Black Bears by Bow & Arrow, Part Four: Taking the Shot by Bill Vaznis

Bill Vaznis, Editor of Bear Hunting Magazine

Bill Vaznis, Editor of Bear Hunting Magazine

One of the advantages of shooting bears over bait is that you generally have ample time to size up the animal, and then wait for the perfect, one-shot kill. All bets are off however when you are out on a limb near the bait barrel, or hiding behind some brush at ground zero. This is where an unwanted noise or an involuntary movement can send a big bear packing. Indeed, this is where even an experienced big-game hunter can get “bear fever”, and blow the shot of a lifetime.

If a bear spots you sitting in your stand for example, curiosity may get the better of him and he will come over for a closer look-see. One of the real thrills of bear hunting is having a 400-pound boar march over to the tree you are sitting in, stand up and go “woof, woof” in your face. If that doesn’t kick start your imagination, you either have nerves of steel or you passed out on the first “woof”. 

Over the years I have had several bears climb up the tree towards me, mostly out of curiosity. Usually the bear will shimmy back down the trunk, but a couple of times I had yell at him when he got too close (okay, so I lost my nerve!), and once I had to kick my boot at his snoot to get him to go away. Generally however, if you just sit still the bear will soon be satisfied you are harmless, and shuffle over to the bait barrel, and in so doing put himself in harm’s way.

New bear hunters often get the jitters as a bear makes his final approach to the bait site. If your leg starts to hop about then like a rabbit on the run, your best defense is to decide not to take the shot. You will be surprised how cool, calm and collected you can be when there is no pressure to shoot. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the show! The bear may leave, but if not disturbed he is more than likely to return. And when he does, he will be more relaxed, and so will you—maybe even enough to make the shot.

One of the secrets to shooting a big bear at a bait site is to be sitting stone-still facing the bait with an arrow nocked. Then wait patiently for the bear to relax and look away or put his head in the barrel or just lay down and become preoccupied with eating. If you can keep your wits about you, then this is the time to pick a small spot to shot at, raise your bow, take careful aim—and shoot.

By Bill Vaznis for The Havalon Post

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