Black Bears From Ground Zero

June 29, 2011

bear huntingThere are times when you have to get on the ground to shoot a big bear. In some cases natural fall food sources simply do not have a suitable tree available nearby on which to hang a stand. Other times mature bruins are wise to your efforts when bowhunting over bait, and avoid the cache of goodies you put out for them whenever you are in your stand. Here is what you can do.

Smoke Him Out

In the autumn bears enter a stage called hyperphagia where they gorge themselves on fruits, nuts and berries in advance of hibernation, often putting on two to three pounds a day. They can be found feeding voraciously out in the open all day long now in clear-cuts, old orchards, blueberry bogs, and raspberry and black berry thickets as well as cultivated farm crops such as standing corn and oat fields. Examine piles of scat for clues as to where the bear was feeding, and look for tracks, claw marks on trees, and traces of fur attached to the understory for confirmation.

Getting a feeding bruin to expose himself long enough for a bow shot can be tricky, however. Look for an opening in the berry patch, apple orchard, or deep inside the corn field, and then fasten a makeshift ground blind from nearby natural materials. Be sure to position it crosswind but within easy bow range, disturbing the area as little as possible. Bears are acutely aware of any changes in their feeding areas.

Fire up a couple of scent sticks in the opening, and then sneak into your ground blind. Hopefully his attention will be on the sweet aromas when he pads in to investigate, and not you quivering in the shadows.

Bait-Wise Bruins

Big bears are kings of the forest and often act boldly despite your intrusion, but once they associate you and the food source with danger, all bets are off. If you bury a broadhead into a nearby tree or let him hear you or see you squirming around in your treestand, he becomes almost impossible to kill. If he returns, and he may very well not, he will first seek you out with his eyes, ears, and nose by circling downwind of the stand. He will not commit himself to the setup unless he is absolutely sure you are not around. Look for a faint trail that curves through the undergrowth just within sight of the bait barrel. Broken plant stems, foot impressions in the moss, and freshly snapped branches should be all the evidence you need to know he has you pegged. Look for a natural hideaway down or crosswind of this route, a place where you can see the trail without giving away your position. Lay on your belly if you have to. Let me warn you. You will be afraid, but wait for him to walk past you and then take the quartering-away shot.