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Category Archives: bear baiting

Bear Baits – Consistency is Important

Consistent Baiting and Timing is Important
wawanglakebearbaitWe begin baiting two to three weeks prior to the hunters arrival as baiting is lucrative and can vary based on native food source availability, weather pattern and population.  If baiting is done too far in advance, bear can lose interest and become complacent.  The most impact for the hunter is when the food source is new and interesting yet dependable. The baits stations are checked regularly each day and documented as to its status:  whether it’s been hit or not.  This is also the ideal time to determine if the bait station has a sow with cubs or the size of the bear according to tracks.

wawanglakebearbait

Other animals frequent the baits as well.

All the information collected will determine if the bait station will be suitable for the hunter or not. Stations with sows will continue to be baited in order to confine that they remain in that specific area so they don’t wander and disturb the more suitable bait stations held for the hunters.

What Do We Use
Bears are omnivorous and will scarf down just about anything from produce to pastries, bread and meat scraps. The key is to make sure your offerings have a strong odor – sometimes the more putrid the smell, the better … at least when it comes to attracting them as we don’t place this directly on the bait.   However, during the fall bear do not especially like this strong scent on the bait therefore we use these attractants to drag the area ensuring to lure the bear to the bait station where more delectable bread, pastries and leftover good scraps are waiting. Visiting bear that walk trails and roads we’ve dragged will beneficially establish their own scent trail to and from the bait as well luring in even more bear.

The Set Up
Our baits stations are naturally set up and made from logs and other forest fragments. These logs are large, very heavy and piled in a manner making them difficult for smaller animals to move.  When hunters walk into the bait and notice that logs have been tossed around they are certain that a bear hi the bait.

bait

Know the Rules
Study the Ontario hunting regulations.  Know what you can and can’t do, season dates, licensing guidelines, bring firearms into Canada.   We want our hunters to be comfortable while hunting in Ontario and it is also important to know that you will need to bring along a state/province license as proof of hunting experience to show the Ontario license issuer. Always ask if you don’t know that’s what we’re here for.

When to Sit Baits
Our hunters are required to bring their own tree stands.  This is not only for liability reasons, but, also because you will be more familiar with your own tree stand and the more at ease you are with equipment the more it will increase your odds – less to think about. Upon request we will setup ground stands for those that are not able to climb. If this is the case be sure to bring along a comfortable chair.  Evening hours are by far the proven time to encounter bear on the bait. This however is simply a higher percentage timeframe.   Approaching the bait cautiously is always a must due to the fact that hunters have stumbled upon bear contently feeding at all hours, including early morning and mid-day. You can bring along trail timers and cameras to satisfy your knowledge of the activity of your bait station.

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FIELD JUDGING – Black Bear

bear3Though some may disagree, black bears are one of the most sought after of all the big game species. Who hasn’t desired a black bear rug? Next to whitetail deer, there is an argument to be made that black bears are the second most popular big game animal to hunt.

Popular to hunt they may be, but easy to field judge, they are not, and yet, in spite of the high degree of difficulty, everyone who hunts black bears wants a big one. A “meat bear” won’t do. To whit, in all the many years I’ve outfitted for black bears, not one of my client-hunters has told me that his dream was to shoot a small bear for the freezer. It hasn’t happened and it never will. The fascination we hunters have with big bears is ancient and primal; a combination of “fear” and “facing fear,” another black bear dichotomy. It’s akin to climbing up onto the roof of a building and looking over the edge, the higher the building (the bigger the bear), and the deeper the fascination.

Taking all this into consideration, why is it then that so many hunters have small or medium-sized black bear skin rugs on their wall? And more to the point of this article, why do they have small bear skulls in their dens? Why indeed. Ask them and virtually every one of them will say something to the effect of, “he (or she) looked huge to me.” It is a standard and a fair evaluation of black bear hunting. Without doubt, the toughest part of taking a big black bear is knowing what “big” looks like. What follows in this article will hopefully help you correctly make what will be your toughest judging call of all.

