Tracking is tracking, be it for deer or bears. You find the
sign and keep following it. One difference is that a bear has thicker
hide, a layer of fat and 4 inches of hair around it’s vitals that can
sop up blood. Sometimes they don’t leave the best of blood trails. But
bears break limbs and branches and blood gets smeared on the sides of
trees and on the under side of ferns and other fauna. In many places
the ground is soft and you can follow bear tracks. I’ve seen Fred track
and recover bears that never left a drop of blood. A bear leaves more
sign than deer do. Another issue is that this woods is so thick that when you go 100 yards everybody thinks they’ve gone 200. So keep on looking. If you shot was good you will find your bear.
Game Tracker String – This is
one of many excellent tips I learned from Fred Lutger. A spool of tracker
string can spare you anxiety and save you
time — and maybe even keep you from spending the night in the woods
with the bears and wolves. You didn’t bring this tracker string to
shoot the bear with. Before you start the recovery tie the string to a
log on the bait and let the string unwind as the bear is tracked.
Ok, some of you might be thinking, “Why should I do that.”
Possibly that means you have never tracked a bear in the Canadian
woods. These woods are thick and visibility is awful. In my
experience bears nearly always change directions several times. 30
yards into the woods you can’t see where you started. 100 yards of zig
zagging and you won’t have a clue where you started. 200 yards more and getting out can be a big problem.
Even if you marked
the trail with flagging, the woods is so dense that unless your flags
are very close together, on the way out you won’t be able to locate the
next flag in some places without stopping and searching for it. There
are places the woods is so thick you can’t walk through it, let alone
spool of game tracker string and once the bear is found follow the
string back to the bait. Believe me, its hard enough to drag the bear
out. Marking your trail with a game tracker line will make finding your
way back out, as well as dragging the bear out, a hundred times easier.
And that’s in the daylight.
At night you can only see what’s in the beam of your flashlight. You
can easily loose the trail. You can get totally lost or even get
yourself in trouble.
Don’t go after the bear by yourself. A few years ago I was tracking a
bear by myself and 25 yards from the bait the mossy ground gave way and I
sunk up to my waist in spongy goop. I was trapped, on the trail to the
bait, in a woods full of bears. By the time I finally got out it was dead dark.
The bear was another 30 yards and he wasn’t dead yet, which is another
reason for not tracking alone.
These days, in Fred’s camp if the hunter does not hear a death moan we normally don’t track the bear until daylight. Be sure to
roll up the tracker string as you go so its not left in the woods.
Dragging Bear Out – This is not smooth sailing. You’re going good and
the bear’s nose somehow slides under a root and it stops cold and everybody
falls down. Or his leg hangs on a tree. Or there are some knee high
blow downs to go over.
One or two people can pull out a bear that’s a couple hundred pounds. A
300 pounder will be a tough go. And you aren’t even moving a 400 or
500 pounder. The bigger bears take more people. And grabbing onto a
bear paw or leg doesn’t give you a secure enough hold to work good.
You need a good dragging belt. The old style treestand safety belts are
no longer recommended for treestand hunters. But they are all the good for
dragging bears. You can pull more weight, easier, with the belt around
your waist. And they have good hook up systems to attach to the bear.
Since we always have some with us we’ve used the Rope Ratchet to drag
too, hook one end around a leg and hook the other to your belt. Of
course, a rope will work but ropes constrict tightly around your hands
and waist. You’ll know you have a big bear if there is a dragging line
hooked to every leg and its head and you have to stop and rest several
There are game carts with wheels. We’ve used several and most of
them are junk that is poorly designed for this type of woods and the cart constantly hangs up and tips
over. More hassle than help. One year Kirby Knackstedt brought one that
he made and it was good.
Flashlight – The brighter the better. The more area it covers the
better. I use a StreamLite and Fred had a Browning light. Both have a
super bright, flood light mode that is a huge help for finding blood spots at night.
These lights cost more but they do the job better.
Receiver Hitch Rack – A
detachable rack on the back of your truck is
very handy. The rack is a shorter distance from the ground than a
pickup tailgate, something that will be appreciated after a long bear
pull. You can also transport bait, treestands and blinds
with it. It is a real plus and you’ll use it every day.
Ok, we’ve found the bear, got ourselves back to the truck and loaded the bear. Next, we’ll wrap it up with a few other things that can make a bear hunt better.