This is the ninth year in a row that I have had something to do with running baits for black bear in Zone C in northern Juneau, Wood and Jackson Counties.
To properly describe the scouting and long term action of running of six to nine bear baits would be to say that it is expensive, time consuming, exhausting, frustrating, challenging, and most importantly, incredibly rewarding. You also better count on donating lots of blood to mosquitoes, deer flies and ticks.
This year, my life-long buddy Doug Cibulka and I are working together, with the biggest challenge being getting the bear in our area to hit the baits in the day time, and not after dark.
Sunday, July 20
High 85, low 56
Last night, Doug and I had a late-night strategy session by the campfire. Today we put about 70 miles on my truck, and several more on our legs, as we explored and thought about old bait sites, and new ones. This part of Wisconsin has lots of bear, but the problem is that they hit the bait after dark.
Something that I have been writing about for three years, and we realized again today, is how much the water table is going up in this part of the world due to lots of rain and snow. Three of the gravel roads I generally drive on are no longer open, and it is very interesting to see how nature is taking back what was always hers.
Sunday, July 21
High 92, low 63
I put out four baits today under hot and humid conditions before 2 inches of rain fell. On two of the occasions I manhandled massive stumps, which I could barely get in a wheel barrel, then broke the wheel barrel, and then rolled it a half a mile.
Why do I use stumps? The law is that you have to use a natural container for your bait, which in our case is granola that comes in a 55-gallon drum. Yesterday I purchased three drums for $200.
I cover each stump top and bottom with about a three inch thick piece of a log that is generally about the size of a pizza. I then put the heaviest logs that I can handle on top of the stump and cover it.
This covering process helps keep out ravens, raccoon, squirrels, fisher, porcupine, wolf and just as importantly, rain. If you do not cover your bait, there will be no bait when a bear comes to it. If your bait is moldy due to moisture, a bear will not return.
I put a trail camera about 10 feet away from the bait and the pictures can be incredible.
One of the logs I dragged over to a stump today was so heavy that I gave myself my third black eye of the year due to the pressure I put on my face moving it.
Monday, Aug. 5
High 87, low 53
Doug and I have six baits out and five of them are getting hit. Up to today, I have not had a daytime picture. We do have at least two bear in the 400-pound range. We also have pictures of a mother bobcat and her baby, several wolves, a few porcupine and dozens of raccoon.
Today I was checking all the baits and it can be brutally physical due to carrying heavy loads long distances in very hot conditions while being consumed by deer flies and mosquitoes.
I have some new baits which are long hikes and one of them is a hotty. It has been hit every time since I put it out. Two nights ago, just before another storm (we had 6 inches of rain in five days), Doug and I put a camera on it and today there was a picture of a bear that may be in the 500-pound range.
Of course it was in the dark, but hopefully that will change. At another bait, the one where I moved the stump and broke the wheel barrel, we had our first daytime picture of the year, which was a good 350-pound bruin and it was about 45 minutes before dark.
So far I have seen at least 10 different bear in pictures, but so far no sows with cubs.
Some people think that baiting bear is unfair. Two years ago I sat 19 nights and never saw a bear. Five years ago I sat 19 nights and never saw a bear. So far in my life I have harvested seven black bear, and I can honestly say that my biggest thrills are helping other hunters get their first bear and running baits.
Blood, sweat and broke, that’s bear baiting!