Spring Bear Baiting 101
If someone tells you that baiting bears is easy or cheating then invite them to help you find a new spot to bait, gather bait for the site, pack bait, set treestands/trail cameras, pack more bait, gather more bait, and pack more bait! Baiting bears is far from easy and quite honestly it takes more work and time than a spot and stalk bear hunt. In the last 5 years of baiting bears I have learned a few tricks that have helped me get bears coming into a bait site on a consistent basis and in this blog I am going to walk you through the steps that I take to start a new bait site.
Note: The below tips are what I do to establish a bait, you could talk to multiple bear hunters and they would all have different variations on how to bait. I would suggestion taking bits and pieces from all and make your own routine that works for you.
-FINDING THE RIGHT LOCATION-
Once you've found the general area you want to hunt start by driving around access roads. I usually look for a road that is towards the top of the ridge. I will drive down the road until I find a gradual ridge that heads down the mountain. Walk down the ridge and look for spots that offer the necessities you need to set up a bait site which are:
-A small opening surrounded by thick cover
-Tree's large enough to hang treestand's
- Tree to chain bait barrel
-Easy access to walk in and out with out being detected
-Wind direction (which way is the wind going to blow when you are sitting in the stand)
-Far enough away from the road so people can't find it and strike dogs can smell it
One of my favorite bait sites has everything that is listed above, it is a 25 yard by 25 yard opening that is surrounded by thick brush and trees. On the downhill side I have my bait barrel and at the uphill side I have my treestand. This spot allows the bears to feel safe while they make their way into the bait site, then once they are at the bait I have no tree's or branches obstructing my shooting. This spot also has an uphill wind draft and a trail leading down the ridge to the site so I can sneak in undetected.
I prefer to have my bait site below a road, this way I can pack bait downhill. I figure I will be packing more bait than I will bears. I also figure that when I shoot a bear I will be so happy that I wont mind the uphill pack.
-SETTING UP A BAIT SITE-
Once you have settled on a spot the work begins, I usually start by picking out a spot to place the bait barrel. After the bait barrel location is set I look around for the best tree to hang my treestand (I enjoy treestands, they allow me to look around and not feel confined). I will pick a tree that offers enough backdrop camouflage, you don't want to be skylined while trying to draw your bow. Get down to bear level at the barrel and look up towards the tree that you want to place your treestand, if it does not offer enough concealment pick a different tree.
One of the biggest tips I could give you in setting up a bait is to set your trail camera up first. This way you are not getting your hands all smelly with bait and then handling your camera. Believe me if your camera has any smell of bait on it the bears will find it and tear it up.
Be sure to take you time when setting the bait up for the first time. Trim branches you think may cause issues in the future, adjust your treesetand so it is perfect, and most of all make sure your bait smells strong enough to travel for miles. It is easy to make the adjustments at the time you set the bait, but once you have bears coming in you want to be as discreet as possible.
After hibernating all winter the bears are on the rampage when it comes to filling their stomachs. They are all about finding easy food sources that will help them gain back their lost fat storage's. Most of the time you will have to wait for the snow to melt off to get to your bait location. But once the snow is gone and you can access the area get in and get to work, if you time it right your bait site will be their go to location for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I have used many different bait options over the years, but I always go back to the basics. Below are my main go to's for spring bear baiting:
I am all about a sweet smelling bait. I don't want to be sitting in my stand and gagging because my bait smells like rotten meat. Last year I used a lot of regular sandwich bread but to spruce it up I used Boarmasters "Bear-ly Legal Triple Threat" which is a extremely sweet powder that I sprinkled all over the bread. This powder turns boring bread into a snack the bears go crazy over.
The smell of the bait is the most important factor in establishing an active bait. You want the smell of your bait to travel down the entire drainage you are hunting. Bears have an extremely sensitive nose and you want to attract as many wandering bears to your bait as possible. Once again this last year I used Boarmasters "Bear-ly Legal Raz-Donut Spray Attractant to get the attention of all the bears traveling around the drainage I hunt. Another go to scent attractant I use is Liquid Smoke, it brings the smell of a neighborhood BBQ to your bait.
Gathering enough bait to maintain an active bait site can sometimes be difficult. When you have multiple bears hitting your bait this will require weekly re-stocking of the bait. Last year I would have to fill the barrel completely full and then pile the remaining of the bait around the outside of the barrel. What looked like a huge pile of bait would be gone by the next weekend.
Many people have different opinions on when you should go back and hunt after the bait is set. I personally go and hunt one week after, I feel the bears are easier to hunt just after they find the bait. They are hungry and they are worried more about food than the possibility of danger sitting in a tree. If by chance a bear has not hit the bait in the first week, no worries, freshen the bait up with more scent attractant and plan on hunting the next week.
When walking into hunt be extremely cautious and sneak in as quietly as possible. There have been many times when I have walked in on a bear already at the bait. If this is the case you can either sneak in for the shot or if you are going to pass on the bear wait till it leaves and climb in the treestand.
When you get in the treestand or blind be sure to get comfortable. Most of the time the bears I have hunted have came in an hour before dark, so this leaves you with about 4-5 hours of sitting. While you are sitting it is important to be as quiet and still as possible. Most bears will come in silent and there is no way to know if a bear is just out of sight and moving may cause them to run away.
Like I said in the beginning, this is how I establish a new bait site. Many other hunters may do things totally opposite of what I do, however these techniques have been very productive since I started baiting bears. Most of all have fun and enjoy all the hard work you put into baiting and when a big boar steps up to your bait "aim small, miss small!"
-TIPS FROM SUCCESSFUL BEAR HUNTERS-