Bear hunting is quite different from most other hunting. You’ve got to mentally come in with a clean slate as to what you want to do to ensure your chances of maximum success. First off, you start your hunt months in advance. You do your scouting. You check out population density, stuff like that; and that is like most other hunting. But that’s often where the similarity ends.
With bear hunting you prep and bait your stand area. With bear, you want them to pattern you and that’s the total opposite what you do for other game, particularly deer. You want the bear or bears you’re targeting to get used to coming in to your bait station, and in close proximity to where your stand is located. You want to make sure the bear comes in every day, and that everything is always the same. You make sure your bait station is ready at the same time every day. You make sure that your bear uses the same path, same approach, same everything. This is the exact opposite of deer hunting.
When you get to your stand, bang on your tree; put the cover on your bait and the logs or whatever concealment you use back exactly the same way. Get the bear comfortable. The bear knows you’re there and gets used to you being there. And believe it or not that bear will come in to your bait station every single day, at the same time! Indeed, a bear will to come to your bait station within 10-15 minutes of your leaving, and that’s what you want.
OK, it’s the day you’re going to hunt. Bring along an extra person with you; family member, hunting pal, or friend. You’re going to do the hunting, and this other person is going to help you get started. When you get to your bait stand, you have your friend rebait the pile, while you climb the tree. That conceals the noise of your climbing up the tree. Don’t kid yourself, you will make noise and that can spook the bear. He’s not used to someone climbing up a tree. They’ve got superb hearing and smell. After you’re in your stand, and your partner has rebaited the station, that person leaves.
And what does that do? A lot! The bear hears you come in and also hears you leave. Except the person who left wasn’t you! That way the bear is totally relaxed and comes in within 10-15 minutes, just like always. On paper what I’ve just said sounds real good, and it does work, but some days a bear just won’t come in. What you need to do is play the wind when bear hunting… big time. You see the bear has one of the best noses in the woods. That’s how it found your bait in the first place. Bring a spray bottle of bear attractant scent with you, and spray it around yourself and your stand at different intervals. What this does is it keeps the scent aroma going out into the woods, while still concealing your scent. Many bear hunters lose their chance, when for whatever reason the wind direction suddenly changes, and instead of being upwind form the bear, you’re downwind, and that’s not good. Using this scent technique will at least provide you with some cover if the wind does change. And of course, you want to make sure that your stand is situated in a such a way that from what you’ve scouted, you know will be in an upwind situation regarding the direction the bear is coming in to your bait station. You may indeed have to change your stand position, if you find that the initial site becomes downwind to where a bear is coming in.
What you need to do, particularly if you’re a bow hunter is bring the bear in to within 20 yards of your stand. Believe it or not, a bear kill zone is very small, and you must be accurate with your shot. With a rifle, you can be successful at 50 to even 70 yards or so, depending on your line of sight, and of course accounting for trees & brush and the like that may hinder or block your line of sight.
Novice bear hunters don’t realize the need to be mentally prepared to suddenly see a big bear within a few yards of where they’re located. People don’t see a lot of bears in real life. You’d better be mentally ready to see a bear standing right in front of you without any warming. You might think this wouldn’t freak you out, but it can, and often will. And while all of those “bear horror attack” TV programs or movies are not always accurate, those images might be ingrained in your mind. One big thing is that you often will not hear a bear coming. As big as they are, they’re very quiet in their approach. Be prepared mentally. It will help a lot.