For DIY, there are three important words to remember – preparation, preparation, preparation. This is ultra-vital on a DIY bear hunt because a DIY effort encompasses every detail from beginning planning to taking care of meat and hide of the bears you and hunting partners tag.
You are your own outfitter, guide, and hide and meat processor. And you intend to have time to hunt, too? Because you are on your own, you need to be more organized and prepared to pay closer attention to detail.
Make a written list of questions and make notes as needed when you talk to the various people you will need to talk to. Write down everything.
A categorized supply list is great for checking everything you need to bring — hunting gear, shooting gear, clothing, baiting supplies, camping gear, food and cooking gear, bear processing tools. With a detailed list, you can track things more closely and minimize anxiety.
Planning, analyzing and preparation will be a continuous juggling game of decisions. Be prepared to shift gears and adapt options as you wade through the details. Don’t expect to have all the answers right away.
CHECKLIST and QUESTIONS
This step-by-step planning and preparation list is as complete as we could make it. We may have overlooked something but not much. Other chapters in the book will directly help you with planning details.
- Planning the Hunt
- What is your budget?
- How much time do you have available, portal to portal?
- What type of hunt do you want?
- Where, geographically, do you want to hunt?
- Do you want to hunt spring or fall?
- Are you the boss, or is this a committee thing?
- How many people will be in your hunting party? (To know amounts of various items to bring.)
- What is their bear hunting experience? (How much will they be able to help?)
- Know all applicable laws where you intend to hunt. If you’re not a Canadian citizen and have a no-no or two in your history, you may not be able to hunt in Canada.
- Get a passport if you don’t have one. U.S. citizens cannot enter Canada without a valid passport.
CATEGORIES / GROUPS
- Vehicle – Condition, grease/oil before leaving, spare tire(s), adequate jacks, something to put jack on so it won’t sink in mud when you need to change a flat back in the brush on a two-track trail, chain to pull you out of mud. Second vehicle to help first vehicle, or winch on first vehicle.
ATVs save time and work on all hunts, but especially on DIY hunts where you have to do everything, including bringing out a bear. Some baits can be an hour or more back in the woods off a road.
- Lodging — Where will you stay, en route and at your hunt site? Motel, resort cabin, your tent or trailer at resort or campground? Will campground permit a hunting camp and all it entails on its grounds? Thinking here mostly of bait storage, processing of tagged bear, etc.
- Camp needs – Food, beverages, coolers for food and bait, stove(s) and suitable gas (LP or white), pots & pans, table(s), cooking and eating utensils, plates-dishes-cups, kitchen supplies (soap, scrub brush, towels, dish rack), matches.
- Meat and hide handling supplies — Knives-sharpeners-steels, coolers for bait and ice (bagged regular ice and/or dry ice), salt for bear hide, meat packing bags.
• Hunting gear — What hunting arm(s) do you intend to use? (May have an opportunity to use more than one type, but no handguns in Canada.) Shovel, axe, hatchet, rake, saw, five-gallon pail(s), attractant and masking scents and lures, gun/bow case and tools, treestand, treesteps, ground blind(s).
TYPE OF DIY HUNT
Spot-and-stalk? Calling? Bait hunting? Combination? This decision will be influenced by several factors:
- The area you want to hunt may not be suitable for the type of hunt you want;
- The time available may not be enough to allow travel time and enough hunting days;
- The season may not be right for what you want to do;
- Don’t try to do too much.
COST OF THE HUNT
- Travel (fuel and food) and lodging to and from your hunting site
- Camp or resort cost
- Food in camp
- Price of fuel where you will hunt
- Processing and transportation items to handle bear hide and meat properly, including ice/dry ice and salt.
• Plan B if costs of the hunt you want may not fit your budget, or number of days available are too few, or distance to be traveled is too far for the time available.
- Insect repellent
- Duct tape
- Personal toiletries (tooth brush, etc.)
- Skin care medication (treat poison ivy, wild parsnip)
- Soap, washcloth, towel
- Medications. Always bring extra, should your stay be extended.
- Rain suit
- Extra pair of glasses, if you wear them
- Camo clothes, hat, gloves
- Gun – extra rounds of ammunition
• Bow – practice target and extra arrows
Once you know your time frame and budget, the next question is “which becomes the chicken and which the egg – where you want to hunt or how you want to hunt?”
Costs and time available will have a larger affect on where you hunt than how you intend to hunt. Some of this is academic because no one is going to launch a safari the first time he tries a DIY hunt.
You most likely already have a hunt location and hunting style in mind before you decide to try a DIY. If you’ve been on a couple of guided hunts – a good way to get your feet wet before trying a DIY – you’re already well into the process.
- Spot-and-stalk works best in the spring or early fall.
- Calling works well in the spring breeding season.
- Bait hunting requires more attention and far more effort, but most likely will be more productive. You have to collect, transport and store bait. In this, use manageable, sealable containers, ones that you can handle easily and which can be transported easily in truck, van or trailer. You do NOT want to haul 55- gallon drums. Do not use bait that will spoil — meat, fish, etc. Bears don’t like spoiled foods.
To hunt in Canada over bait, be aware that all bait brought into Canada has to be edible – by humans. Well…at least you’ll know what to do when you get hungry on stand.
