When I bearhunt I look for dense, thick forest areas of Poplar, Pine, and Birch trees. Even though I have proven areas to bowhunt, every year I take time to search for new bearhunting locations. To start with I check out new roads that loggers opened up during the year to access portions of the forests where they can harvest more trees. Many times these new logging roads lead farther away from camp. But sometimes they make new roads that open up areas closer to camp — that were previously inaccessible for bear hunting. I always spread my bear hunters out so we don’t over hunt any particular area. The Bear Management Area (BMA) I hunt covers about 350 square miles. So this is a sizeable area and it has a good population of black bears.
Each new season I find new areas to hunt bears. Plus I have dozens of proven bait sights.
Years ago I met John Burgeson when I first started bear hunting. Burgeson is a trapper and hunter from Minnesota who had just started a hunting scent business, Wildlife Research Center. He gave me a sweet smelling liquid he was experimenting with. That liquid proved to be very effective a attracting bears so now Wildlife Research Center sells the product by the name Ultimate Bear Lure. I used it on my baits and was astounded by the results.
I can smell this strong smelling liquid a couple hundreds yards away. So I’m sure with a bear’s powerful nose that distance is stretched for hundreds of yards. So before the hunt begins I put the bear lure on WRC’s Pro-Wick scent pads and hang them high on the bait sights. Ninety-five percent of the areas are hit within 2 days.
Personally I try and hunt the farthest baits and position my hunters between me and our camp. At the end of the day I meet up with and check on the hunters before we return to camp. (In the past I searched for bears at night but gave that up after being on long trails that took hours to follow that could be covered in minutes in daylight.)
I tell my hunters to look for bears if they shoot them early, but only if they are comfortable following a wounded bear.
We use string tracking line and tie it at the bait location and then carry it along as we follow the trail. Most hunters opt to wait for me and the other hunters to give them a hand. More lookers and draggers are better.
A bear is an unusual animal in the fact they emit a death moan when they succumb. This happens about 50% of the time. On good hits the bear usually drops within 100 yards or less of the shot location. This death moan lets the hunter know the bear is down.
I like to use candy and meat while baiting. A big animal like a bear really fuels up in the fall getting ready for winter hibernation. They are an animal of opportunity and habit. After they find the food offering they will return again and again for the easy meal. I bait every other day before season and every day while hunting.
Black bears will feed any time of the day but they are nocturnal and prefer to eat after dark. The best time to hunt them is in the evening and most sightings on the bait are from 5 p.m. until dark. Once when it was extremely hot compared to past years the daytime temperatures were in the high eighties and low nineties.
Most bears visited late in the evening when the temperature dropped. Sweating while sitting on stand became a problem. The bears keen sense of smell — that helped find the bait area — also helps him detect hunters. Luckily, Wildlife Research Center sent up Scent Killer spray for all my hunters to use. I drenched myself, my clothes, and my equipment before and during each sit.
Winds were calm. Sitting on stand the hunters had to be extremely quiet. I did have a squeaking problem with one of my stands but remounted it and got it quiet. In the calm woods bears can detect the slightest sound. They have ears and hearing similar to a dog. I spent extra time and loaded up my bow with fuzzy stuff bow silencing material around my rest, sight, and riser. I didn’t want to make noise loading my arrow. Every metal piece the arrow touches resonated through the woods. I’m glad I took the extra effort. The night I shot my bear he circled me and the bait for one hour before giving me a shot. Quiet is good.
That year we had a very good hunt in spite of the tough hunting conditions of high temperatures, calm silent woods, and masses of mosquitoes and black flies. Hunting a mature bear takes extra effort. You don’t just sit and wait for the bear to appear. You must hunt him.
You have to be quiet entering and leaving the woods. You must be still on stand and it is extremely critical to keep yourself and equipment scent free. Your equipment must be quiet when you draw and shoot. Your shot placement is critical.
A bear is a big animal, but the vital kill area is comparatively small. A bear is a remarkable animal and I have seen massive injuries bears inflict on each other. Mother nature has her way of taking care of wildlife.
The best hunt is one when all hunters return home safe and sound. Everything else is secondary. I always pray that God watch over our hunters and make it a “best hunt.” The camaraderie in bear camp is the best. I can’t wait until the next bear hunt.
Good Hunting, Fred