Now that black bears have emerged from hibernation, it’s time to go hunting! Start early in the spring by getting out there and conducting some scouting.
Start by scouting open clear-cuts and meadows with grass growth. As the weather warms up, bears will move from the clear-cuts to these more open areas.
1. Use the wind to your advantage
Bears are nocturnal animals, so they usually move during the early and late afternoon hours. You can hunt for bears on-stand or from a vehicle downwind of where they frequently roam.
The wind is an important factor when hunting for black bears, as it can carry their scent long distances. If the wind is blowing in your favor, then you will have better success at attracting bears to your baits and thus have greater opportunities at successfully capturing one.
Black bears possess an extraordinary sense of smell. They can detect odors at a molecular level and use them to communicate with other animals, detect danger and locate food. Furthermore, their noses guide them as they explore the forest environment, according to Maryland biologists.
Black bears have access to a wide range of food in spring and fall. They often feed on clovers, berries, and acorns. Weather conditions and elevation also influence what foods are available during different seasons.
Therefore, it’s essential to be prepared and ready for the hunt. For instance, make sure your vehicle has plenty of food when going out on a day’s outing.
Wear a camouflage jacket and pants that feature a natural pattern to minimize your human scent and help you blend in with the environment.
Before heading into the field, ensure all your clothes are scent-free and air-dried outdoors on a clothesline or bag filled with natural vegetation such as dried leaves or pine boughs. Doing this helps avoid bears from detecting your scent, which is often an issue when bait hunting.
2. Look for dark cool gulches
Bears possess an acute sense of smell, so when forced to move quickly they often seek shelter in dark, cool gulches. These places provide shade and offer a welcome respite from the summer heat.
First, thoroughly explore the area and search for signs of activity. These could include freshly torn-up stumps, scat, berry patches, or even bear scents.
Once you’ve identified an area with plenty of signs of activity, try to find some cover to watch for the next couple of hours. Doing this gives you the best chance at seeing the animal before it decides to move on and return home.
Other signs to watch out for when baiting are water sources, berries, and food. All these will give you an indication that there are likely many bears around and help you decide where to place your next catch.
When hunting for black bears this time of year, be sure to utilize a variety of baits. A mix of acorns, nuts, and seeds is an ideal choice as bait.
You could also try using oil and grease that has been left over from cooking to help diffuse the aroma of your food. This is an easy solution and will help mask any unpleasant odors you are serving out.
Another thing to keep in mind is that black bears tend to be opportunistic feeders. They will likely feed on the richest, most productive food sources available in their vicinity at any given time.
It is best to get out early during the season to take advantage of all the natural foods ripening in your area. Doing this increases the possibility of seeing a bear before they begin to gain winter weight.
3. Look for surrounding drainage
When hunting for black bears, knowing where to search for drainage can be an essential step in the hunt. This terrain usually provides ample food sources, water sources, and bedding – as well as providing an ideal vantage point from which to begin glassing.
As spring arrives, bears often venture near their denning sites to replenish their energy stores and get moving again. They eat grasses, flowers, and leaves for sustenance which helps them refuel their bodies and get going again.
Early in the fall, black bears typically feed on corn and other high-energy crops. Apples and acorns become even more productive later in the season.
For instance, acorns are high in calories and fat, so they can be an especially desirable food source for bears. Therefore, it’s essential to know what kinds of acorns are available nearby before hunting there; knowing this information could make or break your success rate.
One way to accomplish this is by mapping out the area with a GPS and map before heading there. Doing this gives you an indication of how much foliage there is in the vicinity, what kinds of habitats are nearby, and other crucial information that could help locate a bear when you spot one.
When hunting without bait, it’s important to remember that black bears possess an acute sense of smell and can detect your scent from up to a mile away. Therefore, setting up on a stand or hunting from a downwind direction is ideal when expecting to spot or hear the bear.
To successfully locate and dispatch a black bear, it’s essential to be in the right place at the right time. By understanding which areas are likely to harbor bears and using thermal imaging technology, you can boost your odds of success while hunting without bait.
4. Look for food sources
When hunting in the fall, spring, or summer, knowing where bears are feeding can increase your chances of success. Black bears tend to be opportunistic feeders and will take whatever food is available near their home base.
Black bears typically feed on plant matter, berries, nuts, and farm crops. The weather and elevation determine which foods are most readily available to them depending on what’s in season and at their elevation.
Early in spring, black bears often feed on newly sprouting grasses at lower elevations and near water. This feed provides essential nutrition for recovering bears as they search for a nutritious meal after hibernation.
Bears often munch on dandelions and other springtime vegetation. As temperatures rise, bears will also consume acorns as well as various types of berries.
Early in the fall, black bears will consume acorns and hard mast crops like apples and walnuts to gain weight before hibernating for winter. During this period, they often roam around areas with polluted acorns or old apple orchards for sustenance.
Hunting black bears without bait requires finding these foods. Look for ridges with oak and beech trees, as well as wetland edges with berry patches or cherry trees.
Before hunting on someone’s land, always ensure to ask permission from the landowners. You can use a GIS mapping system to locate addresses and phone numbers, or you may simply ask via phone or email.
As you can see, successful black bear hunting without bait is possible. Simply follow the tips provided and you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting a bear quickly!
5. Look for signs of activity
Black bears are opportunistic feeders and will seek out the richest, most productive food sources available at any given time. This could include cornfields, apple or hard mast crops, and open forest areas with grassy meadows, and pine nuts.
Look for signs of activity by inspecting objects that a bear has touched or chewed on, such as corn stalks pulled to the ground, piles of scat, regurgitated corn, or obvious trails in and out of the field.
Another way to discover what the bears are eating is by checking food caches. These are places where a bear has left food either for another animal or themselves, such as acorns, apple peels, wood poop, and other items.
Identification of food scraps is a great way to determine what the bear is feeding on and whether it’s in season or not. Also, look out for signs of foraging like logs flipped over or stumps pulled apart.
In the spring, look for winter kill carcasses, skunk cabbage, berries, grasses, and roots. In the fall, acorns and hard mast crops like apples are abundant.
In the steep country, one of the best places to spot a bear during the early season is on exposed south-facing slopes that have been cleared of snow by slides or avalanches. These slopes often produce an abundance of preferred black bear foods like glacier lily, skunk cabbage, grasses, and clovers.