As citizens of the United States, we are blessed with the opportunity to hunt the land that we commonly own- our public lands. As a hunter and conservationist, harvesting bears is an important aspect of sound wildlife management practices. Having the ability to construct a bait site on public land- where it is legal, is a great way to hunt bears. Below are my top 5 tips for baiting bears on public land that have worked for me.
The location that you choose may vary depending on whether you are going to archery or rifle hunt. Regardless, choose a location to set your bait that is near where bears will be emerging from hibernation or you have seen bears frequent in the past. The goal is to attract hungry bears as they emerge and begin to feed.
Consider placing your bait in the most remote location that you are physically able to manage. Less traveled areas, for example, at the end of the road closure will likely increase your chance of seeing bears and decrease the likeliness of competing with other hunters.
Bears are elusive animals, having a bait in the wide open is going to encourage them to feed nocturnally. Make it more comfortable for them to frequent the bait during daylight hours by having a good cover around the bait.
Wind is everything. You want the bears to smell your bait, but during your prime hunting hours, you want the wind thermals to be in your favor. Place your bait in a location that is going to give the best thermal patterns for your main hunting hours. The tops of ridges offer a great opportunity to disperse scent if you are bow hunting and can afford the opportunity for rifle hunters to sit a couple of hundred yards off the bait at a vantage point. For example across a canyon or ravine. Do everything that you can to eliminate human scent from the area. Use a scent control system like Dead Down Wind to keep your clothes and body as odor free as possible.
#2 Types of Bait
Bears will eat just about anything from candy, doughnuts, dog food, cooking grease, you name it they will pretty much eat it. With that being said, packing messy or bulky bait into a remote location can be a challenge. Master Bait Wildlife Pellets are specifically formulated to attract bears for miles, plus they are stored in 50-pound bags making them easy to throw in your pack without a mess. Also, check out Rack One’s Big Game Peanut Butter which is 100% pure ground peanuts. This is now sold in easy to carry 5-pound bags. To fill the air with the sweet smell of glazed donuts, check out Tinks Hot Shot bear bait mist.
#3 Get Unconventional
Bears are extremely intelligent animals. Older bears that have experienced hunting pressure will often become nocturnal if you bump them off a bait or if they hear, see or smell you coming in and out of the stand. This can even hold true if you are driving an ATV that can be heard for miles.
Don’t be afraid to get unconventional, give backpacking or horseback riding into the backcountry a shot. The method may prove to be slower but packing in and staying put can help eliminate foreign human sounds from the area.
Try camping in a location that you can establish a line of sight to your bait or have a short walk to a vantage point. If you are bow hunting, this vantage point may help you avoid bumping a bear that is at or near the bait before you attempt to climb into your stand. If you are rifle hunting, you may even use your vantage point as your stand location.
Most bear hunts are in the afternoon or evening, however, hunting at first light can be a great time to harvest an older bear before he beds down for the day.
#4 Field Judging Bears
There is no animal that is harder to field judge than a bear. Trail cameras can help take the guesswork out of field judging bears. Knowing what is coming into your bait will help you to identify individual bears that are frequenting the area. This knowledge can be helpful if you spot a bear that is on a hillside or location that is not directly at your bait site. Also, look first at the ears. If they look big like Mickey Mouse, then it is a small bear. If the ears appear small, then it is a big bear. Big Ears = Small Bear.
Quick Tip: Check your camera before you fill your bait to help avoid placing food smells onto your camera. Spraying your trail camera with Dead Down Wind will help to eliminate any food odor that you may have inadvertently put on the camera.
At your bait site, placing your bait in a 55-gallon barrel will help make estimating size much easier. However, if you don’t have a barrel to use or it gets tipped over, a spray painted line on a nearby tree may be of help. You can also use terrain features such as a fallen log to help you field judge the length of the bears.
#5 Be Ethical & Legal
First and foremost, you are going to want to adhere to the laws on baiting in your individual state. Second, don’t get in a rush to harvest a bear and accidentally take a juvenile bear or sow with cubs. Take the time to positively identify the bear and be sure it is of legal age, and not a family unit. And last, keep in mind that we are all fortunate enough to be public landowners. If you encounter another hunter, do your best to be courteous and exhibit sportsmanlike behavior.
I invite you to watch my 2017/2018 public land, DIY, Idaho black bear hunt where I put these tips to work on my Pursue The Wild YouTube Channel.
Worth The Wait- Idaho Black Bear