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July/August 2012

Feature Sections

  • Q & A - Tips
  • Video Review
  • Bruin in the Kitchen - Recipes
  • Spotlight On: Washington
  • Bear Essentials - Gadgets & Gear
  • News & Notes
  • Bear Association News
  • Outfitters & Guides
  • Hunter Photo Gallery
  • Crazy Tales from Uncle Geddy  & The BMG


  • Handguns for Bear with Ed Hall

    Scoping Your Handgun
  • Crossbow Challenge with Daniel James Hendricks

    Gaining Ground in Bear Hunting Arena
  • Guns & Optics with Ralph Lermayer

    Speed Re-loading Your Muzzleloader
  • In Hot Pursuit with Travis Reggear

    Strike Dogs
  • Scent Strategies with Dick Scorzafava

    Advances in Odor Reducing Clothing
  • Archery Talk with Steve Bartylla

    5 Things to Increase Success




Montana’s Monster Chocolates

By B.C. Smith

It had been a long hard winter in northwest Montana and I was suffering from a bad case of cabin fever; spring bear season couldn’t come soon enough. My son, Garrett, was also feeling the urge to hit the hills; he’d been attending college out of state and was glad to have finally left the flatlands of North Dakota to return home to the mountain grandeur of Big Sky Country. Big burly black bears were on our minds and as the season approached we began our ritual preparations for the hunt; poring over topo maps, getting supplies ready, strategizing and dusting off our rifles that had been resting dormant since the previous fall.
     The previous spring we had located a dandy jet-black bruin feeding in a clear-cut high in the Cabinet Mountains near the Idaho border. I had already harvested my bear so Garrett made several plays on that old bruin over the course of several days but he had a knack for giving us the slip. The memory of that hunt played in Garrett’s mind and fueled him for yet another round of matching wits with the cagey bruin.
     Unlike many states, Montana is more restrictive in its approach to regulating bear hunting; namely, no hound-hunting or baiting is allowed. This can be a drawback because the hunter is relegated to spot-and-stalk, stand-hunting over natural food sources, predator calling or still-hunting. It’s best to use a combination of these methods, depending on the circumstances or the individual bear being pursued. However, please note that predator calling in griz country can produce unwanted results; a hungry griz in your lap may be more adventure than bargained for.



Don’t Forget the Morning Hunt

By Richard P. Smith

Most hunters interested in bagging a black bear over bait restrict their hunting to afternoons and evenings because they’ve been led to believe that’s when bruins are most active. So they forget about hunting mornings, spending those hours checking baits, fishing or lounging around camp. The truth of the matter is that black bears can be just as active during the morning as evening in both spring and fall months.
      When the weather is hot, black bears can be even more active during morning hours than evening because that is the coolest part of the day. And the odds of seeing a big trophy class bruin may be better in the a.m. than p.m. because experienced bears have learned that the odds of encountering people at baits are reduced during those hours. Consider the following experience Tony Towslee from Green Bay, Wisconsin had during his very first bear hunt.
      Towslee’s father-in-law, Doug Maki from Negaunee, Michigan, is an experienced bear hunter and he invited Tony to hunt with him in the Upper Peninsula. After several years of applying for a non-resident tag, Tony was finally successful in the drawing. His license was valid starting September 10th but, due to his work schedule, he couldn’t start hunting until the 14th and he only had three days to hunt.



A Boy & A Bear

By Bernie Barringer

  As I followed the long road north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, I looked over to see my 14 year-old son, Sterling, in the passenger seat, fast asleep. His peaceful look hid well the high level of anticipation that coursed through his veins. I’d shaken him awake at 4:30 a.m., some eight hours ago, so he deserved the sleep.
      It’s hard to put into words the love a father feels for a son. It’s hard to put into words the pride a man feels when his son shares his passion for bowhunting; and it is hard to describe the bonds that are created by shared experiences, both good and bad. We couldn’t know it at the time, but we were about to experience some extremes of both on this trip.
       Continuing on the lonely road north, the oaks and pines gave way to small spruce forests and poplar groves. The number of farms waned and the roadside became lined with forests for mile after mile. Perfect bear country. This would not be Sterling’s first bear hunt; he’d bagged a nice bear last fall with a perfect heart shot near our Minnesota home on a do-it-yourself hunt. He’d also arrowed a handful of deer. Sterling is a crack shot with his Mathews Switchback XT. It was a bow I couldn’t bring myself to sell when I upgraded, so I passed it on to him. He has become very proficient with it. Sterling was the hunter on this trip and I was along to video the experience.



