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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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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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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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A Better Bow Hunter: Aim to Hit

The traits that separate elite bow hunters from the masses are attention to detail and rigorous training. These are year-round archers, and here’s how they push themselves to become deadly hunters.

ODL0814_HUN02

1. Be Challenged
As creatures of habit, we’re guilty of practicing at distances at which we can comfortably stack arrows in an impressive -fashion—typically 20 yards. However, extending your practice distance well beyond your comfort zone accomplishes several things. First, it forces you to tighten your form, since miscues are multiplied as distance increases.

Greater practice distances also force you to identify and correct imperfections lest you continue to splash arrows about the range. This year, if space allows, double your practice comfort zone. You’ll find that when “short” shot opportunities present themselves, they’ll be chip shots.

2. Be Strong
Drawing a bow requires a certain degree of physical strength. Leveling a fiber-optic pin confidently on an animal is difficult, if not impossible, when your arms are trembling uncontrollably.

Sadly, archers who pull out their bow a week prior to the season aren’t physically prepared to attempt an ethical bow hunting shot. The right repetition makes you both strong and accurate.

3. Be Angular
Animals rarely present the perfect broadside shot. But how many of us practice any other angle? Whether you shoot a block or a 3D target, practice a variety of shot angles.

Shooting non-perpendicular angles adds another physical and mental dimension to the shot execution, because the bull’s-eye changes geometrically. When practicing, move about the range, varying your relationship to the target face until you’re proficient in every possible angle.

4. Be Accurate
Many archers think the only way to practice judging distance is with a bow in hand, but the opportunities are everywhere, including grocery stores and parking lots. Mentally measure an object in the distance and pace it off to check your guesstimate. Or stroll through the woods with a rangefinder. Stop occasionally and put an eye on a bush, branch, or rock. Give yourself a few seconds to estimate the real estate, and then check it against the laser. After a few trips, you’ll become amazingly accurate at taping distances with little more than a keen eye.

5. Be Crepuscular
Shot opportunities often present themselves in low light, whether the first or last of the day. Try shooting three or four arrows in this tough light. By doing so, you’ll have a real appreciation for what to expect when visibility is less than ideal in the field.

6. Be Blind-Ready
Ground blinds now outsell tree stands, as they offer a portability and versatility that tree stands simply cannot. However, if you’ve never practiced from one, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised when you try to lob a shot from inside its tight confines. Limited drawing distance, extremely small windows (which narrow the shot field), and dark interiors challenge even the best bow hunters. A word to the wise: Pop your ground blind up and practice shooting from it prior to toting it into the field.

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Black Bear…the Basics

Here is a fantastic and very basic overview of black bear, what they are and why we hunt them.  In the case if Wawang Lake Resort, our outfitting is done in the fall, over bait and the average weight of our boars was 278 lbs. last year with 2 over 400 lbs.   Our sows, 180lbs with three over 300 lb.

Black Bear Hunting Basics

paw2
If you’re considering taking up black bear hunting or trying to decide if it’s right for you, it’s a good idea to get an overview of what it’s all about. There are a lot of misconceptions about black bear hunting floating around out there, so it pays to know exactly what you’re in for when you set out to hunt “America’s bear”.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of black bear hunting, including population, seasons, weapons, meat, trophy items, and biology relevant to hunting.

Population, Seasons, and Weapons

Although the population of the black bear (Ursus americanus) is in decline in some areas of the U.S. (due to habitat loss), in other areas it is growing rapidly, and in still others it is at an all-time high. The total population of black bears in the lower 48 is estimated to be between 300,000 to 500,000, and the Alaska population is estimated to be 100,000 or more.

Black bear hunting is permitted in a little over half of the 50 states. Many Western states have black bear hunting seasons. In some of these states, hunters are allowed to take two black bears per year. Other popular areas include portions of the upper Midwest, the East coast, and the South. Even a handful of states in the East where black bear hunting has been prohibited for years have recently opened up limited seasons.

Black bears are hunted both in the spring and the fall. However, spring seasons are only allowed in about eight states, and spring hunting often requires applying for a lottery. Fall seasons are typically general seasons, and this is the time when most bears are hunted.

Black bears can be effectively taken with any of the typical weapons used for other big game, including rifle, bow, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol, and crossbow. (As always, be sure to check your particular state’s game regulations.)

Meat and Other Items

bearroastBlack bear meat is considered by many to be a delicacy. In fact, even as recently as the late 19th century, bear dishes were some of the most expensive items on the menus at the finest, exclusive restaurants. “Bear bacon”, the whole, smoked hind quarter of a bear, was a prized staple in the diet of settlers on the American frontier. The meat is often compared to pork or lamb, but with a distinctive flavor all its own.

Interestingly, that flavor can vary quite widely depending on what the bear has recently been eating. The most highly prized meat comes from spring bears who have been consuming large quantities of grass and other vegetation as well as fall bears who have been feasting on berries, fruit, or nuts such as acorns.

Luckily, although they are omnivores, about 80-90% of a black bear’s diet consists of plant material, so your odds of having tasty meat are extremely good. Younger bears are also widely reported to have better meat than older bears. Assuming you take a younger bear that hasn’t been eating salmon or carrion, you’re in for quite a treat.

