Black bear hunting challenge

My daughter, Selina, and I both received tags last winter for this September’s bear hunt. We hunt in Zone C and it only took two years of applying for tags by the Dec. 10 deadline for each of us to get lucky.

If you read the following column you will find out that the luck of getting a tag to hunt black bears means a lot of work, time and money if you do your own baiting.

Wednesday, July 19 High 85, Low 66

There is a common misconception amongst some people that do not bear hunt that if you put a pile of donuts on the forest floor, all you must do is sit next to it and you can harvest a black bear.

Your average black bear likes that so many people are ignorant and would like to see lots of bear hunters filling thousands of stumps with bait throughout the north each June through September.

Here is reality. I have run bear baits in the northern Juneau County (Jackson/Wood) area for eight seasons and some of those seasons I just did it to keep them going and hunt with a camera. In Zone C it used to take 4-7 years to get a tag. now it is 1-3 years, with two being a very safe bet.

There are so many bait piles in the woods that the black bear have wised up and like ducks that fly after dark and deer coming by your stand a half hour after you climb down, bears are becoming nocturnal.

Think I am just blowing hot air. Here is an example. Selina and I have cameras on four of our baits and have for years. Two years ago we did 38 hunts between us and we did not see a bear and after every hunt but one we had at least one bear at the bait within two hours after we hunted.

On the first hunt I sat with Selina and a big bear in the 400-pound range that we had been watching for years gave us a picture six minutes after we climbed down from the stand.

So, back to baiting. It is work and I like to get off the road and hike in. I do this at five different locations and bugs, exhaustion, sweat and pain can be a part of every day.

Deer flies love to feed on the back of your neck, so I put a hanky in the back of your hat, spray it with 40-percent deet – end of that problem.

Heat eats you up as you are carrying weight and the terrain is always difficult. I freeze one gallon milk jugs and each time I get back to the truck the melting ice is a very real treat.

We are always looking at recent wolf, deer or bear signs. Bear baiting is a constant adventure and if you hike in, it kills you or cures you.

This year we have a bear in the 500-pound-plus range coming in for the granola mix that we are using for bait. Hopefully, he does not become nocturnal on Sept. 6 which just happens to be Selina’s second day of her junior year in high school.

Selina’s schedule is another big part of the equation. She is on the cross country team, the vice president of her class, the president of Necedah’s chapter of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), an A honor-roll student, works at Kwik Trip in Necedah and has a ton of friends.

Perhaps the most formidable parts of bear baiting are finances, bait, gas, cameras, licenses and the extreme wear and tear on my truck (I destroyed a tire two days ago) are a solid, without a doubt, $2,000.

About all I have to say is that for some reason I was chosen to love chasing black bears. They are huge, smart and dangerous. I may have more dedication to the 90-day project of running baits and hunting black bear than anything else that I do in the outdoors.

I can rest when I die!


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