Bear Hunting – Romanian Style

By Bill Hintze

Occasionally when recounting a hunting adventure, the background events can be nearly as interesting as the hunt itself. This circumstance certainly was the case when applied to my acquisition of a two-client, two-bear safari in eastern Europe.
      My friends and I were attending the auctions at Safari Club International’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada. Among the enticing opportunities was a donation from Bob Kern’s Hunting Consortium for a week-long outing in Romania’s Transylvania region. However, there was a snag. I had promised to take the ladies to see Lake Tahoe, and that conflicted with the auction schedule.
      I bit the bullet, so to speak, and missed the bidding opportunity. In consolation, I walked past Mr. Kern’s booth and told my sad story. “I note the Romanian item was for two hunters and two bears. Would you be so kind as to ask your successful bidder if he would be interested in laying off half of his purchase to an outsider like me?”
      The exhibitor was non-committed, but promised to give their new client my contact info. Nothing further occurred in Reno, nor for several weeks after returning home to Texas.





California Bruin with Attitude

By Brad Grap

I encountered a bear in the Angeles National Forest during the archery deer season at the time I shot my buck. The large bear came out of the brush, basically out of nowhere, and tried to claim my deer. Standing over my deer, the bear looked as though he found lunch. I have never seen this behavior before in California while bow hunting!
     At this point, I wished it was bear season but that wasn’t for two more days. I didn’t want the bear to claim my deer nor come too much closer to me. I threw rocks at him but that didn’t work so well. He was very aggressive and stood his ground. I pulled up some brush and held it high above my head to make me look bigger, at the same time I was yelling at him loudly. Only 55 yards away, he bluff charged me several times. I remained persistent and the bear finally departed, but only momentarily. I was able to make my way over to my expired deer.
    As I was taking my field photos with the deer, the bear came back and harassed me again. As nervous as I was, I quickly tagged the buck, dressed him out and dragged it back to my vehicle. All along the way I kept looking over my shoulder for that crazy bear.


Dead Bear Walking

by Justin L. Merrill

Opening day arrived and with it the anticipation of hunting black bear in Maine. I could barely make it through the workday, all hyped up with bears on my mind. At 5:55 p.m. I was strapping a safety harness to the tree before sitting down to wait for a hungry bear while perched 15 feet up a tree.
    Having gotten all settled in overlooking a bucket full of donuts, I realized I wasn’t alone. But all the commotion around the stand was not coming from a bear. The red squirrel performing a balancing act on the edge of the bait bucket was the culprit. Unexpectedly, the red squirrel perched upright on the rim in a startled manner. Without hesitation the it bolted to its left to run far away. Its furry neighbors joined in on the 100-yard dash to safety.
    The bear approached from left to right and walked into the bait, paused, sniffed and looked around. It looked right up at me and quickly wheeled around to jump back into the trees. After a moment, the bear came back, pushed the cement block off the bucket, grabbed a paw full of donuts, shoved them in its mouth and marched off to eat them 60 yards away. After watching the bear stuff its face, he came back for more. Only this time I was ready and in position with my bow and arrow.


Idaho Fun & Adventure

by John Rigler

In May of 2011, my son and I returned to North Fork, Idaho for our annual color phase black bear hunt. We have always hunted from a stand or ground blind, but this year would be different. John and Caleb from Continental Divide Outfitters suggested we try running bears with their hounds. On the first morning this 60 year-old with his 30 year-old son set off on an unexpected day of adventure and intense stress. Our guides have a stable of fine hounds used primarily for cat hunts but are equally talented on spring bear.
     My experience with bear running was confined to what I had read in Bear Hunting Magazine over the years. Even the stories did not prepared me for the excitement involved. I did not realize that my office-bound body was so woefully unprepared for a day of climbing up and down Idaho’s steep mountains. Thrashing through the woods as we traversed up and down the mountainsides was exhilarating.
     After a full day of running bears we decided to finish up at a ground blind, one I had never hunted before. My guide assured me that a huge, brown phase black bear had been on that bait. Getting to the site was easy, except for being tired and for having to cross a swollen creek that was out of its banks from the winter’s heavy snow melt.


