Mixed bag on the bear food front

14 Aug

By Tim Spielman Associate Editor
Posted on August 9, 2012

Grand Rapids, Minn. — With bear baiting set to begin Aug. 17, hunters across northern Minnesota are curious about the competition they’ll have this year – not from other bear baiters, but from the natural stuff provided by forests of the state.

The answer, according to a few who’ve been among the brush, berries, nuts, and bugs, is that it’s variable across the bear range, but no particular part will be completely devoid of natural foods.

That’s the word from Karen Noyce, a DNR bear research biologist in Grand Rapids. And, generally speaking, it’s good news for bear hunters who would, come the Sept. 1 opener, prefer those bruins instead visit strategically placed baits.

The season runs through Oct. 14, and there are 6,000 bear tags available in 11 permit areas. In the “no-quota” area, an unlimited number of permits are available for purchase over the counter.

For what it’s worth, the early spring has affected many natural crops, Noyce said. In north-central Minnesota, she said, the hazelnut crop looks great, and red oak acorns appear to be another good natural option for bears. The berry crop has been marginal.

In northwestern Minnesota, there’s a recent phenomenon that will challenge bear hunters, according to Doug Franke, DNR wildlife manager in Thief River Falls. That’s the proliferation of corn crops in that part of the state – one known for agriculture, but not necessarily a lot of corn.

New corn varieties better adapted to the growing season and soils of the northwest have changed that, Franke said.

“The wildcard (regarding bear hunting) is there’s a lot of corn in the area this year,” he said. Bears especially like corn during certain periods of its growth, and conservation officer reports this week indicated the crop was getting a lot of attention from bruins.

Beyond the field corn, Franke said much of the berry-type products in the area are “very patchy, spotty.”

The hazelnut crop in the area was “mediocre at best,” and acorns looked OK in some places. Franke said drought affected some locations in the northwest, “but some areas got shots of rain at the right time.”

“Overall, I’d say there’s a marginal (natural) food crop in this part of the state, and that baiting will be OK,” he said.

Most of Franke’s work area is in the “no-quota” zone.

On the other side of northern Minnesota, Brian Bachman lives in the Brainerd area, and guides bear hunters near Ely.

As for Brainerd, Bachman, of the North American Bear Foundation,” said hazelnuts were in good shape, the berry crop was limited, and that acorns already are littering the forest floor.

In the northeast, “There are no oak trees, so I don’t have to contend with acorns,” he said.

The blueberry crop was poor, he added, possibly due to a late frost – or, more accurately, perhaps, an early spring.

What competes more often with his baits in the Ely area are pin cherries and choke cherries, according to Bachman, who this year will place 75 baits for 25 hunters he has coming to camp.

Unsold or any surplus bear-hunting licenses were to have gone on sale earlier this week, and may be purchased by anyone who wishes to do so.

The bag limit this year is one bear in quota zones and two bears in no-quota zones. Legal shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Also, a person may not place bait for bears on or after Aug. 17 unless the person has a 2012 bear license or is operating under the direction of a person with the license.



29 Jun

I was just recently watching the Outdoor Channel : Western Extreme with Jim Burnworth hunting Black Bears on the Quinault Indian Reservation with Ocean Crest Resort. Apparently you can shoot as many bears as you have tags for (or money for).

Jim takes two bears within minutes of each other in broad daylight. He gets down from his stand to take care of the first bear and by the time he gets to the second bear another bear has eaten a good portion of it. I think he said he was about 70 yards from the second bear when he was cleaning the first. I have heard of wolves getting to a bear first. This is a first for me to hear about this.

I guess we don’t have a population of bears in Minnesota that is that competitive!

Stinky Bar Grease

25 Jun

Well it’s that time again. Time to start getting ready for black bear hunting in Minnesota. Lottery applicants can check to see if they were drawn online at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources since early June.

Bear lottery winners must purchase their license by August 1, 2012. Unsold licenses will then become available for purchase by anyone starting August 6, 2012 at 12:00PM.

At this time of year I start thinking about where I am going to get my bait from. Craigslist sometimes has items for free, then there is freezing your leftovers or you could always buy bait.

When buying bait I would suggest bait that does not spoil quickly exposed to the elements like doughnuts, bread and dog food. Simple cracked corn and grease works just fine. I prefer – if I can get my hands on it – dried expired fruits packed in sugar. Easier said than done. I also like peanuts and trail mix if there aren’t too many crackers in it. I have never really had too much luck with fresh fruits like apples. Every bear seems to have their own likes and dislikes, so try a number of different baits.

A good place to just buy bait is Lucky 7 Bear Bait in Cambridge, MN. Their inventory changes so visit their website frequently. I believe they may even ship throughout the US.

It doesn’t hurt to go to your bakery or gas station for bait. Don’t forget to go to the local watering hole for the tastey bar grease! Bring a bucket and a way to scoup it out. Don’t get it on you vehicle cause once the sun hits it – you aren’t every going to get it off.

This year my group intends to use bait barrels chained and / or bolted to trees. Should be interesting.

Baiting may not begin prior to August 17, 2012.

