"Maine's No. 1 Black Bear
New England Game & Fish, August 2004
Wayne Bosowicz has been hunting and
studying Maine’s black bears for 40 years and is considered one of
the top black bear experts in the state. Is he also the last of a
By Sheila Grant
For Wayne Bosowicz, bear hunting is “a
way of life, an American tradition. When I was a kid, I was raised
on hunting. I was also taught that it's not so much the kill that
matters - it's the quality of the hunt.”
Bosowicz, who now lives in Sebec, Maine,
enjoyed hunting raccoons and other critters in his younger years,
but it was the black bear that held the most fascination for him.
In the late 1960’s, Bosowicz was a union
ironworker and started a part-time guide service. He traveled many
miles to put in his union hours and keep his benefits because, even
back then, the jobs weren't in Maine.
“I had just started guiding,” he
recalled. “The kids were growing up fast and I was not spending
enough time with them. So, I took the plunge, gave up the umbrella
of benefits and never looked back.”
MORE THAN A BEAR HUNTER
Not content to be just a bear hunter and
a bear guide, Bosowicz devoted himself to becoming a bear expert.
In the early 1970’s, Bosowicz joined the
International Bear Biology Association to obtain even more knowledge
about bears. While running his highly successful Foggy Mountain
Guide Service in Sebec, Bosowicz has been credited with many
contributions to Maine black bear management over the years.
In 1978, Bosowicz was issued an Award of
Merit by Maynard Marsh, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and
Wildlife commissioner, who wrote that Bosowicz' biological research
was “very helpful to this department, sportsmen and our bear population.
”In 2002, Bosowicz was still being
recognized for his commitment to Maine's black bear population.
“Throughout two decades of leading
Maine's Bear Study, I have been impressed by your willingness to
contribute biological data to our studies of bear reproduction and
survival,” wrote Dr. Craig McLaughlin, Maine's Bear Study leader. “I
salute you as a conservationist in the truest sense of the word,
always holding the welfare of the American black bear in the highest
BEAR RESEARCH PIONEER
It was Bosowicz who pioneered the use of radio collars on hounds
after seeing a television special about wardens using such collars
to track wolves. He wondered if the same system could be used with
hounds, and contacted the companies working on that technology.
At first, the expense kept most
companies from participating, he said, but eventually he was asked
to field-test the new collars.
Over the years, the collars have helped Bosowicz keep track of his
hounds, but they also enabled him to find and recover a dog caught
in a trap and another that had been injured in a fight with a bear.
Bosowicz believes the risk of loss in
training time and money in these valuable animals all but demands
that tracking collars be part of every hunter's kit.
He even takes it one step further:
“I think (radio collars) should be
legally mandated for hunters using hounds. The collar is just a
tool, and it's not going to help anyone find game, but they do
safeguard the well-being of your dog.”
Bosowicz had a few words of advice for
hunters new to the world of hunting hounds. First, find a reputable
dealer, and beware of anyone parting with an adult dog.
“No one sells a good dog unless they
have to. Start with a good bloodline. That's no guarantee of a good
dog, but blood tells at some point. Work them with other dogs and
see how they do.”
Prospective houndsmen should understand
that success at this sport requires a major investment in time and
“You have to put both feet into the tub
- you can hardly hold a job because serious hound hunting takes up
so much of your time. Pups do most of their learning during their
first year, and some gain a little ground into their second year,
but as the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, so
it's a short opportunity.”
"Train them exactly as you would a
housedog. The more of a pet they are, the more they feel a part of
the family 'pack,' the better they will hunt for you."
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
While most bear hunters use archery
gear, rifles or muzzleloaders for bears, Bosowicz recommends a heavy
handgun for hound handlers. His weapon of choice for bears is a
4l-caliber magnum handgun because it leaves his hands free for
handling dog leashes and bait buckets.
As for rifles, “About any 30 caliber
will do the job, but most hunters prefer a 30/06.”
He recommends a heavy-duty bullet, but
doesn't like hollow points.
“I like a semi-jacketed, soft-nosed
bullet in a handgun,” he said.
Bosowicz maintains that the average
sportsman would be wise to hire a guide for bear hunting.
“A bear hunt is not expensive when you
look at the bang you get for the buck;” he said, “Maintaining
successful bait stations costs a lot of money, especially with
today's rising gas prices.”
Also, consider the amount of time it
takes to become familiar with the territory; what the animal is
eating and where that food is.
“I have been hunting all my life, but I
still hire a guide when I go to the Rockies,” said this Maine Master
For hunters who do want to place their
own baits, be forewarned that the process involves a lot of hard
work. It can take up to two months to prepare a bait site, and then
the bait must be placed every day or two for 30 days before the
legal hunt begins.
“It's a very nomadic job,” he said.
“Often, a region you have all set up one year is clear-cut the next.
It's hard work and it's never really done.”
Scent and lures draw bears to a bait
site, but quality bait will keep them there.
“Many hunters use rotten meat, which
certainly works, but I prefer to use a real quality lure and make a
real quality meal for them.”
Bosowicz makes his own lures with secret ingredients, but said that
many successful hunters use anise or vanilla.
“People use all kinds of things to
attract bears. It's not rocket science,” he noted.
Hunters shouldn't plan on the bear
dining at the same time every day, either.
“It's a cliché, but the only predictable
thing about a bear is that it's unpredictable,” Bosowicz said.
“That's what makes bear hunting so exciting! Same bait, same bear,
but it might come at 9 a.m. one day and 2 p.m. the next. A bear
could come to a bait every day for a week and then it will skip a
day. Maybe the animal ran into natural foods somewhere in its
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
The upcoming referendum to ban bear
baiting, hound hunting and trapping has Bosowicz concerned, not so
much about his guide service, but about the future of his beloved
“Even if a person doesn't want to hunt,
I wonder why they would want to curb one of the best biological
tools we have - hunting over bait - and why you would want to hamper
the work of our wildlife scientists?”
"Baiting is, number one, a useful
biological tool, and number two, it's a successful hunting method.
We need to kill 4,000-plus bears per year in Maine (just to hold the
line at present population levels).”
“The sad thing is that I'm afraid this
issue is not going to be dealt with on truth and facts,” he said.
“It's emotional. One thing I've learned is that public sentiment
sometimes overrules biological facts. If people don't believe our
wildlife experts, why do we hire them? In Maine, we have the cream
of the crop among wildlife managers. I might not always like what
they say, but by gosh, I'd better pay attention to them.”
Bosowicz maintains that we use lures and
baits in everything we do in life. Fishermen do it. Duck hunters go
where the reeds are. Deer hunters go to apple orchards and alfalfa
“There is a multi-billion dollar
business in bait and lure. We call it the perfume industry,” he said
When fur prices drop, rabies outbreaks
among small mammals begin to rise. Disease within the moose
population was rising, too, before the legalized annual harvest
“I need to be managed. You need to be
managed. Everything in life needs to be managed. Management is the
key to everything,” he said.
Despite a lifetime of hunting black
bears, Bosowicz sums up his feelings like this:
“If I thought that what I do would hurt
the bear population, I'd quit.”
Maine’s No. 1 Bear Guide can be read in
the August 2004 issue of New England Game & Fish. See page 17.
To subscribe visit www.newenglandgameandfish.com.
Read more about
Black Bear Hunting with Foggy Mountain Guide Service.