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Black Bear Chronicles


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Me and my friend Scott set up two bait stands on Monday near his camp. Simple 5 gallon buckets strapped to a tree, ladder stand within bow and/or rifle distance. We bought two barrels of bait, mostly discarded donuts and pastries. The sets are in thick woods and you don't see a bear until its on the bait basically. We can start baiting now and "hunt" from end of August til late September. I've never shot a bear, even over bait. We get plenty of trail cam pictures and need to step over piles of bear scat, but a decent boar hasn't been in my sights. I carry my bow mostly.

I understand that baiting is controversial and will likely be banned by 2014 or 2015 since HSUS and a couple Maine animal rights groups are setting up a citizens referendum vote to ban hounding, trapping and baiting of black bears in Maine. They tried in 2003 and lost by a slim margin. HSUS has huge cash reserves since they don't really do much directly for animals so I am afraid this will pass in today's climate. I feel like time is running out.

Im not trying to defend or rationalize baiting for bear. Its not hunting, but is a lot of grunt work punctuated by sitting in a stand. In a stand over bait, I can view any bear that comes in, decide if its a sow with cubs, a cub, dry sow or a boar before I decide to shoot or not. We set up personal, small, clean sites not garbage dumps in the woods like people see on TV hunting shows. Baiting isn't for everyone but given the heavily forested conditions in Maine its really the only viable hunting and management method and tool, and is condoned by the MEIF&W. Ive spent a lot of time deer hunting and have never encountered a bear. A small % are killed incidentally during deer season as residents are allowed 1 bear during that season on their regular hunting license.

I headed back in yesterday and the set "way in" was hit...by raccoons as illustrated by 19 photos on the trail cam. The other set closer to camp was hit, I am convinced by a bear given the bucket was beat up and most of bait gone. But Scott hadn't set up a trail cam there yet. I am getting my 4 wheeler out of storage to bring out there. One set is a mile and a half in on a real sketchy dirt road that takes forever to get to in a truck. Will be easier and quicker on the ATV.

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Virgil Kane

I have taken several bear by glassing and stalking and although I have sat in a tree stand over bait also  I have never shot one over bait. I've seen them come in and watched them hit the bait but all the ones that did were small so I held my fire.

Some people think that setting up bait is a sure fired method to get a bear. From all the long hours I've sat over bait I would highly disagree with that thought. At least for something that isn't the young of that year but then some think that blasting a 90 pound bears makes them a bear Bwana.

Hope you have good luck

Virgil

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Im not trying to defend or rationalize baiting for bear. Its not hunting, but is a lot of grunt work punctuated by sitting in a stand.

If I recall correctly from reading your posts here over the years you have never been able to shoot any bear, let alone a mature boar in all the times you have tried it in the past.  If it wasn't 'hunting' don't you think you would have killed one by now?  

Maybe shooting a 120# first year bear (that you tell all your buddies weighs 250#) isn't all that tough, but doing the scouting and set up required to take a mature animal in an area that has any amount of pressure takes woodsmanship, field craft, patience etc.  Even when a good guide does all the leg work (scouting the area, finding a good ambush spot, picking a stand site considering wind and sun position and the bears approach, the grunt work of carrying bait etc), the guy sitting in the tree has to get there undetected and remain undetected until he can make a good shot on an animal that rattles many first time hunters and is approaching an area that it knows to be dangerous.

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Im not trying to defend or rationalize baiting for bear. Its not hunting, but is a lot of grunt work punctuated by sitting in a stand.

If I recall correctly from reading your posts here over the years you have never been able to shoot any bear, let alone a mature boar in all the times you have tried it in the past.  If it wasn't 'hunting' don't you think you would have killed one by now?  

Maybe shooting a 120# first year bear (that you tell all your buddies weighs 250#) isn't all that tough, but doing the scouting and set up required to take a mature animal in an area that has any amount of pressure takes woodsmanship, field craft, patience etc.  Even when a good guide does all the leg work (scouting the area, finding a good ambush spot, picking a stand site considering wind and sun position and the bears approach, the grunt work of carrying bait etc), the guy sitting in the tree has to get there undetected and remain undetected until he can make a good shot on an animal that rattles many first time hunters and is approaching an area that it knows to be dangerous.