First Things First
When hunters ask, and they all do, how to judge black bears, they invariably throw in what they know about judging black bears, the one or two tips they’ve read in some bear article, things like “look for small ears” and “big bears have small-looking heads.” Our response is that they are way ahead of themselves, looking at the size of a bear’s ears or head isn’t necessarily wrong, it just isn’t the right thing to be doing first. The first thing they should be looking at when they see the bear they want to judge is the location of that bear.

Location
Big bears live, eat, and hang out in the best living, eating, and hanging out areas. Find the best looking bear habitat in whatever hunting area you are in and odds are, the bear you see there will be big, especially during prime evening hours. Small bears usually live in marginal habitat for their own safety, as well they should, since big black bears eat small bears. Often hunters say that they spotted an especially large bear right up near the edge of the timber, near the big trees. And they may well have, but odds are, the reason that bear is up there near all those good escape trees, is that the bear itself is small and the very tops of those nearby trees are the best insurance against ending up as a bear breakfast.

Of course, location is a relative thing,  a grassy meadow along a creek in the bottom country or a reclaimed road seeded to clover in the high country. In other areas, a good location may be a bait pile or oat field. Because of the huge diversity of black bear habitat across North America, good location is relative and impossible to qualify. Know your hunting area and you’ll know what to look for, but remember, if there’s a bear feeding on a prime spot at prime time, odds are it’s a bear worth judging.

bear9Attitude
Big bears are the toughest, meanest sons-of-a-guns in the area and they act it. Watch a human bully walk down the street, he walks with a swagger and an attitude. A big bear walks the same way. He doesn’t fit and start at every sound like a small bear will. A big bear doesn’t have to; he believes he’s got nothing to fear. Once you’ve spotted your bear on the prime feeding spot during prime time, it’s time to get serious about how that bear is behaving.

It is important to note that long before you judge the size of the bear, you must judge the sex of that bear. A big, old sow will have all, or more correctly, almost all of the physical characteristics of a big, old boar. She’ll have the nasty looking face that’s seen one too many years in the ring, the potbelly and the sway back. The one thing (besides the obvious) that she won’t have, except in exceptional cases, is the “I’m the biggest and baddest son of a gun in the valley” behavior that determines sex more effectively than if that bear was wearing a bikini.

  1. Watch to see if the bear stands on his hind legs and rubs his back on a tree, that’s a boar.
  2. If it walks along and straddles small trees, wiping its scent on that tree, it’s a boar.
  3. If it stands up and breaks saplings over its shoulder, it’s a boar.
  4. If it encounters another bear and gives chase, it’s a boar and if it is following a smaller bear, it’s a boar.

Scale
There is one last general appearance tip to judging black bears that makes the top three in importance, and that is scale. A big bear looks big . . . but so does a closer, smaller bear. Here’s a quantitative example of this. If the bear is 150 yards away but the hunter thinks the bear is 200 yards away, the hunter will overestimate the bear’s relative size by somewhere near 25 percent. In other words, the hunter is in for a serious case of ground shrink when he walks up to his bear. Get as close to the bear as you can. The closer the bear, the less chance there is of misjudging the distance to the bear, and thereby misjudging the bear’s relative size.

Specific Tips for Judging Black Bears
If the bear fails any one of the above general conditions, then let the bear walk. It’s tough but at least there isn’t a dead small bear lying on the ground.

1) Body Shape: Do you wear the same size pants as you did when you were in high school? Be honest, does your spouse poke you in the belly once in a while and tell you to cut back on the Twinkies? Bigger bears are older bears, and like most of us, they don’t have the svelte bodies they once did. They tend to look “heavy” and out of shape. Remember, they monopolize the best feed and habitat, and therefore exert less energy to live.

2) Head Shape: A big bear (boar) will have a deeper, wider and longer snout than a smaller bear or a female. His ears will appear to be wide apart and small. If he is aware of you and looking your way, his ears won’t stand up on top of his head like a dog’s ears, they’ll seem to be aimed out to the side of his head. A big bear will have well developed “bulging like Arnold,” biting muscles on the top of his head.

3) Legs: A big bear will have massively developed front shoulders. His shoulders will look big and burly. A sow’s wrist will pinch in directly above the foot. Not so with a boar. The lower forearm, wrist and the foot on a big boar are all the same width. A big bear often appears to have shorter legs because the body is so much thicker, but keep in mind that the best-scoring bears for the records book are often the lankier looking, longer-bodied bears.

