Like a ghost in the darkness, they appear from nowhere. You look left, look right, then look left again and bam, there one stands. I’m talking about none other than the magnificent black bear. It’s amazing that an animal so powerful and strong can be so quiet and nimble.
Chasing these docile misunderstood creatures is a major passion of mine in the late summer and early falls. With bear seasons underway across much of the country, hopefully some of my experiences can help you bag the bruin you’re after.
Choosing a Location
When searching for a new set up or bait station, there are quite a few things to keep in mind. Food sources, travel corridors and cover are few of the main ones I’m always on the look out for.
The first two things I always look for are travel routes/edges and cover. I like to find areas that are on the edge of a major terrain change. My favorite spots are those that have a large spruce swamp, or similar area that is cool and shaded where the bears can rest during the day near thicker cover for the actual bait site itself. Mature bears feel more comfortable moving during daylight hours where there is more cover.
Third, I always consider what major food sources they may be on during that time of year. In my area, it’s all about the berries. Huge rock flats covered in blueberries, stands of choke cherries and wild plums are just a few of them. This year, with the massive blueberry crop, I made found and made a few sets very close to both the blueberries and the spruce swamps. I know my best bet is not to try to pull the animals away from their main diet, but to be where they are and supplement with the best bait I can offer.
The Set Up
I like to keep all of my stands 13-18 yards from the baits. Once I select a tree for the stand, I find another tree within these distances for the bait itself. I then use a chain saw to cut logs and stack them in a “V” shape around the bait tree. I stack the logs this way, so when a bear comes to the bait, they will always provide a broadside or quartering away shot, not facing straight on or quartering to.
Once I have the stand set up and the bait logs cut, its time to trim the shooting lanes. This year I purchased a Hooyman 10’ saw to trim branches between the stand and the bait itself. The detachable hand saw is great for trimming the branches around the stand itself and small saplings in the shooting path.
When it comes to bait, I’m a firm believer that less is more. I generally never bait with more than 4 gallons at any one time per bait station. In my opinion, using smaller amounts of bait creates competition and brings the more mature bears out during daylight hours. I’m also not a fan of using large pastries or anything large that a bear can remove from the bait site. I want them to come in, eat and be comfortable.
Some of my favorite baits are sugar cones, cereal, pie fillings, cookies, gummy life savers and other various sweets. I could probably write a whole page of the different foods I have tried! I’ll mix a few of the drier foods together in a pail and then cover it with a runny pie filling, making it heavy and wet. Each of these 4-gallon pails will weigh around 30 pounds when the mix is complete.
Also, one of the main things I like to do is bait every day. I try to run the same stands at nearly the same time each day. This creates a routine that the bears get used to and when they hear the atv coming and going, its like a dinner bell for them. This is also the best time to place a hunter in the stand, as the bears believe it’s the normal routine.
For attractants, there are a whole variety of different scents. I like to spray the trees with liquid smoke, maple flavor, vanilla, cherry juice, anise or anything else that will leave a lasting aroma. One of my other favorite products is from Deer Scents and is a stick that is placed in the ground and lit. It burns for a few hours and gives off a great aroma. The last thing I use is used cooking oil. I’ll pour the oil on the ground around the bait and when the bears step in it, they leave a trail wherever they walk. The perfect scent trail for other bears to find and lead them to the bait.
NOTE: Be sure to check your states regulations as to what’s legal for bait. No two states have the same regulations and some things are illegal to bait with in some areas.
Its Go Time!
After all the hard work you put into your baits, setting them up, mixing the bait and running them every day, its time to jump in the stand and reap the benefits.
As I mentioned before, if possible, have a hunting partner drop you off and bait while you get in the stand. The bears are used to your routine, no need to change it now.
One last thing I’ll mention, that can be a near lifesaver, is to be sure you pick up a ThermaCell. I’ve sat many a nights without one, nearly chewed to death, not to have one in my pack at all times. They can make the difference between an enjoyable hunt and a miserable one.
Good luck and shoot straight!!!!
Here’s a few links to purchase some of the great products I’ve used right here at Bowhunting.com.
Deer Sense Bear Scents
Hooyman 10’ Saw