I'm certainly doing something wrong! Had some bigguns on trail cam. (This is I think my third year of baiting bear myself, maybe four cant remember so am still learning) I am an ambivalent bear hunter at best, no excuse but its almost an hours drive just to Scotts camp and another hike into the sets. I might get on stand a couple times a week for three weeks but go in and bait the sites a couple/few times a week for almost 2 months. So for me it is grunt work punctuated by sitting on a stand. But I enjoy it and it gets me in the woods pre bird and pre early bow for deer season. I see your point about a guide or outfitter or a bear hunter getting everything right so a big boar would make an appearance in daylight, and that that could be considered hunting. Someone just walking into a preset and baited stand someone else established and climbing into a stand and shooting a bear isn't "hunting" in my opinion. NTTAWWT

I was back near my old house (I sold) this morning and ran into a friend of mine. There is a bear around that's been tearing apart the bee hives set in a blueberry barren behind my old house and another across the street. Its likely traveling through or near the 8 acres I once owned. This friend has a couple bait stands set up for that bear.

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Maybe I smell bad. I did trade a guided turkey hunt with a bear guide friend and sat on one of his established and heavily hit bait sites a few times some years back. Nothing. I also was at a bear camp in northern Maine with a sporting product design client. Celeb Roger Raglin was in camp being filmed for his bear hunt at the same time. I think they put me on the crappiest stand, never saw a bear. Others in camp scored. :glare:
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While I see that in your opinion there isn't much hunting left once a spot is picked and the baiting is done, but my experience is the opposite.  It doesn't matter how good a site is set up, if a guy makes too much noise getting into the stand or fidgets while on stand they can ruin even the best set up.  I have been hunting bears without a guide for about 15 years.  In that time I have guided several friends who are more 'casual' hunters.  I always put them on my most proven and active baits.  More often than not these guys got the bears completely nocturnal and never saw a bear.  Too much noise going in, too much fidgeting on stand etc.  When it's 80 degrees and you are covered in a cloud of mosquitoes it's hard to sit stone still.  

When I first started using trail cams it was a real eye opener for me.  A large numbers of bears would show up just minutes after I left a bait site.  Understanding their proximity helped me change the way I approach stands.  Last year I killed a bear that was in the bait as I approached.  I spent about an hour closing the last 200 yards to the stand and had set up in such a way that I was completely screened from the bait until I had climbed up into the stand.  What a rush!

This will be the first year in 15 years that I don't bear hunt. I got shut out of the lottery and wasn't able to buy a surplus over the counter like I have in years past.  Normally bear hunting gets me through September 15th when I can start running the dogs.  My hunting camp build out is the only thing receiving attention right now.

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I've taken 5 bears over bait in New Brunswick over the years. I have deep respect for how much work it takes to set up a good bait. The guide sure earned his money. One trick and I'm sure you've probably heard about it Brad, is to set up a grease "puddle" in front of the bait so that any bear coming in will get it on its pads and leave a scent trail through the woods. Fall bear can be tough especially if there is a good berry crop. Best of luck. I look forward to following your progress. :)
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Irishwhistler

Brad,

Too many of those Boston transplant yuppies relocating to Maine.  

They all want to protect da bears until they are in their backyard.

Try putting some honey in a tin can and heating it with a little butane powered torch (like used for making creme bru le).  Heat it until it gets smoking real good.  The scent travels far on the wind and the olfactory proficient bears can hone in on it with pin point accuracy.

I have used this method for luring nuisance bears into culvert pipe traps for relocation.

Cheers,

Irishwhistler

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While I see that in your opinion there isn't much hunting left once a spot is picked and the baiting is done, but my experience is the opposite.  It doesn't matter how good a site is set up, if a guy makes too much noise getting into the stand or fidgets while on stand they can ruin even the best set up.  I have been hunting bears without a guide for about 15 years.  In that time I have guided several friends who are more 'casual' hunters.  I always put them on my most proven and active baits.  More often than not these guys got the bears completely nocturnal and never saw a bear.  Too much noise going in, too much fidgeting on stand etc.  When it's 80 degrees and you are covered in a cloud of mosquitoes it's hard to sit stone still.  

When I first started using trail cams it was a real eye opener for me.  A large numbers of bears would show up just minutes after I left a bait site.  Understanding their proximity helped me change the way I approach stands.  Last year I killed a bear that was in the bait as I approached.  I spent about an hour closing the last 200 yards to the stand and had set up in such a way that I was completely screened from the bait until I had climbed up into the stand.  What a rush!

