Bears, the ultimate bowhunting experience and not for the faint of heart. When hunting over bait one will see the bear nine times out of ten before hearing it. For its size the Bear is a very quiet and exceptionally fast animal. The bear also has the advantage of knowing more about his home than you the hunter does, afterall this is his arena. Some may feel hunting over bait is a sure thing to tagging a bear and nothing could be further from the truth. The bears in my area do not leave the woods too often, and if the bear does not want to be seen then it will not be seen.

Stand hunting is the chosen method over bait allowing the hunter a chance to determine the size of the bear and whether or not it is a sow with cubs in tow. The bear will inspect the bait station that has been set up and also undoubtably become familiar with the treestand location. I would say that in almost ninety percent of the time a bear walks into the bait station they will at first gaze in the direction of the treestand. This is when the hunter must be patient, quiet and very still, sometimes this being very hard to do dealing with springtime blackflies, mosquitos and numerous other pests and inclimate weather.

First time bear hunters tend to get overanxious and misjudge size quite often. Sighting thier first bear in most causes thier hearts to race, beads of sweat will form on thier foreheads and hands. The weather here can be as unpredictable as the bear being hunted, and in some instances the hunter can become the hunted. Sitting on stand also allows the hunter to enjoy a closeness to nature something that is lost in still hunting and spot and stalk.

We sometimes set up ground blinds and the hunt can be very exhilerating in this situation, as you are ground level, predator against predator. You are 20 to 30 yards from the bait barrel and in walks a 300lb boar, you have no room for error, you must be able to shoot on demand and under pressure. A misplaced arrow can and does bring on a rather bad situation. A wounded bear is not a friendly bear to say the least. In the treestand the hunter is normally about 14 to 20 feet up and 12 to 20 yards from the bait and some bears have been known to climb the tree the hunter is in, another rather exciting encounter to say the least.

Sitting on stand over bait is called hunting in our parts not shooting. Many weeks and months have gone into setting up the site, including the stand location, the bait station and bait being brought in on almost a daily occurance. Hunting over bait is only setting up the condition, there are no guarantees on the kill as that is up the hunter.

On bait, we add to the drum which is normally a 45 gallon plastic barrel, winterkill if available. We get breads and pastries from local shops that are outdated, bones and scraps from local butchers is another source of supply. A stink bait of dried fish is normally hung by a rope in a tree wrapped in burlap close to the barrel. We also will drag a stink bait over various trails throughout the woodlot to entice wandering bears to visit the smorgasborg we have prepared for them.

When doing baiting we wear rubber boots to cut down on leaving human scent. The black bear has very poor vision yet it is extemely important when the hunter is on stand not to suddenly swat a bug or twist in the seat due to the closeness of the hunt. Back to the bait, used deep fryer grease is great to pour around the barrel on the outside so a visiting bear can then track it throughout the woodlot, alerting other bears as to where the bait station is. I also like to soak 4x2x1 inch sponges in a mixture of anise, vanilla extract and liquid smoke and hang from surrounding trees about 5 feet above the ground, and no the bears will not eat the sponges but they will sniff and lick.

The barrel should be affixed to a tree, and we normally use steel coated clothesline and then crib the barrel. Have the barrel standing erect so the bear either has to pull it forward and down or a hole in the side that it must reach into and expose a vital area for your shot.  The barrel also provides an excellent way to judge the size of the bear you are shooting at.  If the bear decides to stand at the barrel and reach in through the top the bear then gives the oppertunity for a pass through shot.

This then is the quest for one of natures more cunning and formidable foes, hunter against hunter, the ultimate bow hunting experience. Eating the flesh of a young black bear can and is a truly delightful eating experience and the spring bear also provides the oppertunity for a fine rug or shoulder mount. If a hunter is looking for a sizable bear then I would suggest a fall hunt where the bear will add almost half as much weight throughout the spring and summer. Fall hunting is great with no bugs to deal with but then on the downside with the berry crops and apple orchards full of fruit it is more difficult to attract the bears to the bait stations.

Most non resident hunters prefer light carbon arrows and 60 to 70 lb draw weights, and lately the Slick Trick 100’s seem to be the broadhead of choice with most hunters achieving pass through shots and short recovery distances of downed bears. Black Bear hunting is truly a bow hunters most exhilerating hunt, but that is my opinion. Have a good one and be safe out there. _____bode