To say the ‘hunt is on’ brings to mind one lurking through the forest in search of bruins. In the case of Minnesota bear hunting, it’s more like the “Great Waiting Game.” With all the physical labor in baiting, the antithesis is the hunt where one sits for hours perfectly still waiting for the last half hour before dark when a bear might present itself for a shot. By the time the sit is over, I’m ready to go back to camp and do handsprings for an hour just to unwind.
With my third baiting, the bears had completely cleaned out the bait site. I was not doing the happy dance over this, because it was obvious the bait had been empty for 2-3 days and had been rained on, which means the likelihood of it being abandoned which after all the labor invested, is no good. If a bear leaves for another hunter’s bait, I might as well admit defeat. Also, I had seen wolf sign in the area. My neighbors had seen wolves. Other hunters in the area were lamenting that their baits were not getting hit much, so I felt I had the edge. The mess of strewn logs left behind this time was a most spectacular devastation. And the biggest job yet to put back together. I got the job done fast and was stoked for opener the following day.
DAY ONE – 5 hours on stand
The next day I had several visitors, neighbors and friends dropping by camp with best wishes. I was all ready, taking a solar shower at camp with scent free products before heading out to hunt. Once at the site, I noticed the bait had not been hit yet. It was just over 24-hours, so I was not concerned. Of greater concern was the heat – 85-degrees, and the wind, gusting to 20-mph. If it didn’t cool down and the wind did not die down, I knew I would see nothing. And that is exactly what happened. There was not even a skunk or a raccoon at the bait which was odd. I waited till it was completely dark, descended the tree, pulled out my handgun and left to the main road without a flashlight. If bears were in the area, they would hear me, but I did not want them to identify me as a human hunter. Granted bears had been in camp all summer, and granted my scent was not new to them, but I did not want to be seen.
DAY TWO – 5 hours on stand
Day two was a repeat of day one, but with a mechanical failure. My quiver broke and could not be attached to my bow, so climbing the tree became a squeak-athon and not a totally silent effort. The heat and wind remained too, right up to dark.
DAY THREE – 4.5 hours on stand
I think I’ve been patterned and I think I have competition! My bait was hit after I left my stand the night before but it was hit by both bear and wolves. Wolf tracks were in the area and claw marks on the bait logs were larger than a coon or a dog, but smaller than bear. Secondly, I was surrounded by deer two hours before dark. Usually when a bait is actively visited by bears, the deer steer clear of the area. The mature does around me did not seem very leery of the bait at all. Also, was the conspicuous absence of skunks and raccoons who every year were predictable and many in numbers, always arriving an hour before dark. Even bears didn’t keep them away, but now they were no where to be found. With my quiver breaking, and the heat making the leaves dry and crackly under foot, I think I have been patterned by the bears at dark. With many other bear hunters in the area, and with the wolves, I know I have some hard competition. I heard a very loud branch crack half an hour before dark, and heard the recognizable approach of a bear, markedly different than a deer’s walk. It’s a lazy slow gate with a brushing noise as the animal tracks thru the woods. A stick breaking with a deer is a snapping sound. A branch breaking under the weight of a large bear is almost like a kaboom! The bear stopped 75-yards out from the bait in thick cover, but never came in. I climbed down the tree with my noisy quiver problem, crunched my out on those crackly leaves and felt I may as well have a sign on my back that read “come and eat, it’s safe, I’m gone now.” The wind did not die down at dusk again either and the heat was insufferable. So my plan was to check my bait tomorrow morning, set up a ground blind to hunt from next time, run back to the city to my bow shop, get my equipment repaired, and come back to hunt in two days. Oh, and start praying.
Loon at Mille Lacs Lake
Another view of the bait from my stand... yes, that is a Mathews Drenalin I'm hunting with
Fishing early in the day, because now I am hunting in the evenings.
© September 2007