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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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Anyone For Leftovers

You forgot to apply to the lottery or you just now realized that you want to go bear hunting this year. You are in luck! There may still be a chance for you to go hunting.

Bear lottery winners must purchase their license by July 29, 2011. Unsold and any surplus 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.

Back in the day I remember a lot of bear hunters just bought their license over the counter on their way up north. In the last few years - I would say since 2006 - bear hunting has sky rocketed as far as interest. It has become more difficult to buy a tag over the counter. They have even reduced the number of tags this year to promote higher success rate.

Remember that if you are planning to go with a guide you might be out of luck for the good ones. They might be full and you might be baiting for yourself. This is not such a bad deal. You might even enjoy the fruits of your labor a lot more.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Scouting for Guides

You have applied to the Minnesota State Black Bear Lottery with the zone of your choice. You are waiting to see if you have been drawn for a tag. You know you want to go with a Guide / Outfitter. How do you go about looking for one? My suggestion is word of mouth. That is your best bet. If you don't know someone who has gone on a guided hunt ask someone if they know of anyone who has and talk to them.

My second suggestion is the Minnesota DNR's website. They compile a list of licensed bear guides (they bought a license no different than you buying your fishing license). The list has contact information for you.
Call them or checkout their websites if they have one.

Another suggestion is to just Google a few variations of "Black Bear Hunting Minnesota" or "Minnesota Black Bear Guide" or "MN Bear Outfitter". You get the jest of it.

My last suggestion is to look on Craigslist in Minnesota or sometimes Ebay.com. Again, try to search for "Bear Guide" or "Black Bear" or "Bear Hunt".

So you think you have your search narrowed down to a few guides. Make your list of questions up prior to calling. Talk it over with your buddies. Pickup the phone and start calling. Almost every guide is willing to sit and talk with you at length about all your questions.

Here are a couple of questions to get your started that I would ask.
• How long have you been guiding?
• Licensed?
• Insured?
• CPR & First Aid certified?
• Is the hunt on public or private land?
o If public - is it state / national / reservation lands
 National land has more stringent rules, licensing and regulations than other lands.
• What is your success rate?
o MN’s average success rate for hunters is 25%.
 I would be cautious of a guide that says they are 100%.
 I would feel more comfortable with a guide that is less than 90%.
• What is your definition of success?
o Bears harvested or seen?
o Cubs / Sows / Bores?
 The numbers can be skewed to up their percent success rate.
 I would want to know the success of bears down and back at camp each year.
• How many hunters did you have last year and the year before?
o Eight is a lot for a one man service.
o 15+ is a lot for a guide service with helpers. Make sure they are well established and a have a good reputation.
o 20+ is just not a good idea. Sure they have a lot of bears on their website, but they probably took 8 bears for 60 people if that!
o What did they shoot last year / see?
• Do you help aid in tracking and getting the bear out?
• Do you have any guarantees?
o Pictures of bears in the daylight
o Trip timers
o Second bait sights
• Do you allow hunters to shoot bears with cubs?
o I think this is absolutely horrible!!!
• Could I have at least three references?
o If they can’t even give you this – then why bother.
...and the fun one...
• What is your biggest bear taken?!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lottery Application Process

You can apply to the 2011 Minnesota Black Bear Lottery three ways.

First: You can apply online for free.
Select the PURCHASE button at the bottom of the screen and follow the instructions.

Second: You can apply by phone:
There is a $3.50 convenience fee when applying by telephone.

Third: Apply at an ELS Agent (Ex.Holiday Gas Station Stores).
ZONE? 44

After you receive your lottery tag - pass along the information to the others in your party (if you have one). They will have to answer the EXISTING GROUP question and supply the 9 digit group number. Hold on to this number as you would any other group numbers (Ex. MN Moose Lottery, Elk, etc.) for future applications to gain preference points each year.

If you do not want to hunt this year I suggest applying anyways and selecting ZONE 99 for preference points. You just never know when you are going to get the itch to go bear hunting. I am sure you would like it to be as simple as applying.

The application deadline first Friday in May.

The lottery results are available mid-June.

License are available for purchase June 1.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Blues

Did you know that there are 16 sub-species of black bear in North Ameraica? Did you know that 8 of those species live in Britsh-Columbia?
One of the rarest is the Glacier Bear otherwise known as the Blue Bear. They can be found in southeastern Alaska, northwestern British Columbia and the southwest Yukon. The Glacier Bear is a rare color phase of the Coastal Black Bear. This color ranges from a slightly frosted black, to a steel blue-gray, with some being light gray, usually with a darker face. The undercoat of the glacier bears is a rich blue-black, while the outer guard hairs are long and white (or light yellow) with silver tips. This color variation probably evolved during the last ice age when populations were isolated along the unfrozen sections of the coastline, due to the biological process of genetic drift (random fluctuations in the genetic composition of a small population). The blue-gray color is ideal camouflage against the backdrop of frozen ice - the bears are nearly impossible to spot unless they are moving. Unfortunately, this color phase is on the decline. Immigration of non-glacier black bears and emigration of glacier bears across the now unfrozen landscape, are causing the gene frequency to be eliminated in the face of more dominant color phases, as the two mingle and mate.

Here are all the sub-species:
Kermode or Spirit bear (Western Canada)
Vancouver black bear
Queen Charlotte black bear
Newfoundland black bear
Glacier bear or blue bear (Alaska & British Columbia)
Kenai black bear (Alaska)
Dall black bear (Alaska)
Cinnamon bear (central U.S. and Canada)
Olympic black bear (western coast of Canada & U.S.)
Florida black bear
New Mexico black bear
East Mexico black bear
West Mexico black bear
Louisiana black bear
Minnesota black bear
Eastern black bear

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