If you are lucky enough to live in or near black bear country, and if it is legal to bait bears in those places, you owe it to yourself to construct a bait station and reap the treasured rewards of observing bears.
There are few activities as rewarding and rare as observing wild bruins. Whether you plan to hunt them or simply take photographs, you can master the art of consistently attracting black bears to the location of your choice.
Choose a solid location
The first and obvious necessity of a successful baiting mission is to have a solid location. The number one rule of baiting is to scout an area before you ever make a decision. A common mistake most baiters make before they ever set out a bait station is that they fall in love with a certain tree that looks like a great perch to hunt from. If you don’t find signs of bear activity, you will just be waiting for a bear to run across your bait, and although that bear might attract other bears, the entire process will take longer.
Set in an active bear area
Make it easy on yourself, set up in an active bear area and your time will not be wasted. Also, you can never be too thorough by setting up your tree stand or blind in accordance to the best wind and best lighting scenario. For example, don’t set your stand east of your bait, or you will be staring into the sunset during the best evening hunting times.
Pick your bait
There are two objectives that you want your bait to achieve; you want it to attract bears and you want it to hold bears. When I bait to attract, I tie a beaver carcass, where legal, high on a tree trunk. The higher the better, as the scent will be carried further away. Beaver are greasy and smelly and bears love them. If using beaver is not legal in your area, go with bacon tips. You can buy a big bag of bacon chunks from a butcher. I like to place a couple pounds of bacon in a mesh bag, and then I like to place the mesh bag of bacon inside of a heavy Ziploc. Cook in microwave and then take it to the field. I remove the mesh bag and hang it high like you would the beaver carcass. I also save all our family’s food scraps for the year, and this usually gives me two full buckets of desirable people food to attract with.
When it comes to holding bears at a bait station, I use the cheapest dog food available. Walmart usually has 50 pound bags of food for a good price, and I keep the barrel as full as possible. The main advantage of using the dog food is that it provides the bears and scavenging wildlife with protein and nutrients, unlike sweet and sugary baits, and the pieces are small enough to prevent the bears from grabbing a large amount and running off into cover to eat it. Also, I pour grease or broth on the dog food. This will give it an extra flavor or two to entice bored bears.
Choose a bait container
I use a barrel for my bait. It keeps the bait dry, clean and if you cut the grab hole just right, it will require a bear to work for the bait, therefore, keeping the bear at the bait for a period of time. I usually chain it to the tree at the top and at the bottom. This will prevent bears from tipping it over, and when the barrel is upright, you can use it to gauge how large a bear is by comparing the bear to the barrel. When I see a bear that I think would be hard to stuff inside the barrel, I know I am looking at a shooter.
For those of you who have a neutral or negative opinion on baiting, I want you to know that I have hunted bears for over twenty years using every method imaginable. Baiting is the only method that can guarantee you the opportunity to selectively choose the correct bear.
I have seen many bears in the wild that were alone, and after watching them for a while, a lot of them had cubs stashed somewhere that were unseen and unknown. Baiting takes all chance out of the equation, and it gives you the ability to never make a mistake.
Photo credit: Flickr CC