The perception that baiting bears is easy could never be more untrue. If your goal is to consistently harvest P&Y boars it requires years of learning, lots of time, dedication, attention to detail and hard work. Outsmarting trophy class boars is very different than bowhunting ungulates, they possess an intelligence and ability to reason, they do not just react explosively out of instinct. To fast track your success, the following are several key factors to consider:
1. Location Is Critical
The key to success is identifying a geographic area that is home to a distinct genetic pool exhibiting a large skull size relative to body size. Baits need to be on a creek, river or beaver dam system.
2. Bait & Scents
Collecting and ensuring an adequate supply of bait is a huge job. Expect to be feeding between 5 and 15 bears per bait for six to eight weeks. If you are targeting trophy boars, ideally run 3 baits/stand sites per hunter to ensure the best chance at a P&Y boar that is active during daylight hours. Oats, meat, dog food, candy, popcorn, baked goods, bread, molasses, cooking grease and beavers are all excellent choices. It is important to start your baits with meat, switch to oats or high volume, easy to handle bait as the season progresses. Drag a beaver on the cut lines to facilitate bait discovery.
There are many commercial products but nothing is more cost effective or works better to start a bait than trappers “stink”. Simply fill a one gallon pail with fish, put a sealed lid on it for 6 months, say abracadabra and poof, you have a grey soup that can be smelled miles away! Caution – do not splash this on your clothes or in your vehicle, you’ll have to burn your truck!
Planning your stand site is critical to attracting big boars. Factors to consider include prevailing wind direction, stand location, barrel and crib location, anticipated direction the bears will approach from, camera location, quad trail access, bait drop off and turnaround.
3. Stands & Blinds
If possible use a box blind constructed of plywood and sealed with caulking on all seams. The advantage is threefold 1) it encapsulates your scent 2) bears cannot see you in the box when wearing black clothes and 3) when you walk into a bait ravens vacate the bait, when using a box blind ravens eventually filter back to the bait to feed providing a game changing confidence booster for old, intelligent and bait shy bears.
Never walk into or out of a bait site without a firearm, it is simply not worth the risk. One incident would change your life, or end it, so always pack a firearm!
5. Snacks/Books/Phone/Bug Spray
This is where fitness, preparation and dedication meet opportunity. A good book, healthy snacks, a drink, Thermacell and Goal Zero for phone charging facilitate long hours on stand.
6. Construct a Crib
Always build a crib, a V shaped fence like structure to influence bear behavior and body positioning when approaching the bait. The goal is to force an approach that facilitates shot opportunity and optimal placement.
Use three to five, 45 gallon drums (55 gallon drums are even better) with locking, removable lids. Cut a 6” diameter hole in the side at the top of the barrel, any smaller and you run the risk of a young bear’s head getting stuck in the barrel. Chain the barrels to the trees at the crib site.
Point your trail cameras North if possible. Make sure to avoid East or West orientation as the low angle of incidence at sunrise and sunset causes exposure issues and false triggers. A trail camera security box is also a must for bait sites. It’s guaranteed bears will chew on your cameras, and a security box will protect your camera from interference of the bears. Activity intel and a positive id on your target boar is essential, so take the time to properly position and secure your cameras.
9. Shot Placement
Be patient, wait for a broadside or quartering away shot with the front leg extended. Do not shoot a sitting bear as the front legs cover the vitals. If it is a target boar, take the first quality shot opportunity as they do not always lounge around or return to a bait.
If you want to DIY a quality baited hunt experience with the goal of harvesting trophy class animals, do not do it thinking you will save money. Some years you may, others you will not. It takes years to learn a new area and establish quality baits. It takes tremendous dedication to collect the bait and repeatedly drive long round trips. Time, equipment, fuel and maintenance are substantial costs.
Employ these tactics and I am confident you will enjoy some incredible, up close and personal encounters with some world class bears. Stay safe and enjoy the adventure!