About 1/4 century ago I wrote a manual on this topic, but due to other more important events taking place in our lives at the time it never got the marketing it deserved. The full manuscript, including photos, were stored in my computer at the time, but that was several computers ago and despite attempts to find and retrieve several manuscripts, they appear to be lost – which may be a blessing!
Yet a few of my blogs published on Word Press have contained some of that material, which has been achived, but I’ll not do the tedious task of reviewing them or publishing their dates. Rather, I’ll start with a clean sheet, sharing what I’ve learned, and still learning, from thirty-four years of hunting black bears, primarily in the use of baits, but not exclusively.
<This monster was shot using bait as a lure. Over 600 lbs with guts in... not mine but by a fellow hunter.
And we’ll break it down this way in a series of blogs:
WHY use BAIT as a method for bear hunting?
WHAT bait is best?
HOW to use bait.
LOCATION of baits
TIMING of placing baits
SECURING of sites
SPRING or FALL?
WHEN to HUNT (time of day and weather)
OUTFITTER or SOLO or with PARTNERS?
RETRIEVAL & PROCESSING
These will not all be separate blogs, but individual subjects within a selection of blogs in, more or less, a logical order. With a primary focus on one or more of these topics, there will necessarily be some overlapping.
Bait hunting of black bear is a common method in most of Canada, with few exceptions – British Columbia being a significant one. There are of course other jurisdictions in North America where baiting for bear in hunting is both legal and a common practice. If unsure, check with authorities.
The reason for baiting bear for hunting purposes is found in our first topic:
WHY use BAIT as a METHOD for BEAR HUNTING?
Notice, it’s “a” method, not the only! There are also spot-and-stock, tracking, still hunting, hunting over a carcus, running with dogs etc, which are common practices by hunters for other game animals or predators as well. Hunting over a carcus, of course, has the same motive as baiting. Then, as we know, most sport fishing uses lures or baits – with the same motive: insuring success!
While checking out a new area last year (Sept/2021) for placing a bear bait, I ran into a couple of grouse hunters coming out of the woods to their vehicle; they looked rather “down at the mouth” so I stopped, asking “How’s it going?”. They were seeing nothing they said, and asked if I had any suggestions. I made a couple, and added: “Watch out for bears in this area!”. ” Bears in this area? We’ve been hunting birds in these woods for years and have yet to see a bear!” To which I replied: “Neither have I except when hunting them using bait!”. They had some difficulty believing me!
<And the smart ones are nocturnal… note the time:11:31 pm!
While there are some “authorities” and influencers against baiting for bears, wolves, cougers, etc, success in such adventures would result in high expendatures in money, energy and time with little to no success in most Canadian wildernesses and forested areas unless bait is used. I’ve only seen one bear in the wild that wasn’t attracted to a bait, and that big male was responding to my moose call!
Bears, like most wild creatures, are attracted to food sources: natural, agricultural or as a gift from hunters, campers, hikers, etc. Their other main activity is induced by a powerful attraction for the opposite sex during the warmer months of June, July and into August. But bears spend most of their lives in looking for food and eating it! When they find a steady source they will live in that area, and females will bring their young there too, which assures that following seasons will find the same bears plus their offsprings at the same location, whether it be a corn field or bait location for bear hunting.
A practical and ethical advantage of using baits is that it gives an opportunity to see a bear close up in determining its sex and condition, and whether this is a bear I’d want to shoot. Some bears are “trophy” quality even though they may not be in feet and inches! The last bear I shot was in mid-October, 2015, and to me it was “special” and therefore a “trophy”. It was a relatively young six-footer that only weighed 200 lbs, but was very smart! In fact, for about two weeks that bear and I were in a contest as to who could outsmart the other! He wanted the bait but wouldn’t come to it as long as I was “there” in my tree stand! And I knew when he arrived every time I was there! I never saw him but he was given away each time by a red squirrel at 6 pm, not more than 25 – 30 yards from me, hidden away by the thick foliage and underbrush. Bears are silent when walking a trail or even through underbrush, but can sound like a bulldozer at work if they want to intimidate – more on that latter when we discuss a bear’s psychology.
< My “trophy bear”, and I finally outsmarted him!
WHAT BAIT is BEST?
Bears will eat almost anything. Therefore, we need to give that some thought when we choose locations. Dump bears will taste like dump food! We can’t hunt bears within 400 meters of ANY dump, private or public. But I wouldn’t knowingly hunt bears within a few miles of a dump because they travel in response to smells, and a few miles is an afternoon stroll for them.
Sweets attract bears like bees to honey – speaking of which: If you have a friend in the honey business, or such a business nearby (say, within 50 k/30 m) that processes raw honey, talk with them as to any refuse or what goes as waste. Usually it’s saturated with whatever can’t go into a container for sale. That’s what I did for +20 years, because bears are attracted to honey just like bees. And bears don’t seem to be overly bothered if they get stung in robbing bee hives! And there will be lots of hornets, wasps and bees at your bait site if you use a honey product!
And ice creme is a delicasie to them as well, melted or still frozen – we have a well-known plant nearby that throws out 5 gallon containers of “good” ice cream that didn’t go to stores – it wasn’t wasted on the bears even in liquid form.
Then stuff from your freezer that’s been there too long: Meats fresh or stale. Seasonal corn on the cob, other veggies and fruits (apples from old farm orchards), canned goods with the lid open enough for smells to escape – I’ve used canned cat food on sale, etc.
Oats in any form, often sold in sacs for pets and/or farm use. Pour in some bulk molasses on top. Use your imagination! A lot of leftovers (and good food) goes to the dump – instead, make a donation to the bear food bank!
< And they’ll attempt to eat the can as well as what’s in it!
We’ve had bears walk off with 5 gal. plastic honey buckets (empty of honey) filled with anything a bear will eat! Sometimes months, or even years later we find a bucket hundreds of yards from the bait site. And THAT tells us the direction of where bears come from during the season before heading for hibernation late fall/early winter.
5 gal. plastic buckets that once held raw honey, then in my vehicle were loaded with saturated honey filters, from the production facility. Each loaded bucket weighed 30 – 40 lbs -this became bear food!
< Just imagine the size jaw that clamped onto this 5 gal. bucket!
< This one is still on that knoll. As one of my bear bait buckets in that area, it has been used by deer, moose and bear hunters as a seat over the past 25 years – including by myself this past fall!
Which suggests some ideas on:
HOW to USE BAIT
Til the next… Black Bear Hunting over Bait – P2