If you’ve failed to tag a deer or an elk and now you’re trying to salvage your fall hunting in order to maintain the honor of your family name, why not go after a black bear? You don’t have to plan for years in order to put some bear steaks in the freezer. Many states offer over-the-counter bear tags and seasons that run through the end of October and beyond. As the saying goes, “the dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.”
Here are four ways to kill a bear on short notice this fall.
A Dive-Bomb Bait Hunt
In regions of the country where baiting is legal, it may not be as hard as you think to draw a in bear quickly. I’ve had a lot of success with a 10-day bear bait. The strategy involves putting a lot of bait and scent in a prime location and planning to hunt the day after bears arrive. Good places to pick are along natural travel corridors, intersections of major game trails, and anywhere you find a lot of bear sign.
In a good location, bears will typically find bait within two to three days and establish a predictable pattern. Hanging stands when you set the bait is ideal, but you can also have a tree picked out for a climbing stand or tree saddle just in case.
Use commercial scents, like fryer grease additives, to create a powerful odor at the bait site. Use a combination of bread, dog food, grease, and pork fat to get started. Put out about 50 pounds of bait in a barrel and check every couple days. You’ll know when the bears show up, and that’ll be your que to start hunting.
A Western Adventure
Didn’t get drawn for an elk or mule deer tag? Here’s an idea: Enjoy the West on an over-the-counter bear tag. The allure of hunting out West during the fall is strong, but not getting a lottery tag is a real possibility. Many Western states, including Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming, all have over-the-counter options for bear tags.
Take a chance and head to one these states for an epic road trip. Public lands abound, and with a quick internet search you can have a good idea of where to start. Look for open, grassy hillsides and high points where you can glass a lot of country. You’ve probably already got the gear you need. Don’t overthink it. Just go.
Hounds in Appalachia
The hound hunting culture isn’t easy to break into, but once you’re in, you’re part of the family. Houndsmen like to get their dogs on as many hunts a possible in the fall, and often they’re looking for hunters with tags. Many Appalachian bear seasons run through December. With all the online networking platforms available, it’s easy to connect with other hunters and build bear hunting friendships.
Here’s the key: Do you have any kind of hunt to swap a houndsman for a bear chase? Do you live in the Midwest with access to great whitetail hunting? Do know some elk honey holes out West? Are you an expert flathead catfisherman? I’m not going to lie, this isn’t an easy task, but it’s one of the best ways to experience a new kind of hunting.
Do your homework, be honest and forthright, and pay attention to any relational red flags. People don’t like a beggar, but they do recognize authenticity. A houndsman would be giving you his best, so offer the best outdoor-related access that you have in return.
Bear/Deer Combo in the South
Consider Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, or Oklahoma if you live in the Midwest and want to find bear hunting that’s within a day’s drive. With abundant public lands and liberal seasons, it’s not an impossible to have a Western-style spot-and-stalk hunt in a Southern state.
The Georgia bear season opens September 14, Arkansas and Tennessee both open September 28, Oklahoma opens October 1, and North Carolina opens in mid-October. Many of these states have bear seasons that run into the end of November and beginning of December.
I’d pick the biggest block of national forest you can find in these states and head in for a three- to five-day hunt. These states will have whitetail seasons going on at the same time, and for about $300 you can score an over-the-counter bear and deer tag. Success won’t come easily, but I guarantee you’ll have a good time and learn a thing or two about hunting in the South.