Bear hunting is tough stuff, but these tips will put more bears on your bait.
Hunting the backcountry for an early season bruin is a high stakes game of cat a mouse that can make even the most dedicated hunters want to pull their hair out. Bears are smart, big bears even more so, and monster bears...? If you could get one to sit down for a game, they'd probably beat you at chess.
But no matter the size, they all have their weaknesses, and learning to exploit them is how to punch your tag. Remember, the legalities of baiting bears differs from place to place, so know your local laws before getting started.
Here are five tips that will help you get the most out of your bear baiting strategy.
The nose knows
Bears rely on their advanced sense of smell nearly to a fault. With that in mind, try to incorporate fragrant bait that bears in the area will be able to sniff out. Some hunters use foul and rotten bait, but sweet smelling, long lasting smells are what brings the big boys in.
For spring bear I get the best results by saturating my baits with sugar water and lots of molasses. The old timers of the bear woods swear by cooking a fresh pan of bacon just before you climb into your stand, but I've found that the smell will only linger for so long. To get long lasting scent, I hit local restaurants for old deep fryer grease. This stuff gets a fragrance the bears love and once it's on site, it will have the woods smelling like Micky D's for days.
While bears have been known to travel miles for what they need, getting a solid amount of bears hitting your baits revolves around picking a location that bears frequent anyway. Sure you can pull bears to your baits when they're hungry, but getting them in every day requires putting your bait somewhere convenient.
Since bears, just like every other critter, need to drink on a regular basis, setting your bait as close as legally possible to a water source will kill two birds with one stone.
Bait, bait, bait
Bears are creatures of habit and can be trained, yes trained, to visit the same bait site day after day. They figure their routine, and if your baiting enough, they will become territorial and visit your bait site multiple times a day.
But, if a bear comes through to a site with no bait, it won't take long for them to abandon the routine. Keep baiting in the same spot until you see reason enough to stop and try elsewhere.
No nighttime meals
One of the most frustrating things for a bear hunter is a nocturnal bear. Since there's no hunting at night in most places, having bears wait until dark to steal your bait is no good. The best way I've found to combat this is to put my bait into a lockable container on site, or to take the bait with you when you leave the stand.
Taking the bait with you might seem to violate the aforementioned tip, but it does no good to have bears coming in at night when you're not there. Teaching them that food is always available during the day will keep them honest and get you more bears under your stand.
After doing all the work to get a bait site established, it's hard for most to start over. People can get pretty attached to their spots and can waste a lot of season waiting for a cold bait to heat up. A good rule of thumb is if your bait isn't hitting inside of a week, it's time to move. Keep mobile and stay willing to try a bunch of different sets.
A successful bait should be seeing multiple bears hitting it regularly during daylight. If your only seeing one or two bears, especially if they're hitting at night, put your eggs in a different basket.