For most of you fall bear season has just started or right around the corner. One of my favorite ways to hunt bear in the spring or fall is with my bow. I find it super rewarding, effective, and very ethical. With the right setup, tips and practice you will be on your way to harvesting your next bruin with your favorite bow. I have been hunting bear with my bow for over 10 years and it has become a real passion. Whether you are hunting out of a ground blind or treestand, over bait or food sources these tips will help you!
Let us start with the three S' you will have to contend with and control while hunting your bear. #1, is Smell. While bear hunting you need to be scent free and try to set up on a prevaling down or cross wind. A bear's sense of smell can end your hunt before it even begins. A bear will test the air and smell all around, hanging just out of sight and come in when he is confident it is safe! If he busts you, you won't even know it. Most of the time they are totally silent so you don't hear them come in or leave. I like to call them silent shadows! They will only let you know they are coming if they want to, for example, to scare off another bear or show dominance. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled!
#2, is Sight. Sight means movement, not for the bear, but you. As I said before, a bear will hang out and check his surroundings before he comes in. Not only is he smelling but looking as well. Their eye sight is not great but they will pick up movement from a stand all day! I recommend using a Thermacell, especially during the spring. It doesn't seem to affect bear at all! Get comfortable and let the woods come alive around you.
I always wear gloves, some sort of face mask, and a hat, along with the rest of my camo gear. If you move, just do it slow and calm. If you are hunting over bait let the bear come in all the way before grabbing your bow or moving into position. When a bear first comes in he is at his height of awareness, meaning most alert. Let him come in and get comfortable and then slowly make your move. The bear will almost always look at you, whether in the blind or up to your tree stand. Just don’t move and let him go back to what he was doing. You have TIME! Don’t rush your draw or shot! He will give you a good broadside, or quartered away shot. Just wait for it!
#3, Sound. Again, the sound is from you. The bear won't hardly make any; they just appear! Make all your noise when you first get to your blind or stand. You are usually plenty early. Take your backpack off, get your safety strap on, put on your gloves, release, hat, facemask, unfold your chair (if in a blind), unzip your windows, pull up your bow, nock your arrow, and whatever you need to do! Use your first 5 –10 minutes to get situated then melt into your surroundings. If you are baiting yourself don’t be afraid to make noise. It actually helps--bang the bucket on the ground or barrel if you are using one. This is their dinner bell. Wear gloves. I usually walk back out with my bait bucket then get scent free and walk back in! If you leave the bait bucket outside your blind or at the base of your tree don’t be surprised if the bear goes to it and that can get up-close and personal!
Now let's go over your bow setup and practice. Obviously "practice makes perfect." While preparing for the bear hunt get used to that 15-20 yard shot. Your blind or stand does not have to be any more than 20 yards away! Some of my largest bears I have ever shot were between 13 and 17 yards. So set up a blind or stand at your house and practice. You can shoot off your deck or just a chair on the ground but practice! You don’t have to shoot 20 arrows a night. Just a couple. I shoot 3 or 4 and then I'm done. Remember, you will probably only get one arrow off. Make it count!
This brings me to my next point. Bows nowadays are fast. If you are having any trouble pulling it back, lower the draw weight. A good test is to sit in a chair and take your feet off the ground and pull your bow back. If you can't or have trouble (struggle) then I suggest lowering your weight! I only shoot 64 pounds. You should be able to pull it back like butter--nice and smooth. No pointing your bow into the air or any of that stuff, Your bear will see that! I like to use a single pin sight that I set to 20 yards and lock it down. Check when you get all set up in your blind or stand. Multi pins are fine--just remember the top one in the heat of the moment! I also like a fixed blade cut on contact, broadhead for more penetration and blade durability.
A bear is a big game animal with a thick hide and lots of mass! Check and make sure your arrows are up to par! I like carbon ones with Blazer vanes--less drag and more penetration. I have seen many people break arrows going through these big guys! I also like to shoot a lighted nock on my arrows. It is usually a low-light situation and helps your shot placement!
Which brings me to the most important tip--Shot Placement. A bear's vitals are not like other animals you hunt, especially not like deer! A perfect deer heart shot will do nothing to a bear--just wound him and ruin your hunt! A bear's vitals are much higher than a deer's. They are more like a hog! Your shot should always be behind the shoulder and if in a blind, ½ way up the bear's body, and if in a treestand, 2/3 of the way up the bear's body! I like to say on a bear "aim high and let it fly." There is always someone in a group of four that will shoot too low. Don’t let that be you!
Practice the way you will be hunting. A bear is midnight black and often you can't see contour lines and body parts. Add in low light and it is hard to see your best shot! Cut the bear in half then use ½ way up the body or 2/3 up the body and let her rip! Also, a bear does not bleed much because of their fat so listen and remember the direction they take off in and don’t ever push a wounded bear at night. Even a small bear is very dangerous!
Remember, a bear is an omnivore and ruled by their stomachs. Let them come in and settle down and give you that perfect shot. Be patient and take your time and arrow that big old bear! Have fun, hunt safe and share the passion!