Bowhunting Black Bears

baiting black bears
Because black bears are so elusive baiting is necessary to bring them in close for a ethical shot with the bow.

When even the most casual mention of bear-hunting arises, a bear hunter's mind automatically conjures up visions of big black bruins easing silently through the scrubby jack pines of the Northern Canada.

For almost two decades, an assortment of bear hunters make an annual trip deep into Canada in pursuit of big bruins with their bows. The people that they’ve met and the adventures they’ve spawned has provided them with some of the finest memories of their lifetime.

The underlying reason for their annual trek is the massive doses of excitement created by the black bear itself; an interesting animal when it’s being discussed by its primary predator - man. Hunters view this unique creature in a variety of ways. Some folks consider bear-hunting to be little or no sport at all because it is most often done over bait. Oddly enough, some have found that when asked directly, the majority of those negative commentators have never actually hunted bear. They are merely expressing their opinion based on their emotions and zero experience.

 

black bears stick to heavy cover
Black bears stick to the heavy cover for natural protection, but may be stalked along rivers where they are known to fish.

Others have actually tried it once and only once. At a spring hunt in Manitoba, one of the bear hunters went into the bush on the very first night of the hunt and returned without a bear. When asked about his evening in the stand, they learned that he had watched three different bears visit his bait. He confessed that he didn’t shoot because he didn’t want to. The next night he refused to return to his stand and spent the rest of the week on the lake fishing. They can only speculate what his reasoning was, but he never again entered the Canadian bush in pursuit of big black bears (or little ones either).

These bear hunters are what should be considered to be “hardcores”. Bear hunting ranks at the very top of their hunting preferences. They have learned from sharing countless experiences that baiting is a necessary advantage.

When hunting the vast, thick forests that bruins call home, one needs something to bring the bears out of the heavy cover into bow range. The baiting process is necessary to provide the hunter with a good clean shot allowing for a clean, ethical kill, while aiding in taking enough animals to best manage the overall population.

 

 

 

color phase bears

A black bear comes in different shades referred to as color phases like this blonde.

Baiting, however, is not a sure thing. On more than one hunt, they have sat on a bait for an entire week and not seen bear. Oh, the bears were there, but getting them to come into the bait when the threat of a hunter was present was not as simple as many portray it to be. It was eerie how the bait would disappear on a daily basis, but they never saw the animals that were consuming it. The black bear is a wise and cunning creature, especially the larger trophy animals. It is aware of the bait, but it is also aware of the hunter and where he has placed his treestand or ground blind. One would be surprised how often the bear hunter’s “hidden” treestand has been sat in and closely examined by the hunted.

The element of danger (although with the black bear it is less than with other bear species) involved with bear hunting is the wildcard, which makes hunting this beast such a thrill to this group of bear hunters. They question any hunter who states that the hair on the back of their neck does not stand up when he or she hears a limb snap while walking out of the darkening bush at day’s end. Most hunters admit to leaving the stand early enough to allow a lighted return-trip to their vehicle. No one wants to become the subject of a sad tale about the hunter becoming the hunted. It’s that element of danger that makes bear hunting so exciting.

There are reports every year about black bear attacks. Regardless of what the reasons are for the attacks, they happen. Logically, those attacks seem to occur more in areas where the bears have had little or no contact with the man, like northern Canada. The fact is that many of the bruins in the dense wilderness have never seen a hunter and therefore have no natural fear; especially to a bigger bear, one that is absolute “Lord of the jungle” and an aggressive protector of its territory.

One Ontario hunting outfitter they were hunting with told them how black bears were pretty harmless. Oh, there was that big boar the summer before that hunted down and killed the three young men who were trout fishing, deep in the bush. Yes, it was a freak incident, but still, game and fish authorities destroyed the bear as it defended its kill from atop the bodies of the three dead teenagers. “Rarely happens”, they say. But it does and that’s part of what makes bowhunting for black bears so exciting for this group of bear hunters.

black bears
Black bears have a sweet tooth too just like this one getting ready to feast on honey.

If you are a bowhunter who has not yet tried the sport of bagging bears with a bow, it is strongly recommend that you give it a shot. As with any new experience, you will learn a lot about the species and the sport, and you will also learn a lot about yourself. The black bear offers great trophies, great eating and great adventures to those who pursue it in a serious fashion.

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Russell, MB
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