If you’re looking for an exciting hunting adventure, then hunting black bears over bait in Alberta is a thrilling option to consider. Black bears are abundant throughout Alberta’s forests and wilderness areas, providing ample opportunities for hunters. Hunting these majestic creatures requires careful preparation, knowledge of regulations, and use of proper techniques to ensure an ethical and successful hunt. This complete guide will provide you with everything a beginner needs to know to have a safe, legal, and memorable black bear hunting experience in Alberta.
Alberta has a healthy black bear population estimated between 40,000 to 60,000 bears province-wide. This robust population allows for a liberal season with generous tag quotas, making Alberta one of the premier destinations for black bear hunting in North America. The province has an abundance of Crown land and several Outfitters and Guides with exclusive Registered Fur Management Areas containing excellent black bear habitat.
Hunters can choose between spring and fall bear hunting seasons that typically run from early April through the end of June in spring and mid-August to the end of October in the fall. Many non-resident hunters book a combination spring black bear and fall whitetail deer hunt with an outfitter to experience these two iconic big game species in one trip.
For residents, hunting bears over bait is a popular spring activity. Baiting black bears allows hunters to establish predictable patterns and bring the bears in close for an effective shot. When done properly and ethically, baiting can lead to success rates averaging 70-80%, much higher than spot and stalk hunting.
Overall, black bear hunting in Alberta provides hunters exciting opportunities with high success rates for both trophies and meat bears. Whether hunting on public land or private outfitted hunts, a black bear hunt in Alberta is sure to provide lasting memories.
Before hunting black bears in Alberta, all hunters must familiarize themselves with the regulations and have proper licenses and permits. Here are some key regulations:
- Hunters must have a valid Alberta hunting license for the specific Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) they will be hunting in. Licenses must be purchased annually.
- Residents must pass the Alberta Bowhunter/Firearm Education exam to purchase big game species hunting licenses.
- Non-residents can hunt black bears without an exam, but must employ a licensed guide for most WMUs.
- A Black Bear Hunting License is required in addition to a Wildlife Certificate.
- To bait black bears, you also need a Black Bear Baiting Permit. Bait must be placed a minimum of 200 yards away from any dwelling.
- There are strict regulations around the firearms, cartridge sizes, archery equipment that can be used. Rifles must be .23 caliber or larger and bows must meet 40 lb minimum draw weights.
- Mandatory submission of upper pre-molar tooth for harvested black bears taken in spring season. This is used for aging harvested bears.
- Bears cubs and mothers with cubs cannot be harvested. Identifying your target is critical.
Be sure to carefully review the hunting regulations for the WMU you will be hunting. Penalties for violations can include heavy fines, seizure of equipment, and loss of hunting privileges.
A black bear hunt involves patiently waiting for your target to arrive, meaning you could be sitting in a stand or ground blind for hours on end. Having proper attire and equipment will make the experience more comfortable. Here are some key pieces of gear to include:
- Base layers: Wool or synthetic base layers that wick moisture.
- Insulated jacket and bibs: Retains body heat during inactive periods.
- Outerwear: Choose camouflage jackets and pants in appropriate pattern for environment.
- Boots: Waterproof boots with sturdy tread and ankle support.
- Gloves and face mask: Helps conceal odor and skin.
- Firearm or bow: Sighted in and suited for black bear harvest.
- Rangefinder: Helps judge distance to target. Useful for bow hunters.
- Knife: Fixed blade knife for field dressing harvested bear.
- Binoculars/spotting scope: Helps identify bears coming to bait at long distances.
- Bear spray: For defense if needed.
- Camera: Document your hunt.
Choosing gear suited for extended periods of immobility and potential cold, wet weather is key. Be sure to have appropriate equipment for the method you will be using to harvest as well.
To achieve success hunting black bears over bait, you need to select areas with healthy bear populations that bears frequent. Here are some tactics to locate promising black bear hunting spots:
- Research areas known to have high black bear populations and hunting success rates. Local wildlife biologists can provide info.
- Focus on remote locations away from human presence yet still accessible. Black bears tend to avoid high human activity areas.
