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How To BEAR Eating Bear Meat

As an outfitter, we often hear how many people would love to hunt bear but have no idea what to do with all the meat or if they did keep it, how to cook it (Ontario is a no waste province, it is mandatory to take all of the meat with you upon departure.)

Below is an excerpt from a great story written by Jackson Landers and how he dealt with an unexpected amount of bear meat…..and what he learned.

bearfordinner

Now I had heard all sorts of stories from hunters about what bear meat is like: that it’s tough, gamey, and unpleasantly greasy. But in my experience eating a fairly wide array of unusual species, I had found that meat that tastes “tough and gamey” is more often a case of bad butchering and sloppy handling than an intrinsic quality of a species.

To maximize the potential flavor of my bear, I dry-aged it for a week before I started experimenting. Dry-aging meat, for the uninitiated, is the process of letting meat hang out for a while at cool temperatures while allowing moisture to evaporate from it. Dry-aging accomplishes two things. First, natural enzymes in the meat begin to tenderize it by breaking down the collagen in the muscles. (Collagen is what makes tough meat feel tough, and more of it builds up in muscle tissue as an animal gets older.) Second, dry-aging allows water to evaporate out of a piece of meat, concentrating the flavor. High-end steakhouses all do this with their beef, and I have been dry-aging most of my venison in my fridge at home for years.

Once my bear was sufficiently dry-aged, the very first thing I tried was cutting some simple steaks out of a forequarter (the upper portions of the front legs) and from the backstraps (the cuts from alongside the spine that are referred to as “pork loin” in pigs). I wanted to keep the recipe simple so as not to hide the true flavor of the meat, but I also wanted to have some fun. So I just ran with the bear theme. I pan-seared the steaks in olive oil and drizzled just a bit of honey on them. A handful of blueberries went into the pan with them (bears love blueberries almost as much as they love honey). Then I transferred the meat to a covered dish to finish cooking in the oven and deglazed the pan with a splash of Toasted Head cabernet sauvignon, which I had chosen on account of the wine’s label having a black bear on it. I made sure to cook the meat to 140 degrees and hold it there for a while, since bears, like pigs, can carry trichinosis.

bearroast

My girlfriend and I sat down to eat our first bites of bear meat, drizzled with that red-wine pan sauce. The texture was good, and the backstrap cuts were a bit more tender than the forequarter cuts. The flavor was mild; it tasted more or less identical to venison—which is to say a lot like beef, only with less fat and a blander flavor. There was nothing greasy or tough about it. It looked like a thick piece of filet mignon. Between sips of the bear-bearing Toasted Head wine (which paired very nicely with the bear meat, I should add), we soon forgot that it was bear meat that we were eating. By the end of the meal, it was just dinner, no more exotic than the artichokes we served along with it.

Heartened, I started putting bear meat in everything. And once I began running it through the meat grinder, the stuff became a household staple. Think bear tacos, spaghetti with bear sauce, lime-marinated bear stir-fry served over ramen noodles.

moosestir

Bear burgers in particular were a big hit. I mixed one egg with 1 pound of ground bear meat and just a touch of onion powder and pepper and broiled them under high heat. Three minutes per side seemed to get me up over 140 degrees every time, without taking the burgers beyond medium-rare. I invited some friends over to eat them, and the unanimous agreement was that they simply tasted like very good beef burgers and that nobody would ever guess they were bear.

I began to take the ground bear meat so much for granted that I confess to feeding it to a dinner guest in a ragout over angel hair pasta without thinking to tell her that she was eating bear as opposed to beef. She ate every bite. I’m still not sure whether I should tell her what she ate.

Lately I’ve found myself worrying about the dwindling supply of bear meat in my fridge and freezer. I have one whole hindquarter in my chest freezer awaiting a special bear dinner with a group of friends, but other than that and a pound or so of medallions, all I’ve got left is an array of very unusual bones that my dogs have been chewing on in the front yard. What will I do when I run out?

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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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Bear Down: Tracking and Tracking the One That Might Getaway

 Black bear are very hard to kill, and they are hard to track when wounded. Even a good heavy-caliber lung or heart shot may not keep the animal from getting off into the woods, and that same shot may not leave very much of a blood trail. Wounded bear bleed into the porous fat layers between hide and muscle, and their thick fur absorbs external bleeding like a sponge. As the bear runs and the fat moves, it appears to seal over most wounds and even a heavily bleeding animal may travel a great distance before its wound begins to leave a visible trail again.

