Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Night bears got you down? You ask: "What can I do to get them to come in during light hours?". My first response would be to take the food away each night when you leave the hunting site. Leave some molasses sprayed in a high location for the wind to waft around or at least make the bait appear to have been freshened, but eaten. You want this bear to think he has to get there earlier to get his meal before someone else takes it. Also note the temperature. If it is extremely hot out - the bears are not likely to come in the heat of the day. Try hunting in the morning getting to the stand a good deal of time before sunrise. Let things settle. It is cooler then and it only takes him that one time to slip up to make your day. If you just brought the bait in and he is around to smell it in the cool morning – that might be the golden ticket. Another tactic would be being consistent in the timing of your baiting and then changing it one time. That might trigger a response you want. You can also agitate him by collecting some droppings possibly from another bait sight and placing them at the sight you are hunting. He might come in hot headed, but at least he's there! Of course trail cameras are going to tell the real story of when to hunt. Even though you have the data - that doesn't mean you have the whole story. A new bear can come in anytime to change the ending.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Brown Hairy Beavers

In Minnesota the success rate of a black bear hunter is 25%. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) does not say anything further about that. That is just whether the tag was filled out and reported or not. In 2008 the odds of being drawn were 11 out of 16 (68.7%) and the year before it was 12 out of 16 (75%). That is just how the MN DNR does it. A total of 7,050 licenses are available in 11 permit areas for 2011. In 2010, bear hunters purchased 7,086 of the 9,500 licenses available and harvested 2,699 bears. That was a 38.1% success rate. That is really good. The MN DNR decreased the number of available tags this year. That should help keep the pressure off your bait sites from other hunters. I believe this to be the intention. I have spoken with the National Forest Service and DNR a number of times about guides with high number of bait sites. Hopefully they will restrict the number of baits a hunter or guide will be able to put out very soon. There are still a number of other variables that may affect your baits: food availability, heat, dryness, activity in your area, etc. This year is turning out to be very wet and this summer is very hot. Food should be growing like crazy in the woods. Some spots will not be accessible to bait. Those bears have it made this year. I suggest bringing out the big guns and present them with your best baits. Black bears like big brown hairy beavers. I have seen them used by stringing them on a line near bait sites in Canada. Sure seems to turn them on.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

News Feed from FeedBurner

You can now subscribe to the Castle Creek Outfitters blog via News Feed from FeedBurner. You can have it delivered right to your email as well.

There is a link above to view the News Feed (orange button) and a textbox to the right to subscribe to have the articles sent via email.

Hope you enjoy the articles - Thank you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dinner Bell

When you are baiting your sites - try to make some noise. First of all so you don't startle the bear(s) and find yourself in a situation. Secondly - so they get trained to the dinner bell. I personally whistle as I walk down the trails and always with the same stride. Some bears tend to stay nearby in bedding areas or just beyond the bait sight waiting for their next meal. I have seen a number of them come in on camera just a few minutes after I finish resetting the sight and leave. Some have even given me a hard time to get out of there so they can come in to eat. I find it safer to have a routine – so we both know what to expect.

Like most manmade creations - I find it unethical to utilize them to trigger a reaction in the bears much like Pavlov’s dogs. Baiting with your ATV makes sense in rural areas, but at least turn off the machine and walk in a significant distance with the bait. Taking the muffler off your old truck and driving through the woods is just plain lazy and you should get nailed to the wall by the DNR.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Back Trackers

Bears can smell anything and everything. I have seen a grizzly bear find a chicken wing across a valley two miles away. What does that say about you at the bait sight? You are basically you know what. There are however a few things you can do and be aware of. First of all - whoever is doing the baiting has an upper leg on anyone else in your hunting party. The baiters scent is familiar to the bear by the time hunting starts. You might actually want to do some hard work and get off your fat ass if you want to be more successful. Depending on the wind - the baiter’s scent is always there. The bear just doesn't know if he is there now, just left or was there hours ago. He will have to figure out if it is safe to enter the sight. It is nice that he has been acclimated to your scent.