- Look for habitat features black bears prefer like dense brush and timber, wetlands, and streams.
- Scout for signs of bears like tracks, scat, and scratch marks on trees.
- Talk to landowners in the area to ask about bear activity on their property.
- Use aerial imagery to spot promising habitat like berry patches or orchards bears may feed on.
- Consider using hounds to help tree and scout bears for potential areas before the season.
Areas rich in natural food sources that offer security cover are prime black bear real estate. Scout thoroughly to ensure you have a good chance of bears visiting your bait site.
Bait is the linchpin that brings black bears in for a shot opportunity. Choosing enticing bait and refreshing it to keep bears coming back is crucial for success. Here are the most effective baits to use:
Fruit and Sweet Smelling Foods: Black bears love fruits and sweets. Cherries, apples, donuts, maple syrup, jelly, and candy are go-to bait options. Can add smell attractants to these items.
Meat and Fish: Meat scraps and oily fish provide smells bears can’t resist. Combine with sweet items for added appeal.
Pungent Odors: Strong smelling oils like anise, mint, and vanilla extract can lure bears from long distances. Soak rags in these to drag a scent trail to bait site.
Liquid Attractants: Special scents, sprays, and powders made specifically for black bears can be used alone or on other baits. Follow manufacturer recommendations.
The best approach is to use a variety of different baits and rotate them to keep bears interested as they return to feed. Check provincial regulations on legal baits before baiting. Things like chocolate and meats high in preservatives are often banned.
Success with baiting black bears requires more than just tossing some treats on the ground. You need to select the right location and properly prepare the site. Here are some tips:
- Pick an area with plenty of bear sign 200+ yards from any buildings. Often uphill and downwind from expected bear travel routes.
- Clear shooting lanes around the bait site to ensure a safe shot. Trim branches or brush obscuring the area.
- Dig a shallow hole and place logs/rocks to help contain loose bait like syrups. Can also use a barrel.
- Place bait in the center of the clearing. Establish a trail leading away from bait to bring in more bears.
- Set up a tree stand or ground blind with good views of the bait site and shooting lanes.
- Regularly add fresh bait and replenish as needed to keep attracting bears. Use trail cameras to monitor activity.
Proper preparation and choosing areas that bears naturally frequent will lead to better odds for success. Make sure your set up is safe and legal by following regulations.
Calling is an effective technique you can use to draw black bears into your bait station once they are in the area. Different calls can be utilized to peak a bear’s curiosity and bring them in for a shot:
- Distressed prey sounds: Mimicking mice squeaks or a rabbit in distress can attract bears searching for an easy meal.
- Food source sounds: Loud grunts that sound like a boar bear or whistles and slurps resembling bird sounds can attract bears.
- Cub distress calls: Mimicking the loud bawling of distressed bear cubs brings in protective mother bears to investigate. Use caution and be prepared.
- Challenge roars: Roars and woofs sound like a threat from an intruding bear. Can be effective on territorial boars.
- Rattles and clicks: Loud rattles and subtle clicks mimicking foraging bears can pique interest.
Make sure to use scent control and calling techniques appropriately based on wind direction. Starting with subtle sounds and working up to more aggressive calls is most effective.
Once you successfully harvest a black bear, proper field dressing and skinning ensures quality meat and a trophy hide. Follow these steps:
- Wear rubber gloves and make a cut from the base of the tail up to the sternum.
- Cut around the anus to remove the end of the large intestine. Tie this off to avoid contamination.
- Make an incision up the belly midline being careful not to cut into intestines.
- Remove all internal organs including lungs, heart, and intestines.
- Roll the bear onto its side to allow remaining blood and fluids to drain.
- Prop cavity open with a stick. Allow air flow for faster cooling.
- Skin starting at the paws, using a knife to separate the skin from muscle. Work up the limbs and down from the head.
- Once removed, place the hide fur side up on ice or a cooling rack, spread flat.
- Dispose of waste properly and pack out meat after adequately cooling.
Learning to properly field dress is key for high-quality bearskins and edible meat. If transporting to a butcher, field dress as soon as possible.