SAM_0022 (640x480)

There aren’t many more upsetting situations a hunter can face in this country than to put a carefully aimed shot into a carefully selected bear at virtual point-blank range, see it stagger, then vanish into the brush in two steps before you can even recover from recoil. You sit there, with dark closing in by the minute, not able to see more than 20 feet, and a wounded bear extending the distance. You have to get down onto the ground and do something about it. No wonder now why your guide and other experienced bear hunters kept telling you how important it is to hit a bear hard and solid and put him down and keep on hitting him until there is no chance he will get up and get out of your sight.

First rule is to wait.  Be patient and slowly gather your wits and be prepared for the next steps.

Second: Look.  Observe the direction your bear exited.

Third: Listen.  Bears are commonly known to turn into the direction of their wound (more likely if mortally wounded) and can actually end up circling the bait.  Those that don’t will run with such ferocity that the normally silent creature can cause major disturbances to surrounding areas and make enough ruckus for you to gage the direction to begin tracking.

If you are lucky, a short time after your shot is made, you may hear a drawn out, breathy cry often referred to as the death moan.  This likely means your bear is down and is not getting back up.  Don’t worry if you don’t hear one, not all bears will give you this satisfaction.

After waiting at least 30 minutes in your stand, cautiously come down and look at the area where your shot

connected.  Look for any sign of your shot: blood, tissue or even an arrow that carried through.

Start in the direction where you shot and look for any sign of blood in the direction you saw your prey evacuate from.  Take the time to bring and use marking tape to highlight your trail as you go, not only will it give you a general direction, but it will also make finding your way out much easier and stress free.

A good, clean shot should drop a bear within 40 yards but we have tracked bear that have gone up to a couple of miles away.

peroxide

On top of marking tape, I also suggest having a spray bottle with peroxide in your kit.  In the forest, leaves can often have brown marks that look an awful lot like blood and using the peroxide will help differentiate as it will bubble on contact with blood.  I often add the brightest yellow food coloring I can find to highlight the blood even further.  I also like to pack a small black light to use in conjunction with this mixture as it will illuminate if the natural lighting begins to fade.

It is not uncommon to spend a few hours searching if your bear has gone beyond the 40 yard mark but don’t lose hope.  Keep your eyes peeled for signs of foot prints, snapped twigs or torn leaves as this could be nature’s own way of marking your bear’s trail.

If the day ends and no bear can be found, ensure that you go back early the next day.  Look for any signs of scavengers in the area.  Turkey vultures are often a DEAD giveaway.  They feed in the daytime so be prepared to wait a bit for them to arrive.  We sometimes will suggest to our hunters to climb back in the stand and look over the area again from the original vantage point.

If on the second day there is no harvest found and no sign of scavengers, it is very unlikely you will find your bear and you will come away with one of the hardest experiences in hunting.  Disappointing for both sides.

So in closing, take time placing that shot and take time looking for any wounded animals you may have created.

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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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Bear Down: Tracking and Tracking the One That Might Getaway

 Black bear are very hard to kill, and they are hard to track when wounded. Even a good heavy-caliber lung or heart shot may not keep the animal from getting off into the woods, and that same shot may not leave very much of a blood trail. Wounded bear bleed into the porous fat layers between hide and muscle, and their thick fur absorbs external bleeding like a sponge. As the bear runs and the fat moves, it appears to seal over most wounds and even a heavily bleeding animal may travel a great distance before its wound begins to leave a visible trail again.

SAM_0022 (640x480)

There aren’t many more upsetting situations a hunter can face in this country than to put a carefully aimed shot into a carefully selected bear at virtual point-blank range, see it stagger, then vanish into the brush in two steps before you can even recover from recoil. You sit there, with dark closing in by the minute, not able to see more than 20 feet, and a wounded bear extending the distance. You have to get down onto the ground and do something about it. No wonder now why your guide and other experienced bear hunters kept telling you how important it is to hit a bear hard and solid and put him down and keep on hitting him until there is no chance he will get up and get out of your sight.

First rule is to wait.  Be patient and slowly gather your wits and be prepared for the next steps.

Second: Look.  Observe the direction your bear exited.

Third: Listen.  Bears are commonly known to turn into the direction of their wound (more likely if mortally wounded) and can actually end up circling the bait.  Those that don’t will run with such ferocity that the normally silent creature can cause major disturbances to surrounding areas and make enough ruckus for you to gage the direction to begin tracking.

If you are lucky, a short time after your shot is made, you may hear a drawn out, breathy cry often referred to as the death moan.  This likely means your bear is down and is not getting back up.  Don’t worry if you don’t hear one, not all bears will give you this satisfaction.

