Ever wonder why the SAME black bear hunters consistently get a bear year
after year? It’s because these successful hunters know how crucial — indeed
critical — it is to start doing your scouting and baiting early in the
year. Throwing out a bait pile or trekking a trail or two a couple of weeks
before the season opens and hoping for the best will not get that black
bear. Of course, every once in a while, a hunter here and there who waited
until the last minute to scout and bait will get a bear, but not with any
In this article, we’re going to discuss the regs that apply in Wisconsin.
Check out your own state’s bear hunting regs. No game warden in Minnesota
will show you much sympathy if you cite a Wisconsin reg that doesn’t apply
in Minnesota — whether you root for the Vikings or not!
First, start baiting and scouting as soon as spring “comes around the
corner”. In the spring, black bears finish their winter hibernation.
They’re absolutely starving for food — literally! They haven’t eaten in
months. You want to look for the absolute most tangled, swampy, thicket
layers of “stuff” that you can find. It’s the kind of cover that you don’t
think you can even walk through. It makes Harry Potter’s forests look like
a city park. That’s what you want to find, because that’s where the bears
will locate. They choose these areas because they’re not bothered in them.
Set up near and around these areas. Look for signs — a trail, footprints,
markings, scat – – whatever. And then seek out the worst possible dirty,
gnarled spot, even if you haven’t much, if any “sign.” That’s the general
area you’re going to want to bait. After you’ve narrowed an area down, look
for a good access point considering wind direction (bears have an extremely
sensitive sense of smell – whether it be bait or a human being) — where the
bears will move through. Find cover — a downed tree, a turned-over stump,
a depression in the ground, etc. In Wisconsin, the bait must be concealed,
but it’s essential that where you conceal bait must be in a “totally natural
Don’t saturate any ONE AREA with bait stations. Put one bait station in any
one single area. If bears find too many bait stations, they won’t come to
only the one where you want to set up your stand (consider where you want to
locate your stand before you bait!). By putting up one bait station in one
area, the bears will be directed to that one spot – and where you also are
set up with your stand.
Set up maybe six to eight bait stations in several different contiguous
areas – which means you’ll be doing a LOT OF SCOUTING! Walk through the
whole target area, and don’t whine. It’s tough. It can be frustrating.
But in the end, if you’ve done “your homework,” you’re going to get your
bear — and probably be able to choose from several!
Wisconsin allows ten gallons of bait in any one station. You don’t need to
use that much. Half of that is plenty. As the season progresses, you will
note which bait stations produce the best results. Then what you do is
narrow things down and concentrate on three stations. You’ll then be able to
hunt three different areas when the season arrives. If you keep your
producing bait stations filled, the bears will concentrate on their favorite
station and keep coming back throughout the pre-season. If you get the
bears coming to a bait station starting in the spring, that station will
continue to “hold” them through the actual season.
Take the time and make the effort. In the end it’s the same: Hard work and
dedication pays off — big-time!
Naomi K. Shapiro, OWAA, SPJ, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org