Thursday, August 26, 2010
Bear Hunt Taken to the Extreme (Part II)
Arriving at my final destination found me standing in the Grand Lake Stream town store gathering last minute supplies and drooling over hundreds of wet and dry fly patterns and an assortment of handsome handmade ash pack baskets. My eyes wandered over to the chart listing the number of bears harvested since the season opened. I noted few bears had been harvested and even fewer above 160 pounds. The guides explained that an unusually large crop of black berries and beechnuts had combined to create a smorgasbord that was keeping bears away from the baits. It became immediately apparent that taking a bear this season was to be no easy task. Never one to be discouraged, I ignored this data and decided that if it was to be my time I would indeed harvest a bear.
In my final days of hunting, no other bears were seen and my second year slipped past with an unfulfilled tag. While unsuccessful in harvesting a bear the memories of this hunt and the lessons learned from the previous two seasons have allowed this bear hunting rookie to amass much knowledge. Suggestions include:
1. Bear hunters need to be patient and wait for a good shot option to present itself. Bait sites typically offer hunters shot opportunities at 20 yards or much less. This tends to be an unusual hunting situation from most hunters so practice sessions at this yardage with your chosen firearm should be organized.
2. A firearm should be selected with sufficient knock down power. Maine guide favorites include the .30-’06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, .45-70, .444 Marlin, .500 Smith and Weston and a dozen other acceptable selections. No matter your caliber choice remember that shot placement is more important than caliber selection.
3. Low light situations often exist at bait sites so use quality optics or open sights. Test your sighting choice in your close range practice sessions in light conditions similar to those expected to be encountered at bait sites.
4. People have shot bear while smoking cigarettes and with little care for personal hygiene. My method of scent management is significantly more aggressive. My system includes making sure that body and clothes are washed in no scent soap. Boots, backpack and primary clothing layers when not worn are packed in garbage bags filled with pine or cedar branches. Properly matched cover scents are also employed. Don't use acorn or earth cover scent if you are sitting in a pine tree. Most importantly be consistent and do not get lazy.
5. Limit your movements while on stand. Pack to be comfortable by being properly prepared. Bringing water, cough drops, food, pee bottle and other necessities designed to make your long sit enjoyable. Have bug netting and a comfortable seat. There is noting worse then trying to remain motionless with mosquitoes drilling into your face and a wooden plank biting into your posterior. Camouflaged clothing matched to your surrounding will mask any small movements that you make.
6. Bring your GPS, map & compass and know how to navigate using both. Ask your guide where you will be hunting and what is in the immediate area for roads, streams, etc. Prepare for an emergency should one arise and understand how you will contact assistance should it be necessary.
7. Should you be fortunate enough to shoot a bear plan for extracting the animal and your role in the process.
8. Maine's weather in September can be fickle, during my 4 days of hunting temperatures ranged from 40-70 degrees with heavy rain and wind. To combat the worst of Mother Nature wear layered clothing matched to the anticipated weather conditions. Bring a winter hat despite the predicted weather as it takes up almost no space and is invaluable if you begin to get cold. A wide brimmed baseball hat is also helpful in either keeping the sun’s glare or pouring rains off your face and out of your eyes.
9. All guides want you to be successful so listen carefully and be receptive to their ideas. If they want you to sit on a stand for 4 days so the bear learns not to fear your scent or that certain stands are better in different wind/weather conditions then don’t second guess their advice.
10. Don’t leave the stand until the time designated by your guide. If possible wait for the pick-up vehicle to arrive and scare away any bears in the area so that you don’t accomplish this task while leaving. Best not to educate the bear that someone was at the stand site.
Bear Hunt Taken to the Extreme (Part I) can be found HERE.