Baiting Bears

How can Spring 2015 be just around the corner? Time is slipping away at a ridiculous pace, and it is starting to freak me out! It seems like I was chasing antlered game just a week or 2 ago. I guess I’ll just have to go chase bears somewhere.

My favorite hunting method for Black bear is spot and stalk. With that being said, sometimes this method just won’t work. I have done a good bit of baiting, and it is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work to do it right.

In my opinion, getting your bait out as early as possible is important. I want the bears to find my bait the minute they start to wander away from their dens after their long nap. In my home state of Utah you have a ridiculously short timeframe to hunt a bear over bait. The archery season length is long enough, but it starts way too early when bears are denned up and ends when the bears are just starting to travel.

In my experience you want the bears to find your bait as quickly as possible, and I like to let them have it unbothered for at least a week, even 2 weeks if possible. The more comfortable they get with the bait, the better the chance of taking an older bear. Locate your bait in a well-forested area where the bears feel safe; avoid open areas for a bait site. Make no mistake about it, big old boars are a whole different animal to bait than their younger competition, so their comfort level at your bait site is extremely important.

Different states have different rules for what you are allowed to contain a bait in. If you hunt a state that allows containment of bait in metal, plastic, or whatever else, it is much easier to control the amount of bait consumed by bears and scavengers. If you are backpacking bait, which I usually am, that becomes very important. If baits cannot be legally contained in metal or plastic, you are just going to have to haul more bait, end of story! Last spring I had eight different bears at my site, and keeping them fed out of our backpacks just about killed two grown men and my 5 year old marshmallow packing grandson.

My favorite kinds of bait are pastries, popcorn, dog food, all types of sweet syrups, and bags of the small sized marshmallows. Scattered around, it will take the bears awhile to lap up all the marshmallows, and trust me, there won’t be a single mallow left behind. Fruit Loops will also keep the bears around looking for every last morsel. This helps when trying to get good trail cam photos to judge size.

Do not let your bait pile run out. I let mine run out last spring for reasons beyond my control and I lost a big boar that never did come back. Bad mistake on my part. Also, I will do a honey burn every time I am in the stand. I am a big believer in dumping restaurant grease around my baits. I will generally dump about 20 gallons of grease in a circle around the bait site so that the bears have to walk in the nasty mess to get to their meal. When the bears leave to bed for the day they will leave a good scent trail in all directions for other bears to follow back to the site.

As far as bait locations go, you need to use the wind and thermals to disperse the scent from your bait over a large area. You will have to determine prevailing winds and morning and evening thermals in your area. When I start a new site I will use strong licorice or bacon flavored jelly to get the bait started. Two quarts is usually enough, and I get the concoction from a bear baiting business in the Midwest. I personally feel like it is also important to have a good water source within 1/2 mile of any of my bait sites.

Consider the evening wind thermals in the area you are hunting. Bears will put up with a lot, but a whiff of human will send the older bears packing and you risk turning them nocturnal! I usually put my stand 30' or higher in a tree, if I have a choice. My hunting buddies think I’m nuts, but the higher the better in my opinion. Climb in your stand early in the afternoon and stay until well after dark.

There isn’t one word of new information here, but now you know what has worked for me in the past. When all is said and done, some good luck needs to happen to kill the older age class bears. Good luck!