Okay, let’s go down the check list for your spring bear hunt. You have researched, selected and contracted an outfitter, paying the required deposit to reserve your hunt…check. You have decided how you’ll travel to Canada and made the required arrangements…check After careful consideration, you’ve selected the crossbow you will use to take one of the many world record black bears your outfitter claims are in his territory…check.
2-3 small flashlights, a headlamp, rangefinder, treesaw, sharp knife and small first aid kit are all good things to have in your pack for a spring bear hunt.
The next step is to decide what accessories you’ll need to pursue the wily bruin in the thick, Canadian bush. Most equipment that’s used on your hunt will be the same that you use while hunting whitetail deer. A good, sharp hunting knife and a treesaw are necessary items, along with a thick cushion to prevent brain damage during the long sits in the stand. You’ll need two good flashlights and one headlamp with plenty of extra batteries. This gear is standard back or fanny pack stuffing, but what else should you include.
Bring an extra crossbow just in case you have problems with your primary bow.
The first thing you might want to consider is an extra bow or, if you are shooting a recurve crossbow, at least one extra bowstring. Things happen and if you’re deep in the wilderness and your crossbow blows up, you don’t have a lot of options. Chances are slim that there is a proshop in the area and you don’t have the time required to send your bow back to the factory. Now you can always borrow a firearm from your outfitter, which they are sure to have; but if you are determined to take your bear with a crossbow you had best pack a spare, just in case the unlikely happens. Be a good Boy Scout and be prepared! Check with your outfitter and find out the average distance from the stands to the bait and then adjust your sighting-system accordingly. If all his baits are within 30-yards set your first mark at 10 yards, second at twenty and third at thirty. Bring along the trusty old range finder so that you know the exact distance to the bait once you are at the site. Some outfitters have the stands as close as ten yards, but with the 10-20-30 plan you will be prepared.
Bear Spray is seldom neccesary, but could be a life saver.
If you have chosen to hunt from a ground blind (which we will discuss in greater detail in another column) you may want to have bear spray on your person. Very rarely does a hunt turn dangerous with a black bear, but it does happen. Bear spray will deter a curious or even an aggressive bear. If you are in a treestand, a bop on the head with the fore-end of your crossbow as it reaches your platform is usually all that is needed.
Trail Camera can keep an eye on the bait when you are not there.
A trailcam is a handy device to bring along to monitor what is happening at your bait while you are not there. Most outfitters will have you sit during the last half of the day; bears, however, may visit the bait any time of day. If you have really good bear traffic in the early part of the day, then your trailcam will tattle on the bears and you can be there waiting to greet them with open sights.
Thermal-Cells are a wonderful invention and they really work!
Misquitoes are a very important factor on a Spring bear hunt so you might want to consider bringing along a Termal Cell to repel the little buggers. This marvelous invention really does work and it is well worth the investment to have one along on the hunt. Make sure you have plenty of butane refills and repellent pads just in case you ene up sitting the entire week to score your bruin. And don't forget to bring extra rubber-coated treesteps when hunting with a crossbow. You will need one to hang your bow from, another for your quiver (I like to remove my quiver while hunting or to carry a non-attached quiver) and a third step for your back or fanny pack. It is always better to have them and not need them rather than need them and not have them.
Lighted nocks can be a real asset on your hunt.
Another suggestion would be lighted nocks for your arrows. A lot of bear movement, especially for the larger bears, happens right at dark. Lighted nocks are a new tool in my arsenal and I am really impressed with how they enhance the moment of truth. You know exactly where your arrow entered the bear and usually exactly where your arrow is after the shot, as most shots are pass-through. Although spendy, if a lighted nock helps you recover just one arrow that would have been lost, it has paid for itself.
Scents and lures can assist in the success of the hunt.
Cover scents, bear lures and scent eliminators can be beneficial to your hunt. Scent eliminators remove some of you scent, but it is impossible to remove it all even if you bathe in the stuff. Cover scents will assist your efforts, but in the end wind direction will be the dominant factor. There are some really great attractants in an assortment of flavors like blueberry, bacon, and fish. There are even some that burn like incense which cover your scent and attract the bears, but can also be used right in the stand to help you monitor wind direction.
A KneePod or some other form of shooting rest can be a real asset when adrenaline hits your system.
One more thing that you will want to bring is some form of bow rest to help you support the heavier weight of a crossbow for long periods of time. Movement is a key factor when hunting bears so fumbling around, trying to get your bow off the hanger when the bear comes into the bait is not a good thing; especially if you are hunting a really large bear that is more cautious and careful then its younger clan members. As the day begins to come to an end, you should have your crossbow resting on a Kneepod, a Steady-Edy or some other form of shooting stick. This handy little device, which ever one you decide best meets your needs, will support the weight of your bow allowing you to take a steady shot when the moment of truth arrives. It also stabilizes the tremors that are known to afflict the bear hunter, especially when Mister Big enters the arena of death. And experience has taught us that at that magical moment even the smaller bears in the forest have been known magically seem bigger, making the steadiest of hunters begin to quake.
Your list may be longer, but the above items are all things that should be on you equipment inventory for your crossbow bear hunt.
A great plan makes for a great hunt!