May 23rd. It’s a seven-day hunt with a travel day on each end, meaning that I will be away from the office for a while.
A blog will be a nice change for me as they, in general, seem to be more laid back compared to print journalism. And let's face it, you get to say what you really think on a blog, right?