Tracking is tracking, be it for deer or bears. You find the sign and keep following it. One difference is that a bear has thicker hide, a layer of fat and 4 inches of hair around it’s vitals that can sop up blood.
Sometimes bears don’t leave the best of blood trails. But bears break limbs and branches and blood gets smeared on the sides of trees and on the under side of ferns and other fauna. In many places the ground is soft and you can follow bear tracks. I’ve seen my buddy Fred Lutger track and recover bears that never left a drop of blood. A bear generally leaves more sign than deer do. Another issue is that this woods is so thick that when you go 100 yards everybody thinks they’ve gone 200. So keep on looking. If your shot was good you will find your bear.
Game Tracker String – This is one of many excellent tips I learned from Fred Lutger. A spool of tracker string can spare you anxiety and save you time — and maybe even keep you from spending the night in the woods with the bears and wolves. You did NOT bring this tracker string to shoot the bear with. Before you start the recovery tie the string to a tree or log on the bait and let the string unwind as the bear is tracked.
Ok, some of you might be thinking, “Why should I do that.”
Possibly that means you have never tracked a bear in the Canadian woods. These woods are thick and visibility is awful. In my experience if bears run very far they nearly always change directions several times. 30 yards into the woods you can’t see where you started. 100 yards of zig zagging and you won’t have a clue where you started. 200 yards more and getting out can be a big problem.
Even if you marked the trail with flagging, the woods is so dense that unless your flags are very close together, on the way out you won’t be able to locate the next flag in some places without stopping and searching for it. There are places the woods is so thick you can’t walk through it, let alone see anything.
Use a spool of game tracker string and once the bear is found follow the string back to the bait. Believe me, its hard enough to drag the bear out. Marking your trail with a game tracker line will make finding your way back out, as well as dragging the bear out, a hundred times easier.
And that’s in the daylight!
One thing, before you move the bear an inch fasten your Tag to the bear. And if you take a picture on your Smartphone of you and your bear it absolutely must be tagged. When you encounter a game warden on the way back to camp and he pleasantly asks to see a picture of your bear he has an ulterior motive, and if your bear was not tagged in the picture you will find out what it is.
At night you can only see what’s in the beam of your flashlight. You can easily lose the trail. You can get totally lost or even get yourself in trouble.
Don’t go after the bear by yourself. A few years ago I was tracking a bear by myself and 25 yards from the bait the mossy ground gave way and I sunk up to my waist in spongy goop. I was trapped, on the trail to the bait, in a woods full of bears. By the time I finally got out it was dead dark. The bear was another 30 yards and he wasn’t dead yet, which is another reason for not tracking alone.
These days, if the hunter does not hear a death moan we normally don’t track the bear until daylight. Be sure to roll up the tracker string as you return so it’s not left in the woods.
Dragging Bear Out – This is not smooth sailing. You’re going good and the bear’s nose somehow slides under a thick root and stops you cold, and everybody falls down. Or his leg hangs on a tree. Or there are some knee high blow downs to go over.
Two people can pull out a bear that’s a couple hundred pounds. A 300 pounder will be a tough go. And you aren’t even moving a 400 or 500 pounder. The bigger bears take more people. And grabbing onto a bear paw or leg doesn’t give you a secure enough hold to work good.
You need a good dragging belt. The old style treestand safety belts are no longer recommended for treestand hunters. But they are all the good for dragging bears. You can pull more weight, easier, with the belt around your waist. And they have good hook up systems to attach to the bear. Since we always have some with us we use a Rope Ratchet to drag too, hook one end around a leg and hook the other to your belt. Of course, a rope will work but ropes constrict tightly around your hands and waist. You’ll know you have a big bear if there is a dragging line hooked to every leg and its head and on the way out you have to stop and rest several times.
There are game carts with wheels. We’ve used several and most of them are junk that is poorly designed for this type of woods and the cart constantly hangs up and tips over. More hassle than help. One year Kirby Knackstedt brought one that he made himself and it was good.
Ice Sleds work for transporting bears. Once you get the bear into the sled just start dragging. Again, the heavier the bear the more draggers you need.
Flashlight – The brighter the better. The more area it covers the better. I use a StreamLite and Fred Lutger has a Browning light. Both have a super bright, flood light mode that is a huge help for finding blood spots at night. These lights cost more but they do the job better.
Receiver Hitch Rack – A detachable rack on the back of your truck is very handy. The rack is a shorter distance from the ground than a pickup tailgate, something that will be appreciated after a long bear pull. You can also transport bait, treestands and blinds with it. It is a real plus and you’ll use it every day of the bear hunt.
Ok, we’ve found the bear, got ourselves back to the truck and loaded the bear. Next, we’ll go over a few other things that can make a bear hunt better.