This will be the first year in 15 years that I don't bear hunt. I got shut out of the lottery and wasn't able to buy a surplus over the counter like I have in years past.  Normally bear hunting gets me through September 15th when I can start running the dogs.  My hunting camp build out is the only thing receiving attention right now.

I have no desire to bear hunt, even though I have eaten some mighty good bear steaks and roasts my friends have shot.  What bothers me is the commercialization of the whole process.  I spend a lot of time in the woods this time of year working and once baiting starts the woods and roads and trails are filled with baiters who are in a hurry to pound through their "trap line" if you will.  Rarely are they happy to see me slinging paint right through the bait station.  Since most baits end up on the edge of a cover type, typically where I need to define a timber sale boundary, I disturb a half dozen or so bait stations a year.  I probably turn plenty of baits nocturnal and I have had my picture taken more than Paris Hilton.

I guess what I am getting at is that this time of year every corner of the woods is claimed by a bait station.  They have been much better cleaning up after themselves lately, but in the past they often left lots of trash in the woods.

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I understand that baiting is controversial and will likely be banned by 2014 or 2015 since HSUS and a couple Maine animal rights groups are setting up a citizens referendum vote to ban hounding, trapping and baiting of black bears in Maine. They tried in 2003 and lost by a slim margin. HSUS has huge cash reserves since they don't really do much directly for animals so I am afraid this will pass in today's climate. I feel like time is running out.

It is funny (not ha ha funny) how folks move to rural areas to get away from where they are from, then promptly try to turn it into what they left.  Massachusetts to Maine/NH, NYers to Vermont and, from what I hear, Californians to Idaho.

I shudder to think what will happen to the outfitters and their employees--some of who are friends of mine, in Arootook county if this ban happens.  Bear season is often how they make payroll and expenses for the year.  Another example that there are, in fact, two Maines...

Best of luck in your pursuit; looking forward to your updates!

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Yes Billy, this will really be a blow to outfitters/guides in Maine as well as taxidermists.

What happened is HSUS and cohorts tried to get more restrictive rules on hounding, and trapping and baiting and tried to bribe or strong arm The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine into agreeing to those changes. They told SAM if they didn't support the changes in the legislature then they/HSUS would prepare a citizens referendum to BAN all three; hounding, trapping, baiting. SAM refused to be threatened and subsequently HSUS etc is now preparing that referendum. This is a fight as I said I am afraid will be a tough one. Joining SAM, who will be fighting this war is the best way to act right now.

LINK: SAM website

One of our bait sites is already being hammered by bear(s), the other coons. Ill try and get some photos from trail cams posted soon if any good.

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greypartridge

I hunted the last Spring bear season in Colorado before the "Colorado Granola Crunchers " shut it down for good :down: .

My bait station was over by Wolf Creek Pass. I saw 11 different mature bears in 4 color phases over 7 days of hunting. A lady camper was killed and partially eaten by a BB less than 10 miles as the crow flies from my stand.

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So when they outlaw hounds for bears the only options left for problem bears are trapping(which doesn't work well) or shooting. No longer will the bear hound guys be able to just put the run to the bears nightly till they move on. They won't be happy if the bears are on their porches and they will be.
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pa'tridge hunters
Yes Billy, this will really be a blow to outfitters/guides in Maine as well as taxidermists.

What happened is HSUS and cohorts tried to get more restrictive rules on hounding, and trapping and baiting and tried to bribe or strong arm The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine into agreeing to those changes. They told SAM if they didn't support the changes in the legislature then they/HSUS would prepare a citizens referendum to BAN all three; hounding, trapping, baiting. SAM refused to be threatened and subsequently HSUS etc is now preparing that referendum. This is a fight as I said I am afraid will be a tough one. Joining SAM, who will be fighting this war is the best way to act right now.

LINK: SAM website

One of our bait sites is already being hammered by bear(s), the other coons. Ill try and get some photos from trail cams posted soon if any good.

Well I hope cooler heads prevail, and they can't get enough signatures on their petition to get it on the ballot.

I like the new guy at SAM. He seems pretty pro-active.

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greypartridge

In Colorado the anti's bussed in protestors and did a full on media blitz with a huge budget. The anti's had media packages already purchased and commercials already produced. The commercials emphasized abandoned week old cubs.

The hunting establishment was totally unprepared for the outlash and were soundly defeated by the much more organized anti hunters.

If the ME hunter organizations do not have a million dollar budget to fight the Bastages you can plan on the same outcome.

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