In Black Bear Hunting, Blog

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Bear Hunting Obsession of a Driven Man

by Bill “BearCrazy” Wiesner

Natural Diet of a Black Bear

Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They are not effective predators but will catch and eat deer fawns, elk calves, moose calves and beaver. However, bear diets are approximately 90% vegetable protein and 10% animal protein. They also have a sweet tooth (such as baked goods).

Bears eat honey, but more in folklore than in real life. Immature bees, which are mostly fat and protein, are much preferred. Honey does not compare to larvae in nutritional value. After eating, bears shake defending bees out of their heavy fur like a dog shakes off water.

Other animal protein comes from ant larvae, hornet larvae, tent caterpillars, grubs (especially June beetle grubs) and, in some cases, snow fleas. Bears occasionally find ground bird nests, eating eggs and younger hatchlings.

But they don’t like to eat snakes, turtles, frogs, toads or salamanders.

Away from salmon areas (they love salmon), they seldom eat fish unless they find a stream with spawning suckers.

As the Spring temperature warms, black bears seek tender grasses, young shoots and buds of trees and shrubs, wetland plants and forbs. They also like fresh poplar tree buds and other softwood tree buds. These help the bear’s digestive system get into high gear after a winter of complete inactivity.

Fresh and rotting carcasses in the summer usually are ignored, especially when nuts and berries are available. We can easily understand this.

Bill and his largest black bear, a Wisconsin trophy that scored 21-15/16 and weighed 510 pounds. He shot it a bait near a plowed field with what had been his father’s .30-06. Photo by Bill Wiesner.

Artificial Bait for Attracting Black Bears

For artificial baits, think of their sweet tooth and pastry. We used to load up at a Hostess ‘day-old’ store, and pack it into five-gallon buckets. Granola is a good bait. It absorbs molasses, honey and syrup, it stores easily, and bears love it. Dried bread with fryer grease or molasses is good. Gummy bears and oats with fryer grease are good. Popped popcorn is really good. Bears love it, and they never get filled up.

Put powdered berry gelatin in a jug of water, shake it up, unscrew the cap and shake/spray that berry-scented water over small trees and bushes near the bait pile.

Peanut butter smeared on nearby tree trunks attracts bears too. They will entertain you trying to dislodge peanut butter stuck to their teeth, gums and the roof of their mouth.

Bears that walk on or through fryer grease will carry that grease scent back into their habitat, helping spread the good word about your bait site.

The trick to any successful bait is to keep the bear fed. So don’t be stingy with bait. If you’re hungry, you might want some too.

Learn More

For more helpful tips and techniques for hunting black bear, check out The Bear Hunting Obsession of a Driven Man. The paperback book is filled with almost 200 pages of  extensive, proven “how to” black bear hunting tips, spanning 10 how-to chapters and 10 memoir chapters you’re sure to enjoy. Order the book on its own, or save $9 and get even more exciting tales and valuable tools with our two-book special featuring The Bear Hunting Obsession of a Driven Man and In The Land of the Bear.