Baiting Black Bears on Public Land

The list of western states that allow bear hunting over bait is short, but there are still a few opportunities out there if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

Baiting Black Bears on Public Land

With the amount of pressure put on game departments to do away with hunting bears over bait, coupled with the fact the majority of baiting occurs on public land, states have put strict restrictions on what you can and cannot do. Typical restrictions include how close to a road you can bait, what bait you can use, mandatory registration of bait sites, as well as several others. Knowing and complying with the rules is a must for bear hunters.

Before you decide to take on a bear baiting venture on public land, let me warn you that the job is not easy. It’s more work than simply tossing a doughnut out in the woods, sitting back and waiting; trust me. Baiting bears is hard work and over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in competition. Hunting spots free of other hunters are more difficult to find now. To be successful, bait sites need to be in a good location and stocked regularly to keep bears from wandering away to another food source.

Before we dive into the states out West that still allow public land bear hunting over bait, I offer this final warning: Baiting bears gets in your blood. If you’re not careful, you may end up like me, a 25-plus-year bear hunting veteran, still eager for more. Let’s take a look at those states.


Other than a couple draw areas and some areas with grizzly populations, nearly the entire state of Idaho is open to bear baiting with an over-the-counter tag. This is true for both the spring and fall seasons alike. The amount of public land available to both residents and nonresidents is endless. Both spring and fall seasons offer generous season lengths. Each year there are several Pope and Young bears taken in Idaho, as well as many color phase bears, too. For all of these reasons, it is tough to beat Idaho if baiting bears is on your bucket list.

Bear tags are $186 for a nonresident statewide tag. In addition, there are some designated units where a nonresident can purchase tags for $41.75, and can buy a second tag in designated areas for the same $41.75. Idaho also offers black bear Junior-mentored tags where a youth or disabled American veteran can purchase a tag for $23.75 as long as an adult with a tag for the same species accompanies them. An additional bait permit runs $31.75 for nonresidents.

In Idaho, any person placing bait must possess a baiting permit issued by the Idaho Fish and Game. Permits are issued by mail or in person at Fish and Game offices beginning on March 1 of each year. Each person may maintain up to three bait sites per year. Hunters may place their bait sites on private or public lands as long as they follow the laws governing where they can or cannot be placed. Season dates vary, with spring seasons taking place in the months of April to June, and fall seasons in the months of August through October. For more information, visit



In Wyoming, anyone wishing to bait bears must register their bait site with the Wyoming Game Department. Doing this for the first time must be conducted in person or completed by a representative on your behalf at a Department Regional office. To register, you must provide all of the required information, including GPS coordinates to the site. I know this can be a pain, but this practice makes sure that hunters are not hunting on top of each other on public lands, which is a good thing. Once you have an approved site, the owner’s name, address and current year’s black bear license number must be legibly displayed on the outside of the bait container. Making sure you follow all of the baiting laws is vital, as your name is directly attached to that site.

Much of the state is open to baiting, but there are many closed areas as well. Everything within the grizzly management or recovery area is closed to bear baiting. In addition, all designated wilderness areas within the National Forest are closed to baiting. In the areas that border Grizzly inhabited hunt-areas, processed foods cannot be used for bait.

Like Idaho, Wyoming produces some great trophy bears on a regular basis, and there is a large number of color phase bears. Bear tags in Wyoming for nonresidents are $373. At this time, there are no reduced price tags for anyone, just a straight fee across the board. All tags are offered over-the-counter, and there are no draw tags. Baiting is allowed in both the spring and the fall seasons but vary by area. Spring seasons take place between April and June, and fall seasons take place from August through October. Note that Wyoming’s bear seasons are regulated through female quotas by area. What this means is even if you have a registered bait site and a valid bear tag, if the female quota is met in your area, the season is closed. To find out more about hunting bears in Wyoming, visit



Baiting bears in Utah is legal, but much more difficult than in states such as Wyoming and Idaho. The only way you can hunt bears over bait in the Beehive state is if you draw a limited-entry permit that allows the use of bait. After you have drawn a permit, if you wish to bait, you must obtain a certificate of registration for your bait site by visiting the Division Office in the region where you plan to set up your bait.

Limited entry tags for bear in Utah are $308, and multi-season limited-entry tags are $475. The bait station certificate of registration is an additional $10. You must have a valid license at the time you apply for a tag in Utah and that fee is $65.

Utah also has color phase bears roaming the hills. And with the limited-entry tags, there are some great bears taken there as well. Getting a tag is not nearly as easy as in other states, but if you are really into bears and are willing to wait for a tag, once you draw, you should be in for a great hunt. Summer hunts take place in May and June, and fall hunts take place in August, September and November. For more information, visit


The Nuts and Bolts

As I stated earlier, bear baiting on public land takes time and hard work. Obviously, living close to a state that allows baiting for bears makes things much easier. Still, even if you reside clear across the country, you can pull off a western baited-bear hunt. To do so, set aside some time. If you have 10 to 14 days in a well-populated bear area, you will likely have time to set up a bait station, get bears hitting that station, then have several days to hunt. Another added bonus is you can do it for the fraction of the cost of hunts further north.

These day, there are many other hunters pursuing spring bears, so getting your bait off the beaten path is key. When I first started, baiting competition was almost non-existent, all you needed to do was get your bait the required distance off the road, and you could have a great hunt. Now, however, you must get farther from roads to find consistent success.

Hauling bait onto public lands that forbid motorized vehicles is a challenge. A cart such as the one shown here can also be used to haul out a bear if you’re successful.
Hauling bait onto public lands that forbid motorized vehicles is a challenge. A cart such as the one shown here can also be used to haul out a bear if you’re successful.

Once you are away from the roads, selecting a location where the wind will blow the scent up and down a drainage is a great idea. Bears have a great sense of smell and can detect a bait from a long distance, if the conditions are right. This leads to my next point: You need some sort of smell that is strong. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a rotten smell or a sweet smell, as long as it carries scent well.

I’ll close with this last nugget regarding bear baiting on public land: Hunting bears allows you to scout for other species. Often, the places I hunt for bears are the same ones I hunt for other species like elk, deer and even pronghorn. With most sits at bait sites usually being in the last few hours of daylight, you are left with most of the day to explore the surrounding area. If you’ve been eyeballing a place where you have wanted to go on an elk hunt, what better way to scout? Spend your mornings glassing for elk or hiking for sign, then climb into your stand or blind for the evening bear hunt. Spring in the Rockies during bear season is a magical time. Give bowhunting bruins over bait a try and extend your hunting season, it’s a winning combination.


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