 

Let Boone and Crockett Sort Them Out
There isn’t a guide or hunter in the world who can accurately call the skull measurement of a black bear. It’s impossible. There are simply too many variables that affect the final dried measurement.  bear6

There are bears that have meatier heads; bears that look great and are great trophies, but that don’t score well. There are others that have short skulls, block-headed beasts that look impressive, but that don’t score well at all and there are lanky, skinny bears with donkey faces that score like the devil, but that a hunter seriously looking for a records book bear wouldn’t walk across the street for. Black bear morphology is just too darn diversified to make a science out of judging.

The best way to hunt for a records book boar is to simply shoot the bear that looks good to you and that hopefully you’ll appreciate. If it’s got a nice hide, be happy with your animal. If it has long claws and weighs a ton, good for you and congratulations. If it isn’t as big as you’d like, don’t fret, you’re not alone and the rug on your wall will still look great. If it happens to be one of those rare few bears that has grown a skull that qualifies for the records book, thank your guide and your lucky stars and don’t expect to repeat the feat in the near future. It won’t be that bigger bears aren’t around—they are—you just won’t be able to tell them apart from the other bears in the area!

BREAKDOWN OF SCORING COMPONENTS – BEAR
bear dia

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FIELD JUDGING – Black Bear

bear3Though some may disagree, black bears are one of the most sought after of all the big game species. Who hasn’t desired a black bear rug? Next to whitetail deer, there is an argument to be made that black bears are the second most popular big game animal to hunt.

Popular to hunt they may be, but easy to field judge, they are not, and yet, in spite of the high degree of difficulty, everyone who hunts black bears wants a big one. A “meat bear” won’t do. To whit, in all the many years I’ve outfitted for black bears, not one of my client-hunters has told me that his dream was to shoot a small bear for the freezer. It hasn’t happened and it never will. The fascination we hunters have with big bears is ancient and primal; a combination of “fear” and “facing fear,” another black bear dichotomy. It’s akin to climbing up onto the roof of a building and looking over the edge, the higher the building (the bigger the bear), and the deeper the fascination.

Taking all this into consideration, why is it then that so many hunters have small or medium-sized black bear skin rugs on their wall? And more to the point of this article, why do they have small bear skulls in their dens? Why indeed. Ask them and virtually every one of them will say something to the effect of, “he (or she) looked huge to me.” It is a standard and a fair evaluation of black bear hunting. Without doubt, the toughest part of taking a big black bear is knowing what “big” looks like. What follows in this article will hopefully help you correctly make what will be your toughest judging call of all.

First Things First
When hunters ask, and they all do, how to judge black bears, they invariably throw in what they know about judging black bears, the one or two tips they’ve read in some bear article, things like “look for small ears” and “big bears have small-looking heads.” Our response is that they are way ahead of themselves, looking at the size of a bear’s ears or head isn’t necessarily wrong, it just isn’t the right thing to be doing first. The first thing they should be looking at when they see the bear they want to judge is the location of that bear.

Location
Big bears live, eat, and hang out in the best living, eating, and hanging out areas. Find the best looking bear habitat in whatever hunting area you are in and odds are, the bear you see there will be big, especially during prime evening hours. Small bears usually live in marginal habitat for their own safety, as well they should, since big black bears eat small bears. Often hunters say that they spotted an especially large bear right up near the edge of the timber, near the big trees. And they may well have, but odds are, the reason that bear is up there near all those good escape trees, is that the bear itself is small and the very tops of those nearby trees are the best insurance against ending up as a bear breakfast.

Of course, location is a relative thing,  a grassy meadow along a creek in the bottom country or a reclaimed road seeded to clover in the high country. In other areas, a good location may be a bait pile or oat field. Because of the huge diversity of black bear habitat across North America, good location is relative and impossible to qualify. Know your hunting area and you’ll know what to look for, but remember, if there’s a bear feeding on a prime spot at prime time, odds are it’s a bear worth judging.

bear9Attitude
Big bears are the toughest, meanest sons-of-a-guns in the area and they act it. Watch a human bully walk down the street, he walks with a swagger and an attitude. A big bear walks the same way. He doesn’t fit and start at every sound like a small bear will. A big bear doesn’t have to; he believes he’s got nothing to fear. Once you’ve spotted your bear on the prime feeding spot during prime time, it’s time to get serious about how that bear is behaving.

