This information is as of 09-15-2011
A few more bears were registered this week.
(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
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.
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 • firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe in two schools of thought when it comes to baiting. You can place one massive amount of bait at a site until hunting starts or you can schedule your baiting. Both tactics work great. They both have their drawbacks as well.
Massive dumps provide a safe environment for the bears to come and go. There is no human scent. They can come and go with no real threat in the daylight or in the darkness. Their food will always be there. The problem here is that when you go to sit in the stand for the first time your scent will be new to the bears and you might be S.O.L. The other bad part is that the bear may have never been trained to come in during daylight hours. The great part is that the bait site may be vary remote or you do not have the time to bait it. So making one trip may be the ticket. You might even have a bear that you have been after for a long while and are trying to leave this sensitive area alone.
Scheduling your baiting in small amounts is another tactic. There are two points to this: missed meals and scent. You might have some greedy bears that are eating everything. The big night bear finally figures out to come earlier after a number of missed meals. He can smell the goodies were there and now he decides it is time to put the other bears in their place and come in during daylight hours. When you are the baiter you get to see what the bears are interested in, just like in fishing. You can keep changing up the bait until you get it right to keep them coming. You are leaving scent in the area and if you keep your timing consistent you are not disrupting the bears behavior. Keeping them consistent as well. They do not know if you are there now, have been there, or just left. Human scent is a risk verses reward for the bear. Once it is time to get up into the stand and you have put your scent killer on you will still be wafting human scent into the area. He will think you were there recently and put his face into the bait, but completely unaware he has a bow sight with the number two pin just behind his arm pit. Low risk to the bear for the reward of the best foods in the world not available anywhere else in the woods. They have such great noses that it is impossible for them not to smell you. Being the baiter is a huge bonus as your scent is acclimated to the bears. However; if the hunter is not the baiter, her scent might put the bears off.
The moral is that it is good to be the Master Baiter. You get your scent out there and you also get to get the bear!
Here is an old schedule I ran one year:
Castle Creek Outfitters : Baiting Schedule
When you are baiting your sites – try to make some noise. First of all so you don’t startle the bear(s) and find yourself in a situation. Secondly – so they get trained to the dinner bell. I personally whistle as I walk down the trails and always with the same stride. Some bears tend to stay nearby in bedding areas or just beyond the bait sight waiting for their next meal. I have seen a number of them come in on camera just a few minutes after I finish resetting the sight and leave. Some have even given me a hard time to get out of there so they can come in to eat. I find it safer to have a routine – so we both know what to expect.
Like most manmade creations – I find it unethical to utilize them to trigger a reaction in the bears much like Pavlov’s dogs. Baiting with your ATV makes sense in rural areas, but at least turn off the machine and walk in a significant distance with the bait. Taking the muffler off your old truck and driving through the woods is just plain lazy and you should get nailed to the wall by the DNR.
Bears can smell anything and everything. I have seen a grizzly bear find a chicken wing across a valley two miles away. What does that say about you at the bait sight? You are basically you know what. There are however a few things you can do and be aware of. First of all – whoever is doing the baiting has an upper leg on anyone else in your hunting party. The baiters scent is familiar to the bear by the time hunting starts. You might actually want to do some hard work and get off your fat ass if you want to be more successful. Depending on the wind – the baiter’s scent is always there. The bear just doesn’t know if he is there now, just left or was there hours ago. He will have to figure out if it is safe to enter the sight. It is nice that he has been acclimated to your scent.
Another tactic I like to use are scents. I like to place skunk scent between me and the bait. Maybe a little closer to me. Be warned I have been charged by bears a few times thinking I was a skunk eating his food. They do not tolerate skunks in their food and chase them out. It is funny to watch them try to get out from under the bait with a huge bear hanging over them.
Get as much food scent up in the air as possible. Bring a water bottle of molasses and fling the molasses out of the bottle up into the tree leaves or needles. The higher the better. You can get 5 gallon buckets of it from your local feed mill. You can also bring your own buckets for them to fill. Don’t bring the molasses up into the stand with you for obvious reasons.
Putting bar grease (that’s right – the stuff they cook your food in) in the bottom of your bait for the first few times baiting and over the logs – you can even mix it into your corn / bread mixture. The bears like the taste, but most of all they get it on their paws from moving the logs or digging in the bait. This is important because when they leave they are leaving a scent trail into the woods for other bears to come across to follow back to the bait. The more back tracking bears to the bait the better!
Scent is going to be your biggest ally and also your biggest foe. Try to reduce your scent. Use scent killer, wash your clothes in scent products, don’t smoke, try to mask your breath and don’t touch evey single thing you come across in the woods.
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.