A stick snapped. Then another. I paid it little mind. I’d always been told you don’t hear bears coming to a bait. I figured it to be another deer. Besides, my wind was for crap. I had my Ozonics in the tree, but it was one of my first experiences with the unit. I let out a deep sigh and rubbed my hands over my eyes.
Then I looked back at the bait, and there he was.
My heart dropped and beat out of my chest, all at the same time. His coat was the color of a Hershey’s chocolate bar and, though he wasn’t a monster, he was good enough for this public-land bear hunter. The angle was bad, and I could feel the wind pulling my stink right toward him. Twice he lifted his head into the air and tested the wind. Each time he went back to feeding.
I’ve been told multiple times that spring bear hunting is about as sure of a thing as there is in bowhunting. I don’t totally disagree. Spring bear hunting is awesome. And while sit-and-wait vigils over bait boost the chances of a bruin encounter, nothing in bowhunting is a guarantee, especially when it comes to chasing bears in the lower 48.
Most U.S. bear locales don’t boast population numbers like those found in Canada. On my last Canadian bear hunt, I had 21 different bears come in to my bait site over three days. On my last DIY Idaho adventure, I had only two bears come in to my baits while I was on stand.
Regardless of whether I’m hunting bears north of the border or here in the states, my Ozonics unit is always in the tree or blind with me. Now, many people will tell you that any bear that comes in to bait knows you’re there. I agree — to a point. I’ve shot bears in Canada from the ground that definitely knew I was there. One semi-charged my natural hide, only to retreat and resume eating a rotting beaver carcass. But I’ve also had bears in Canada and the U.S. come in that I was certain were oblivious to my presence.
My goal when hunting is to always reduce my human footprint. If my entrance and exit routes are sound and my scent-control methods are good, my confidence soars. And in my experience, a confident bowhunter will usually be a successful bowhunter.
Mountain Winds and Thermals Suck
My favorite place to set a bear bait is on the point of a narrow ridge or bench where winds can carry the scent of my goodies down into surrounding drainages. Fickle mountain breezes grab scent and pull it down one side of the ridge and then the other. If a bear is calling either drainage home, chances are he will find the bait.
The first time you climb into your stand over a bait site like this, you’ll see just how fickle mountain breezes can be. One minute you’ll feel like the wind is in your face, and in the blink of an eye, a gust will push through and hit you in the back of the neck. Then it will blow scent down to the right, and then to the left. You can’t fight it.
Along with the wind comes the ever-changing thermals. Thermals are created from the heating and cooling of the earth’s surface. I hunt bears over bait when my cameras tell me they are hitting. This is typically in the evening, and prime time seems to be just when the earth cools enough to send once-rising thermals back down the mountain. It’s incredibly frustrating.
I always play the wind as best as I can when hunting bears over bait, but I don’t let it prevent me from climbing into my stand and I definitely don’t worry about the thermals.
The second I climb into my stand, even before I drag my bow and gear up, I pull my Ozonics out of my pack and turn it on. The quicker you can get the unit on, the quicker ozone can start destroying your human stink. Next, place the unit on the seat of your stand and grab your mounting bracket. I like to stand more than I like to sit when perched 20 feet up. For this reason, I screw my mounting bracket into the tree at forehead level, turn the attachment arm so the wind will hit the unit on its backside and slide the unit over the silver post. The goal is to keep the unit as close to me and my gear as possible. Then I angle the unit downward slightly at about a 30-degree angle. This can be accomplished by turning the knob just below the post attachment. A downward angle drops ozone all around you, and during those times when you do sit down, a rain shower of ozone falls over you. Use wind detection powder or a Windtracker to keep an eye on the wind. If the breeze shifts for more than a minute or two, swivel the mounting bracket arm to quickly relocate the unit dumping your ozone in the downwind scent stream.
If used correctly, your Ozonics unit will attack and eliminate much of your human scent. Scent that is still lingering is reduced to a point that makes an approaching bear believe you’re farther away than you actually are. I’ve also found that while my Ozonics is whittling away at my scent, the smell of the bait that is 20 or so yards out jams up a bear’s nostrils. I can get away with a lot in the bear woods when using my Ozonics, even when hunting pressured public-land bruins. Food for thought this spring.
Article by Jace Bauserman