Bears! So many bears!

There are so many bears on Bait 2 this year that it’s a little overwhelming. We have more bears at that site already this year than three sites combined in 2015. I name and study the bears for the same reason I name the livestock we eat – to keep them straight in my mind. I’m going to call them something. “The smallest bear” can change when a smaller bear shows up. The current smallest bear is Patches because he has patches of fur missing.

If you missed why we need to bait bears in Maine you can read the first entry for the bear hunting season.

Note: Brain cramps caused me to set the camera dates off by a month. When the date shows up as July it’s really August unless I’ve edited the photo.

Bait 1

Site 1, large black bear

The sow and cub that visited in the first few days haven’t been back. There’s only one bear at the barrel now and she’s there every night but seldom, once if I remember correctly, during legal shooting time. She’s my first choice for two reasons. She’ll put a lot of meat in the freezer, and because, as you’ve noticed, I refer to the bear as “she.” I’m reasonably sure this is a sow and think it’s the bear I wanted when I took a much smaller bear in 2014. Taking her is a management choice that will help with population control. Nuisance bears have been trapped nearby and relocated. I call this bear Tail because when she’s standing up her tail sticks out further than normal. It’s unlikely she’ll change her habits from night to day. I don’t expect to harvest this bear.

many bears, black bear, big bear

Site 2

It started with Dibs and eight bears later, nine have been to the site in the first three weeks of baiting. They don’t all come back. Dibs hasn’t been around in close to two weeks. Patches and Chubby are there nightly and sometimes during legal shooting time. Smarty and Pima (pain in my ass) are there two or three times a week. You can bring them food but you can’t make them eat. And eat they do. I picked up a 50 gallon drum of mixed nuts yesterday because there are so many more bears than prior years we were caught unprepared.

Flagging shows us the bears’ height. This is Patches.

many bears, bear hunting in Maine, bear baiting

Chubby, for obvious reason.

many bears, chubby bear

Smarty is long and lanky. He looks like Pima but is a bit heavier and has a wider head.

many bears, bear hunting season, black bear, bait 2


many bears, bear hunting, bear baiting

Instinct and gut feelings are tools we use to keep ourselves safe. I got the creeps one afternoon as I approached the blind. Something wasn’t right. It felt similar to knowing you’re being watched. Steve tended the barrel while I switched cards in the camera, and then I did some investigating but couldn’t turn up anything reliable. Reasonably sure a bear was walking too close to the blind, we put up a camera. I was right.

That’s Pima walking down the trail about a foot from where I planned to sit behind the blind, and in the feature photo for this entry. (Note: different camera, date is correct.) This bear is a pain in my ass because it walks a foot from where I planned to sit behind the blind. I prefer ground blinds over tree stands even when bear hunting. We have a stack of softwood trees as a blind.

All was well and good until Pima showed up, crossing the road behind the site, following the trail we use to get to the barrel, and brushing up against the end of the blind as she passed. We did a little work to discourage it from following the trail. I dragged a fallen tree into the way, added softwood branches as obstacles and other work to encourage this bear to go out and around the blind. It went out alright but swung a hard right and walked parallel to the blind. In the picture above it’s about a foot from where I planned to sit. We put a tree stand up the next day.

Pima and Smarty are the largest bears at 2. Smarty is a little taller than Pima, and Pima’s head is narrower.

Where to Sit on Opening Day

My best chance at harvesting a bear as of today is at this site. Everything can change quickly. Dogs ruined another hunter’s site. As of now, every bear at 2 is large enough to harvest. I’m guesstimating Patches at around 125 pounds and Pima and Smarty are probably around 225 pounds. Don’t hold me to these weights, they’re guesstimates.

What Are the Bears Eating?

Their weight will continue to increase rapidly as they feast on huge amounts of raspberries, blackberries, sarsaparilla, apples and other wild foods as well as the three or four gallons of food we bring them almost daily. There are so many bears sharing the food we bring, as well as skunks and raccoons that are also eating, that it isn’t making a huge difference in how much weight they gain.
bear scat, many bears, what do bears eatScat (poop) tells us what they’re eating and it’s almost completely berries right now. The scat is full of raspberry and blackberry seeds. This bear ate raspberries, blackberries and sarsaparilla. It caught my attention because it looks like it should glow in the dark thanks to sarsaparilla.

So here we are, three weeks into baiting and one week from opening day. Two bears do show up at 2 during legal time, and I’ll most likely take the first one I see.