It is important to note that long before you judge the size of the bear, you must judge the sex of that bear. A big, old sow will have all, or more correctly, almost all of the physical characteristics of a big, old boar. She’ll have the nasty looking face that’s seen one too many years in the ring, the potbelly and the sway back. The one thing (besides the obvious) that she won’t have, except in exceptional cases, is the “I’m the biggest and baddest son of a gun in the valley” behavior that determines sex more effectively than if that bear was wearing a bikini.

  1. Watch to see if the bear stands on his hind legs and rubs his back on a tree, that’s a boar.
  2. If it walks along and straddles small trees, wiping its scent on that tree, it’s a boar.
  3. If it stands up and breaks saplings over its shoulder, it’s a boar.
  4. If it encounters another bear and gives chase, it’s a boar and if it is following a smaller bear, it’s a boar.

Scale
There is one last general appearance tip to judging black bears that makes the top three in importance, and that is scale. A big bear looks big . . . but so does a closer, smaller bear. Here’s a quantitative example of this. If the bear is 150 yards away but the hunter thinks the bear is 200 yards away, the hunter will overestimate the bear’s relative size by somewhere near 25 percent. In other words, the hunter is in for a serious case of ground shrink when he walks up to his bear. Get as close to the bear as you can. The closer the bear, the less chance there is of misjudging the distance to the bear, and thereby misjudging the bear’s relative size.

Specific Tips for Judging Black Bears
If the bear fails any one of the above general conditions, then let the bear walk. It’s tough but at least there isn’t a dead small bear lying on the ground.

1) Body Shape: Do you wear the same size pants as you did when you were in high school? Be honest, does your spouse poke you in the belly once in a while and tell you to cut back on the Twinkies? Bigger bears are older bears, and like most of us, they don’t have the svelte bodies they once did. They tend to look “heavy” and out of shape. Remember, they monopolize the best feed and habitat, and therefore exert less energy to live.

2) Head Shape: A big bear (boar) will have a deeper, wider and longer snout than a smaller bear or a female. His ears will appear to be wide apart and small. If he is aware of you and looking your way, his ears won’t stand up on top of his head like a dog’s ears, they’ll seem to be aimed out to the side of his head. A big bear will have well developed “bulging like Arnold,” biting muscles on the top of his head.

3) Legs: A big bear will have massively developed front shoulders. His shoulders will look big and burly. A sow’s wrist will pinch in directly above the foot. Not so with a boar. The lower forearm, wrist and the foot on a big boar are all the same width. A big bear often appears to have shorter legs because the body is so much thicker, but keep in mind that the best-scoring bears for the records book are often the lankier looking, longer-bodied bears.

 

Let Boone and Crockett Sort Them Out
There isn’t a guide or hunter in the world who can accurately call the skull measurement of a black bear. It’s impossible. There are simply too many variables that affect the final dried measurement.  bear6

There are bears that have meatier heads; bears that look great and are great trophies, but that don’t score well. There are others that have short skulls, block-headed beasts that look impressive, but that don’t score well at all and there are lanky, skinny bears with donkey faces that score like the devil, but that a hunter seriously looking for a records book bear wouldn’t walk across the street for. Black bear morphology is just too darn diversified to make a science out of judging.

The best way to hunt for a records book boar is to simply shoot the bear that looks good to you and that hopefully you’ll appreciate. If it’s got a nice hide, be happy with your animal. If it has long claws and weighs a ton, good for you and congratulations. If it isn’t as big as you’d like, don’t fret, you’re not alone and the rug on your wall will still look great. If it happens to be one of those rare few bears that has grown a skull that qualifies for the records book, thank your guide and your lucky stars and don’t expect to repeat the feat in the near future. It won’t be that bigger bears aren’t around—they are—you just won’t be able to tell them apart from the other bears in the area!