Another tactic I like to use are scents. I like to place skunk scent between me and the bait. Maybe a little closer to me. Be warned I have been charged by bears a few times thinking I was a skunk eating his food. They do not tolerate skunks in their food and chase them out. It is funny to watch them try to get out from under the bait with a huge bear hanging over them.

Get as much food scent up in the air as possible. Bring a water bottle of molasses and fling the molasses out of the bottle up into the tree leaves or needles. The higher the better. You can get 5 gallon buckets of it from your local feed mill. You can also bring your own buckets for them to fill. Don’t bring the molasses up into the stand with you for obvious reasons.

Putting bar grease (that’s right – the stuff they cook your food in) in the bottom of your bait for the first few times baiting and over the logs - you can even mix it into your corn / bread mixture. The bears like the taste, but most of all they get it on their paws from moving the logs or digging in the bait. This is important because when they leave they are leaving a scent trail into the woods for other bears to come across to follow back to the bait. The more back tracking bears to the bait the better!

Scent is going to be your biggest ally and also your biggest foe. Try to reduce your scent. Use scent killer, wash your clothes in scent products, don't smoke, try to mask your breath and don't touch evey single thing you come across in the woods.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trail Timers and Cams

Great aids in bear hunting are trail timers or trail cameras. You can collect data on the date and time, temperature, moon phase and photo of the animal that passed through or stopped at the bait site. The trail timer works by a string line pulling the plastic disconnect (zip-strip) out to turn off the clock - trip it. However, I have had jays land on the line and get tangled-up right in front of me numerous times to send false readings. Coons and skunks are notorious trippers as well. When you place the plastic back between the contacts the clock will show the time and date it was turned off for you to take note of. It will continue running again from that moment on. Bring a watch or cell phone for reference to reset the date and time. I carried a notebook or a smart phone to take stats of the sites activity when I use to use trail timers. This was before the age of trail cameras. Rabbits and badgers are too low to trip the line, but you notice them at the bait with trail cameras. If you leave any scent on the trail timers you will more than likely pay for it. The cubs and the ever inquisitive adult bears will chew on them and there goes your liquid crystal display. It seemed as though all of my cases had at least one nice puncture in them. Bears always brake the lines and obviously get tangled up in the string. I always carried two full spools of sewing string with me in brown. I borrowed them from my wife. These were great aids in knowing when bears were coming in for the first time or if one was there at all along with the obvious sign. There were a few times where I had to fight to get a reading from a smart bear. I once put out three lines cause he kept circumventing the trip. The biggest problem with trip timers is that it is a onetime event. Did other bears come in and who was first? The little print or the big one?

Film trail cameras were ok and the digital ones were expensive. Then IR (infrared) came out. That is when I decided to go all out and buy a bunch of digital infrared trail cameras with bear cages and locks. It was like night and day. My biggest concern was theft. The bear cage can be mounted with a screw(s) and then pad-locked with a cable around the tree. The trail timers were under $20 each. Now we were talking $250 for the camera, $50 for the bear cage, 6 D batteries and $20 for a 2 GB memory card. To have a bunch of these units at every bait was a little unnerving. They have come down a lot in price, but still not disposable. Funny thing - no one has ever touched one. Mostly due to no one ever finding them. It pays to put extra effort into your setups and get away from the humans. I carry an extra memory card for every camera. Once I reset or check a bait I swap out the card and make note of which bait it came from. It is worth the investment until you can one day just pull the pictures from your cell phone with blue tooth…hint hint to other EE’s (Electrical Engineers) out there! Another tip is to bring a laptop with you and leave it at your home base or secured in your vehicle. It is always nice to put the photos in the proper folder right away however you decide to organize them. One last tip is beware of the red light emitted from the LEDs at night from the IR. I know deer don’t like them too much. Bears tend to be indifferent. But still try to do something to make it less noticeable at the bait sight. There is also a slight click from the shutter when the photo or video is being taken. I never found the laser to be all that useful. I usually just use a line of sight and that has been good enough.