Tracking Trains

7 Oct

I am sure some of you have heard of wolves being shot and the collars thrown on a train. I heard it on the radio this morning and thought maybe someone has done this with a bear radio collar? The joke this morning was that in Roseau, MN someone shot a wolf and put the collar on his sheep. The other was that the wolf was going 70 miles per hour (the train). Let me know your thoughts or if you have ever heard of this with a collard bear or other tracked animal…maybe a Minnesota Moose?

2011 Black Bear Report : III

23 Sep

This information is as of 09-21-2011

Bear hunting success has been limited this season
Timberline Sports and Tackle : (218) 835-4636

A few bears continue to be taken
Buck’s Hardware : (218) 387-2280

Bear activity has improved during the day
Ben’s Bait and Tackle : (218) 326-8281

Bear hunting seems to be winding down
Swanson’s Bait and Tackle : (218) 675-6176

Crop Circles

21 Sep

I am not sure that many of you know that bears like corn on the cob, field corn, corn chips – just about anything corn.  Even corn oil!   They even like to hibernate in corn fields in shallow pits they dig and even bear young there.  Some even die due to combines in the winter harvesting the corn.  In some parts of the state that have bears and corn fields –there are great opportunity to hunt bears like you would hunt deer.  From the edge of a field.  Here is some video I took of a field in central Minnesota that a bear had knocked down some corn stalks.  The previous year the bear knocked down the stalks in a pattern.  This time it is completely random.  I am assuming it is a different bear or the young from the previous bear.  I found it rather interesting and I hope you do also to see some crop circles naturally made.  Maybe you will find a new hunting opportunity from it.

2011 Black Bear Report : II

16 Sep

This information is as of 09-15-2011


A few more bears were registered this week.

Bluewater Outdoors

(218) 444-BAIT (2248)


Bear hunters are reporting more activity at night on their baits and a “bear or two” is registered each day.

Chalstrom’s Bait (218) 726-0094


Bear reports have been favorable.

Redding Sports and Spirits (218) 763-2191


Bearhunters report a bumper crop of acorns and not much activity at baits.

Swanson’s Bait and Tackle (218) 675-6176


Bear hunters continue to experience good success, but many are stating that they are becoming most active at night.

Dr. Tackle Sports (218) 647-8657

Mort’s Dock (218) 647-8128

2011 Black Bear Report : I

12 Sep

This information is as of 9/8/2011


Bear hunters report good activity just before dark.

Bluewater Outdoors: (218) 444-BAIT (2248)


Bear hunting reports have been mixed with 15 bears registered and other hunters struggling to get baits hit.

Chalstrom’s Bait: (218) 726-0094


Bear hunters are seeing action at their baits, but a lot of it is taking place after dark.

Ben’s Bait and Tackle: (218) 326-8281


One bear had been registered as of Tuesday morning.

Swanson’s Bait and Tackle: (218) 675-6176


Bear hunting seems to be best just northwest of town.

Delaney’s: (218) 732-4281


Bear hunters and guides are reporting good bear activity with baits being hit and several big animals shot.

Mort’s Dock: (218) 647-8128

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Opening Success

8 Sep

It always seems to me that it is very hot on the Minnesota Black Bear Opener.   I thought it would be interesting to see if it actually was.  Here is some data from the Farmers Almanac for Grand Rapids (Zone 26), MN.  I understand that the temperature is very different in other parts of Minnesota, but here is a frame of reference.

Heat Vs Harvest

The average high temperature is 75.7°F, a low of 53.8°F with an average harvest of 291.5 bears from Zone 26 each year since the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) started recording data.

So it is not all that hot and it is reasonably cool in the evenings. You can review the numbers and come to your own conclusions. I see that hot years have fewer bears harvested and in cooler years higher success. You have to take into account the entire summer and food available. Best scenario is little food with a cool opening day.

It is going to be interesting this year to see the harvest numbers since there are fewer hunters and the number of bait sites allowed has been reduced to three per hunter.  As most bear hunters know the opening success rate drops exponentially after the first day.  If you are lucky enough to be in an area that there is little pressure you should have little to worry about.

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Only Three Bait Sites Allowed

6 Sep

A change in baiting regulations is causing confusion among many of Minnesota’s 6,000 bear hunters just as the season gets underway.

The change this year prohibits hunters from placing more than three bait stations in the woods at one time. Previously, they could put out an unlimited number of bait stations.

“A lot of bear hunters aren’t aware of the change,” said Capt. Ken Soring of the Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids. He said the misunderstanding is widespread.

The bear hunting season opened Thursday.

Bear hunters must send the DNR the locations of their bait registration stations, and many are sending in more than three locations — unaware they are violating the law, Soring said.

“We’re calling them,” Soring said. “They have to abandon some of their bear-bait sites. It’s only fair for other hunters who are following the regulations.”

Soring said the DNR reduced the number of bait stations to three to reduce hunter conflicts and competition over sites.

“We were getting complaints from bear hunters — some hunters were placing baits in a pre-emptive manner,” Soring said. “This still gives hunters a chance to hunt three different areas.”

Hunters still can establish different bait stations if they remove one of their old ones. And each licensed bear hunting outfitter may establish up to three bait stations in addition to three bait stations placed for licensed hunters.

Soring said conservation officers are trying to give hunters a break, but those knowingly violating the law face citations, he said.

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

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