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Binos for Bears?
I don't think many people bring binoculars with them when they are hunting a bait site or if they do, they are underutilized and this has always struck me as odd. My experience has been that bigger bears will hang out within a few hundred yards of a bait throughout the day. They will come and go as they please when there isn't human presence (scent) around the bait site. I have found that when you are sitting the bait, many bigger bears tend to investigate thoroughly prior to committing. They will often times circle
the bait, sit on their butts and stare, ensure they have smelled the bait area from each possible direction and all of this could take hours. Once they feel comfortable, they typically slowly walk in.
On a recent bear hunt in Alaska, we had set up a bait in a totally new area, only accessible by a VERY long hike or a boat. This area is not hunted very heavily and there seem to be a good supply of mature bears. My hunting partner and I both suspect that few of these bears have ever seen a bait and they have very little human interaction. Even so, they can sense danger and know when something doesn't smell right in the woods. After three days of
the bear bait being set, a nice boar had found it. In most cases, I
wouldn't have the luxury of knowing this as our hunting locations are too far from home to check the site after just a few days. To my advantage, my partner was able to check it daily and as soon as a bear showed up, I wanted to hunt him within 24 hours to ensure he'd hang out instead of moving on to salmon or head to greener pastures.
My first sit only lasted about 4 hours, but a good majority of that was spent scanning the thick alders looking for black spots. After a while everything begins to look like a bear... That's when I pull out my bins and carefully glass for any inconsistencies that may show up. To my right, there was a decent size clearing through the alders that allowed to me see a bit further than the other areas. It also happened that the wind was blowing that way, a very likely direction most bears will enter the bait from. There was a very black tree trunk sticking up and the first time I noticed it I thought it was a bear, it wasn't. About 2 1/2 hours into the sit, I thought it looked a bit different, not much though, just slightly and I used my bino's to confirm. I am glad I did. When I put my binos on the area, I could see that it was in fact a bear. He was sitting there, staring towards the bait with his nose in the air taking huge breaths in, obviously smelling something just a little off....most likely, me.
Knowing that there is a bear nearby doing this is paramount. I have found as long as you sit absolutely still and make zero noise, you usually get lucky and trick them. That is exactly what happened. After about an hour of him sitting there, he moved a little closer and was completely engulfed in the local alder thickets. Had I not seem him prior, I would not have seen him sitting 40 yards away in the alders. He sat there for about 10 mins and then eventually came right in, confident in his assessment of the area. As soon as I saw him move from the alders, I drew my bow and waited patiently for him to commit and offer a shot. He walked right in, faced my tree-stand, stared up at me, smelled all he could and slowly turned towards
the bait. That is when I shot him at a mere 7 yards. All of this happened because I was able to pick apart my surroundings with
my binos. Had I not known he was there, I could have easily re-adjusted my cramped legs or moved a bit in the stand to stretch, tipping him off and ruining any chance of him coming in. Seeing him and being able to plan ahead allowed me to prepare for the first possible shot opportunity offered. I highly recommend using your binoculars to pick apart the brush and timber that surrounds your bait site. Most bears do not make much noise when they approach, seeing them before hearing them allows you to be on top of your game.