By Austin ManelickEver wonder how some people manage to consistently notch bear tags? Here are a few tried-and-true tactics that will put bears in your crosshairs year after year.
1: Find a Honey Hole
Do 95% of the hunt before you leave. Study maps for south-facing slopes — these are the first places to green up. Whether you’re being guided, transported or doing the hunt yourself, make sure the facts lineup and you’re heading to a juicy spot.
2: Timing Is Everything
What are the bears eating? How have current weather patterns affected local food sources? Was it a late spring for vegetation growth? Or an early fall for salmon and berry conflicts? Is baiting allowed in your state? If so, it could be keeping bears off traditional food sources. Is the rut on? If so, food doesn’t matter as much. Focus on the food and the ripest opportunity for bear success. All of these factors depend on timing.
3: Minimize Your Footprint
Think mature whitetail bucks are wiley critters? Bears may not be able to see as well, but these habitual creatures can give you the history on an area with a gust of wind. HOT TIP: Hunt bears like you’ve been doused in gasoline. Forget the scent-free gear and all the rules. On one of my hunts, my boots were covered in gasoline after fueling up a four wheeler. I absolutely couldn’t change the outcome of that remote hunt while smelling like the local gas station. My only option was to hunt with perfect winds. I managed to take my first cinnamon bear by shedding layers and hunting the wind.
4: Go Cold
Fires are a morale booster for sure, but the smell of your campfire could be the reason why you didn’t score a bear on your last trip. Granted, I’ve been in camp cooking bacon over a fire and had a bear walk right in. That bear was the only bear we saw the whole trip and he came home with us. Bottom line, wind and scent affect everything, so make sure you manage it.
5. Get Time on Your Side
Hunt long weekends. Take off a Friday and Monday. Stay committed and hunt multiple weekends. Weekend warriors don’t retain the title for nothing. Critters know the sound of 2-4 stroke danger. When everyone leaves for Monday work duties, capitalize on the arrogant bears that believe everyone is gone for the week.
6: Hunt Spots No One Else Does
This tip might sound unbelievable with the number of people heading into the field these days, but it’s still possible. Study maps for places that don’t have trails. Look for the places you have to walk to from your vehicle or four wheeler. Some of these spots are right off the road and under you nose but people don’t even think about them. Some hunters drive right by “bearadise” and don’t even know it. One of my favorite bear hunting spots that produced five bears in one season for friends and family is a spot along a salmon-bearing stream. Because we jet-boated in away from the crowds, we had a very successful bear season.
7: Talk to a Biologist
After you’ve done your research, cross-reference your hunt plan with a local biologist. They will certainly give you as much information as they can. This is probably the most important step. Game and fish departments across the U.S. follow the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and care about abundant animal numbers. They will give you information on the area you want to hunt. This is the most valuable hunting technique I can give you, so consult the professionals who understand the regulations, carrying capacity and local nuances of hunting in your state or unit.