The Family Goes for Bear

The 2014 hunting season came about with a surprise. Typically in our bear hunting area a hunter must have accumulated at least 5 preference points before they drew a tag. Our family had it planned out so we wouldn’t all get tags the same year in the same area. Me, my sister and dad all drew tags. We were going for bear!

Last year my brother-in-law and sister-in-law had tags for two different areas. This year I had 5 points and was sure to get a tag. My sister, Stacie, would get one next year and my dad and husband the year after. To our surprise the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources decided to give out more tags, so 3 of us got tags. This would make it a little harder when it came to who hunted where, since most of the land we bear hunted is owned my mutual family and friends.

My dad, sister and I all started to line up land and I found a new spot on public land near my dad’s farm I wanted to try. After looking over the land we felt there was a great funnel between the lake, the swamp and the open fields that might be a great spot for a bait. We put the bait in and it was hit right away and continued to be hit on a regular basis. We put in many other baits and had a few start getting hit. But like usual in Wisconsin, a week or so before season started something changed and all the baits quit getting hit. Maybe the bear switch to feeding on the acorns which had just started falling or maybe the field corn was at a stage where they preferred it over the bait. We were getting desperate we needed to find some new spots to hunt. My husband had an idea that we should put another bait in on some public land we looked at last year during deer hunting. So, my husband, dad and I hiked in on the easement a half mile to this public land with our stump, cover, bait, smoke tar, scent and shovels. We waded across the river and put the bait in. No other hunters would be crazy enough to put a bait in there. We were sure to get a bear coming in soon and we would then have at least one bait for each of us that bear were visiting.

It had been a very wet summer in Wisconsin and the weekend before season started we got 4 inches or more of rain. We went to check our secret bait in hopes it was hit. The river had flooded its banks more than we expected. My awesome husband swam across to check the bait. It was not hit and it was now sitting on an island. There was no way I was going to continue to check this bait until the water came back down. We were out of luck. Only two baits were getting hit. My sister had one and I had the other. I decided I would share the bait that was still getting hit on the public land near the lake with my dad. We had multiple bears on camera and hopefully we would have some luck.

The day before season opened I went to check the baits and our go to bait near the lake was not hit. First time that happened since we put the bait in. I checked the camera and there was a picture of a hunter on it. A few weeks ago we had a picture of three guys on camera but the bait was still getting hit and it seemed they didn’t mess with it in any way. Now the day before season the bait hadn’t been hit and there was a picture of someone on camera. We assumed they poured kerosene on it so we scrambled to put another bait in nearby in hopes that if the bear came in to check the bait they would find our new bait and maybe we would still have a shot at one of them.

Opening morning came around and I walked in to find the old bait was hit. I was so relieved to find out that no one messed with the bait. Dad wouldn’t be able to hunt till the afternoon, so I had the bait to myself. I heard a shot fired early on the other side of the lake. I now knew I wasn’t the only one hunting this land. In fact, a week after our hunts we found out that 7 other hunters had placed baits on the 120 acre public land we were hunting.

I sat for a few hours and suddenly heard hound dogs coming from the north. They got closer and closer. They were easily within 40 acres of my stand. I heard a shot gun fire off a round and soon I could hear the dogs headed back north. Hunting with dogs was not allowed in our area but the Reservation to the North did allow it. I was frustrated. That could have been one of the bears that may have been coming to my bait. I debated whether I should call the game warden. What were the odds that they would find the hunters? In the process they would need to search the land to the west of my stand which is where my bears all came from and I was sure that would mess up my hunting. Disappointed, I left my stand to go check baits and eat lunch.

That afternoon I went to check all the baits and then checked in with my sister to see how her hunt had gone. She hadn’t seen anything. Once dad got off work we packed our climbing tree stands back in and sat until dark. We were surprise to find the bait was hit while I was gone. I thought to myself with the two bear that were killed that morning and the bear that had hit my bait already come and gone, what would be the odds that we would see another bear that afternoon.