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The Hard Way

Technology is great tool in bear hunting. It can obviously be abused. Tred Barta is not an advocate of technology in hunting. I think he is right in doing it the hard way. As for myself I believe in going the extra mile, being a man, a true warrior and doing it all yourself from start to finish. From the field to the freezer. I see no problem in using these tools with the proper intent as long as it is done cleanly and humanely. Most of us don't have days or weeks to spend in our hunting. That is why we pay guides for thier knowledge. We are lucky if we have hours. Coming from a background in technology - it is hard not to try to utilize it. Sure I could design a bear bait with an infrared crossbow with a digital web cam that can turn 360 degrees and sends an email or text when a bear comes in, login and click the shoot button on the iphone app and thats it. Just cause I can do it doesn't mean it should be done.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Spits or Swallows

Bears that are acclimated to humans in their woods such as ATVs, grouse hunters and their dogs, deer hunters, hikers and the like are a lot more reclusive than the bears you might see on a sportsmen's channel of a hunt in Canada. Those bears may have never encountered a human before and have no real fear of us. There tends to be a lot of activity in the areas I bait - so it requires a bit more thought to get these bears to come into the bait in the daylight. What it is all going to boil down to is risk vs. reward. Is the risk to get the food worth the reward for the bear to get a free meal. All bears have different tastes much like ourselves. I have had bears come in and take one item and none of the rest. The next bear takes something else. Another bear eats everything. Try to make a little variety or simply the best that you can to make it absolutely tantalizing. The more food scent you can get into the air the better.

Try to pick a site that allows the bear to comfortably come and go in heavy cover. Utilize a natural corridor if you can. Try to get off the beaten path. The deeper you go the better. Beware that you are going to have to come out of there in the dark. Try to make it safe for yourself too.

Reduce your scent the best you can. They are going to smell you. That is just a fact. Use scent killer every time out. Wash your clothes if you can with the scent products. Chew some sort of earth gum or Copenhagen snuff - you are going to have to swallow. You can also place scent bombs / wicks between you and the bait. Beware that some scents can induce a charge like a skunk scent. Some scents may make hunters sick. So be sure if you or the hunter can handle warm dead fish cooking in the sun all day in 98 degree weather with a bad wind.

I have also heard of sticking a dead cat in a big jar in water over the summer and then shooting it at the bait sight. I don’t think that is a good idea.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

I Love College

Since my group and I were not drawn for this years 2011 Minnesota Black Bear Lottery, I am making plans to try to get an unpurchased tag in one of the lottery zones, as are my friends August 3rd. If there are no tags available we do have a backup plan - No-Quota. I am familiar with a few No-Quota spots and plan to start setting them up whether we find tags or not. I hate to sit around doing nothing since September 1st will be here before I know it. I need to decide exactly where the bait sites are going to be. Since my No-Quota bait sites are going to be vast distances apart - I am going to have to visit them sooner than later to make sure they are as I would like them to be before baiting begins in mid-August. The reasoning for them being far apart is that there are a lot fewer bears in the No-Quota areas we intend to hunt. I don't want to be hunting the same bear(s) as my buddies. Plus some areas are closer to home for me as they are for them. We still get to go out and set everything up as we normally would. We just don't get to hunt together. We will be staying at our own homes each night. The potential of taking two bears is still pretty fun. Setting up the sites is not a waste of time. We might not be drawn again next year and we might find something we really like outside the lottery zone. Hopefully we find our way to a couple of lottery tags; otherwise, as today's college kids would put it "Time isn't wasted when your getting wasted" and same goes for setting up these sites.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I just found out my group was not drawn for bear hunting like many of you. What a disappointment. My first reaction was to tell my friends the bad news. My second reaction was how am I still going to go bear hunting this year in Minnesota? The good news in all of this is that I still can go. There is the possibility that some hunters will not buy their tag and there is still No-Quota. The first goes like this...

Unsold Permits
New for 2011, bear lottery winners must purchase their license by July 29, 2011. Unsold licenses will then become available for one week to those that applied but were not selected in the lottery starting August 3, 2011 at 12:00PM. August 10, 2011 at 12:00PM any remaining unsold license will become available to anyone. Please look for a DNR news release or check the DNR Web Site (www.dnr.state.mn.us) in late July, for further information.

