Great aids in bear hunting are trail timers or trail cameras.
You can collect data on the date and time, temperature, moon phase and photo of the animal that passed through or stopped at the bait site.
The trail timer works by a string line pulling the plastic disconnect (zip-strip) out to turn off the clock – trip it. However, I have had jays land on the line and get tangled-up right in front of me numerous times to send false readings.
Coons and skunks are notorious trippers as well. When you place the plastic back between the contacts the clock will show the time and date it was turned off for you to take note of. It will continue running again from that moment on. Bring a watch or cell phone for reference to reset the date and time. I carried a notebook or a smart phone to take stats of the sites activity when I use to use trail timers.
This was before the age of trail cameras. Rabbits and badgers are too low to trip the line, but you notice them at the bait with trail cameras. If you leave any scent on the trail timers you will more than likely pay for it. The cubs and the ever inquisitive adult bears will chew on them and there goes your liquid crystal display. It seemed as though all of my cases had at least one nice puncture in them. Bears always brake the lines and obviously get tangled up in the string. I always carried two full spools of sewing string with me in brown. I borrowed them from my wife. These were great aids in knowing when bears were coming in for the first time or if one was there at all along with the obvious sign. There were a few times where I had to fight to get a reading from a smart bear. I once put out three lines cause he kept circumventing the trip. The biggest problem with trip timers is that it is a onetime event. Did other bears come in and who was first? The little print or the big one?
Film trail cameras were ok and the digital ones were expensive. Then IR (infrared) came out. That is when I decided to go all out and buy a bunch of digital infrared trail cameras with bear cages and locks. It was like night and day. My biggest concern was theft. The bear cage can be mounted with a screw(s) and then pad-locked with a cable around the tree. The trail timers were under $20 each. Now we were talking $250 for the camera, $50 for the bear cage, 6 D batteries and $20 for a 2 GB memory card. To have a bunch of these units at every bait was a little unnerving. They have come down a lot in price, but still not disposable. Funny thing – no one has ever touched one. Mostly due to no one ever finding them. It pays to put extra effort into your setups and get away from the humans. I carry an extra memory card for every camera. Once I reset or check a bait I swap out the card and make note of which bait it came from. It is worth the investment until you can one day just pull the pictures from your cell phone with blue tooth…hint hint to other EE’s (Electrical Engineers) out there! Another tip is to bring a laptop with you and leave it at your home base or secured in your vehicle. It is always nice to put the photos in the proper folder right away however you decide to organize them. One last tip is beware of the red light emitted from the LEDs at night from the IR. I know deer don’t like them too much. Bears tend to be indifferent. But still try to do something to make it less noticeable at the bait sight. There is also a slight click from the shutter when the photo or video is being taken. I never found the laser to be all that useful. I usually just use a line of sight and that has been good enough.