Black Bear Hunting Tactics:

What Bears Like To Eat:

A very popular activity for tourists is to drive to the dump and watch the bears eat. Tourists look at the bears and take pictures. Sometimes they try to get to close and scare the bears. Other bears hang around outpost cabins or tent camps. Bears do learn to be scared of humans as well as know how humans smell, move and sound. (I'll come back to this)

A serious bear hunting outfitter examines the dump situation a little differently. If you are in a dump watching the bears eat, you will notice they never eat meat. The bears are looking for food high in carbohydrates. The bears are ripping the garbage bags apart looking for bread, pastries, pasta, old pizza crust or whatever the local lodges throw away. So later in the fall, the outfitters bait their feeding station with just that. Some outfitters will bring meat in to attract wolves because bear hunters only need to buy an additional small game license to take a wolf.

Later in the fall when all the fishing lodges close for the season, there is a lot less food in the dumps, outpost camps or tent camps so more and more bears head to the outfitter's feeding stations. The bears are hungry but still afraid of humans and know what humans smell like. They also know what humans throw away and know if there is human food; there are humans around. Yet the outfitters know what the bears like so the bears can not resist the temptation to feed at the feeding station. But they are cautious. Black Bears are very sensitive to perfume, cologne, deodorant, hair spray, scented soaps, scented laundry detergent, cigarette and cigar smoke etc. etc…

With this in mind, before the hunt; try to prepare by trying some of the following.

1) Before coming up north for the hunt, wash all your clothes twice. First with laundry detergent and then a second time with just water to make sure all the soap perfumes are out of your clothes.

2) If you smoke, bring some nicotine patches so you don't get the craving while you are in the tree stand. The big trophy bears are older and smarter and know what tobacco smells like and they know it comes from humans. Not smoking will give you a better chance at a trophy bear. All animals have an instinctive fear of smoke and fire.

3) Stay very quiet. Bring some mint flavored throat lozenges with you in case your throat gets scratchy. This will help keep you from coughing.

4) Use unscented deodorant, soap and shampoo.

5) Stay still. A bear's visual acuity is largely based on movement. Actually, that's true with most animals.

6) After breakfast or after lunch, either brush your teeth with mint toothpaste or chew mint gum while you are in the tree stand. When people go camping in Ontario's parks, the first thing the ranger says is keep gum and toothpaste out of your tent. Black Bears go nuts over the scent of mint. So mint toothpaste and gum will not only cover up any scent on your breath, it may even attract bears.

7) If you are going to drink alcohol the night before the hunt, which is a big part of any vacation, it's best to drink beer. The next day, the beer smell in your body slowly dissipates and makes you smell like bread. Other forms of alcohol tend to give you more of an artificial chemical smell. You may not notice it, but the next morning, people who have not been drinking can smell it on you. A bear's sense of small is about 250 times better then a human.

Bear Size:

In most cases, big ears mean a smaller bear. A small ear is usually a bigger bear. Once a bear reaches three years old (approx. 100 lbs.), the bear starts to grow into it's ears. The ears and eyes don't grow as much as they do in the first three years. Sometimes if a bear has a hard year with food, the ears will look bigger because the bear is thinner.


When a sow is with cubs, 90% of the time the cubs are in the lead. The cubs will make more noise than a single bear. Most of the time, adult bears make little or no noise.


You can't shoot a sow with cubs. This is the law. So make 100% sure you know what you are shooting at. Take a really good look around to make sure there are no cubs. A sow's ears are usually closer together, as a male bear's cranium grows wider on top and the ears look farther apart. They also look smaller, which is really an illusion.

These are just basic tips. Bears have different behavior in different areas so make sure you listen to what the outfitter tells you. And remember anti-hunting group's just scare-monger for donations. It's hunters who are the real leaders in conservation so do your part by eliminating any possibility of harvesting a sow with cubs or a young bear.