An important word of caution here: black bear meat often contains the parasite that causes trichinosis, an infection that usually results in either no symptoms or minor digestive discomfort but in rare cases can cause more serious complications and even death (although only in less than 0.3% of cases).

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy for this. All bear meat must be cooked completely through until there is no visible pink in the meat. Cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 137 degrees is hot enough to make it safe, although the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Freezing the meat has not been shown to be adequate protection against trichinosis.

Another highly edible part of a black bear is the fat. Bear fat (which is quite plentiful in fall bears) can be rendered to produce a useful and particularly flavorful cooking oil. Even from a modestly sized bear, you can easily get a couple gallons of this precious liquid.

In addition to the meat and fat, there are also a few prized items to be had from a black bear. First, the fir is soft and luxurious, and many hunters keep the hide and turn it into a rug or even clothing such as a vest. Black bear skulls are fascinating thing to look at, and they’re a great conversation starter when displayed up on the mantle or other prominent location.

Biology Relevant to Hunting

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Black bears can vary greatly in size, depending on genetics, the quality of the habitat in which they live, and their gender and age. Mature boars (male bears) can weigh in at over 800 pounds in rare cases. The average adult male, however, weighs between 180 and 300 pounds, while the average adult female weighs slightly less, between 140-250 pounds. You can expect to net about 30% of the live weight in meat. For example, a 200 pound bear may produce up to 60 pounds of meat.

Black bears possess impressive athletic abilities. They can sprint at speeds over 30 mph, can climb trees with ease, and are accomplished swimmers. They also have short, curved, sharp claws and canine teeth capable of ripping and tearing flesh. With these traits, it’s easy to see why they fit squarely into the classification of dangerous game.

While black bear attacks are exceedingly rare, even for bear hunters, they do happen. And tracking wounded bears means the danger increases exponentially. The tracking is bound to take you through dense cover, and the bear’s thick fir soaks up blood fast, making for sparse blood trails to follow. Bears have even been known to loop around and double back on their trail, lying in wait for pursuing hunters. However, with proper preparation and planning, as well as solid shot placement, most bears can be recovered safely and without incident.

Note: In regions where black bears share their range with grizzly bears, it’s important to know how to identify the two bears and tell them apart so you don’t accidentally shoot a grizzly bear, which is a violation of federal law. Here’s a handy bear identification training you can take online for free so you can know for sure before you pull the trigger.

The size of a black bear’s home range can vary greatly depending on the location of food sources in the area. It can be as small as a couple square miles or it can be much larger — a male’s home range may go all the way up to 75 square miles in extreme cases. Bears are opportunistic omnivores, which means their movements are often unpredictable. This wandering lifestyle requires specialized tactics, the most common being spot-and-stalk, baiting, hunting with hounds, and calling.

Regardless of which tactics you employ, you’ll need to defeat a bear’s considerable arsenal of finely tuned senses if you want to have any hope of getting close enough for a shot.

Jon Hanson - Tiffin, IA 440 lb. black bear

Jon Hanson – Tiffin, IA 440 lb. black bear

Sense of Smell

First and foremost is their sense of smell, which is thousands of times better than a human’s. In fact, it’s been shown that if you take a bloodhound’s nose and multiply it by about seven, you’ll get a sense of the black bear’s olfactory powers.

There are both defensive and offensive strategies you can use in order to overcome these powers and get within range of a bear without it smelling you. On the defensive side, it’s wise to use as many scent control measures as logistically possible. More importantly, always keep tabs on the wind and make sure you’re hunting into it. A wind checker device, such as a small spray bottle filled with unscented talcum powder comes in real handy for this, as does a fine, frayed string tied to the end of your gun or bow.

You can also go on the offensive and use the wind to your advantage. With good scouting and planning, it’s possible to hunt with the wind at your back, allowing your scent to move out ahead of you and drive bears toward another hunter in a tree stand or other fixed position.

Sense of Hearing

bear headNext up is their sense of hearing, which is thought to be significantly better than a human’s, although it’s not known exactly how much better. They can detect a human voice at 300 yards and the cocking of a gun at 50 yards.

Your best defense against a bear’s ears is to simply be quiet. Move slowly and carefully, wear quiet clothing, and speak in whispers to your hunting companions. On the offensive side, always keep your ears tuned for bear sounds. Bears make noise when feeding, such as turning over rotten logs looking for grubs, and they communicate with each other through woofs, sniffs, grunts, and growls.

Sense of Sight

Contrary to popular belief, bears do, in fact, see in color. Their vision is roughly equivalent to a human’s — better, if you include the fact that they have excellent night vision. Although they’re somewhat near-sighted, they are adept at detecting movement, even at long distances.

To win the battle of the eyes, you’ll need to have a solid defensive plan. It’s very important to wear full camouflage and choose a pattern that breaks up your outline and matches the local vegetation well. More importantly, always move slowly and cautiously, and never move when a bear is looking in your direction.

As for offense, always carry a pair of high quality binoculars. The black color of a bear’s fur can make them a little easier to spot than other big game like deer. Carry your binoculars on your chest with a harness or “bino bra”, and use them often. When hunting open country using spot-and-stalk tactics, you can also employ a high-power spotting scope to give your eyes even more reach.

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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.

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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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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.

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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