I was getting dejected. My bait had been hit hard several times pre-opener, but as soon as opening day arrived, the bears were gone. This seems to happen every year, so I was not surprised. With the bear guide operations around me, I knew I had stiff competition. This year I had wolves too. Since it was also very hot and windy, I decided to just freshen up the bait and go home. But I had a plan. I felt the bears had patterned me, waiting for me to leave at dusk, and then arrived at the bait right after dark. So, I put up a green Double Bull T5 ground blind about 12-yards from the bait, brushed it in so it was nearly undetectable, and then quietly left on Tuesday. I would let the bait rest and start hunting again on Friday. Good thing too since the weather continued in the mid-90’s and was windy. If I was a bear in a thick fur coat with 4-6 inches of subcutaneous fat layers, I would feed at night too!
Day 1Arriving on Friday, I decided not to check the bait early, but to just head in to hunt mid-afternoon in order to keep my scent to a minimum. It was cooler, but the wind was still gusting to 30-mph, so at least my approach would not be heard. Arriving at the bait site, my first surprise was that the bait had been hammered, nearly half of the 150-pounds of bait was gone with the logs tossed all over the place! Even MORE interesting was my ground blind. It had been punched in on three sides and turned over on its side - no small feat since I had tied it down and nested it under low hanging tree limbs.
I righted the blind, tossed my hunting chair inside and hooked my bow up to the tow line on my tree.
I had brought refreshers, some freezer burned meat and leftover food items and dumped them on the bait. I had also made a concoction of bacon grease and honey in a little metal coffee can to do a scent burn. I use a small foldable Coleman camp stove with ‘Safe Heat’ 6-hour chafing dish fuel (available at Sam’s Club) and let the wind carry the scent all over the woods. I had gotten my broken quiver fixed and everything went off in silence and like clockwork. I felt good about the hunt. I watched the red squirrels quarreling, and saw a grouse the size of a chicken, but no bears. Even at dusk, the wind kept gusting over 20-mph. Bears simply don’t move when the wind is blowing that hard. At dark, I crept out of the woods after extinguishing my bacon burn, and plodded back to camp with my .357 Ruger in hand. It was supposed to rain the next two days, and I hoped the weather change would tempt the bears out of being nocturnal.
Day 2 & 3
Second day was windy, but the third day was picture perfect. I decided again to hunt from my stand the third day. It was windy walking in, thus covering my footsteps and ascent to my stand. The wind died down at dusk, and I could smell the odors wafting from my bait – which was something between making my mouth water and initiating my gag reflex. Rotting bear baits are like that.
As my pin site began to fade, I heard rustling in the brush near me. I got ready, slowly turned, clamped my release on my bowstring and got ready to draw. The air was heavy and dead still. I could hear my heart beat picking up the pace. Only my eyes moved in search of the sound. The woods grew darker and darker and the sound grew nearer and nearer. Just as my pin sight nearly lost its last light, three monster raccoons waddled up to my bait, snapped and barked at each other like gluttonous dogs and proceeded to snorkel down the sweets I had scattered atop the bait crib. I let my bow down in dismay.
Bear hunting is unique, insofar as you can do everything right, every time you are in the woods, but if the bear ain’t there, you can’t shoot it. I descended the tree as the raccoons watched me. Thinking I was just another fat raccoon coming to steal their buffet, they snarled in my direction. I slipped quietly out my trail and back to camp.
I would give this hunt another 100% the following weekend when deer archery opened. After that, I would devote only a cursory amount of time to the bears because once they abandon a bait and once they are on to a human lingering at the bait, the party is over. I have only seen one large bear late season several years ago during legal shooting hours.
I am now back four days later, checked the bait and it still had not been hit by bears. It had been clawed up and munched on by other critters however. I decided to empty out all the old stuff and freshen the whole setup as if it was the first day of baiting. I put in all new bait items, painted many trees in the area with bacon grease to act like scent wicks, and flicked the old bait hither and thither into the woods. I wanted to create a scent and feeding frenzy with all the other woodland critters in hopes that I might garner the attention of a bear passing through. Stay tuned!
© September 2007