Having guided bear hunts for over 15 years, I have seen just about everything. Every couple years there’s a new “game changing” piece of gear or some fancy new “attractant” that make bold claims of improving your success in bear camp. Throw the gimmicks and gadgets out the window and focus on the basics. Time and time again we see new and fairly experienced spring bear hunters make 3 common mistakes.
In this article we break down why expanding your knowledge of Consistency, Shot Placement, and Scent Control will improve your chances of bagging your bear this spring.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to stick to your baiting routine. You should only make changes if there are no bears showing up at your bait. If you have bears coming, even if they are nocturnal, any changes you make could cause the bears to be much more cautious, and maybe abandon the bait site altogether. Bears get conditioned to sound and smell. They get comfortable with a routine, and much like your dog responds to the sound of the treat bag or the smell of steaks on your plate, bears do the same in the woods based on your routine.
Let me expand on this. If you are baiting with sweets like doughnuts or expired baked goods, and right before opening day or mid season you put meat scraps out, you are asking for trouble. The bear's nose is 2100 times better than yours and he will immediately know something is different and it can be a big deterrent. Even your walk in and out routine should be the same. If you bait using a quad or boat, the bears get use to sound of that vehicle coming…and leaving. Often the sound of you at the bait followed by the noise of a motor fading off into the distance is the dinner bell for bears. Keep in mind that these suggestions make a big difference on large bears and places where bear numbers are low. If there is high competition or a bunch of young bears they will be less concerned about those things, but why take the risk? On that note, the same access consistency should be thought of when access hunting stands assuming the wind conditions are correct.
As with most big game animals, shot placement is everything! Certainly the number one reason bears are not recovered is shot placement, especially with archery equipment. Anatomically speaking, bears are not all that tough. Their ribs are not massive and their vital area is quite large. Fat layer can cause some headaches when it comes to penetration and blood trail, but a well placed shot will bring your bear down fast. It can be difficult to be precise on a black blob at 30 yards in fading light, however having patience and taking your time will be the key to getting your arrow in the boiler room. The fastest and easiest way to bring down a big bear is a double lung shot. A heart shot will certainly do the job, but that is a small target and I have seen bears shot down towards the apex of the heart go a couple hundred yards before expiring. So give yourself the best chance of a recovery by waiting for a broadside, double lung shot. ALWAYS make sure that the leg facing you is forward. A bears scapula is a tough shield and the leg bone is like a steel pipe. Unless you are shooting a rifle, you must avoid that front shoulder at all cost. We have seen bears shot at steep angles and with quartering shots, where only one lung was hit. If there is not massive hemorrhage, or a clot occurs those bears can survive a single lung hit. So, a broadside, double lung shot, with the leg forward, and you will have nothing to worry about except finding room in your freezer.
We stink. That is just the bottom line when it comes to hunting bears. No matter what we do, it is difficult to beat an animal's nose when it is 7 times more sensitive than a bloodhound! So what can we do about it?
- Never use masking scents that are not natural to the exact spot you are hunting.
Bears know the difference between fresh earth or cedar spray from a bottle as opposed to what they smell and sleep on every day. Avoid those items and use natural sources from around your bait site to treat your clothes. Bag up some fragrant leaves, soil, or pine needles from our bait area and put them with your hunting clothes to match your surroundings perfectly.
- Never use attractants that are not natural to your bait site, or identical to your bait.
Using an attractant other than what you may have been using at your bait site gives the bears a reason to be cautious. Remember the routine. Same bait, same smells, same attractant, every day unless you don’t have any bears visiting your set.
- Take a shower
Do all you can to remove your own stink. A good scent elimination shower goes a long way in the bear woods. Avoid strong human fragranced soaps, shampoos, and lotions. Keep it simple and just use non scented hygiene products all around.
- Play The Wind
This is a tough one, but do the best you can. If a bear gets a whiff of something strange, he may circle you a dozen times before he comes in, which often seems to be after legal shooting light. That is why the three suggestions above are so important. Having multiple sets to pick from is a great advantage, but not always practical. If you have monster size bear regularly hitting your set it may be wise to opt out of using that stand if the wind is not right.
We've also expanded on this topic with the video below!
I hope there was some good take-aways for you in this blog and that you can learn from others mistakes . Remember that when it comes to bears, consistency, shot placement, and scent control are some of the most important items to consider on your next hunt.
Thanks for reading, and good luck in the woods!
Author: Chris Creed, Afflictor Broadheads