DIY: bear bait basics

by Ben Beattie | August 3, 2012
DIY: bear bait basics

The most effective way to hunt black bears in Ontario is over a bait site. Designs can range from simple to complex. Here are important considerations when building one.

Barrel Select
The most common and effective way to build a bear bait is with a large barrel. A plastic or steel 45-gallon drum works best. Plastic is lighter for transporting, but steel is more durable. For best results, select a barrel that’s odour free.

 DIY Bait Barrel

  1. Begin by removing the top with a reciprocating saw. A cutting torch can be used on metal drums, but make sure there’s no flammable residue inside the drum and follow proper safety precautions when using a saw or torch.
  2. Drill or cut 12 to 20 holes 1-inch in diameter in the top two-thirds of the barrel. They allow for scent dispersal once bait is placed in the barrel.
  3. Cut 2 small holes, 5 inches apart near the bottom of the barrel. These are necessary for securing the barrel to a tree with a length of chain or wire.
  4. Select a location for your bait barrel. Look for an opening or small clearing where you’ve found bear sign. Good locations should include nearby trees for tree stands and/or areas to construct ground blinds. Also note that the hunting regulations state that a bear bait may not be located within 437.6 yards (400 m) of a waste-disposal site.
  5. Clear shooting lanes well ahead of your planned hunt. You can begin baiting anytime, usually two weeks prior to your hunt is sufficient. If your bait hasn’t been hit within a week, consider relocating it.

Fill ’er Up
Once constructed, place the barrel in the area you plan to hunt. The next decision is what to use for bait. The truth is, almost anything. Bears aren’t particularly picky eaters.

Good baits should accomplish 2 things: attract bears and keep them coming back. To achieve this, use something sweet to attract them and something with bulk to fill them up and keep them coming back for more.

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Sweet treats can include day-old donuts, gummy bears, brown sugar, peanut butter, marshmallows, or honey. Another effective way to distribute a sweet scent is by mixing molasses with water and splashing it on and around your site.

The bulk of your bait can consist of anything from dog food to table scraps. Other commonly used foods include boiled potatoes, popcorn, and hog rations.

Used oil from a deep fryer also draws in bears. If you can get your hands on some, mixing it in and spreading it around your bait site is one of the best lures. The scent travels a long way, and bears love to eat it.

With the mixture of food in the bottom of the barrel, the next step is to cover it with logs. This will deter smaller bears, as well as birds and other animals, from eating the food. Place a few smaller branches in the barrel that stick out a couple feet from the top of it. Next, lean larger logs (eight to ten) against the top and around the barrel. This will form a teepee shape and secure your barrel.

Once your bait is being hit, try to re-bait every 24 hours, preferably at the same time each day. This will establish a routine and the bears will regularly visit your site. However, use caution when re-baiting. You could startle a feeding bear.

When the season is open, carry an appropriate firearm and game tag, in case a bear hitting your bait gets aggressive. During preseason baiting, having bear spray handy is a good option.

Add trail cameras to further establish timing patterns, as well as identify the size of the bears visiting your bait.

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  1. Sandy Brown wrote: Excellent tips for anyone (rookie or experienced) bear hunters for a successful fall season.
  2. Michele Vardy wrote: I use popcorn at my bait site and season it with salt or koolaid. the bears love it! Interestingly enough the article mentions boiled bears leave the potatoes for the raccoon family that visits nightly.
  3. curiousgeorge wrote: I thought baiting bears was considered unfair hunting practice in ONtario. When did it change?
  4. oodmag wrote: Curiousgeorge, actually, baiting is a common method of hunting bears in Ontario, and has been for many years. Baiting affords hunters an opportunity to be more selective by avoiding harvesting sows with cubs. Black bear regulations can be found in the Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary, in print and online.
  5. jack wrote: can u bait during the bear hunt in northern on.
  6. Louise croft wrote: Can person bait bears ion their property within 600 metres of residents, as is happening near my residence, now in July and bear season is sept, now we have bears all around us