Sometimes bear hunting seems easy, but the truth of the matter is finding a true trophy-class bear is like finding a 200-inch whitetail. The old, smart bears are exactly that for a reason – getting one to come strolling in for dinner at a bait site isn’t exactly an easy task. You often get only one chance to harvest the bruin, so if things don’t go according to plan, all you may end up doing is further educating him.
Check out these five tips to tag a trophy-class bear of your own.
Hit The Books
Big bears are tough to find and provide a challenging experience no matter how long you’ve been hunting them. Sifting through the records in the various trophy books can be extremely helpful in identifying areas with good genetics that consistently produce big bears. Get out a map and start putting dots in the areas where the monsters have been taken in the past. You’ll find that it doesn’t take long to identify patterns and specific areas with genetics that produce big bears. Whether it’s the state or provincial wildlife awards and records, Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young, SCI or other listing of bear trophies, studying the data and targeting areas with the genetics for producing huge skulls will increase your odds of finding one for yourself.
Pick A Big Bear Spot
Baiting isn’t as easy as it sounds. Site selection is critical and setting up where bears naturally want to move and live will put the odds in your favor. For starters, you need to hunt where giants live. Creeks, rivers and bogs are prime areas. These locales have good moisture and any south exposure will grow the first grass and dandelions to attract bears. The same areas are often wintering grounds for other ungulates, and any winter mortality will mean carrion for bruins. Cover in these areas is usually dense and offers everything a big bear needs to survive contently, including denning sites.
Bait With What?
I like to provide food with plenty of calories to entice bears early in the spring. Oats mixed with used deep-fryer grease and sugar is a winning combination. I put it in 45-gallon drums and drill a hole in each side of the barrel. The holes need to be 15/16 of an inch, which won’t let the mix spill out on its own. Bears are then compelled to spend time at the bait rolling the barrel and working the grain out of the smaller holes in order to eat. It forces them to spend lots of time at the bait, which in turn makes them very comfortable there.
When the area we hunt starts to green up, the bears will move to the fresh forage. It becomes imperative to use some type of meat scraps (check state and province regulations before using meat) at this point to keep the bears coming back. Beaver carcasses are a definite favorite. Most trappers save and sell the carcasses, so it isn’t hard to line some up for a spring hunt.
Focus On The Rut
Some jurisdictions and states in the Lower 48 have seasons that run through June – a time when big boars let down their guard and start looking for a willing lady. It is no different than hunting white-tailed deer during the rut and seeing big, normally shy bucks running the open fields at all times of the day. Big bears will have your bait on their internal GPS and be checking it, especially if sows are using it. Being selective and not harvesting sows can naturally entice and attract the big boars when the rut kicks in.
Change It Up
When a big bear has you figured out at a specific site, you need to change things up. One of my favorite ways to fool a savvy bruin, aside from backing off the bait, is relocating the bait site. This should only be done if time allows, and the move should be 300 yards or less from the bait the bear is shying from. Often after a bait and stand move, the bear that had you pegged will let down its guard, and the association he had with danger at the initial site will be gone.