Here in Maine the seasons give way from one set of activities to another. Spring and summer are all about the waters of Maine, with lots of fishing options and sports. Then comes the heat of August, the last blast of warm air that segues into September and the start of cooler weather and shorter days. This transition period is also known as bear season!
Regardless of how you feel about it, September is bear bait season here in Maine. The season begins by stalwart hunters lugging buckets of goodies to a site for an entire month before the hunting begins. It’s a Herculean endeavor in the heat of August I can assure you, as I have been a bear hunter most of my life. Despite an avalanche of false claims by animal rights types and anti-hunters who don’t know squat about life in the real woods, state biologists and experienced woodsman all agree that bear baiting is the best, most efficient and least cruel way to target bears and be successful.
Bear baiting is not for the lazy hunter. It takes a lot of bait and a lot of work to make it all worth it. The end result is not what matters; it’s about the pursuit. It’s about drawing in bears of all sizes and ages. It’s about setting cameras up to survey the diners and to see who is actually walking around in the woods. You’ll see a few of the diners this year in the images embedded in this article.
It takes dedication and hard work to be successful in all of life’s endeavors. These bears are all proof that the work is paying off and the diners have arrived.
To all of you who think killing bears is cruel, or that bear baiting is unsporting. Remember a few facts: first, we feed and fatten up about 12 to 15 bears each fall for every 1 bear we kill. That means we get 11 bears in better shape to survive the winter for every one that has to die. The truth is bear mortality was at about 30% per year from natural causes, specifically malnutrition going into hibernation. The bears would die in their dens because they lacked sufficient food prior to sleep/hibernation. Bear baiting has changed that and now 85% of the bears that survive hunting seasons will hibernate just fine in areas where baiting is used. In fact, Maine has an ever-expanding bear population, due in part to the management practices like bear baiting.
As far as the sporting side of it all. I am not a SPORTSMAN…have never been one. I am a hunter, and that means I am careful, humane and efficient. This is not a game, this is life and death. Still hunting and spot and stalk may work out west or somewhere other than here in Maine. But in our woods, you will never see the bears. The DIFW has management goals that must be met to maintain balance in the ecosystem. Hunting is one of the tools used to cull the population for the betterment of the remaining. Bear baiting is now and has always been the most effective way to hunt and kill specific bears. These are not hasty encounters in the briars of the backcountry. On a bait site, you have time to not only pick your best shot but also to pick over all the diners and select the right bear for you. No more accidental shootings of wet sows whose cubs will starve. I for one think all other forms of bear hunting are less ethical…not the other way around.
It’s Bear time! © 2012 Brent Reece. To all my readers who hunt – have a great season!
Images copyright Brent Reece