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Into The Outdoors - Bear Hunting Tips

Well, before long, another firearms bear season will be upon us. Check the Game Commission website or your license manual to determine when and where you can hunt.

In actuality, although I did it a few times years ago, I’m not really a bear hunter at heart. Please understand, I have no objection to bear hunting. It’s just that, if I bagged a bear I would be faced with a difficult question. “What do I do with a dead bear?” Having tried the meat before, I can state outright that I don’t want to eat it. For both monetary and space-related reasons, most types of bear mounts are out. Given all of that, I’d have to hire a backhoe to dig a hole in the backyard and bury the bruin. For that reason, I will just leave them to someone else. I must admit, after all of this, that I once had bear meat that wasn’t too bad. That was in bear chili, at the Harvest Community Church wild game dinner. I think the spices covered up the taste of the bear. I was given bear steak years ago, and even the coonhounds wouldn’t eat it. Bear stew was equally bad.

In searching through my rather extensive files for bear hunting tips, I came across a news release from the Game Commission. Here it is.

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials point out that one of the biggest mistakes bear hunters make is failing to locate areas with good fall food supplies - acorns, beechnuts, apples, corn - before the hunting season and overlooking areas of dense cover where bears like to hide.

“Signs to look for while scouting include droppings; bedding areas, which are scratched out depressions, usually at the base of a tree or log; and active trails with tracks,” said a Game Commission black bear biologist. “In beech stands, look for fresh claw marks on tree trunks indicating that bears are feeding in the area, and in oak stands look for fresh droppings that are almost completely composed of acorn bits. Either of these signs suggests bears are feeding nearby and, if food conditions are right, they will likely still be there come hunting season. A good time to scout is early November, so you can assess local mast conditions.”

Other bear hunting tips include: Look for bears in the thickest cover you can find, such as: swamps and bogs, mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets, north-facing slopes, regenerating timber-harvest areas, wind-blown areas with lots of downed trees, and remote sections of river bottoms. Bigger bears are notorious for holding in thick cover, even when hunters pass nearby.

Organized drives are effective. Hunters working together often increase their odds of taking bears, especially those bears holding out in thick cover. Develop plans to safely drive bear hideouts and follow them to the letter. A minor slip-up by a driver, flanker or stander is all a bear needs to elude the best-planned drive. Regulations limit the size of organized drives to 25 people or less.

Hunting on-stand early and late in the day gives hunters a great chance to catch bears traveling to and from feeding and bedding areas. Hunt areas that provide cover to traveling bears and ensure there is either a good supply of mast or cornfields or cover near where you plan to hunt.

Use the wind to your advantage. If a bear gets a whiff of you, you're busted as a hunter. Bears have an outstanding sense of smell. They often let their noses guide the way as they travel. Always place yourself downwind of expected travel lanes when hunting on-stand or driving. Bears are cagey enough without giving them advantages.

Stay focused and assume nothing. Black bears blend in well in forest settings at dawn and as dusk approaches. Spend too much time looking one way and you can miss a bear. Even though bears are quite heavy, they often are surprisingly quiet moving through the forest. You may see a bear before you hear it coming. Staying alert and remaining vigilant are critical.

Here’s hoping that these tips are helpful.

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