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Bear Hunting Lessons Learned

Bowhunting over bear baits is very common, especially in popular bear hunting destinations such as Canada. Here's what you need to know!

Bear Hunting Lessons Learned

Bears like these on camera warrant multiple sits. (Josh Belyea photo)

Question: A friend and I are looking for a guided black bear hunt. One bit of information we requested in our search was the distance between baits. We’ve narrowed our search down to two camps, and both are very remote, with baits spaced off of a dirt road. Is there a rule of thumb about how far apart baits should be to help increase our chances of taking a good boar? Wyatt F., via e-mail

Answer: There are no hard and fast rules on this, but there are several things to consider. A study done in Pennsylvania showed that black bear boars had home ranges of 67 square miles, while that of females was 16 square miles. Note that food availability in Pennsylvania is very good compared to other regions, such as those found in Canada. Thus, at least for that type of habitat and food availability, an area that is eight square miles is probably where you’ll find a boar. This means that at a minimum, baits should be at least 10 miles apart, in order to prevent overlap on different baits. In Canada, my guess is that home ranges are much larger than that, so bait sites there might be placed even further apart. When baits are placed far apart and you get a good boar on a trail camera there, he probably won’t go to another bait because of distance. At some point in the future he should return. The big question is, when?

Decades of bear hunting experience have taught me a few things...and here is the result of my lessons learned.

How often he returns is affected by several factors. Your best chances are to keep your odor down at the bait. Bears become used to the guide’s odor, so that isn’t an issue, but your “stink” is. Approach the bait in the best manner possible to prevent your scent from contaminating the site and keeping that big boar away.

Movement is also a factor: Be still in the stand at all times. Big boars prowl around baits looking for danger before coming in to feed, and they can also hear very well. So, it is paramount that you keep your movements and noise to a minimum if you want to tag a big, mature boar.

Having other bears at the bait will also help attract boars. When a big boar sees other bears feeding at a bait site, he is more likely to come in relaxed. And when he is looking for a female, the more bears you have around, the better. Note though, that if a boar finds a hot sow, he may not visit any baits for several days, or even several weeks.

If the baits are more than 10 miles apart, and if a big boar got his picture taken on a trail camera at one bait, stay on that bait. Now, if your guide has several big boars on other baits that are placed far apart, you may want to hunt those baits as well. The best-case scenario is a big boar coming to one bait every night, or every other night. If that’s the case, sit that bait for several days in a row to give yourself the best chance of shooting that rascal.

The urge to move to another bait because you aren’t seeing bears is something that happens to all of us. The bait is being hit every night and you have photos of good boars on camera, yet they don’t come in. So, you move to another bait. Sure enough, the next day he comes in just before dark. It’s called bear hunting for a reason — and it’s a blast!

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