DIY Backcountry Baited Bears in Wyoming

This DIY public land hunt had its challenges, but we loved every minute of it!

The plan was simple. Arrive a week before the season, get some baits going, then hunt for a week. We mostly would use our ATVs for transportation into the backcountry, then set up baits 200-400 yards back into the mountain valleys. The most difficult part of this was navigating the confusing and convoluted bear hunting regulations of the Cowboy state. See my description in a separate text on that.
-Bernie Barringer-

Using Bait Additives

Published July/August 2015

There are three main categories of things used at a bear bait sight: bait, scents and bait additives (or toppers). The number one factor to a bear bait is the actual bait. Quality bait is critical and there isn’t a substitute for it, however, lesser quality bait can be improved with bait additives. Secondly, scent is a powerful piece of the puzzle. The bait itself produces some scent and certain bait produces more than others. Commercial scents and sprays expand the scent range of the bait, increasing the effective range of how far it can be smelled. Thirdly, bait additives have become a significant part of the bear-baiting world. Bait additives can be liquid or powder and are used to improve the overall quality of lesser quality bait and expand the scent range. Bear bait additives would be different than scents in that they add to it by actually improving the taste, nutrient and caloric content of the bait - it is actual food, as opposed to just a scent product.
We often get asked the best way to make a bear bait barrel. There is always more than one way to skin a cat, but we've found this method to work well. It's simple!

Trail Cams & Bear Baits

Trail cameras have changed bear hunting in ways we never could have dreamed. Here’s now to make the most of them.

My, how things have changed. It wasn’t that long ago that bear hunters climbed into a stand at a bear bait with little to no idea what bears were visiting the bait or at what times. Hunters used some interesting tricks to get information about the visitors. I know guys who carried five-gallon pails of fine sand to the bait and spread it nicely around in hopes of getting a decent track to analyze. Some would hang a bit of bait seven feet from the ground to see if a bear big enough to grab it was visiting. Others spread flour around, which would get on the bear’s feet and hopefully leave a white track on dark, hard soil. Still others examined surrounding trees hoping to find a hair that would give them a clue about the bear’s color.
-Bernie Barringer
Scent conditioning is simple. It means that you use commercial scents every time you bait. The scent is the strongest smelling part of the baiting routine. It broadcasts to the bears that the bait is fresh. Like Pavolov’s dogs that salivated whenever he entered the room after he conditioned them to feeding times, a well-conditioned bear is no different when he smells the exaggerated scent.
Many regions of the country regulate the amount of time before season that you bait bears. Some places out West allow you only to bait seven days before the season, while in Arkansas we can bait 30 days before the season. In other places there is no time limit and you could bait all year if you wanted to. However, what is most advantageous if your goal is to kill a mature bear on opening day? There are many pros and cons.
Huge clouds of smoke billowed skyward, blacking out the sun, as a monster wildfire burnt its way across the boreal forest of Northern Alberta, forcing over 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray to flee their homes. This would become the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history and probably the costliest disaster in Canadian history. For the next few days I watched the news for updates. The graphic videos taken by Canadian news reporters showed the massive exodus as the fire destroyed thousands of homes and forced the evacuation of several cities, including Fort McMurray. I watched the Royal Canadian Mounted Police escort hundreds of vehicles south, along Highway 63, the only route into and out of Fort McMurray. I recalled the many times I had driven up and down that same road going into, and returning from, a wilderness bear camp. The glowing embers raining down on the hoods of automobiles in the evacuation convoy was surreal and eerily beautiful. The Canadian newspaper, “The Guardian” reported that the fire began on May 3, 2016 and that by May 16th, it had spread across 930 square miles of Canadian bush and was heading towards Saskatchewan.
Baiting black bear can be one of the most exciting and effective ways to hunt them. If you’ve never ran your own baits from start to finish, then you might have a hard time appreciating how much work it can be, but also how rewarding success is. The murmur that baiting bear is easy is a farce told by those who’ve never done it themselves. Targeting older mature male bears over bait is a significantly underrated challenge.