If you've found a good bear hunting location, the next step would be to consider bait. Bears may favor caviar but it is doubtful if you have an endless supply of caviar so the real question is, what food source do you have available?
I've used nearly everything under the sun. I've had an unlimited supply of meat, donuts, bread, chicken nuggets, chicken, fruit, cereal, peaches, apples, ground squirrels you name it. I've experimented with a lot of types of baits. There is no doubt that they favor some bait more so than others. One time I lined out piles of watermelons, cantaloupe, peaches, cereal, meat and so forth. I've had some bears come in to such a set up and go straight to one item.
I've studied this and here are my thoughts:
- Availability of food will determine how picky of eaters they are.
- The time of year will affect what they eat. For instance in the spring when they come out of hibernation their stomachs are queasy and they don't eat huge amounts of meat. I've hauled literally tens of thousands of pounds of raw meat up to the mountains. Sure, they'll come in and mess with it but they won't gorge on it in the early spring like other baits.
- Which brings up donuts. The myth is true. They love sweets. It's good to bait close to water since sweets makes them thirsty. That way they don't have to stray too far.
- If a bear breaks into your camp he'll eat anything. He'll even bite holes in all the plastic buckets and metal pans but when he's hitting your bait, sometimes they can get selective. This has always struck me as strange. I used to buy a lot of day old bread but they don't really like plain bread. I had a bait once where the bear would dig through the bread and eat all of the Twinkies. Turns up there were two more baits in the same vicinity. He'd just make the rounds picking the choice goodies.
- Bread can be good though if you have access to some syrup or ice cream to pour over it. The bread will soak it up.
- Pour grease in front of your bait. Bears will track it across the mountains leaving a trail for other bears to track back to your bait.
The problem with big chunks of meat is that they can grab a chunk and go hide in the brush and eat it. So I've found that small bait is better. It forces them to stay at your bait site to eat. Something like popcorn or chicken nuggets are great because they can't fill up in five minutes and leave. They have to set there and scoop it out of your barrel and it takes them a while to fill up.
If you don't use a barrel they can come in and free feed at their convenience. Digging out of a barrel takes them longer to fill up, which gives you more chances to see them. Bears can consume a lot of bait if they're free feeding like pigs at the feed trough!
|Barrels prevent bears from eating freely and can also protect bait from the elements and other animals.|
Barrels also protect your bait against the elements and slow down the foxes, coyotes, wolves and ravens. You may laugh about ravens but one time I stuck a bag of kidneys under a snowbank and ran down the trail to check another bait. I wasn't gone 5 minutes and by the time I got back the ravens had nearly carried every bit off. Ravens can clean you out fast if you get 15-20 on a bait. On the other hand I think bears hear them raising Cain and come in to see what they've found and what they're squawking about.
A Few Last Tips
- You'll want an attractant to lure the bears in. Try some of Tink's products such as their Bear Smoking Sticks or their aerosol Hot Shot Glazed Donut Mist or hang bags of rotten meat in the trees around your bait.
- Once the bears start hitting your bait you want to keep it charged, otherwise they'll move on. Bears can eat! So have a good supply of bait.
- I bear hunt out of a ground blind. This year I'm using a Browning Phantom pop-up blind. They are super nice, roomy and you can shoot your arrow through the netting. A pop-up blind will allow you to move around some without being noticed, semi-help hide your scent and protect you from light snow and rain. And, you can read a magazine to help pass the long hours.
Some states don't allow spring baiting. The idea behind outlawing spring hunting and baiting was that sows were getting shot by the droves and orphaning cubs. However, in my opinion, baiting reduces the amount of sows being shot with cubs. You have time to study your bear while it is feeding and determine if it has cubs. When you're walking you're in more of a hurry than if you're baiting. So, outlawing baiting had the exact opposite effect on saving cubs from being orphaned.
Be sure to check state laws before you begin baiting.