After waiting at least 30 minutes in your stand, cautiously come down and look at the area where your shot connected.  Look for any sign of your shot: blood, tissue or even an arrow that carried through.

Start in the direction where you shot and look for any sign of blood in the direction you saw your prey evacuate from.  Take the time to bring and use marking tape to highlight your trail as you go, not only will it give you a general direction, but it will also make finding your way out much easier and stress free.

A good, clean shot should drop a bear within 40 yards but we have tracked bear that have gone up to a couple of miles away.

peroxide

On top of marking tape, I also suggest having a spray bottle with peroxide in your kit.  In the forest, leaves can often have brown marks that look an awful lot like blood and using the peroxide will help differentiate as it will bubble on contact with blood.  I often add the brightest yellow food coloring I can find to highlight the blood even further.  I also like to pack a small black light to use in conjunction with this mixture as it will illuminate if the natural lighting begins to fade.

It is not uncommon to spend a few hours searching if your bear has gone beyond the 40 yard mark but don’t lose hope.  Keep your eyes peeled for signs of foot prints, snapped twigs or torn leaves as this could be nature’s own way of marking your bear’s trail.

If the day ends and no bear can be found, ensure that you go back early the next day.  Look for any signs of scavengers in the area.  Turkey vultures are often a DEAD giveaway.  They feed in the daytime so be prepared to wait a bit for them to arrive.  We sometimes will suggest to our hunters to climb back in the stand and look over the area again from the original vantage point.

If on the second day there is no harvest found and no sign of scavengers, it is very unlikely you will find your bear and you will come away with one of the hardest experiences in hunting.  Disappointing for both sides.

So in closing, take time placing that shot and take time looking for any wounded animals you may have created.

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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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Bear Facts to Success

imagesS12UAEG6Simple Fact: The more effort you put into masking your scent, the bigger the Black Bears coming into your target zone will be.

All experienced Black Bear Outfitters have their little tricks to make their bear hunters hunt more enjoyable and also help with their success. If you are new to bear hunting you should know what you are up against. Every hunter wants a big trophy bear and this article should bring you a little closer to that goal, but remember, to thoroughly follow the advice of your outfitter, if you’ve chosen one, and, above all else:  DO NOT DEVIATE from the routine they have already established.

Black Bear hunting to the outfitter is about luring bears to a target zone for their hunting guests by baiting with food the bears like such as high-carbohydrate foods. Bread, pasta and other high starch content foods are rare in nature but it’s what the bears want most so they can quickly store fat for the winter. It’s also about setting up stands at strategic spots where big bears have been scouted. Black Bear hunting for the hunter is all about stealth, with the two biggest factors being sound and most of all, smell.

Black Bear’s Sense of Smell: Olfactory Receptors

imagesN9DAOG1VThe Black Bear has the best sense on smell of any land walking mammal on Earth. It’s really hard for a human to comprehend how well a bear can smell as we basically have to stick our nose in the pot to smell the sauce. Comparing the amount of Olfactory Receptors between a human and a Black Bear is mind boggling.

Olfactory Receptors are microscopic bulbs on the end of nerves in a mammal’s nose. The more you have the better your sense of smell is.

  • Humans:
    6,000,000 Olfactory Receptors (6 million)
  • Blood Hounds:
    1,800,000,000 Olfactory Receptors (1.8 billion)
  • Black Bear:
    12,600,000,000,000 Olfactory Receptors (12.6 Trillion)

A Black Bear can smell 2100 times better than a human. In addition the Jacobson’s organ in their mouth can taste the air, adding to their brains perception. A mature Black Bear can smell your breakfast from 20 miles away if the wind is right. Big mature bears can smell better than smaller younger bears as their noses are larger and more developed. Bears also know what unnatural smells are and associate them with a human presence. This can explain why Black Bear hunters that are not fanatical about the way they smell rarely see big trophy bears. There are procedures you can do to minimize unnatural smells to keep the bears concentrating on the bait that the outfitter has put out for them.  It is wise to check with your outfitter before applying anything new to the bait station that they normally don’t use.

1) Before your bear hunting trip; pick a couple of sets of clothes that you will only wear at the tree stand while hunting. Wash your clothes with scent-free detergent and when done, run them though the wash twice again with no detergent so they are well rinsed. This will ensure your clothes are scent free. If you live in the city and have chlorinated city water then go to a pet store and buy a small bottle of Aquarium Water Conditioner and add ½ oz. to the last rinse cycle you do with your clothes. The water conditioner will neutralize the chlorine in the water and keep the chlorine smell out of your clothes. Remember, they can smell 2100 times better than you so don’t feel silly getting fanatical. Then pack the clothes in a plastic bag to keep them scent free. If you consistently use fabric softener in your clothes dryer it’s best to hang your clothes up to dry because residual clothes softener might go on your clothes. If you are a smoker, do not smoke while wearing your hunting clothes.