BREAKDOWN OF SCORING COMPONENTS – BEAR
bear dia

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HOW SCENT ACTUALLY WORKS

scent2Scent is a mysterious  and often grossly misunderstood aspect amongst those who not only pursue game with hounds or other hunting dog breeds, but all hunters in general.

Scent is simply comprised of micro parti­cles of disturbed vegetable matter and/or released dead body cells drifting from the targeted subject. Vegetable matter can be crushed plant material or even minute surface dwelling bio-material living upon hard surfaces like concrete or rock.  Dead body cells consist of drifting dead skin, fur or feather cells eventually falling to the ground.  This may also include fluids, oils and vapors the body expels.

How long does a scent trail last?  That depends on given environmental conditions. The trail won ‘t exist very long if it has been hot and windy over dry surfaces.  In contrast, it will sur­vive much longer in cool, moist conditions upon grassy areas with no wind exposure.

Here are some Myths about scenting:

1.
“Animals can’t smell me when I apply scent-free products like special soaps, sprays or even wear scent free clothing.’   If you are liv­ing and breathing, you are giving off scent.  Although these products may lessen the scent intensity from your person, a Bloodhound can find you in the woods within minutes.  It is impossible for any human to be scent free.

2.
“Hounds can’t run a scent trail in the rain.”  Scent parti­cles tend to be hydrophilic, meaning they readily soak up moisture and create an effluvium of scent for the canine olfactory system.  Hounds have successfully found humans and animals in the pounding rain.  Any good hunting breed should be able to trail game in light to moder­ate rain.

3.
“My dog sometimes ground scents and other times he air scents.”  I suppose if your dog’s nose is on the ground, you can call that ground scenting and if it’s in the air, you can call that air scenting. Is it called water scenting if he sniffs a running creek or tree scenting if he barks up a tree?  Scent is scent!

imagesY2AQPWJMThe canine’s nose is attracted to the strongest scent source available at that moment during trailing.  The canine has thousands more scent receptors than humans. A roaming nose is a hunting nose; let it be.

If you want to see how your dog scents, ignite a brightly colored smoke bomb outdoors with plenty of room to observe and follow the pock­ etc. of floating smoke. Watch how clouds of smoke slowly break apart, climb high into tree tops, sink down into ravines or just lazily snake over the high grass. Wind, atmospheric pressure, humidity, temperature, etc. ….all affect the smoke as it does with scent. That is why your trailing dog runs, stops, circles around, runs again ….. Let him work it out without interference from you. Scenting is his world, not yours.

You can improve your game scent trailing by taking advantage of the best environmental conditions available, as well as staying away from proven scent killers, i.e…..hot and dry surfaces, vehicle exhaust fumes or petroleum products. Trying to scent a hound on a fresh track next to a chugging hunting rig is like us trying to smell a rose over a smoky camp fire.

bait

As much as we now know about scent, there is still plenty of scientific work to be done. As a hunter, you must understand how scent works whether you use a canine partner or not.  Whether hunting birds or bear, scent is always there.

Keep the wind on your face, the sun to your back and hunt like a predator!

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Black Bear – Shooting the 1st Bear You See

Often, the number one of objective of a spring bear hunt is to simply bring home a bear.

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The first bear you see, however, will most likely be a juvenile or a lesser bear. You can shoot that bear and have the rest of the week to relax at camp, but why not wait for a more mature bear that will achieve more of the management goals of the region and make you happier in the long run?

154

Don’t shoot the first bear you see. Take the chance that you’ll get another opportunity.

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Hunting Bears With Bows – Decoy Tactics

Trophy boars are smarter than your average bear. But even the savviest old bruin has a few chinks in his armor. Using a decoy is an exciting way to exploit them. Even weary old black bears will come in spoiling for a fight. Here are three strategies for drawing a dominant, hungry bruin into bow range.

 1

The Intruder
Big boars are solitary animals and will claim a food source as their own, commonly defecating along entrance trails to warn other bears away. To get this bear’s attention, stake a small bear decoy near the food source, positioned with its head down and its backside facing the direction you expect a boar to approach. Attach a few strips of black cloth to the decoy’s ears and tail for added realism and collect some bear scat from another area—preferably from a boar—and with a plastic bag, transplant it on the entrance trails.

