I grew up in Mattawamkeag, Maine, a small town in northern Penobscot County, where I developed a love for hunting, fishing and hiking through the woodlands that surrounded. It was an early goal to become a licensed Maine Guide and I achieved that goal by my early 30’s. For nearly two decades, I operated a fall bear hunting operation in the Katahdin Region of Maine. By helping many hunters fulfill their goals of harvesting a black bear, I learned a few things that may help you successfully hunt a bear on your land.
The first thing you need to know about bear hunting over bait in Maine is that it is a highly regulated activity. Before you set out a bait on your property, read the rules section about bear hunting in the hunting law book. The bear hunting section in the law book tells you when, where and how a bait site needs to be situated in order to be legal. Here are a few excerpts from the rules section for bear hunting.
Bait may not be placed to entice, hunt or trap black bear unless:
- The bait is placed at least 50 yards from any travel way that is accessible by a conventional 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle
- The observation stand, blind or bait area is plainly labeled with a 2-inch by 4-inch tag with the name and address of the baiter
- The bait is placed more than 500 yards from any solid waste disposal site or campground
- The bait is placed more than 500 yards from an occupied dwelling, unless written permission is granted by the owner or tenant
- The bait areas will be cleaned up by November 10 as defined by the state litter law
- The person hunting from another person’s stand or blind has the owner’s permission.
- The person placing bait on another person’s land has the landowner’s permission (oral or in writing).
- The bait is placed no sooner than 30 days before opening day of the season and no later than October 31.
Once you find a bait site that meets all the legal criteria, how can you be sure it’s a productive location? I always looked for locations that I could enter the woods with the prevailing wind in my face. Bears also like dense cover. I looked for areas that had good unbroken stands of marketable, mature timber. If the area happened to be near a beaver flowage, that’s even better. Fallen trees, stumps, boulders and other terrain features can be used to help guide a bear into position as well as cutting some fallen logs to form a sort of crib.
A Black bear has a very keen sense of smell, so when establishing a new bait site, capitalize on this. Bear can detect a bait site from over two miles. I would hang bags of carrion in grain sacks as high in the air as possible. Bears will eat just about anything; the important thing is to keep plenty of it available for them and to refresh the bait as often as you can. Depending on the abundance of natural food sources like, berries, nuts and apples, bears will come to baits in varying degrees of urgency. Some years they come to bait better than others. Once you have a bear, or bears coming to your site and it is hunting season, then the greatest tip I can give you is to sit as still as stone on your stand. Bears are very cautious, so you have to be on top of your game when hunting bear over bait.
Maine is blessed to have millions of acres of forested land. Within those miles of timber are thousands of black bears. They are a challenging animal to hunt. If you have a tract of hunting property that you want to hunt bear, perhaps these tips will help you to be successful in hunting the black ghost of the Maine woods, the elusive Maine black bear.
About the author:
Rick Theriault is a real estate broker and Realtree United Country Land Pro for United Country | Lifestyle Properties of Maine. He is also a Licensed Maine Master Guide, Endowment Member NRA, Life Member Sportsman Alliance of Maine and Life Member Maine Professional Guides Association. Learn more about Rick and the Lifestyle Properties of Maine team at https://www.lifestylepropertiesofmaine.com/.