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Grin and Bear It: Planning your hunt

08 Nov

Planning a black bear hunt often a painstaking, long drawn out event that involves researching outfitters, contacting references, arranging for lodging and transportation, and choosing the proper weapon.

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Most people must apply for tags by lottery depending on location, but did you know that if you go through an outfitter in Ontario, Canada you are GUARANTEED a tag?!  With that in mind, let’s visit the outfitter planning phase.

NW Ontario is renowned for not only population but size of black bear.  In the last 3 years of our hunts, we have had 44 hunters.  Of those 44, 33 harvested 6 spotted and passed up and 5 did not spot  Pretty impressive stats.  We go a step further when we can boast that over 45% were 300lb+ with 8 being over the 400lb mark and our record (taken last year) was 475lb (dressed weight) and squared out at 7′

Whether you choose an outfitter (suggested for first timers) or set up your own hunt, be prepared to start planning at least as early as a year prior.  Do you have your area picked?  Do you know the native food sources? What was the weather pattern like this hunt season?  Were the bears active and what was the harvest from the season(s) prior to your arrival?

A good outfitter will have all of this information readily available as well as a list of references.  That list should include people that did and did not get their bears.  It should include multiple years and an honest overview. You need to know exactly what to expect when you arrive and during your hunt.

Patterning the animal by baiting is often preferred up here in the boreal forest as spot and stalk is very unlikely with our dense forest and thick canopy.  The bonus to baiting is the ability to cull the size and sex necessary to help maintain and manage the population.  Often times, in our area, those that spot and stalk often take the first animal they see as it may be the only one and most refuse to pass up the opportunity 😦

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Baiting and sitting a stand may seem like a ‘canned hunt’ but as most can attest to, it can be a grueling experience that will test your fortitude.  Most first time bear hunters assume (incorrectly) that if you feed them, they will come…..while that is often the truth, bears are as individual as people and even with food, there is no guarantee of compliance on the animal’s part….remember, you are dealing with a wild creature and trying in 14 days or less to train it to your will.  Those that have children or pets know that training anything can be a very difficult task but consistency is key!

When planning your hunt, ensure that you are prepared for the task at hand.  Don’t think that just because you showed up that the bear is going to get the memo.  Be prepared to sit that stand!  You cant harvest a bear from your cabin/tent/motel.

When you contact potential outfitters, ensure that they have answers to all of your questions and they are engaged with your plight.  They should be just as focused on you getting a bear as you are.  Your outfitter is your link to the area as well as in most cases in charge of ‘conditioning’ your bear prior to your arrival.  A good outfitter will be promoting consistency with baiting (by example of course).  We bait each and every day to ensure cycles and patterning is noted.

As mentioned earlier, bears are unpredictable to some extent and a bait that could have been hitting each time it was checked (hopefully daily) could quiet down for a day or two.  Be patient, if you trust your outfitter they will help you through this phase and often have backup plans including alternate baits that may be still consistent.  Ensure that your outfitter is the type that cares enough to keep up with you and your hunt and puts your success as a priority.

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No hunt is guaranteed but what you can guarantee is that doing your homework can save you the disappointment of an unfulfilling hunt, bear or not!

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