WHERE TO STAY
If you plan to stay in a resort cabin, be sure you know what is included and what is not. Do you need to bring towels and bedding? Who does the clean-up, you or the resort’s housekeeping staff? Can you cook in the cabin/motel, or outside on the grounds? Do you need to bring food or are there stores in the area?
If you’re thinking campground on public lands, what’s allowed and what isn’t?
How far will it be from your camp to where you plan to hunt (time and fuel cost factors)?
MEAT AND HIDE CARE
Are meat lockers or freezer facilities available in the area to cool your bear? (In Canada, ask about an abattoir, not a meat market or butcher shop.)
HUNT GEAR & BEAR-HANDLING ITEMS
- Pack frame
- Sharp knife(s), sharpening steel and stone
- Compass or GPS
- Rope, 3/8” – 30 feet
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Camp lanterns, maybe, and white gas fuel
- Hydrogen peroxide. Spray on anything you think is blood; If it is blood it will foam.
- Machete to cut brush
- Knee boots, probably hip boots, too. Although you may be able to walk into your stand without getting wet feet, a wounded bear will head to water if possible.
- Backup gun. Usually a shotgun with buckshot and slugs
- Ziploc bags (fish fillets, etc.)
- Tag for the bear, zip ties to fasten tag to bear.
- Five-gallon bucket (2-3). Many uses – carry sand to put around bait for bear track ID, carry baits, carry water, sit on in ground blind, etc.
- Bow/gun, etc. You know your gear. No sense detailing here. However, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Archery – Set up and tune a second bow and take it with you. There are no archery stores back in the woods, so, if you aren’t already a good service technician, become as good as you can. Then take the tools and extra supplies of everything you may need to service your bow in the field.
Cases – Keep guns and bows in hard cases on ATVs and other vehicles, and have them tightly secured when traveling to your bait site. Two-tracks and swampy, muddy trails, and unexpected rocks in the path…all can knock things out of alignment. A PVC pipe will make a rugged longbow case.
Firearms – Take a second gun, just in case.
Treestands – Each hunter should bring two or three of his own hang-on stands, plus climbing sticks. A ladder stand or two would be good.
- Contact or visit the state or province wildlife department biologist in the area you plan to hunt. Ask for good hunting areas, likely hunting pressure, success rates from recent seasons, etc. Ask them to send you bear hunting, baiting and treestand regulations for their area. Ask if they can suggest a private landowner to contact for permission to hunt on that person’s land. Ask about the extent of competition in the area from other bear hunters.
- Get county, regional or state/province maps to locate public land for the area you plan to hunt, and regulations on those lands. The maps should show campgrounds and hunting areas, if such designated areas exist.
SCOUTING & STAND LOCATION
- Scout the area you will hunt, if possible…and it should be possible. Makes no sense to go into an area cold. Generally, a black bear is a lazy animal. It does not deal well with hot weather and will almost always look for damp or wet areas that give them relief from the heat. Such an area next to or in a thicket is ideal.
- Know and use the one-to-one rule if you intend to hunt from an elevated platform: for every yard from your stand to the bait, go one foot of elevation for your stand, i.e. 15 yards to stand and 15 feet up the tree.
- Good baiting and Chicago elections are similar. Chicago voting instructions are “vote early, vote often’. Good baiting is “bait early, bait often”.
- If you plan to hunt over bait, ask yourself how frequently you will be able to bait before the hunt. Daily baiting produces well and keeps bait fresh. Weekend baiting has problems with stale baits.
Start baits as early as possible; a month prior to your hunt would be great. Bear will use the security of darkness to come to a bait until they feel comfortable coming in during daylight hours.
STARTING THE HUNT
- Have the base camp set up, no matter if it is a motel room, resort cabin, tent/trailer or your own home. Having a place to call home early in the game gives stability to everything and brings order instead of chaos.
- Scent control. Do not wear the cloths you will hunt in while you are cooking in camp, hauling wood or doing any camp chores. Store your hunting cloths in an airtight container and get dressed to hunt in an area away from the odors of camp.
- If shower facilities are not available, bring scent-free wipes to use prior to getting dressed to hunt. When water temperatures are warm enough, a swim is great. “Warm enough” is a sliding scale.
- If you are driving to and from your bait on an ATV or pickup truck, get dressed after you park to walk to your bait. Carry your hunting clothes in/on the vehicle in a sealed container to be scent free and out of splashed mud and water.
AFTER THE SHOT
- After you hit a bear you will be completely on your own.
- On a remote DIY hunt, be fully prepared to get the bear out of the woods quickly and take care of the meat and hide quickly. It will be a lot of work.
- A pack frame is an important piece of equipment on a DIY hunt. You may need to skin and quarter the bear to get it back to camp, and it may take more than one trip. If that is the case, cover meat left in the woods with evergreen boughs and one or two items of clothing that have plenty of your scent. Bears will move a bear they find dead to a different area and feed on it, but will be less likely to do so with a sweaty t-shirt on the carcass.
- Four people can carry out a good-sized bear on a cot or stretcher. If you tie a bear’s front legs and hind legs together and hang the bear on a pole to carry it out, tie the bear’s body tight to the pole. If you don’t do that, the dead bear will begin swinging on the pole and sooner or later pitch everyone carrying it to the ground.
- Once back at camp, immediately begin processing the meat and hide.