As of September 1st, bear hunting in underway here in Ontario…
And my preparations are still lagging. First, I’ve just got over Covid-19 so my strength has not fully recovered. Second, I’m in no big hurry since the bear season continues till the end of November. Yet I want to get “out there” for some scouting and decision making on where and “if” I will use some baiting. Calling is another alternative with less work involved but demands full attention at all times, whereas with a bait setup I can just sit, be quiet and watch. Such decisions are yet be made, but likely I’ll employ both strategies. In any case, I must get my legs moving.
Rifles? Yes, I have three BG rifles and a 12ga smoothbore shotgun that shoots those hard lead Challengers (Brenneke type). All are ready to go.
The .35 Whelen single-shot TRADITIONS Outfitter G3: 7.35 lbs with 1 cartridge in chamber, and a 3-9 x 40 scope. Overall length with muzzle brake = 39″. Load: 225gr AccuBonds @ 2840 fps/4030 ft-lbs. Recoil with brake = 33 ft-lbs.
Advantages: Light, short, handy and powerful. Good as a “walk-about” and for scouting.<A bear bait in a pile of logs in May/22. That’s the Traditions G3 in .35 Whelen. This was a recently logged-out area in Haliburton Highlands.
The TiKKA T3 Lite in 9.3 x 62 (now with a muzzle brake). With four cartridges (three in clip and one in chamber) plus four in a buttstock cartridge holder, and a 3-9×40 Elite 3500 scope = 8.25 lbs. With brake, plus overall weight, recoil = 33 ft-lbs (286gr NPs at 2583 fps/ 4238 ft-lbs) Rifle length with brake = 43″.
Advantages: Repeater, powerful, familiar, recoil similar to the Whelen with brake and added weight. Best for stting over bait, or calling from a particular location.
The Ruger No.1H in .458 Win Mag: 10.6 lbs with one in the chamber and four in a buttstock cartridge holder. Loaded for bear: 250gr Hornady MonoFlex at 2680 fps/ 3988 ft-lbs. This is a reduced load that’s plenty for any game to 200 yards. With the Mag-Na-Porting, recoil is a nominal 24 ft-lbs.
Main purpose and advantage: Sitting over bait, or watching/calling from a particular location, familiarity, minimal recoil, powerful, handsome and a classic. My favorite rifle.
Stevens/Savage 12ga Tactical: For followup of a wounded bruin in dark foreboding places.
1) Get out there. The importance of this should not be minimized. We can’t discern conditions and sign if we’re not there! I like preseason scouting. Unfortunately, this year it was out of the question. First, due to my wife coming down with Covid after attending a women’s conference, then five days later I got it from her! It had its own debilitating effects for a couple of weeks. I lost ten pounds in five days! My legs seemed like wet noodles! Among other things, I lost appetite for food that I couldn’t taste, but I drank gallons of cold water from the fridge.
I’m back to near normal, and woods walking will be good for heart, lungs and legs. Plus, I’ll start thinking “hunting” and look carefully for any signs of big game. It’s also refreshing for mind and spirit. On Wednesday (Sept 7/22) I checked two locations and placed a minimal bait in one of them. My legs got a good workout. Will check that site sometime early next week.<Right out there in the middle of the pic across this little gully at about 75 yards.
2) The rifle I’ll be toting for that initial activity will be the single-shot .35 Whelen – that was the reason for its purchase as a “walk-about” that’s quick and handy… not a burden. It’s quick to the shoulder, and with the Diamondback scope set on 3x the field of view is both bright and broad. It’s zeroed at +1″ at 100 yards. That’s plenty for anything legal to 200 +yards.
3) Sign: I’ll be looking for bear scat, tracks and scraches on trees. Also, moose and deer sign as bears are very opportunistic in tracking both deer and especially a moose with a calf, or calves. I know of moose in the area I’ll be scouting. Then, wild berries might be plentiful in certain areas as well as acorns. This is Crown Land where I’ve done a lot of bear, deer and coyote/wolf hunting, and know of an Oak grove, usually with lots of nuts on the ground which are loved by both bear and deer. It’s not a bad strategy to just sit and watch an area.
4) Calling: I’ll be doing some of that for wolf and coyote. Sometimes a bear will respond. I’ll need to have my back against a fat tree or one of the Smart Car size boulders scattered throughout the area. In making moose vocalizations with my hands cupped to my mouth, late one fall day, I called in a 400 lb class black bear. There was an unfilled license in my pocket and an 1895 Marlin in hand, but I decided against shooting the bruin as it was late in the day and I was alone.
