2011 Bear Season Highlights
Bait 34 - Trail Cam Pic (shooter, but not harvested)I received the message while cutting a rug at my good buddies wedding reception. It was Michelle and she needed to talk to me. As I dialed up the phone, I couldn’t imagine what it was. When she answered, it was easy to tell she was shaken up. What came next, I didn’t expect in a million years.
She told me about a bear that appeared while throwing garbage into one of the dumpsters. It scared the living day lights out of her, snapping its jaws and looked like it could’ve charged any second. She jumped in the truck only thinking of our new born baby who was quietly sitting in the passenger seat. In her desperation to vacate the area, she hit the dumpster, leaving a noticeable ding in the driver’s side door frame, near the bed of truck.
Bait 34 - Trail Cam Pic
(shooter, but not harvested)
48 hours later, the bear problem was eliminated.
This was another bear
hitting Justin's bait
- not harvested
Despite the horror of that event, I was to muster up a small smile on my face. The last time we had a nuisance bear was three years ago and that marked the most productive bear season in Pasha Lake Cabin’s history. It was 2008 then and not only did hunters have 100% success, a 450lbs (field dressed) boar was taken, leaving its mark in the Pope & Young record book.
Fast forward to 2011. Although the winter held on for what seemed like eternity, when the bitter cold finally left, it showered our region in a consistent pattern of warmth and unseasonably dry weather. A good recipe for us, but not so good for the natural blue and raspberry crops bears depend on in the fall. Lack of berries means they must travel further and be less selective in food choices. Come hunting season, that gave our bear hunters a huge advantage when they took to the field.
Baiting started as it usually does, in late July and early August. On the menu was a smörgåsbord of granola, cookie dough, bread, table scraps, chocolate icing, fish fry grease, cheese, hard shelled candy, beaver carcasses, liquid smoke, bacon grease and apricots. Needless to say, with that kind of buffet it didn’t take long before we had 30 or so active baits. And when I say active, I mean baits that were getting absolutely crushed. Barrels were licked spotlessly clean and they were stealing our 5 gallon buckets like thieves in the night. The early baiting success afforded hunters a 3:1 ratio of active baits to hunters. On a typical year, it is 2:1.
August 15th arrived before when knew it, and with it came the first bear hunters of the year. One hunter had been with us two years ago and passed on several bears in search of a trophy. It didn’t happen then, but that changed this year. His was the first bear of the year and it weighed in at 375lbs. Good things come to those who wait. Add one more bear and at week’s end, the batting average was a cool 1000.
Week two brought more of the same. The biggest was 305lbs, however we had the first person leave without a bear. More on that later.
Biggest Bear of the Year|
- 460lbs Boar
Weeks three and four ended with big bears and very happy hunters.
In the end, 16 hunters harvested 13 bears. The biggest of the year was 460lbs (live weight) and will definitely make Pope & Young. Overall average was just under 300lbs.
In wrapping up the season, I like to look back and jot down things that worked and lessons learned. Doing so helps to create a better hunting experience and makes our hunts more successful, which was evident this year.
Josh M's 410bls Bear
Bear hunting is not a “dating” sport. Remember the second week hunter who left without a bear? Well, despite my pleas to hunt on his own, he insisted on bringing his fiancé with him to the field. Scent control is hard enough with just one hunter; add an inexperienced second hunter to the scenario and you can expect long nights in the stand with no action.
Sow with cubs. A sow with cubs on your bait is not a bad thing. That happened to a hunter the first night of his hunt. The next day, he told me he wanted to move. I encouraged him to stick it out and told him multiple bears were hitting the bait. A sow with cubs affords a certain level of safety and comfort to other bears in the area. Once she establishes a comfort level with the unnatural food source, others will soon follow suit. One important thing to remember, you absolutely don’t want to try and scare them off. Rather, you can use them as an indicator of what’s happening in the bear world below your stand. If the cubs were to bolt off for seemingly no reason, you can guarantee a bigger bear is in the neighborhood, mostly likely headed toward the bait.
Conflicting interests in the field. Imagine for a second you have been baiting a site for 3 weeks. You are heavily invested in fuel, bait, time and other resources to insure a successful hunt. Now image someone sets up a camper trailer and tent within a 100 yards of your bait site. That exact thing happened this season. A local contractor starting line cutting in the area of our baits. Before I realized what was happening, two baits had been compromised. In fact, a dog started hitting one of the baits, captured on a trail camera. After a few phone calls, the contractor agreed to postpone his work in that area until after the hunt.
Patience - probably goes without saying, but shooting a red squirrel on your bait isn’t going to attract bears. We had a hunter do exactly that and then wonder why he wasn’t seeing anything. On Pasha Lake Cabin’s suggested packing list, I am going to add a book or small, silent video game so hunters can occupy themselves in the stand. Doing so should help curb the urge to move or shoot something other than a bear.
Early season bait - the early season baiting success led to a late season bait shortage. Although it didn’t have an impact on the overall hunt, it did leave us scrambling to get more bait. For 2012, we all ready have lined up a wholesaler for early season delivery.
Preseason scouting and setting bait locations early. Technically we started our bear hunts this year in May. Of course we didn’t hunt bears then, but we started selecting bait sites and clearing shooting lanes. That proved to be a huge advantage early on. We started, maintained and hunted with little disturbance to the bait sites.
ATV Access - baits were placed in some very off road locations this year. It opened up new areas and led to our bigger bear average. In the end, it was more difficult to bait, but well worth the extra efforts.
Trail Cameras – in 2010, we started using trail cameras religiously. It left little doubt to what was happening at the baits. This year, cameras exposed a pattern we haven’t seen before. Bears were consistently hitting 24/7. That enabled us to put hunters on stands early, increasing the overall odds for success.
Self Guided Hunts – we tested a new package this year involving self guided hunts. We provided the cottage rental and area to hunt, the hunters brought their own bait, did their own scouting and set up their own baits. The new package will be offered in 2012.
Bear recovery and processing - we have in place an efficient and simple system of caring for a harvested bear. Once down, given our four-wheeler modifications and game sleds, it can be back to our shop in no time. On site, we have the tools, butchering amenities and freezer space to ensure the cape is prepared for the taxidermist and the meat goes to the hunter for safe consumption; a very important aspect of the hunt.
Interestingly enough, I just read that Ontario has one of the largest black bear population is the world. Not surprising, hunters’ at Pasha Lake Cabins were able to capitalize on that fact. 2011 was a record year of big bears and overall averages. It left many hunters with memories and trophies that will last a life time. Very much looking forward to the 2012 season!
For more information on Black Bear Hunting with Pasha Lake Cabins, you can call me toll free at 1-(866) 333-5943