Kids and Bears

By: Jennifer Bickel
By: Jennifer Jenkins

Back at it, I wrote my previous article about how I was back and was going to be writing more often about my life. Then of course life got in the way and I got busy going what seemed to be in 100 different directions. Running a ranch is no easy feat, it is fun and rewarding but not easy by any means and then add in an outfitting company on top of that, oh and did I mention we have kids?

Back to life getting in the way, it may seem like I am complaining but I most definitely am not. This is the life I have always wanted. I always thought how neat it would be to be able to have a family that enjoys spending their time together, especially in the outdoors and hunting. Luckily for me, that is exactly what I’ve got.

Now that the snow is melting on the mountain, we have finally been able to start onto baiting bears. To my surprise, both of my kids have shown more interest than ever before and we have had a BLAST! I’m not one to tell anyone how to parent, but I’m hoping that if I talk about some of the things that we do, maybe it will help someone get their kids into the outdoors and hunting with them!

Bear baiting is something that I have found is good to do with kids because we get to spend time together, outdoors and it is something that is rewarding. They get to see progress and progress pay off with their hard work. We spend all year saving our food scraps, we keep our empty Folger’s coffee cans since they are plastic and hold even stuff like hot grease well. We then put them in the freezer, they stack very nicely and don’t take up an abundance of room. By the time it is getting close to start baiting, our freezers are usually over full of food scraps from the year. Which makes us feel good because we aren’t just throwing out leftovers away, we are using them to feed the bears!

My kids always seem to giggle as they start packing leftover birthday cakes and pinterest dinner fails into the packs. In turn it makes me giggle listening to the two of them as they talk about the different memories some of the food brings back. After we get all the bait loaded up and jobs assigned as to who is packing what into the bait site, we stop at our favorite gas station right before we head up the mountain. Why is this important? We buy snacks! Still wondering why that’s important? When I was a kid, I remember my parent’s stopping and we’d buy a 32 oz pop and a snickers bar before we went up the mountain. It was like a tradition and looking back on that memory always makes me smile so I want to carry that on with my kids as well. It may seem unimportant to them now but I’m hoping later, it’s a story they can tell to their kids and smile too. So we stop, my daughter gets a strawberry cream cheese muffin and a juice and my son will get some gum, two iced teas and usually will bat his eyes, smile real big and get the most sugary thing he can find as well.

We then proceed for the hour up the mountain to my bait spot. I give each of my kids an assignment of what to carry. Usually my son will carry a small bag of bait and the trail camera. My daughter will usually pack some more bait and a couple waters. The first year I took both of them with me, they had trouble jumping the small creek in the bottom of the drainage my bait is in. Dirk and I had to hold on and swing one across and the other tried to jump and ended up smack dab in the middle of the creek. Which then ended with tears and a wet, cold walk in. Another memory that we smile and laugh at now.

It used to be a great patience tester walking in with both of them, with Dirk and I both packing about 60 pounds of bait. It never fails that my son needs to pee about every 10 steps, my daughter was constantly stopping to pick up rocks, take a break or smell the sagebrush and there we are trying to get into the bait as fast as we can to get the weight off our backs! This is one of the biggest patience testers and the first couple of times I will admit I had to have a serious heart to heart with myself. I wanted to be mad at all their stopping and treasure hunting. But that’s part of what this was supposed to be all about. It’s not just about the bears, it’s about the memories. This year, they are now what they consider seasoned professionals. I of course will stop to take a breather and they are trying to get me to get in there faster because they are just dying to know if the bait had been hit. The rolls have officially changed and instead of us waiting on them, their young lungs and legs carry them in there faster than we can usually go.

Initially getting in and setting up the bait is fun and the kids enjoy putting in the effort to do things right so that we can have as many bears hitting our bait as possible. They walk around looking for fresh bear sign to see which way they are coming into the bait and they look for trees that the bears have removed bark from to get a feel for how big the bear is. They help dump the coffee cans full of leftovers into the barrel and burst out in a full giggle fit when I tell them to pretend to be a bear walking into the bait to be sure we have the trail camera at the right height and angle on the tree. Thankfully, my bait is very well established and does not take long for the bears to start hitting in the spring. We usually wait a week the first time we take bait in until we check it again and more likely than not, it will have been hit. I always make them wait until we get home to look at the pictures on the SD card so that we can all sit around the big computer screen and look at them together.

This is probably my favorite time, I love listening to them laugh at the funny pictures and gasp at the pictures of the big bears. It’s even better listening to them tell someone that they were a part of making that picture happen. That they are the ones that are taking food in for those bears. Not only is bear baiting a great family activity but it can help in other ways too. Not only do I have two kids but Dirk has two girls as well. If you have ever tried to blend a family, you understand that this is not always the easiest thing to do. The first time I met Dirk’s two girls; Jhett and Grayson, we decided to go bear baiting together. It was something that we all enjoyed and it was a relaxing way to get to know each other. I will never forget that day, it will forever be one of my favorites and I think it helped get things going in the right direction with entwining our two families.

Sometimes life gets in the way, you feel like you are going 100 different directions at once and yet sometimes it seems like all you have accomplished is running around in circles. I find that every once in awhile I have to actually slow myself down and remember to enjoy life too and not just work it away. Kids are only kids for so long, take them along. I know that not everyone can go bait bears together but find an outdoor activity that gets them excited. Something that creates lifelong memories! I promise to write more on our actual bear baiting techniques, what we find that helps draw them in and some sort of actual informative article on the whole thing. That was my original plan for this article but as we went into our bear bait the last time and my kids were with me, when we got back to the truck my son gave me the biggest hug in the world and told me how much he loved me and that I’m the best Mom ever. It pulled at my heartstrings and I realized then that I had been taking the bear baiting too seriously and making it more of a job for my kids rather than a fun time exploring the outdoors.

I started thinking of all the times that I would get frustrated with them for not taking the same path as me or for picking wildflowers or watching the fish swim in the stream while I am trying to make my way up a steep hill with a very large pack full of bait. They were having fun and I was making it into a job. I’m not writing this to tell you how to parent or trying to say that I’m the best mom in the world like my son claims. I just know that sometimes I need someone, even if it is a complete stranger to basically slap me back to reality. I am a perfectionist and a hard worker but sometimes you don’t need perfection, you just need time and you never know when yours is going to run out.

For more please go to: Jennifer Jenkins

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