Dad was hunting with his 12 gauge and I had my Bowtech Insanity with Victory Arrows equipped with some brand new Rage Hypodermic broadheads. After baiting and setting up my “Bear Crack”, a combination of maple syrup, marshmallows, raspberry jello and sugar, to cook over the Sterno, we took our climbers up the same tree and settled in for the afternoon. The wind was out of the South and blowing our scent and the sweet smell of the “Bear Crack” to the North over the ridge to the lake. We figured the bear to be coming from the West, so we should be set up great. After sitting for about an hour, I caught a glimpse of black move through the woods to the North West. I kept a watchful eye on the trail coming in from that direction and didn’t see anything. Suddenly to the North, straight downwind from us, on the ridge two bear started making their way down to us. I tapped my dad on the shoulder and whispered to him that I would let the second bear get close enough so he could get a good shot. It would have to be quick. The first bear came within range and started to check out the bait. I pulled back and waited for the other bear to get closer. It seemed like I had to wait forever.

Finally the second bear broke through the brush into an open area and I took my shot. The arrow hit right where I was aiming. The bear took off like a rocket and tumbled over only 20 yards from where I shot him. My bear made its death moan and it was over just like that. I just shot my first bear with the bow. The adrenaline was pumping and I was shaking like a fool. I hope I never stop getting that feeling. To all those who have never hunted before, I don’t even know how to explain the excitement. It’s awesome. I could see the bear from my stand and new I made a great shot. No tracking needed. One 150 lbs bear down.

Author with her first bow kill bear.

I didn’t even look to see how big of a blood trail the Rage broadhead left. What’s the need when you can see the bear from your stand. It was a successful and short hunt for me. Hopefully my dad and sister are lucky enough to fill their tags too. Sad thing is the odds are stacked against them. The success rate in our area is only 20% for bear.

Weeks went by and I continued to check my one bait near home. The landowner had given my sister permission to hunt there since my tag was filled already that is if the bear would ever come back. Suddenly the bait started getting hit again. I took my sister in to sit the bait a few times and he didn’t come in. Archery deer season started and she was on her own from there on out. I would keep baiting but she had to hunt by herself.

Then one afternoon she called and said she wanted to go hunting but wasn’t going to because she got word that the bowhunter leasing the land for deer hunting would be hunting that afternoon and he didn’t want her disrupting his hunt by driving in. She would need to park near the barn and carry her bait, stand and everything in on a hot afternoon. She didn’t like the thought of that. It would take two long trips and she would be hot and sweaty and sure to get winded. I convinced her to get there early and take the truck in, bait and haul her stand in and then leave her camo at the edge of the field. After that she could drive out, park the truck by the barn, walk in empty handed in shorts and a t-shirt, put her camo on at the field edge and proceed to her stand to hunt. She decided that she could handle that. She text me that she was in her stand at about 2pm and at 3pm I got the call that she had shot him.

The bear had come in from behind her. She had her new Bowtech Carbon Rose and gave the bear time to come in, open the bait and settle in. The bear conveniently laid down with a tree between her and the bear. She didn’t have a good shot. She sat, shaking frantically waiting for her shot. Suddenly the bear got up and took a few steps. She pulled back, made a perfect shot and the bear fell over within 20 yards. She must have learned something from her big sister. All the hours spent shooting archery league and teaching her to be a better shot finally paid off. I’m so proud of her. The crazy thing is after reviewing the trail cam pictures we saw that the bear had been there since around noon and she had spooked him off the bait. He must have waited for things to settle and then just came back in. Pretty awesome day. Two out of three tags filled. Two 150 pound bears down.

Stacie with her bear.

Three days passed and my dad called and said that one of his baits just started getting hit. We had put a bait in a spot where we had been seeing a bear during the deer gun season for the past couple years. It was a very small swamp and we didn’t think the bear moved in till late in the year. Thing is it was surrounded by corn and we thought maybe he would come in early with all the feed there. I called my dad back and told him the wind was right and that he should just go sit there. He was a bit reluctant because he had just baited it. He ended up going in to sit that night. He called me just before shooting light ended and said he shot his bear. I could hear the bear’s death moan in the back ground. He was a really excited and I started calling siblings to help drag.

And Dad makes a tidy Family three!

His bear also came in from behind and when he saw him he was just below his stand pawing at the shell he had dropped out of his stand. He had to wait for it to move toward the bait. He took the shot straight down and hit it between the shoulders the bear only went 10 yards and died. What an awesome season it was. Dad’s bear weighed in at 250 pounds. I can say it might possibly be a once in a lifetime bear season. The family was three for three.

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