Several years ago I made up my mind to start hunting black bear. I had seen many different videos and articles on the subject. What I did not know is that I was about to embark upon a journey that would not only test my nerves, but would also test my whit against one of the craftiest animals to roam the Rockies.
When hunting black bears over bait, the first word that comes to mind is dominance. Dominance is what drives every move that I make when trying to seal the deal on a trophy bruin.
My good friend Gage Brock is the person who taught me some of the most important lessons when baiting. I have taken his advice and put it to work in many aspects. As he says, “The big bears own the night!” And that they do.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard hunters telling stories of their bait getting hammered with no bears to be found during hunting hours. This in itself should tell you that something is up. This should tell you that there is a lack of dominance on your bait.
Impossible is not the word that should be used when dealing with night feeders. Your bears are doing what bears do, feeding at night. In my early years of bear baiting I would try everything known to man to change the bears feeding habits. I have been known to leave radios playing, lights flashing, and fake mannequins at the bait in attempts to keep the bears from feeding at night. All of the previously mentioned left negative results. How was I going to make it happen?
After speaking with many well known bear hunters and hours of trial and error, I found myself crafting ways to put dominance to the test. I wanted to create a situation where the bears would alter their feeding habits to the point of me seeing trophy bears while I was on the stand, or in my case, while I was in the blind.
Taking into consideration that with dominance comes numbers, it was important for me to have multiple bears hitting my site. This is where advertisement plays a key role. I am a huge fan of kitchen grease. I can never seem to use enough. The bears will track through the grease and will spread a scent trail for a long way after feeding. If you already have a bear hitting your bait, use this to your advantage. As more bears come in, you will have more scent trails traveling in various directions. It is easy to see the importance that grease plays when advertising your bait.
As the bears continue to collect during the night time hours, the dominant bears will do the work at keeping the subordinate bears off your bait. This forces the weaker bears to alter their feeding schedule, offering opportunity for a daytime harvest. As time goes on the dominant bears will realize that vacancies have been left after darkness has fallen. This occurrence will then force your dominant bears to patrol the bait during the day as they know that the other bears are continuing to feed. The larger bears will usually not feed when passing by during the day, so you better be ready. What they will be doing is keeping the other bears at bay.
The last few years that I have baited, I have been able to put the dominance theory to the test. Putting larger amounts of bait out with plenty of grease (where legal) has played a key role in my strategy. I like to wait 12 days before going in to hunt a bait. By doing so allows the time needed for the dominance to take effect without human interaction.
The first signs of my dominance theory came late one spring. I ventured into my hunting area as the dominant bear made the switch from night to day. I watched this bear cruise the bait for two nights without feeding before I was finally offered a shot opportunity. As the other bears would approach, the dominant bear would start popping its jaws and several times would run the other bears up a tree. This was the start of proving my theory.
The following year would wipe away any doubts that I may have had when dealing with dominance. The first night on stand that season, found my friend Jerry Monsees taking a very nice bear. We had allowed enough time for the bears to make the switch. I hunted for several nights right after that and did not see a bear.
What happened to my bait site? I was still getting hit pretty hard but no bears were showing up during the day. The questions raced through my head. Did we bump the bears while taking Jerry’s bear out? Was there too much scent left behind from us walking around the barrel? The answer was quite simple. We had taken the dominant bear out of the mix and the bears went on doing what bears do, feeding at night.
Realizing that I needed to get dominance back into the mix, my next step was to put out more stink and spread more grease. I virtually started the process over again. As the remaining bears were feeding they began to spread the scent around even more. This in turn brought more bears into the mix. Knowing that this process takes time, I decided to wait a week before returning.
The first night of my return I was able to spot a larger boar patrolling in the distance. He would not come in to feed, but was very intent on watching the site to make sure that no others were stealing his loot. Not wanting to hunt the next night, I forced myself to go anyway. And I am glad that I did. The boar returned to the site to check for intruders. This time he passed by at 7:00 pm. This was well within legal shooting hours. As the boar passed by, he took one look at the bait and continued to pass as the bear did the year before. I knew that I had a dominant bear on patrol again and was ready to make the shot.
When done properly, I find that less is better in most cases. If you are dealing with night feeders and are becoming frustrated as I have in years past, let the dominance process work its way out. If you have advertised your bait properly with grease and have allowed sufficient time for the feeding order to establish, you too will be Dominating the Bear Woods!
Written by Chad Baart
Hunters Journey Magazine
BoarMasters offers bear urines in both sow in heat and boar forms that work well to create competition at the bait along with several powerful attractants for baiting and luring bear.