It is the end of January, and I got the message from my brother Craig that he received his bear harvest tag for zone C, here in Wisconsin. Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not as exciting as seeing my name printed on the notification that I drew a harvest tag in Zone A, but I’m still pretty excited.
For those of you that have run bear bait stations, you will understand the excitement, and those of you that have not experienced it, I recommend that you try the experience. The joy of running bear bait stations go back to when I was a little hopper. My Dad would put me in the back of a Robus owned Toyota pickup truck, and we would bounce around in the bed of the truck with the donuts, molasses, and liquid smoke. Yes, that was before the times of seat belt laws and regulations that we have nowadays. I spent a good portion of my youth traveling country roads in a fashion that would not be fit for today’s standards. Oh, that smell brings me back to the great times of my childhood.
We would load up 5-gallon pails with dated bread, and donuts from the local grocery store. It often didn’t take long on those walks in to sneak a donut that passed the inspection of a young boy; the criteria of those expectations were of no level acceptable to the FDA standards. We never got sick from eating those expired donuts, good enough for a bear good enough for me often would cross your mind as the jelly-filled donut filled our belly on the trail.
I don’t know what is more enjoyable hauling in those donuts or throwing liquid smoke and molasses into the air and all over the logs. After the bear bait was covered up with logs and rocks, you would stand back, admire the work that was done and take a big whiff of the aroma that hung in the air. One would envision a massive, powerful black beauty of a bear coming in make the bait station look like a bomb had been set off.
In those days, trail cameras were not mainstream in the hunting industry. Instead, a thin, small black box with a digital watch and a loop to attach a string to it was used to tell when a bear was using the bait station. The technology of monitoring animal activity has come a long way since those little game trail timers.
One would spend months doing this routine of storing bread, donuts, or anything else that was sweet to feed these black beauties. The flies, mosquitos, and wood ticks wouldn’t stop you from doing this over and over again. Running a bear bait takes a select amount of determination, and I suppose a little bit of what some would call “stupid” as well. I recall on one trip back out after freshening up a bear bait, Dad’s friend Ed, made a stealth move behind me and scared me almost right out of my camouflage jeans as he let our a bear roar right behind me. That will always be a memory I have of Dad’s friend Ed.
We are many months away as there sit snowdrifts in the yard before the season of running bear bait will be here, but I now have one more added reason to look forward to when the days get longer, and the snowbanks get smaller. Hopefully, I will be able to tag along on some of Craig’s hunts to capture them on video to share with you all; we will be sharing future videos though of how and why we set up the bear baits the way we do.
Did any of you get notified yet of your bear tag? If you did, what do you look forward the most of starting bear season? Do you prefer to hunt bear over bait stations or run them with dogs?
Celebrate the experience!