9 Rules For Bear Bait Hunting
Firstly, we need to point out why and how bear baiting is an important part of modern wildlife management. Humans are part of a much larger ecosystem, an ecosystem we disrupt. Humanity has always altered and managed the ecosystems we take part in. For example, ancient plains tribes set massive fires to promote succulent vegetation for ungulates, both for hunting and to promote healthy big game herds. Pre-Columbian Amazonian people constructed earthen fish weirs on seasonal floodplains to capture fish when floods came. Land and animal management is part of who we are.
Baiting is no different from these pre-historic examples of using tools to harvest and manage wildlife species. Modern wildlife management relies on a toolbox full of differing tools, hunting included, to manage populations and collect species data. Baiting bears is one of the necessary hunting methods for bear management. When done correctly, it increases harvest success and allows the hunter precise selectivity to take mature boars rather than females or adolescent bears needed for population resiliency. In addition, data collected by wildlife agencies from successful hunters is important to determine population dynamics and numbers.
So when you see or hear statements like this one from the Humane Society of America, “Bear baiting involves intensive feeding of black bears to make them easier targets of trophy hunters waiting nearby…Legal in many states, the practice is unsporting and inhumane, increases conflicts with humans and carries environmental consequences”, know they are failing to consider the totality of modern society and ecology.
With bear baiting as a tool for hunting in mind, consider these must do’s when you set up a bait site.
Be a responsible baiter. As previously mentioned not everyone loves it and the potential for conflict with other people using the forest exists. Bait where conflict with other recreational use is minimal. Stay away from structures and campgrounds. Be as discreet as possible as others may take offense to you dumping bait material in the woods. Follow every game law and regulations as it pertains to bait hunting bears. If we are responsible, smart, and discrete, we minimize conflict for us and for future hunters.
Bears find your bait because their noses take them to it, not because they stumble into it. So really, the wind is your bear magnet. If your bait is in a low spot surrounded by higher ground, the wind will have a hard time carrying the scent. Find a spot where thermals and gusty winds will carry the scent in multiple directions and up and down multiple canyons.
With that being said, bring attractant that you can spray in the trees so when that wind blows it will carry that scent high and far assuring your bait’s smell doesn’t get lost on the ground.
The second way you need to use the wind is to conceal yourself when you start to hunt. Stand between your bait and where you might hunt from and observe the terrain, slope, and topography. What direction are the thermal breezes going to take your scent? Just like all game animals, if your wind is wrong the hunt is over.
Before, during and after you sit your stand use HuntWind™ to not only see what the wind is currently doing, but view a 24 hr forecast as well. You can even take it a step further and place a wind cone which allows you to set your desired wind direction and HuntWind™ will tell you if it’s safe to sit your stand or if you should completely stay out.
If the bait site is a new setup, place the bait first and wait on setting up your stand. In conjunction with the bait, we recommend setting up not one, but at least two trail cameras at different angles to determine where bears are coming into the bait site from.
Doing this will help you make a much more informed decision on where to set up your stand to minimize your scent and increase your chances of a good shooting angle. If you do these things while waiting to hang your stand, you can make the best decision on where to hunt from later.
Since we are on the topic of trail cameras – USE THEM. Trail cameras get you familiar with bears on an individual basis. You will probably find yourself naming bears who become repeat customers. Trail cameras will help you determine sex and maturity as well. The information you get about bears hitting your bait will help you make quick decisions when harvesting or passing a bear during the hunt.
Bait food can vary widely. Ask anyone who has bait hunted and they all seem to have the best secret recipe. What we are suggesting here is not what to use but rather to do some prep work before putting the bait on your back and hauling it in. For example, baked goods are often a bear bait staple. Expired bread, rolls, donuts, and other baked goods are attainable for next to nothing from grocery stores. We suggest un-packaging bait foods at home and consolidate them into easy to carry and maneuver containers like 5-gallon buckets. This accomplishes two things – 1) it is easier to carry (and store), and 2) un-packaging at the bait site may lead to plastic wrapper getting left or blowing off and littering the forest.
We all know how Hansel in the fairytale Hansel and Gretel leaves breadcrumbs to mark a trail, well this is the bear hunting version of doing as Hansel. First, we suggest you use some sort of grease and/or cooking oil as part of your bait recipe – companies like Boar Masters make an extremely strong scented oil-based product and powder that essentially do just that. Secondly, we suggest you use it with some strategy. Pour it out in front of your bait so as bears come and go, they walk and sit in it. Once they leave covered in some of this oil and grease they will make a scent trail in and out of your bait site. In essence, bread crumbs for other bears to follow.
When the hunt starts, you want to enter and exit as unnoticed as possible. If you have the photos and know where bears are entering, avoid crossing this path like the plague. Bumping a bear or having one cross your path can send them running and possibly not coming back or going nocturnal. Secondly, all creatures in the woods are in tune with one another. If you come into the stand startling a squirrel and he sounds the danger chirp throughout the canyon, other animals pay attention, including bears and they may stay away.
- Here we could highlight marking a path to get in and out precisely, even in the dark.
This is something we have seen and even learned from our own experience. The more bodies at the bait site, the more human scent. This goes for baiting and hunting. You may find numerous people willing to help with your bait hunt. It is kind of fun and a unique experience. As the hunt gets closer, you may want to bait with as few people as possible in order to get the bait in. If a whole herd of you and your friends are stomping around the bait site this might change when a bear is willing to come in. Secondly, these friends might want to be in the stand or blind during the hunt. We have seen bait sites with 3 or 4 tree stands. Again, the more bodies, the more human scent. We understand the want to share the experience with someone so we would suggest a maximum of two people at most while hunting.