Bear baiting sounds simple enough. Place a load of expired doughnuts in a barrel, put up a stand, and wait for a bear to appear. But like with many other apparently simple deals there are many tips, techniques and secrets to know if you want to bait bears successfully. It’s a time consuming process that starts well in advance of the opening day of the bear hunting season, it takes a lot of work and requires solid knowledge of terrain. For this reason, an average big city hunter is seldom able to set up a good baiting site, and has to seek an outfitter if they want to hunt a bear in spring. It is important to understand that even if you hire an outfitter or guide, it doesn’t yet mean your bear is as good as tagged. A good experienced and professional outfitter will know the laws regulating baiting in his area and strictly adhere to them, as well as fair chase standards. BookYourHunt.com thoroughly vets the outfitters, because we want outfitters who are professional and honest. A proper fair-chase operation – something that’s a non-negotiable for us – can’t possibly guarantee 100% success rate.
There are many things that can help raise your chances of success, and knowledge is the first or them. All outfitters say that clients who sit back and do what they are told enjoy, at best, moderate levels of success and satisfaction. The best hunters are those who understand what’s going on and pull their weight in teamwork with the guide. These bear baiting tips and techniques will help you with this – and also give you the hint on how much work and knowledge it takes.
Knowledge of Terrain
This is perhaps the single most important secret of bear baiting success. The best bait is useless if the bears can’t discover it, so the guide has to know the areas of bear activity. Especially vital is the knowledge of the routes bears take when travelling from one place of bearish interest to another, because somewhere near them is the best location of the bait site. The site itself ought to feature a balance between cover (so that the bears feel secure even in daylight) and openness (for ease of shooting). The guide must know the rose of the winds, so that the smell of the hunter is carried away from the bait in the time of the day when the hunters occupy it. Mature bears often circle the bait a few times before coming in for the meal, so if some peculiarity of terrain could prevent them from doing it, the guide will use it. This speaks volume how familiar the guides have to be with the terrain of the hunting grounds.
Whether your guide prefers a ground blind, a tree stand, or both, the accepted routine is to construct them in advance, at about the same time when the bait is laid. This way you don’t disturb the area so much, and don’t risk spooking the big trophy bear that has discovered the buffet and is bedded in the area to make sure nobody claims it. In addition, the blind constructed in advance becomes a familiar object for bears, and doesn’t worry them. If your guide slaps on a portable stand just before your hunt, or the construction seems to have been finished only a few days before your arrival, it may be the sign that the outfitter has laid too many baits and didn’t have a slightest clue which one will be the killer. But it is pretty safe to say a big old cautious bear will notice. Good guides tend to follow the “less is more” rule.
It’s not what the guide uses for bait, it’s how they do it. Bears are omnivorous, so there are many options, and every guide has a secret bear baiting formula. But the layout of the site is important. The bulk of the bait has to be secured to make sure bears don’t drag it away, and to prevent various smaller scavengers such as crows and raccoons from getting it. This could be achieved by placing the bait in a barrel (the barrel better be stoutly secured to a tree or something similar) or hung from rope tied between two trees or poles.
On the other hand, a highly successful bear baiting tip is not to put all eggs in one barrel – oops, basket. Most guides scatter some of the bait about, to attract the said scavengers – their noisy presence at the bait site acts as free advertising for bears. It also helps to get bears to hang around looking for smallish bits and pieces and to protect their “find”. Last but not the least, to make sure the bait smells well, most guides use scent rags – pieces of cloths sprinkled with attractive odors, e. g. vanilla, anise oil, or commercial attractants like Bear Bomb. So if you see lots of rags about the bait, don’t rush to accuse the guide of littering the area.
Mature bears often hang around the bait, guarding it from potential competition. Even if they can’t usually see a human approaching the bait, they can smell and hear them well enough. For bears, like for most creatures, the unusual is dangerous, and the familiar is safe. If the person is doing the same thing time and again, the particular consequence of noises and smells quickly moves from dangerous to familiar in a bear’s mind. It may even become a sort of dinner announcement for the bruin, so following a routine is an important bear baiting technique.
Attention to Detail
Needless to say the guides must have a pretty good idea of what bears are visiting their baits and what size they are. Trail cams are a great help in this respect. Large tracks, height of bears in relation to bait barrels or sign on vegetation are all indicators of the bears’ size and your guide’s knowledge of these details will save you wasting time on a non-productive bait. But there are lots of other nuances that can make or break your hunt. For instance, many bear baiting trips in spring occur when bloodsucking insects are already there. Good guides make sure their clients have adequate mosquito repellents, nets, and means for tick protection. Also of utmost importance is that the bait is positioned to give the bear limited access to the bait. This helps to position the stand in such a way as to make sure when the bear is feeding he is in a good position for proper shot placement. To reiterate, baiting bears is not as easy as it may first appear and other than the particular laws in the outfitter’s particular state or province, nothing is set in stone. Nothing should be taken as the dogma, neither the tips you’ve just read, nor anything else you might read in any blog, book or magazine article. In different areas and with different animals different tricks may work – or not.
Your outfitter may well have their own bear baiting secrets and routines that deviate from common knowledge, so if they don’t follow one or another of the above tips, it doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing. The guide may have a good reason (and most guides who do are willing to explain). It is usually best not to doubt your guide. You hired an outfitter because they are the professionals, to provide your a good hunt with their knowledge of the game and the area. But it never hurts to do your homework and keep your eye on the details.
Now why don’t you go through BookYourHunt’s selection of bear baiting trips?
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