The second option if unsuccessful August 3rd is to buy a No-Quota tag. A No-Quota tag is a tag that you can buy over the counter to hunt two bears outside the lottery Quota zones. There are a few guides that offer No-Quota hunts. There are fewer bears in no-quota. The upside is that if you know of a good area - you can take two bears. I would suggest hunting on the fridge of the Quota zones if you are unfamiliar with a No-Quota area. Public land is a great option for bear hunting for No-Quota or for that matter - Quota.

Still - it is hard to get over the fact that we were not drawn...KHAAAAAAN!!!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

It is almost time to check to see if you or your group have been drawn for the Minnesota (MN) bear hunt. The MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says that they will notify you in the mail around mid June. A paper copy of the regulations and rules will arrive for successful applicants in the drawing notifying you as a winner. If you are too impatient to wait you can check for yourself on the MN DNR website with your driver’s license number or hunt id.

However, there was an error with their process this year. Here is the press release from the MN Department of Natural Resources...

Bear hunt lottery to be rerun
(Released May 27, 2011)

Hunters who applied for a 2011 Minnesota bear hunting permit will have to wait a little longer to determine if they were successful in this year’s lottery.
That’s because the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is rerunning the bear lottery due to a computer-related error.

Though no bear hunting licenses have been issued, the DNR reports some hunters may be under the mistaken impression they have been selected as a winner because they viewed incorrect content on the agency’s website before the error was detected.

“The message to bear hunters is that we’ll get the word out when correct lottery results are available,” said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife section chief. “We regret any inconvenience this misinformation has caused.”

Simon said older data from 2009 rather than the most current data from 2010 was used by the computer to determine hunter preference level. As a result, many bear hunting permit winners were erroneously selected based on incorrect preference information.

“Our job is to conduct a fair and accurate lottery and that’s what we will do,” said Simon.

New lottery results will be posted on the DNR website in early June and successful hunters will also be notified by mail later in June.

Also new this year are the following rules...

Unsold Permits
New for 2011, bear lottery winners must purchase their license by July 29, 2011. Unsold licenses will then become available for one week to those that applied but were not selected in the lottery starting August 3, 2011 at 12:00PM. August 10, 2011 at 12:00PM any remaining unsold license will become available to anyone. Please look for a DNR news release or check the DNR Web Site (www.dnr.state.mn.us) in late July, for further information.

I know “Patience is a Virtue”, but I can never wait to see if I am drawn. I guess I am just like a kid at Christmas and have to take a peek.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Twittling Your Thumbs

Waiting to see if you or your group were drawn for the Minnesota bear lottery can drive you crazy. Waiting until the middle of June can be trying. What to do? Should I be planning, scouting, saving the leftovers in the family freezer while the wife yells at me to get that stuff out of there?! The key is not to wait until the last minute before baiting starts to figure out the bait situation. So in the meantime you can sit around twittling your thumbs, start looking for bait retailers, bars to get grease from or stores that will give you their expired goods. There is no rush to get your bait together now, but you can start saving scraps now if you want to. Just get a plan together. You will be surprised how many stores will have their expired goods claimed by a hunter long before baiting starts.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Bear Market

The flesh of the [black] bear is savoury, but rather luscious, and tastes not unlike pork. It was once so common an article of food in New-York as to have given the name of Bear Market to one of the principal markets of the city.

—Frank Forester's field sports of the United States, and British provinces, of North America p. 186

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cool Bears

Almost everyone believes that bears come in at dusk and that is it. Go sit on the stand for the evening hunt. In doing so you could be missing out on that bear of a lifetime. Trail cameras tell the real story. Bears are most active during the Minnesota black bear season when it is coolest out. Some of the bears are most active in the early morning and at or after dusk. That does not mean they will not come in at noon. They do. The driving force for the bears is to put on as much weight as possible before it is time to rest for the year. The bigger bears like to play it cool simply because they are more apt to overheat than a smaller bear.

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