"How to Hunt Black Bear"
Handgunning, July/August 1995
If you’ve got the
nerve to hunt this dangerous game, here’s how world-class shooter
Doug Koenig and Outdoor Editor Dick Metcalf did it, courtesy of
master guide Wayne Bosowicz’s 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.
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.
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 bear’s 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
Stands 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 he’ll 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 he’s 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.
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.