Building a Successful Bear Bait
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Building a Successful Bear Bait

By Dustin Bomley Production Manager, Alpine Archery

Mar 14, 2008 – 10:49:16 AM

Patience and smarts in setting a bear bait can mean success.

     Ah, the bear bait!! As discussed in last months column “Shadows of Spring“, many of the Canadian outfitters and western states offer bear hunting opportunity over bait stations. This topic being somewhat controversial even in the hunting public needs to have a little light shed on it. In some minds, hunting over bait for bears is “Too easy”, some view it as unfair chase. If you have never experienced hunting over a bear bait, please hold judgment. The work and effort that one needs to put in is surely not for the faint of heart. As with anything in life, if you want to be successful, you must work at it.

     The work begins early. I like to start collecting bait in late January to early February.

It helps if you have a large chest freezer to store certain types of bait in as not everything, actually, not anything that you will use for bait will last until April without spoiling. I also try to connect with someone who is going to Mexico during the winter months and have them pick up some pure vanilla. Anything sweet and smells that strong is sure to attract a fuzzy bruin. There are also quite a few companies that make bear attractant. One of my favorites is Ultimate Bear Lure by Wildlife Research Center.

     Collecting the bait is time consuming and tedious. In most states and provinces all bait must be un-wrapped. One must be very conscious of the regulations imposed by states and provinces about types of bait and how it is to be presented. In Idaho for example, one cannot use plastic containers. Bait barrels must be securely attached at the bait station and all bait must be free of wrappers or garbage. Nor can one use any part of a game animal or fish. Bait locations can also be regulated to some degree. Check with your state or provincial game departments for specific rules.

     Finding a bait location can at times be the trickiest part of the whole process. If you hunt in certain areas during the fall and have seen bears or bear sign, it is likely that the same area will produce bears in the spring. If you are going to a different location, just like other critters, one must do some basic scouting. Looking for bear sign is quite easy if you know what to look for. One should first look for evidence of feeding. Spring time feeding is usually on grass or vegetation of some kind. By finding scat piles you can determine a heavily used area and food source along with an idea of the size of the bears leaving the evidence.

Once I have found an area that has good bear sign I look for a strategic bait location. A few things to consider in setting the bait site are wind direction, visibility and shooting lanes. Since the wind is always changing, look to place a bait site on ridge tops. This strategy will lend itself profitable as the wind will almost always be blowing into a drainage.

Bears often like to bed in areas that are cool and with lots of cover, sending them into the drainages to attain these things. If the scent from the bait site is being carried by the wind into their bedding area, it is most likely that the bear will be drawn into the bait.

Nothing better than sharing the outdoor with your children.

Just as important when dealing with the wind direction is the tree stand or blind placement. Most bait locations for bowhunting are best set up for the shooter to be no more than 20 yards or so from the bait. Along with dealing with the wind direction there are three other items for consideration.

  • First is your personal effective range. Be honest with yourself in considering what range you can be effective and efficient with your shot placement. Keep in mind that you are dealing with a predator and clean, humane shot placement is paramount. Don’t take for granted that just because a bear is hit that the bear is dead.  If one makes a marginal shot on a bear you must remember during tracking that “familiarity breeds contempt”. Trust me on this one! I personally have had my hands on a bear that was not completely expired, all this because of marginal shot placement. That is a whole new story in itself.                  
  • Second on the list is tree stand height and shooting lanes. One must have the tree stand high enough to elude the smelling sense of the bruin, but not too high to make a good shot. I like to place my bait barrel up the ridgeline from my tree stands and place the stands between 15 and 18 feet off of the ground. Depending on the angle of the ridgeline, the shot angle is still closer to level than not. This again all depends on the predominant wind direction. The third consideration is setting up for filming. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, a video has to be ten times that. If you have purposed to video tape your hunt you must not only consider a stand location for one stand, but for two. I like to actually use a second tree with the stand slightly higher than the shooter stand for a true, over the shoulder video shot. Even if videoing is not something that you are considering, it is always prudent to have another person along with you when hunting bears. Besides, to share these types of hunting experiences with a buddy is what keeps the sport going. I’ve even been know to take my three year old son when running the bait. I have yet to let him sit on stand, but he loves riding in on the 4 wheeler and dumping the bait to, “Feed da bears” as he calls it. Even at a young age, our next generation needs to learn to love the outdoors and play in it safely. I encourage you to take your children when you can.
  • And third, with the elements left to Mother Nature, one must prepare for any type of weather. Being comfortable in your stand or blind is what makes the hunt successful as well as enjoyable. I have experienced anything from 90 degree weather to blowing snow, sleet and hail on a bear bait. One must be there when the bear arrives to be able to harvest him. This said, having the right gear for any combination of weather is almost more important than taking the very bow and arrows that you intend to harvest the bear with. Patience and comfort are the two key factors to the success or your hunt.

    When baiting, bears like people will follow a schedule if you establish one for them. I like to try to bait the site at the same time every day or every other day depending on the amount of activity on the site. If there is a lot of good activity, limit the amount of bait that you put in but in turn bait everyday. If the activity is inconsistent, bait heavy and every other day until the bait is empty then proceed with the first example. Using trail timers or cameras are often an ace in the hole when planning a schedule for the fuzzy critters. By setting a schedule, this will create a little competition between bears until one establishes dominance. At that time, you will need to plan on sitting on stand until the dominant bear reveals himself and gives you a shot opportunity. Sometimes sitting until dark and coming out of the bait site well after dark by the light of a flashlight is what it takes to finally see and take a trophy bruin.

Another great day in the woods after months of careful preparation.

    If you chose to hunt bears over an established bait site remember that you are hunting them at a food source. The bear will give you a shot opportunity if you are patient. I have found that when you first see the bear you will experience a rush of adrenaline. If you wait and watch him for a while you can calm your nerves and be able to make a humane harvest of a trophy bruin.

     Shifting gears for the April Alpine Insight column, we will be discussing “The Ultimate Turkey Bow” Stay tuned for more exciting insight from Alpine Archery.


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