year hunters across the Northern Midwest set out to achieve the
ultimate goal of bagging black bears. Many deem baiting
unfair, giving the hunter a considerable advantage. But contrary to what
some would have us believe, it’s far from easy, and holds no
guarantees! It's been witnessed that bears sneak in undetected, grab a
morsel of meat and disappear as fast as they arrived. I’ve also had
bears skulk around the bait for hours, never showing themselves. From
time to time you get lucky and have one move in cautiously to inspect
the provisions, but this is more frequently the exception than the rule.
The biggest advantage to baiting is that, if and when a bruin finally
commits to the bait, it allows the hunter an opportunity to assess size
- Place the bait along a bear's natural movement corridor. Location is critical.
Bruins hang out in distinct areas where food is available. Heavily
timbered forests near agricultural lands often sustain good bear
densities. With cereal crops like oats nearby, black bears favor the
accessibility and abundance of such forage and often reside in
proximity. The same holds true with natural forage such as wild berries
- With the aid of topographical maps, look for streams, rivers
and ample low ground to provide damp, dark and cool cover. Beavers are a
staple food source in some regions, so areas with spruce and poplar
mixed forest near cascading beaver dams can be dynamite locations for
establishing a bait site.
- Look for indicators like claw marks on deciduous trees. While
rarely do you stumble upon fresh markings, these lasting scars unveil a
sign of true presence. Bears commonly travel traditional trails along
waterways and natural movement corridors like valleys and ridges.
Finding fresh scat can instill further confidence.
- Make sure your bait has a strong odor -- sometimes, the more
putrid the smell, the better at least when it comes to attracting them.
Bears are omnivorous and will scarf down just about anything from
produce to pastries, bread and meat scraps.
- Simplify your bait ingredients by using beaver carcasses hung
in trees. Where legal, beavers are a key ingredient. As for bulk, use
sacks of cream filled cookies. A pale of rotting fish guts serves as a
great stink bait and the final touch is a bucket of grease poured around
the base of the bait barrel, particularly the kind discarded by
restaurants that use deep fryers. Visiting bears step in the oozing mess
and establish their own scent trail to and from the bait.
- Pay Attention to detail.
- Scent can be your biggest ally or your worst enemy. Bears are
attracted to the aroma of a free meal, but if they catch a whiff of your
boot track, you can often kiss them good-bye. Keep your clothing and
footwear as scent-free as possible. Approach your stand or blind from
the opposite direction that the bear is anticipated to enter the site.
Once established, well-worn trails will reveal access points.
- Be alert.
- Be on your toes at all times while hunting your bait. You will
most often see bears before you hear them. With padded feet, they move
with calculated precision. Remember, when they come in to a bait
station, they know the treats were left by humans.
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