Now sit back. Any wise old boar that might otherwise camp just off the food until nightfall is almost sure to investigate when he sees your “intruder.” Keep in mind that a boar may visit a food site daily or stop by every second or third day while patrolling his home turf. Be patient, and don’t let your guard down.

2

The Easy Meal
Black bears are fond of fresh meat and will drop their guard to capture an animal in distress. Any small, furry decoy, like those used for foxes and coyotes, wiggling about in plain sight is sure to catch a passing bear’s attention. With a little luck, the bruin will move in quickly to finish off what he thinks is hapless prey. If he hangs up, though, add a few squeals from a dying-rabbit call to entice him.

If whitetail deer are prevalent in your area, a fawn decoy can be too much for any hungry black bear to ignore. Try a few fawn contact bleats, and if that fails, go to a fawn-in-distress call. Nock a broadhead and get ready. The bear will come in fast, so be prepared to shoot pronto.

3

The Feeding Female
You’ll have to wait a few months to use this setup, but it’s a good one to have in your arsenal. Black bears rut in late spring and early summer and will visit bait sites, looking for a sow in heat. If baiting is legal in your area, position a small black bear decoy with its head in the bait barrel, and hang a few scent canisters soaked with sow-in-heat urine 3 or 4 feet off the ground nearby.

Big boars are ultracautious around bait, so odor control is critical. As you’re setting up, wear rubber gloves and spray the decoy down liberally with a quality scent remover. The boar will approach the decoy warily. Don’t rush the shot. As he investigates, you should have plenty of time to draw.

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Your Success Is Our Goal – Black Bear Hunters [with video]

Andy's 475 lb (dressed)

Andy’s 475lb (dressed)

Black  Bear  are  known  predators  and  Ontario  has  the  largest  population of black bear than anywhere in the world. Furthermore, north-western Ontario leads in the concentration of these animals than elsewhere in Ontario, and, rates highest in population concentration  for all of Ontario that also allows for bating practices.

Many deem baiting unfair, giving the hunter a considerable advantage. But contrary to what some would have us believe, it’s far from easy and holds no guarantees!  Bear can sneak in undetected, grab a morsel of food and disappear as fast as they arrived. Bear can also skulk around the bait for hours, never showing themselves. As experienced outfitters we’ve learned that many of our bear will move in cautiously to inspect the provisions. The advantage of hunting in the fall is bear are eager to fatten up for the winter.  The biggest advantage to baiting is that, if and when a bruin finally commits to the bait, it allows the hunter a  an opportunity to assess size, stature and time for shot placement.

About Bear
Black bear habitant range can span from two to 10 miles and resident populations often hold a variety of boars, sows and cubs, so it’s not uncommon to have multiple bears visiting the baited site.  Ontario only offers a FALL BEAR HUNT therefore the chance for the large TROPHY bear is increased dramatically.  Most hunters fear poor coats or hides due to the fall hunt but our area does not suffer that fate. With little to no burrs or ticks, our bear don’t succumb to ticks causing ‘rub’ or dry patchy fur.  We also are known for our high number of white chevrons (patches) to make your trophy even more unique. Black bear

Jon Hanson - Tiffin, IA 440 lb. black bear

Jon Hanson – Tiffin, IA 440 lb. black bear

Black bear have relatively poor eyesight, but outstanding hearing and acute sense of smell. Once they get a taste of your bait, and, as long as it is replenished regularly, they will be reluctant to leave the area.  In fact, once a site is established properly, you can and will see the same bruin day after day.

Location is Critical
Our bait stations have been established for many years (since 1972) and placed along the bear’s natural movement corridor. Heavily  timbered forests near cutovers and waterways often sustain good bear densities.  With berry crops like wild blueberries and raspberries nearby, black bear favor the accessibility and abundance of such forage and most often reside in the proximity.

Claw marks on deciduous trees and there may even be fresh markings, these lasting scars unveil a historical presence. Nomadic creatures, bear commonly travel traditional trails along waterways and natural movement corridors like valleys and ridges.  Finding fresh scat can instill further confidence that bear have frequented the bait.  Keep in mind that well established bait stations offer much more success than new stations since bear follow these game trails year after year.

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