Black Bear “Without” a Harvest Tag
Anyone that has ever participated in running bear baits for a couple of months and then hunting over that bait is well aware that harvesting a black bear is not as simple as dumping five gallons of granola in a hole, covering it up, and then harvesting a black bear when it shows up for dinner.
This week I am writing to you about an experiment that I created in which I ran a single bear bait (after purchasing a Class B bear license) which allowed me to pursue but not harvest a black bear.
Thursday, August 16th
High 84, low 61
Investments for this experiment! One barrel of a granola, pecan and wafer mix, five gallons of cherries (about 70 bucks). A hundred bucks worth of gasoline and about 40 hours in the field.
My goal was to see if I could start my bait late in the baiting season (most begin in from mid June to early July) and bring in a bear that I could have harvested (over 250 pounds) and capture it with my digital camera while sitting in a tree stand.
Big memories passed through my mind as I hauled in five gallons of bait, a shovel, and a trail camera onto some public land in northern Juneau County.
Last fall, my daughter Selina was ten and we spent 17 hunts sitting out here trying to fill her bear tag. Selina passed up a 220 that I should have had her harvest, missed a 300 and passed up a bear in the 400-pound range on two separate evenings because it was with two other bears and we just were not sure if they were cubs or not. Later, after interviewing three separate biologists, I was told by each that they were 1.5 year old black bear that had rejoined their mother (she was a shooter).
Something that can be an issue on public land is thieves, last year some low-life stole my trail camera, so this year I moved my bait deep into the bush which added to my walk but helped build confidence that my trail camera would be there when I reached my bait!
Monday, August 20th
High 72, low 46
First check of bait. The 70-pound oak logs that were covering it seemed like someone stuck a stick of dynamite underneath of them, as they were scattered, like only a black bear can scatter them, all bait is gone. Later, my trail camera pictures reveal several photos of black bear with most being after dark.
Thursday, August 30th
High 99, low 70
This experiment is on day 15, and two days ago, I sat over this bait for the first time and did not have a bear come into the bait. The bait has been hit every day since this test began.
I was sitting in a very peaceful frame of mind, when I noticed a spike buck with his horns covered in velvet, passing very slowly through the oak forest. I was watching his every move when he lifted his head in alarm and stared in the same direction. Just like that he did a 180 and vanished.
I saw the bear, which I immediately knew was a shooter, and it was an incredible experience. This animal was in the 325-pound range and it was so hot out that about every 15-yards it would stop, lean against a tree and pant for a minute or so.
I took my first picture when my trophy was directly below my trail camera. Bingo, experiment gets an A plus!
I watched this bear for 15 minutes and during the entire experience it knew exactly where I was. The most amazing part of this experience was how the intense heat was affecting it. Imagine being at least 100-pounds over weight and wearing a black, fur coat in 99-degree weather.
It took a day, at the most, for the bear to find my bait. On the second night of sitting over the bait, I could have harvested a beautiful animal with my bow and arrow or a firearm.
Folks, it’s not always that easy, in this case, I got my bear.
Experiment complete! Sunset.
THIS WEEK’S OUTDOOR COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Downing Tractor Parts