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Successful Bear Baiting
By Jim Sherman - TimberLine Archery
Jun 30, 2007 - 12:01:02 AM

Spring is that time of the year when both bears and bowhunters come out of hibernation and start to roam the forest. Most bowhunters are after turkeys, but turkey hunting just doesn't have the same adrenalin rush as getting out of a bear stand in the dark and walking out with bears all around you. Sometimes it is hard to tell which is the hunter and hunted.

Early spring bears have beautiful coats and better meat because it isn't as fat.

There are a lot of misconceptions about bears. The biggest is they can't see well. They can't if you compare them to a deer, but they can see just as well as we can. They will catch movement in a stand. The reason most people think they can't see well is because they don't trust their eyes. Their sense of smell is so keen that they rely on their nose for danger. They may look at you and not react but let them get a smell of you and they are gone. They say a whitetail can hear a leaf fall in the forest and a bear can smell it.

Every hunter loves being in the woods after a fresh snow because it is like reading a book about what happened overnight. You can see where deer moved and fed, where squirrels scampered or where a hawk caught a squirrel. Every day is like that for a bear. Rather than see what happened overnight they can smell what happened. They can smell where the deer fed and walked, squirrels scampered or where a hawk caught a squirrel. They also know where you walked to your bait or stand. You need to beat a bear's nose to be a successful bear hunter.

The anti-hunters that want to ban bear baiting claim you just throw out some doughnuts and the bears come running. That might work if the average bear was as dumb as the average anti-hunter. Bears are a lot smarter and know there is no such thing as a free lunch. A bear might eat that doughnut after dark, but will not show up during daylight. The trick to successful bear hunting is getting bears there when you are there and in good light.


Don't wait for the bear to get to the bait. Take the 1st available shot.

The perfect set up is a bait in cover between the feeding and bedding areas with the wind blowing towards the feeding area in the afternoon. Feeding areas are usually open where the sun warms the ground early in the spring and the first grass starts growing. The bedding areas are heavy cover, typically in creek bottoms. A bear will bed downwind of a bait where they can smell a person walk into the bait from half a mile. They won't come in until after dark unless they smell the person both walk in and out. They will come to a bait in cover earlier when they are on their way to feed in the openings after dark. The best set up is on a hillside with a creek in the bottom and open slopes up the hillside. The thermals will carry your sent up the hill when you get into your stand and down the hill when the bears are moving up the hill to feed.

Sometimes a bear will get in a position to watch over the bait for a long time before it comes in.

The biggest mistake people make is they carry some bait in when they are going to hunt. They put the bait on the pile and then get into their stand. That is like ringing the door bell and letting them know you are there. A bear can smell where you walked from 10-15 feet away. Watch bear hounds track a bear and they will a lot of time run parallel to the tracks by 10 feet. The strike dog will smell where a bear crossed a road the night before while riding in the back of a pick up. Bears can smell as least as good as a hound. They will smell where you walked into the bait and then your stand without exposing themselves for a shot. Remember, they know where your stand is as well as how you get to the bait from the road and how you get to your stand because every day is like a fresh snowfall to them.

Use a barrel to put bait in where legal. It keeps birds off the bait and also keeps a bear from running in and grabbing bait before you can get a shot. It also helps you judge the size of a bear.

Bait in the afternoon or morning. The bear will smell where you walked in and out of the bait. Use a different approach to your stand. Use an approach that keeps you away from the bait and baiting trail. A lot of times a bear will circle the bait to smell your trail so they can see if you are there. They will smell where you went in and out on the baiting trail. That may get them careless enough that they don't bother to check your stand.

Bears are climbers and will climb everything from trees to rock bluffs.

Bears are one of the smartest predators. Sometimes you have to be creative to out smart them. You will find them only hitting a bait when you are not there. Create a habit of how you bait and hunt. Then change the habit. Get them use to always doing things the same way. Then they get careless because they are use to you and your habits.

Learn the pattern of a big boar. Big boars are very territorial. They will cover their territory looking for females and driving out other males. Their route may only take them by your bait every 2-4 days, depending on the size of their territory and the bait location in that territory. Small bears may hit a bait every day because they don't have a territory to cover. Check the bait for tracks each day so you can pattern a big bear.

Always be alert when going into a bait. You may see a bear at anytime.

A territorial bear will expand his territory when looking for females. A bait that shows no sign of a big bear may have a big bear show up later in the season. A big bear that is using the bait may show up less often. Big bears may check a bait looking for females rather that food. You need to be observant and adjust you hunting according to what the bears are doing rather than do what is convenient for you.

Baiting bear takes a lot more work and time than hunting turkeys but the rewards are much greater. A bear sneaking into a bait gives an adrenalin rush that no turkey can match.  

You pack bait in and bear out when you do it right.

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