When planning for a black bear hunting trip, it’s important to prepare adequately. You have to know where to find bruins, how to stalk them, best times of the year to hunt, and how to set up bait stations (among many other things). But the more you practise this sport, the more you’ll get good at it. Having prior hunting experience can be a plus but it’s not a necessity. You can still hunt down your big trophy bear by simply applying a few tried and testing hunting basics. With that in mind, here are some top tips and techniques for black bear hunting success.
Scout for Good Hunting Grounds Beforehand
The best way to increase your chances of bagging a black bear is scouting for good hunting grounds before going for the hunting trip. A good place to start would be local state wildlife agencies since they can help you with information on public hunting areas or counties that have healthy bear populations. Once you have details on where to hunt, the next step is to go on a little trip to search for good bear habitats.
Take your time to scout for bear activity in the area you intend to hunt. The American Black Bear is a forest dweller, so its habitat is mostly characterized with heavy thick vegetation. Bears also frequent areas where there’s an abundance of food such as leaves, acorn plants, hickory nuts, pokeberries, and persimmons. Furthermore, areas around bluffs in mountainous terrain or wooded stream bottoms are attractive habitats for bruins. Take note of these areas or places that have some of the earlier mentioned food sources as they’re likely to be bear hotspots.
Other signs to look for when trying to locate a promising hunting area include bear tracks, droppings, and overturned rocks along stony outcrops. Bears like to scratch tree trunks with their teeth and claws, which can be a sign of their presence.
Go into Stealth Mode When Hunting
When out in the field, remember that the best hunter is one who remains unseen before taking down his prey. This applies more so to black bears since these beasts have very keen senses.
Of all land walking mammals, the American black bear has the best sense of smell. With up to 12.6 trillion olfactory receptors (the microscopic bulbs on nerve endings of a mammal’s nose), a mature black bear can detect unnatural smells from great distances. Their sense of hearing is also quite advanced. Adult boars and sows tend to develop a crowned head and their ears move to the sides, giving them the ability to pinpoint sound sources in the wild.
Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help you stalk your prey without being seen, heard or sniffed out.
#1 Mask Your Scent
In order to mask your scent from bears, you can try some of the products that deer hunters use to eliminate human odors. It’s also a good idea to wash your hunting clothing with scent free detergent. In case you live in the city and have to use chlorinated water, add aquarium water conditioner to the water when washing your hunting outfit. This will eliminate the scent of chlorine water from the fabric. In addition, avoid smoking when going hunting since black bears can easily pick up the scent of tobacco. The best way to prevent bears from sniffing you out from miles away is moving against the wind’s direction.
#2 Move Quietly
Even the smallest noises like breaking twigs, rubbing clothes, or moving branches can startle a bear. To avoid scaring your prey, move quietly and avoid wearing rustling clothes or boots that make noise.
#3 Wear Camouflaged Clothing
Bears can see quite well at night since they have a reflective layer at the back of the eye known tarpetum lucidum. And while day light makes them near sighted, they’re very sensitive to color differentiation. Therefore, remember to wear clothing that blends in with the natural environment as mature bears are highly attuned to anything that seems out of place.
More Bear Hunting Baiting Techniques
Baiting is a common tactic that bear hunters use. The reason for this is that independent boars and sows can sometimes traverse large tracks of land or hide deep in the woods, which makes following them to their dens impractical or unsafe. However, if you’re going to use a bait station effectively, you need to do it right. A good bait station is one that:
- Has no blind spot
- Offers alternate standby spots in case wind direction shifts
- Not too close to thick vegetation that provides cover for bears
- Provides a suitable spot to haul bait
You can use a variety of foods to lure bears to your bait station. Fish and meat scraps make excellent bait for bears that want to stock up fat for hibernation. Bread, pasta, and other starchy foods that are rare in nature can also work. Using devices that send out predator calls can attract bears to the bait.
It’s important to point out that baiting doesn’t guarantee that you’ll eventually hunt down a bear. Sometimes weeks can pass before black bears encounter a bait station. Therefore, it’s best to scout for good hunting grounds 30 days in advance and keep baiting a chosen spot every three days to keep bears in the area.
Know When to Go for the Kill Shot
When you spot a bear from a tree stand or bait station, it’s important not to get too excited. Instead of rushing to take a shot, remain calm and take aim quietly. Always adjust your riflescope to get a clear shot that will allow you to hit a vital organ. This is because bears can move considerable distances when wounded, so you want to avoid taking a poor shot.
Educate Yourself About Hunting Laws
Last but certainly not least, it’s always crucial to be aware of applicable gaming laws in your state before heading out to hunt for black bears. For instance, it’s illegal to shoot a sow (female bear) that has cubs. There are also hunting areas where baiting is not allowed. A hunting license will be required as well before going black bear hunting. To avoid problems with the law, make sure to study your state hunting regulations.
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