Black Bear Track "How to Hunt Black Bear"

Handgunning, July/August 1995

Big-bore double-action revolvers like the 44 Magnum are excellent choices for dense-woods bear hunting

If youve got the nerve to hunt this dangerous game, heres how world-class shooter Doug Koenig and Outdoor Editor Dick Metcalf did it, courtesy of master guide Wayne Bosowiczs Foggy Mountain Guide Service.

By Dick Metcalf

Even his competitors agree that Wayne Bosowicz is the best black bear guide in the world, and he says the most productive way to hunt black bear is from a baited blind - a Maine tradition going back nearly 250 years, which is the way that three-times Masters champion Doug Koenig and I hunted last fall.

Doug Koenig hunting bear from a tree stand Beginning in midsummer, Bosowicz and his guide staff start scouting the nearly 500 square forest miles of Foggy Mountain's operating territory, studying signs of bear movement, territorial circles, trail intersections, and regular feeding locations. At promising places, which differ greatly from year to year, they establish bait sites and stand locations - usually treestands, although ground blinds may be more appropriate in some terrain. Maine hunting law requires each guide's bait site to be legally marked and separated from any other guide's stands by a wide buffer zone to reduce poaching and ensure each hunter's stand will not be trespassed upon. The baits are molasses-soaked foodstuffs, from stale breads and pastries to rotting meats and fruit. Sites are checked and re-baited three times a week, and the ones with regular activity are where Bosowicz places his hunters when the season opens on September 1st.

But the best stand gives you barely a break-even chance. Visibility is extremely limited. Even 10 to 12 feet above the shrubbery and undergrowth of the forest floor in a treestand, you can't see much further than 20 yards in any direction. It's so quiet the slightest rustle of a ground squirrel makes you think a moose is walking by. Black bear are utterly soundless; it is amazing an animal so large can move so silently. By comparison, a whitetail sounds like a stampeding rhino. The key is the bears habitual rolling gait; it actually tests the surface beneath each padded paw momentarily before putting weight down, and its straight-furred coat slides past brush and branches more silently than the quietest fleece hunting cloth.

Doug Koenig's patience in the treestand finally paid of when he took this 225-pound bear running at 60 yardsStands at Foggy Mountain are literally on top of the bait sites and are seldom more than 50 feet away. Last fall I hunted primarily from a ground blind, with my revolver's muzzle just 30 feet from the bait. This is close. You must have total discipline and concentration at every moment. While you sit there for hours waiting and unaware, the bear at any instant may be circling around you and testing the wind for any hint of a human presence. You must be utterly motionless, utterly silent, and utterly free of scent at all times or you will never even know anything was near. And if the bear does come, you still won't have a clue until he is actually right there at the bait. Then hell be close enough for you to smell him - and you will. Veteran hunters describe the bear's appearance at the bait by saying it just materializes...like a cloud of black fog." Hunters who have experience in Africa have said the closest thing to it for cold chills is night hunting for leopard. And even when hes right in front of you, it's still not easy. He's so close he can hear you breathing - and he will. If he catches the slightest hint of your presence, like the sound of a hammer cocking, he's gone so quick a blink will miss it. You'll have just about two seconds to make your shot and put it where it'll keep him down.

Black bear are very hard to kill, and they are hard to track when wounded. Even a good heavy-caliber lung or heart shot may not keep the animal from getting off into the woods, and even a penetrating lung shot may not leave very much of a blood trail. Wounded bear bleed into the porous fat layers between hide and muscle, and their thick fur absorbs external bleeding like a sponge. Even a heavily bleeding animal may travel a great distance before its wound begins to actually leave a visible trail.

There aren't many more upsetting situations a hunter can face in this country than to put a carefully aimed shot into a 300-pound bear at virtual point-blank range, see it stagger, then vanish into the brush in two steps before you can even recover from recoil. You sit there, with dark closing in by the minute, not able to see more than 20 feet, and a wounded bear close by. And you have to get down onto the ground and do something about it. No wonder now why your guide and other experienced bear hunters kept telling you how important it is to hit a bear hard and solid and put him down and keep on hitting him until there is no chance he will get up and get out of your sight. No wonder now why the right choice of handgun, load, and sights is so very important.

Continued...

Continue to next section "Choosing a Bear Gun"


How to Hunt Black Bear can be read in the July/August 1995 issue of Handgunning. See page 60.

Read more about Black Bear Hunting with Foggy Mountain Guide Service.

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