Nine…months…until…elk season. That seems like an eternity. Luckily, a few spring hunts sit on the horizon. Last year Montana locked down for Covid-19 just as black bear season opened. I was able to harvest two bears in Idaho, but it took me a couple months to get everything sorted. One of the biggest dilemmas was how to avoid getting winded. Hopefully this post helps anyone facing wary bears this spring.
When whitetail hunting, we choose locations depending on the wind direction. If we have a north wind, we hunt from a stand that sits to the south of the trail and vice versa. But bears follow their nose to the bait barrel and will likely smell you as they close in on the stand. At first I did nothing to mitigate my scent, which brought in one uneasy bear that spooked and never came back in the daylight. I had to find a new strategy.
Strategy 1: Ground Blind
As the season progressed a pattern developed: when I wasn’t in the stand the bear would come to the barrel in the late afternoon; when I was in the stand, no bears until midnight. A friend of mine suggested using a ground blind. Take a pop up blind, bury the edges and open only one window just a crack to greatly reduce the amount of scent that carries in the wind. Two hunts after establishing my setup, I shot the bear. He was skittish, but that slight change was enough for him to let his guard down.
Strategy 2: Stalk the Barrell
The bears learned to approach from below and scent check the thermals before committing. Luckily, the trail I used led uphill to the barrel. I decided to stalk in about a half an hour before dark, so the bears would already be feeding and the thermals would travel in my favor. I faced the hole of the barrel towards the trail to ensure that the bear would face away from me. And as the bear turned, it would provide a quartering away shot. On my first hunt with this strategy, I reached 30 yards without a shooting lane before the bear bolted. Two hunts later I filled my other tag.
I spent several weeks testing different baits and techniques before harvesting each bear. I didn’t use a tree stand, though I’ve had friends swear by them. In my experience ground blinds provide more comfort and adaptability. Stay positive and creative. Let me know if either strategy works for you or if you find something else that does.
Thank you for reading,