Finicky Fall Bears

Fall Baiting Strategies that may help you tag a bruin!

As I watched the huge bruin appear just behind the bait, I could only hope that it would decide to head for the groceries strategically placed only 15 yards from my ambush location. You see, he appeared briefly several hours prior, but vanished into the thick underbrush, never offering a shot. However, this time was different. He moved deliberately towards the bait, offering a perfect quartering-away shot. I nervously got my bow to full draw, then watched the arrow vanish through his thick black hide covering the vital lungs.

Since this was the only active bait, suffice it to say, I was thrilled with the outcome! Compared to spring bear hunting, the autumn season typically draws fewer bears to bait because they have already fattened up on berries. Several key factors impact a bruins desire to visit fall bait sites.

Hunter with hunting scent bottle
Ultimate Bear Lure is a sweet smelling scent that has proven very effective to entice fall bruins into bow range. (Photos by John and Vikki Trout)

Lack of berries is the best news. When berries are sparse, the bruin remains hungry, prompting it to rely on your groceries. Berries are typically easy for the bear’s powerful nose to locate, but it is still possible to tag a fall bruin even when berries exist.

Preparing For Hibernation

Mother Nature reminds the bruin that winter is coming and it must prepare now in order to survive a nap that will last for months. During hibernation, the bear’s heart rate will slow and their vitals drop significantly, however, they still burn calories while sleeping.

Set Up Near Berries

Types of fall berries vary throughout North America, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, chokecherries, huckleberries, and even mountain ash. Huckleberries and mountain ash are typically found in the Pacific Northwest, whereas other berries can be found throughout North America.

My husband John and I always try to locate areas where bears have been feeding on the berries and place our bait sites near these food sources.

Bruins will leave plenty of sign in areas they frequently visit. Bear sign can range from scat to flattened bushes caused by the weight of the bruin as it moves about. In addition, remember that bear scat will provide helpful clues as to what the bear has been consuming. Purple seeds tell you the bear is feeding on blueberries or huckleberries, whereas a scat pile with undigested orange berries, indicates mountain ash is the food source.

Best Groceries

As you know, a bear relies heavily on the millions of receptors found inside its nostrils when looking for food. Bruins have very small eyes causing poor eyesight.

The main fall ingredients of our bait are meat scraps and small bones. We also place Ultimate Bear Lure manufactured by Wildlife Research Center at each bait site. This strong, sweet-smelling scent can draw out the most finicky bruin!

Fresh meat is wonderful, but it does not offer much scent. Since the bruin has to count on its sense of smell, rank meat will help. The bruin may come in to check out the stinky meat, but will probably prefer the fresh scraps. Meat scraps placed in black plastic trash bags, then stored for several hours in the trunk of a vehicle will cause them to reach their full potential! Hang the spoiled scraps on tree limbs around the bait site. Keep it away from the fresh meat to prevent spoiling the appetizing scraps.

Hunter with bear after hunting
The author’s bear offered a perfect quartering-away shot. The autumn bruin was nearly 6 feet long.

Grease typically rates high on the fall bear’s list of desirable foods. However, unlike most spring bears that are eager to eat after hibernating, we have seen some autumn bears pass up the grease to get to the meat scraps.

I store used saturated fat that comes out of my deep fryer along with bacon drippings. Used grease works better than fresh because it adds smell and flavor to the grease. Hardened grease is easy to smear on tree limbs and trunks as well as logs placed over the bait. Placing grease on the ground around your bait site can assist in attracting other bruins. When one bear comes in and its paws become greasy, it will create a scent trail upon departure.

Molasses is another ingredient that is always included at our bait stations. Fall bears may or may not take it, but as the old adage goes — “better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.” If the bruin decides it still has somewhat of a craving for sweets, nothing beats full-flavor molasses.

Making It Happen

Getting the bear to the bait site is half the battle. Getting it to offer the perfect shot is the other half! Molasses trails at the bait site can force a bear into offering the right shot. We typically run a stream of molasses for a few yards from each side leading to the bait. This will cause the bear to turn and offer the broadside, or quartering-away shot.

When it comes to feeding, it seems the bruin is a lot like us in that they have certain likes and dislikes. As I sit at my desk writing this story, I am preparing to head to the bear woods again. I can only wonder what lies ahead. Hopefully, there is a hungry bruin somewhere in my area and I hope to satisfy him if he appears!

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One Response to “Finicky Fall Bears”

  1. James juelich

    Bear comes in will not hit the bait berrys are low i am useing granola and chocolate….hes been on the camera he will not hit the bait…what do u do…any suggestions?