Summer Bounty Causing Fall Shuffle For Bear Hunters
©2015 Brent Reece
This year has been a bountiful year for masse in the north woods of Maine. Lots of natural forage keeps the bears feeding and getting fatter later in the year. Here in Maine we use baiting as a control measure in the quest for bears. In that baiting not only provides access to bears who come to feed. But allows the hunter time to choose the right bear and get that ethical shot for a humane kill! No hurried running shots or uncertain situations. No excuses for not getting the clean kill and the right critter. Although it is legal to shoot a “wet sow” it is unethical to kill any sow who has cubs! Passing on them insures many more bears and more hunting later.
A bucket set insures the bears are sized properly for killing and that you get that clean clear shot. This bear is about to reach up and out with his front legs to dump the bucket to eat. When he does the front legs will open his chest to a perfect through and through double lung/heart shot! Placing the bucket off the ground at 5 feet insures you looking at adult mature bears, and wet sows will have pronounced nipples you will easily see under these light conditions.
Here is an example of two brothers who knocked down the bucket or are the benefactors to some degree of a bigger bear who may have. Limiting the amount of food by using the bucket instead of using a barrel increases competition and makes the bears come to the bait earlier in the day . Increasing the odds that bears will be on the baits during the daylight hunting hours. But the big old boars the trophy hunters desire often stick to nocturnal habits.
This is a great old bear who prefers to visit at night. But by then the bucket is usually empty. The area smells so strong of goodies he comes in anyway and gets his picture taken. The use of food based scents insures each site draws bears even when the food is gone.
Now all three pictures were taken here in the last two weeks and show the bears are still hitting the baits even though there is a bumper crop of food for them to eat in the wild. In some areas I hear hunters whining that they can’t pull any bears over to their baits. Blaming the above average masse crop for “ruining” their baits this year. Well all I can say is buck up or pack it in! Most years bears are having it rough and are easy targets for us baiters to draw in. This year they can pick and choose more. You better pull out all your tricks or your baits will rot and the coons will get it all!
The key to success in these bounty years is scent control and manipulation. 500 pound bears are sly and when you draw them to an empty bucket you must be using scent effectively!
Start with insuring you leave minimal human scent at the bait site. But remember the bears get use to your scent and over the few weeks of prebaiting before season. The human scent that hurts you is the new and unfamiliar scent. I know guides who have clients send up a sweaty tshirt ahead of their hunt to put that tshirt on the site so the bears get used to smelling him. Then when he is there in the stand the bears could care less. They become “nose blind” to his scent.
The scent that I am talking about is the “tourist”. That guy who found your trail and walks in on your bait. Make sure you have landowner permission to bait and exclusivity is best. Then hide your trails into the baits as best as you can. I know of several baiters who even place signs on the trail back inside the woods out of sight of passers by just in case the trail is found. They usually request that the person turn around and not disturb the bait that is legally placed further in. A lot of fellow hunters respect this and back out. A trailcam on that trail and monitoring traffic on that trail is a great idea to head off issues.
Wardens are famous for walking in on baits and checking legalities. The sign lets them know that an ethical hunter is there and is asking for some courtesy. But it is no guarantee that they will back out. The trail cam lets you get pics of who or whatever walks that trail. You can even place that info on the sign and warn “tourists” that they are being photographed or videoed. Be sure to hide your cameras well and lock them securely so they don’t get “collected” by a tourist. All cameras must be properly marked with your vital info unless on your property! Landowners have the right to cease these cameras and all gear if you are not on the land legally. Marking your cams insures your landowner knows these are your cameras. Not marking your cameras insures anybody can take them and not get into trouble since it’s on you to be sure they are properly marked. You breaking the law by not marking them creates a free pass to theft!
Scent manipulation involves “scenting up” your site to smell so good to bears that it’s like being down wind from your favorite Dunkin’Donuts/bakery/candy store and Applebee’s. We use crazy combinations of scents that all ring the dinner bell. I am not going to spill the beans on all the scents we use, but there are companies out there make great “powders” and candles that just fill the air with so much goodness that bears cannot resist! Natural smells like apple extract and honey can help as well. A good honey burn on a fresh bait to get it started is an old timers tradition, that works!! Bacon grease and Fryolater oil are good scent plume components. Some bears prefer sweet and some prefer “meat”!
Pictures don’t lie! Hunters all over Maine are freaking out because the bears are not on the baits like they feel they should be. Well these pics show you that some hunters can call in bears to baits despite the bumper crop of masse that stymies all the others.
If you want to learn the tricks and methods that it takes to year in and year out succeed where so many others fail you have to think outside the box and go that extra distance to pull bears from nature’s bounty. Read all my posts on here about baiting and drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am more than willing to share with my fellow hunters the things I have learned from the best baiters in the state!