5) The terrain: It’s variable. Lots of ridges and valleys, streams, small lakes and large, marshes and bogs, trails, heavy brush, forrest and some recent logged out areas – typical eastern Canadian ecosystems.
6) Baiting: The positives and the negatives – there are both on either Crown Land (Public Land) or private. Which is most productive? That, like most things, depends on a number of factors.
Both bear and deer spend most of their lives searching for and eating food. Where the food is, that’s where you’ll find them. The difference? Bears are omnivorous, like humans, they are both meat eaters and vegatable/fruit/nuts eaters. And, generally, they aren’t picky… they’ll eat just about anything that’s edible, and some things that aren’t! They are also cannibalistic! They’ll eat rotten meat as a delicacy but hate raw potatoes! And they love sweets in particular – the meat is flavored by what they’ve been eating! Stay far away from areas with dumps! And if there’s an old apple orchard in bear country in the fall, watch out because there’ll likely be some bruins, if not under or in the trees, they’ll be nearby! But apple-flavored bear meat is delicious!
I had a friend who owned a honey operation. The raw honey was shipped in barrels from Western Canada and had to be filtered before marketing. A filter was placed in a large drum separator that was full of the raw honey. When the filters were removed at the end of a particular operation they went into big-tough- black garbage bags for the dump. One bag might contain up to twenty of those filters that were oridinally about two feet in diameter and round. When they were removed from the machine they were saturated with honey and bees wax, plus any bits of waste, folded into a pie-slice shape, two-inches thick by eight to ten inches in length and weighing two to three pounds each. Bears flocked like bees to snatch ’em from the bait barrel! But each bag full could weigh from 35 lbs to 50 lbs, and usually I’d have up to ten of them in a big container in the back of my van. It was a major task to get them to the bait site – depending on distance and terrain. Usually, I toted them in five-gallon plastic buckets. Alas, the business got sold and moved much further away when the owner retired. The point is that there are often many different sources of “food” that will go to the dump that bears love to feast on – just visit any dump where such “stuff” is in the open. That’s why there are now laws forbidding hunting bears within 400 meters of a dump – as here in Ontario.
< This isn’t a dump – though it may resemble one. No, it was my favorite location for a bear bait station. Sometimes bears would walk of with one of those 5 gallon buckets with the honey filters, and I might find them -or not – a year or so later!
But old frozen foods in plastic bags at the bottom of our freezers, that have been there for three or more years are good candidates for filling a bear’s empty stomach! Or, table scrapes – save ’em for the bears, not the dump!
Then, I’ll add some store-bought “sweets” when on sale, such as a big bag of “big” marshmellows that I bought recently to help start the baiting process – NO, they’ll only get a few to get ’em coming back for more! Then I go to the local supplier of big 40 – 50 lb sacks of corn, oats or whatever that are sold to farmers for farm animals and pets. Stirring in some cheap molasses and adding a rag or two of saturated anise hanging from nearby branches are powerful attractants! Get ’em comin’ and they’ll come back looking for more!
I’m not a “trophy hunter” of bears. I’ve had one on my office wall in the form of a rug for decades – and that’s it! After all, someone has to eat ’em – not the rug but the meat! The bigger they are, the bigger the freezer must be – and we only now have one freezer in the garage that is full! So most of it goes to neighbors and friends after processing by the butcher into steaks and roasts. Fortunately, the neighbors on one side of us will take whatever we offer. They are an extended family. Then, there’s a poor family in town that, likewise, will take what’s offered.
All of it, including caring for the meat, must be part of the “strategy”.
And caring for the meat is the law, so that commences in the field in retrieving the carcass, field dressing it and transportation to the vehicle and on to the butcher. I don’t do any butchering, though at one time I had a younger partner who, among other trades, was a butcher!
Then, if nothing is shot I’ll not be greatly disappointed. I’ve harvested a good number of bears, plus other big, medium and small game. The main thing is “the hunt”. This past week I purchased a new small game license, plus a wolf tag. I’ve had a bear license since spring, but spent only a few days in May in exploration of some old and new areas until the notorious black flies became intolerable. That season ended on June 15, but the license is still good for the fall hunt till the end of November that embraces both the moose and deer seasons. During the big game seasons, I also have the small game tag and wolf tag that goes on to the end of 2022. The fall hunting seasons are both cooler and minus most bugs and biting insects, including the dreaded deer tics.
So, may I wish you a safe and successful hunting season, wherever that may take you, and whatever the game.
Till the next…