I shot two bears with my bow this spring over the course of a three month season. YouTube clips showing a herd of bears milling around a beaver carcass lead many people to believe that bear hunting takes little effort. The reality is much different. Many of the outfitters on TV have been baiting for decades. Generation after generation of bear has been eating cinnamon rolls out of those same barrels. It’s a tradition as old as the cinnamon roll itself. This post provides a few lessons I learned through trial-and-error, as well as a couple tips I picked up from other hunters. Good Luck on your next bear hunt, and thank you for reading.
Is it Necessary? No, but…
For many hunters, myself included, it’s tempting to cut corners and avoid using a barrel. Some hunters place logs and rocks on top of bread or simply scatter dog food, but it’s tough to keep ground squirrels and crows from raiding the bait before bears have a chance to arrive. In addition to non-target animals, rain will soak any bait outside of a barrel. Remember, you only have to carry the barrel in once a year, and they aren’t as heavy as they look. If you are looking for a barrel, mechanics and gas stations will have extra barrels you can buy, and Craigslist will have used ones. Watch this YouTube tutorial to build your own.
Slow Them Down
Maximize the amount of time bears spend at your bait station. The bear that eats all afternoon will provide more shot opportunities than the bear that dines and dashes.
Break up the bread before tossing it inside the barrel. Bears like to grab a loaf and run off to eat somewhere with less human scent. By breaking the bread into smaller pieces it forces the bear to remain within range long enough for a shot.
I place rocks and sticks inside the barrel on top of my bait. The bear must remove each branch one at a time before getting to the goods. I also stick one large log in the hole of the barrel to keep squirrels and other animals from raiding my donuts. Keep in mind that blocking the hole will prevent scent from escaping. Drizzle syrup, tuna or anise extract on the exposed end to help bears find their way.
Some hunters scatter bait around the site to keep the bear searching. I haven’t found this to work very well. When I did leave bait outside the barrel I would watch ground squirrels throw a block party. I like to pour syrup on surrounding trees or squeeze a can of tuna out on the ground. If you cover the tree on the side facing your stand, it will force the bear to turn away and investigate, allowing for a quartering away shot.
Some hunters make noise when baiting and others don’t. Location can also cause debait :). I have a few hunches, but I wasn’t able to test all of them this season. What I know for certain, I have written above. I’ll keep refining my art in the years to come. Go forth and prosper, Stu