Hunting black bears over bait does involve some inherent risks. Here are some key safety tips to follow:
- Never hunt alone. Having a partner can provide backup and assistance if needed.
- Make noise and be alert when approaching bait sites to avoid startling bears. Look for signs a bear is still present.
- Keep bear spray readily accessible on your person and know how to use it properly if needed.
- Store food away from your tent if camping and use bear proof containers and hangs.
- Take your time identifying your target properly before taking a shot. Never shoot at movement alone.
- Only take high percentage shots to ensure quick kills. Avoid frontal chest shots.
- Follow all firearm safety rules and ensure adequate backstops for missed shots.
Hunters must remember that bears are powerful predators and demand respect. Staying alert and identifying targets properly is critical for safety.
The ethics of hunting black bears over bait continues to be debated by hunters, wildlife managers, and the general public. Here are some of the considerations around this issue:
Arguments Against Baiting:
- It may habituate bears to human food sources and increase human-bear conflicts.
- Baiting is not “fair chase” and does not demonstrate an equal match between hunter and hunted.
- It can make bears more susceptible to over-harvest by drawing them to specific sites.
Arguments Supporting Baiting:
- Hunting over bait allows better identification of the bear before shots are taken.
- Baiting lures bears away from residential areas to reduce human conflicts.
- Properly regulated, baiting has minimal impact on healthy black bear populations.
- Baiting is effective at controlling bear numbers and problem animals in some areas.
Overall, most wildlife agencies support baiting as an appropriate harvest method when properly regulated. Employing patience, marksmanship, and ethical shot selection arguably still demonstrates fair chase. But like any hunting method, impacts on target species must be carefully monitored by managers.
Here are answers to some common beginner questions on hunting black bears over bait in Alberta:
What is the success rate when baiting black bears in Alberta?
With good location selection, bait, and calling techniques, success rates average 70-90% for bears coming to bait sites. Of these bears, hunters typically harvest 50-70% that present good shot opportunities.
What size are black bears taken over bait in Alberta?
Typical bears range from 125-275 lbs dressed weight, with 200 lbs being average. Skulls usually size from 17-21 inches. Large bears go 300+ lbs with skulls over 23 inches.
When is the best time to bait for black bears in Alberta?
Early spring (April-May) and late fall (September-October) are prime times as bears actively forage to build fat for winter and following den emergence.
What bait works best to bring in Alberta black bears?
A combination of sweet treats like frosting and fruits along with meats and fish scraps. Pungent spray scents help lure bears in from long distances.
How long should I bait before hunting over the site?
Aim to have bait out at least 2-3 weeks before hunting to establish a routine and lure bears in from surrounding areas.
Is it safe and effective to hunt bears over bait?
When done properly following all regulations, baiting can be very effective with high safety by properly identifying targets. Extra precautions should still be taken.
Is hunting black bears over bait considered ethical by most hunters?
Opinions vary greatly on this topic within the hunting community. Most believe baiting is ethical when done legally and in a sustainable manner supporting bear management goals. Strict regulations monitor impacts on bear populations. But practices should be continuously reviewed.
In summary, here are the key tips for a successful hunt:
- Research regulations and acquire proper licenses, tags, and permits beforehand.
- Scout thoroughly to locate areas with ample bear sign away from heavy human presence.
- Use a variety of natural smelling baits to maximize attraction, making sure baiting is done legally.
- Set up bait sites properly with shooting lanes and access for adding bait. Be safe and ethical.
- Utilize calls sparingly to draw in bears that are in the area without overusing.
- Identify bears clearly before taking ethical, lethal shots. Pass on risky shots.
- Follow all safety precautions when hunting these powerful animals.
- Field dress bears promptly and remove the hide carefully for a quality trophy.
So there you have it – the complete beginner’s guide to baiting and hunting black bears in Alberta. When done legally and properly, it offers an exciting way to harvest these impressive animals amid spectacular scenery. Just be sure to educate yourself on the regulations, prepare thoroughly, and use effective yet ethical techniques. If you found this guide helpful, be sure to check out our articles on bear hunting in other top areas across North America. Happy and successful hunting!
Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.