A Bear Man Named Zeus

By Steve Conway

“Benny House and I were chasing our regular pack plus some young dogs in Melitt Canyon north of Questa, New Mexico. We finally bayed the bear in a small crawlhole, maybe an old mine portal. The entire pack dove into that cave and commenced mixing it up with the bear; barking up a storm, and fighting fiercely. The fighting escalated until we could hardly control the dogs, but finally managed to get them tied back. Then came the hard part.”
     “Definitely didn’t like this situation; big bear, little man, confined space and a cave black as pitch. It was stupid, but I did it anyway, charging into that cave like one of my hounds. I squirmed in on my belly, cigarette lighter in one hand and .44 Ruger in the other, hearing the bear breathing and growling deep in his throat, smelling its breath no more than a few feet away. Finally, I see the slight flickering reflection of the lighter’s flame in the bear’s eyes.”
      “Taking aim at a space between the flickers, I squeezed the trigger and, for an instant, could see the bear in the muzzle flash. I fired a second time, the noise deafening in the narrow, confined space; then, thinking the bear might eat me, got busy crawfishing out of that hole. I made it out and just sat there, shaking uncontrollably while reflexively fishing for a smoke.” exclaimed Zeus.


Virtual Scouting for the Do-It-Yourself Bear Hunter

By Gregg Knutsen

What is the initial feeling a bear hunter experiences when the time comes to hunt an entirely new part of the state or country? I don’t mean finalizing plans for a guided hunt or planning a tag-along trip with hunting buddies from another zip code, but rather facing the tall task of conducting a Do-It-Yourself bear hunt in unfamiliar territory. Well, hopefully that feeling is at least partial excitement, but inevitably “intimidation” and “overwhelming” are complementary feelings.
      These are some of the feelings I endured when my family moved to northwestern Minnesota from North Dakota several years ago. My wife and I knew we wanted to hunt black bears that first fall in Minnesota, but learning some new haunts, along with getting settled into a new house and new jobs between the months of April and August seemed just a little much. Others might experience a similar need to hunt new country because they didn’t draw a permit in their usual zone, but were successful in drawing one in a different area. Still others might face the unsavory reality of suddenly losing access to a piece of private property that they’ve hunted for years.
      Exactly where does one start when trying to find the best 0.1-acre spot to dump their jelly donuts and hang a treestand within an 800,000-acre hunting zone that contains 200,000 acres of forest? Enter those feelings of being intimidated and overwhelmed. Fortunately, in this age of ever-expanding computer technology, today’s hunter has a big leg up on those that were faced with similar challenges as recently as a decade ago.


The Great Bait Debate – Part III

By Bernie Barringer

In the past two issues of Bear Hunting Magazine, we have discussed the amount of bait to use and how often to bait. In this third, and final installment, of The Great Bait Debate, I would like to discuss using the right bait. Because, after all, if you are in the right spot and doing everything else perfectly, it will not matter if you aren’t using a bait that will attract and hold the bears at your site.
     This topic can really be broken down into three categories: The right bait and scent for getting a bait started, the right bait to keep them coming back and holding them close, and the topic of whether or not to change baits during the season.
      I have made this statement before but it bears repeating: Every place is different and there are many rules and regulations, as well as differences in terrain and situations that dictate the right choices for you. Keep that in mind as you read along. In some places, you can put out a barrel full of oats and kill bears off it year after year. In other places, you would never get a bear to consistently come to that spot and may never see a bear, much less kill one there.
      In my survey of more than 800 bear hunting guides and outfitters, I asked them some pointed questions about the baits and scents they use and why. The results were actually varied and somewhat surprising. Let’s take a look at the scents they use to start out a bait first of all, then we will look at the results of three other questions from the survey; starting baits, holding baits and changeups.