Before we go to the next points you should be aware that Black Bears love the smell of mint. If you go on a camping trip in any of Ontario’s provincial parks the wardens will tell you not to keep mint toothpaste or mint gum in your tent because the bears will smell it and go after it. The bears craving for mint can be used to your advantage.

2) Think Mint: Go to one of those hippy tree-hugger heath stores and buy mint soap. The morning before the hunt take a shower using the mint soap. Brush your teeth with mint toothpaste. Chew mint gum while in the tree stand and if you really want to go all the way, have a glass of mint tea before the hunt and even keep a few bags of mint tea in your pockets. This will help cover up any scent.

3) Smoking: If you are a smoker and you smoke in the tree stand you are basically wasting your time if you expect a big trophy bear to come within sight. Wind direction can give you a little luck but it’s not something you should count on. It’s best to wear a nicotine patch while in the tree stand and if you need to; chew mint gum to keep your mind off smoking. Remember to brush your teeth and wash your hands and stop smoking before you put your scent free hunting clothes on.   This would also apply to cigars and chewing tobacco as well.

IMG_6110 - Copy

Black Bear Hearing:

The shape of Black Bear’s ears is mainly responsible for their great hearing. When detecting sound based on volume a bear’s hearing is about four times that of a human. However, a bear can hear a much broader frequency range; both higher and lower frequencies. Rubbing of cloth or twisting of your tree stand can produce sounds that the bear can hear and the hunter cannot. Big old male bears develop a crowned head and their ears move out to the sides giving them stereoscopic hearing, which allows them to pinpoint the origin of the sounds they hear. This is another reason why big old bears are harder to get.

With this in mind try to stay absolutely still. If you have to move; move very slowly. Take some nose drops before the hunt and if you have a cold or allergies. If your throat is dry and itchy bring some mint flavored lozenges with you. You can also oil the joints of your tree stand to make them a little quieter.

Black Bear Sight:

During the day a Black Bear basically has the same site as a human but older bears tend to be near sighted. As a result they cannot focus on things from a long distance. When one of an animal’s senses becomes diminished their brain rewires itself to compensate by making other senses more acute. This is known as neural placidity. As a bear gets older they become near sighted so the brain compensates by being more sensitive to color differentiation. If the bear sees colors it thinks are unnatural and he sees those colors move the game is up. Bears cannot see the same range of colors as a human. Hunter orange looks gray to them. But they can see dull reds and yellows as well into the blue/green cool color spectrum. This is why there are many different forms of camouflage clothing.

Picking the right Camouflage:

You need to talk to the outfitter when you book your hunt and ask what kind of plants will be at the tree stands. If the hunt is taking place in the southern range of Ontario’s bear hunting country during the fall you may have a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees, thus you will need a camouflage that represents pine needles, pine bark and colored fall foliage. If you are father north in an area with only pine trees you will need a camouflage that represents pine bark and pine needles, which means dark brown and green. You need to blend into the scenery so their bear cannot see any unnatural color pattern.

Black Bears are nocturnal. They have a reflective layer in the back of the eye called the tarpetum lucidum. Just because you can’t see them does not mean they cannot see you. Since dusk is the hottest bear hunting time it’s also when you should concentrate the most on being quiet and motionless.

Bear Size:

In most cases, big ears mean a smaller bear. A small ear is usually a bigger bear. Once a bear reaches three years old (approx. 100 lbs.), the bear starts to grow into its ears. The ears and eyes don’t grow as much as they do in the first three years. Sometimes if a bear has a hard year with food, the ears will look bigger because the bear is thinner. Read our article:  How to Size a Black Bear

Cubs:

When a sow is with cubs, 90% of the time the cubs are in the lead. The cubs will make more noise than a single bear. Most of the time, adult bears make little or no noise.

Sow:

You can’t shoot a sow with cubs in the Ontario spring hunt, and in the fall we continue this policy on our BMA – DO NOT SHOOT SOWS with cubs.. So make 100% sure you know what you are shooting at. Take a really good look around to make sure there are no cubs. A sow’s ears are usually closer together, as a male bear’s cranium grows wider on top and the ears look farther apart. They also look smaller, which is really an illusion.

These tips and techniques are just a guide line for some things to consider and think about. Ultimately the outfitter is the person you need to discuss the different factors with. Bear hunting can be quite different in different regions.

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