I have written several times about baiting bears and the several lessons I have learned while doing so during years of bear hunting in several states. Baiting for bears is considered controversial in some states, but it shouldn’t be. There is no better way to observe and select the correct animals than to bait, and since the seasons are temporary, the animals are only being fed for a short amount of time. Here are some tips that I have adopted this year that enhance my bait sites.
Avoid the birds and cater to the squirrels. Some hunters prefer that no other animals mooch bait from a bait barrel or bait pile but it is impossible to avoid. Although bait of all kinds is getting more and more expensive, it is only natural to want to prevent non-targeted animals to steal any of it. I disagree.
Birds are the worst and I do try to avoid feeding them. They have a bad habit of squawking to all their friends and family about what they find and they all show up and rob the bait relentlessly. Then they tell all their friends and families and before long, your bait is nothing but a bird sanctuary that gets out of control with too much noise and activity. This prevents you from hearing bears approaching, and the bait disappears too fast. I try to camouflage my bait barrels by painting them. I also try to place them under any canopy portion of big trees. This will prevent a random bird flying over and seeing your stash.
I choose to cater to the squirrels because squirrels offer several advantages to a bait site. First off, they are territorial and they will fight and run off intruders if they have claimed the area as their own. This is good because this means a squirrel’s buddies and relatives are not invited to come eat all of your bait. Although they can get noisy at times, their only purpose for chattering and barking is to announce an intruder or some sort of danger. This is what you want. They will tell you when bears are approaching and even if they get grouchy and start barking at you in the tree, a bear will just think the noise is directed at another bear. This could be a good thing.
Another benefit to squirrels is that they are entertaining and break up the boredom of sitting on stand when the action is slow. They are always there and they see and hear everything. Even though they do pack some bait out of the barrel and stash it for winter storage, they don’t clean you out.
Squirrels can you be your early-warning bear detectors and their value to a bait site is priceless.