Black Bear: Baiting Basics
By Justin Merrill

One of the most exhilarating and gratifying hunts an individual can go on would be a black bear hunt over bait. I’ve heard it many times – “how could you? The bear doesn’t stand a chance”. I’d answer by saying, “our black bear in this heavily forested state are extremely cautious and secretive by nature making it “almost” impossible to walk up on one. Also, thick furred black bear is difficult to size up for field judging their weight and sex at long distance. By baiting these critters, a hunter can study them up close to make sure they’re not going to harvest a young bear or a sow”. I’d even go on to mention, “baiting black bear is most certainly not an easy way to take a large boar. These animals will smell a human for miles, circle the bait site at safe distances studying the hunter, waiting for that strange creature in the tree to depart, at dusk, before sauntering in for a morsel”.

A black bear has a keen sense of discernibility, as Randy Cross, Maine’s black bear Biologist who studied these animals for over thirty years has told me a couple years ago. This means that a black bear has the ability to figure out a bait site is not a place to hang out during day light hours. Black bear can also decide that the sound of a hunter’s vehicle approaching, a quarter mile away, means it’s time to leave the bait and move onto some other food source for the evening. Oh, this list of “black bear discernibility” can go on forever. They also quickly learn that any large figure perched fifteen feet up a tree twenty yards from the bait barrel is an immediate “red flag”.

Giving the level of difficulty one would think it’s impossible to shoot a bear over bait. I’m telling you it is not. I’ll share a few basic tricks that can fool that smart boar. Here are a couple examples:

You’ve done everything the same for weeks, right down to parking in the same spot at the same time, walking into your stand around the same time each day, even using the same attractant scent around the bait site and have not seen a single black bear. What next? This exact scenario happened to me and how I turned it into a “game changer” is this: First, I made darn sure every square inch of me and my gear were free of foreign odors. Secondly, I decided to leave the house two hours earlier and park my truck further away in hopes the bear wouldn’t hear it. Thirdly, I was walking into my stand much earlier and I took my time by “still hunting” my way in so not to make any noise or sudden movements. Fourthly, I actually did use the same spray attractant, the Cherry Bomb scent by Big Woods Big Bear Scents, but what I did differently was liberally douse the area around my bait to broadcast a much thicker stream of yummy smelling cherries. Two hours later I was shaking like a leaf staring dumb founded at a blood soaked arrow stuck in the ground.

Another, seemingly failed hunting scenario that can play out would be this: For over a month you’ve used the same exact food for the bait and the same exact attractant scents. The black bear you wanted to take was almost consistently coming in to eat the same days of the week right up to the second week of September. Just like that porch light that went on the same time every day, now, all of a sudden, it decided to burn out. The bear you were after was hot one month and burnt out the next. Too bad it’s not simple to fix like a blown light bulb. What’s happened is the bear got tired of eating the same thing over and over. Also, by September many natural fruits are ripe for eating which makes it extremely difficult to compete against “Mother Nature’s Kitchen”. What I suggest, and this has worked for me, would be to get yourself an inexpensive popcorn popper to make up large quantities and while it’s still warm sprinkle some fruit scented Bear Crack from Big Woods Big Bear Scents on to the popcorn. It will melt on and caramelize making it very delectable, even to a black bear full on wild cherries from the black cherry tree. I’ve also served the bear dessert by taking large marshmallows and sliding them onto broken tree branches and pouring them all over the ground for a full course meal. The Bear Crack is extremely potent and sweet tasting – I know, I’ve tasted it accidentally -it wouldn’t hurt to take some Big Woods Big Bear Scent’s attractant spray and cover the surrounding trees. I’ve almost always, every year, had to change up the bait to “call” that bear back in. But it works like a charm.

It also helps to fool a smart bear by keeping your empty tree stand in the same tree and use a hunting chair with the Ghost Blind to set up on the ground in a dark shadowy area where you can hide very well. This trick works great. I’ve tried it twice and each time have been rewarded with a black bear. This is how I got my bear on the last day during the 2015 season.

Justin has a degree in Wildlife Biology and is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association (NEOWA). He has two books and can be reached through his website – WildMaineOutdoors.com.


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