Black Bear Bait Theory

From a Minnesota Veteran

Bear hunters subscribe to a number of theories about why their baits work and there is no one best way to invite a bruin to dinner. Here's Brian Bachman's baiting theory, based on 35 years of experience in his neck of the woods.
2020 was a record year of people getting into the outdoors. That could make it a little difficult to find cheap bear bait for the barrel. Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned vet a little preparation goes a long way, start thinking about bait now.
Faithorn, Michigan resident Mark Hanna bagged one of the biggest black bears ever killed in the state on the evening of September 25, 2019 while hunting over bait in the Upper Peninsula’s Menominee County. The enormous bruin had a dressed weight of 640 to 650 pounds and a live weight of around 730 pounds. Even though the monster bear was taken out of the woods with the help of nine men in an effort to get an accurate weight, it was difficult to locate a dependable scale capable of handling the beast. The fact that temperatures were warm complicated matters. It was necessary to skin and butcher the bear as quickly as possible to avoid losing the hide and meat. Several scales were tried to weigh the whole bear without success.
By now the luscious summer landscape of green has yielded its glory to the depths of autumn. The oncoming winter is on the horizon, temperatures are cooling and the black bear is at the peak of its fall feeding frenzy. Bear hunting over bait is a strategic tool used by wildlife management agencies to harvest their target number of bears in the different regions of North America where spot and stalk hunting just won’t cut it, like Arkansas. Baiting fall bears is as exciting as it gets in bear hunting. Why? Wildlife managers and hunters are capitalizing on the ancient biological process that has enabled black bears to be the most successful bear species on the planet, which is their fall hyperphagia. During the late fall there are many things lined up in favor of the diligent bear hunter. Bear hides are at their peak quality and bears are at their top weights.
Bears don’t use their ears to find food. Neither do they use their eyes as the primary tool to locate food. As we all know, bears use their nose as their primary sense to direct them towards food. When baiting bears, scent is the primary attractor. Understanding scent and having quality scent is the foundation of successful bear baiting. Step two for a successful bear bait is providing quality and diverse bait that provides the bear with the food it wants. In this article we’ll focus on bait scent dispersal and how understanding the prevailing winds and thermal currents will help you choose the right bait site. Secondly, we’ll talk about some types of bear bait.
I would be the first to admit, fall bear hunting just isn’t at the top of my to-do list every year. Living in Colorado, there’s just too many other opportunities to sink my teeth into, with hunting mule deer, antelope and elk always making it to the top of my list. That being said, as primarily a bowhunter, my western season generally comes to a close towards the end of September. And with November whitetails still a month away, October can be a great time to match wits with a fall bruin looking to put on some pounds before winter.
Many times it’s not the knowledge of “best practice” that dictates our baiting schedule, but rather finances, time or other restrictions. However, understanding these strategies might help you in future years. Remember this: baiting is a conservation management tool designed to help game agencies accomplish their management goals. Bear baiting is under fire in many arenas, even inside the hunting community. We bait bears so we can be selective in our harvest, and it should be our goal to harvest older mature males in most scenarios. Be careful how you talk about baiting bears and especially how you post things on social media. Baiting bears isn’t easy and it’s a ton of work! It’s all about the journey, not the destination.
After spending the previous seven months serving our country abroad, I was more than ready to leave the hustle and bustle of Europe for much quieter days in Alaska. The timing of my return was perfect, because I would land in Fairbanks, and we could immediately begin the process my wife and I have come to love each spring since we’ve been married. Baiting grizzly and black bears is a labor of love, but the sounds and smells of spring coupled with anticipation of close encounters with the top of North American’s food chain keeps us focused on the goal.
In some areas, you have a short time to get your baits working. Here are some strategies for firing them up fast and keeping the bears coming.