Bear Safety Tips
“When a hunter in a stand watches a bear approach, their fear is the bear is tracking them to attack them, when in reality the bear is just tracking this foreign smell in his environment. Don’t confuse curiosity with aggression.”
Maria Davidson, Large Carnivore Program Manager
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Fisheries
Encounters with bears
Keep a Clean Camp
Avoid attracting and rewarding a bear with food. All food and beverages, including canned food, garbage, pet food, and scented toiletries are bear attractants. The IGBC list of Bear-Resistant Products is a good place to look for containers that keep bears out, even if you’re not in camp.
Carcasses and bears
When a hunt is successful, the resulting carcasses or gut piles can attract hungry bears trying to build body fat before winter hibernation. Be aware that a bear may occasionally claim a deer carcass before a hunter can recover and transport it out of the woods. If so, let the bear have the meat and leave the area immediately! Do not risk your safety.
Chance encounters with bears while hunting
Always be aware of bears while hunting and take precautions for your safety.
Hunters have a higher chance than hikers of meeting up with a black bear in the fall or spring. Hunters tend to move through dense timber, along trails, and in other areas frequented by bears. To add to the potential for encounters, hunters move quietly, downwind from game, and often travel during the same early morning and late evening hours when bears are most active.
Tree stands and curious bears
AGGRESSION OR CURIOUSITY?
If you’re up in a tree stand, bears may come by and investigate. Don’t confuse curiosity with aggression. A bear’s inquisitiveness drives it to inspect deer stands, ATVs, trucks, and all manner of equipment.
- If you’re in your stand, yell at the bear and let the bear know you are there before it gets close to your stand. Wave your hands and make a banging noise to let the bear know you are a human to be avoided.
- Please don’t video the bear as it gets closer and closer to you. This puts you and the bear at risk.
- You especially don’t want cubs to climb your tree if their mother gets upset at your close presence. Make noise when she is far away and her cubs will climb a tree that you’re not in!
AGGRESSION OR CURIOUSITY?
Don’t let a bear get this close to your tree stand! Bears often follow their noses and aren’t aware of your presence until you make noise or movement. They usually run away when you speak up.
Deer feeders attract bears
IS SUPPLEMENTAL WILDLIFE FEEDING LEGAL IN YOUR STATE?
Read your local regulations or contact your state’s fish and game agency before feeding wildlife, especially deer. If supplemental wildlife feeding is legal and you choose to feed deer, you may have the following consequences:
- If you dump feed on the ground there is no way to keep many types of wildlife, including bears, from eating it.
- Bears can destroy standard deer feeders.
- Deer feeders will attract bears to your home, cabin or camp.
Without deterrents or barriers, bears may investigate your home, cabin or camp, causing damage as they explore. Your other hunting equipment will be at risk.
This clover plot attracts deer without attracting bears.
REDUCE THE ATTRACTION FOR BEARS
If supplemental wildlife feeding is allowed in your area, here are recommendations for reducing the attraction for black bears.
- Establish a food plot instead of a feeder. If you attract deer with a food plot, you’ll never have a feeder damaged. The following publications offer advice for creating food plots.
- Food Plots, Mississippi State University Deer Lab
- Wildlife Food Plots, Scott Durham, LDWF Deer Program Leader
- Food Plot Plantings for White-tailed Deer in Louisiana, LSU Ag Center Research & Extension
- Concepts of Soil Fertility for Hunter Food Plots, LSU Ag Center Research & Extension
- Establishment of Food Plots for White-tailed Deer in Central and South Florida
Check with your state’s fish and game agency for similar publications.
- If you still wish to directly feed corn, soy beans, rice bran or other grains, install automatic feeders instead of putting the feed directly on the ground in piles. Whatever type is used, the most critical factor in making a feeder bear-resistant is its placing it well out of their reach. Bears are powerful, agile, and resourceful! For field-tested, bear-resistant wildlife feeder designs visit the Keep Bears Out page.
Hunting black bears
All 15 SEAFWA states consider regulated hunting an important and beneficial tool in management of black bear populations. However, not all southeastern states have black bear hunting seasons.
Please follow these links to your state’s fish and game agencies for more information about black bear hunting.
(Bottom photo: Steve Uffman)