I blame my friend Steve. I cautiously agreed to go with him and learn how to hunt them so that I could have some first-hand experience when I write. I would have never guessed that in agreeing to go with him, I would now look at August in a whole new way; it’s bear season!
There are roughly 10,000 of us who buy our bear permits every year. Compared to the 180,000+ deer hunters and we basically have the woods to ourselves to hunt bear. Guess what non-bear hunters? You are missing out on one of the most exciting hunts you could possibly go on! And that should change.
Why would you want to hunt bears? Easiest reason is management and keeping the population in check with the biological and social carrying capacities across our state. None of us want to see bears or any animal, reach the point where disease and over-population cause major issues. Hunting helps to put a dent in a growing bear population and with no other predators, it’s either us or disease to keep the population numbers where they need to be.
The second reason: the meat. Oh, bear meat! If you just made a face reading this, it’s because when you had it, it was not cooked properly. There are so many great dishes to cook and various ways to prepare the meat. I would be happy to share a couple easy recipes or check out my friend Robin Follette and get a bunch of great recipes from her. A well-cooked piece of bear meat will rival any cut of beef as long as you know how to cook it.
The third season: the hunt. The most exciting part. I have sat over bait, helped set up a trap (I am a licensed trapper) and hunted using hounds. The thrill of not knowing if there is a bear watching you is unlike any other hunt. Deer will watch you and then leave if they don’t like what they see or smell. A bear can and will, wait you out and when you walk out at the end of legal hunting hours that bear will walk right in to the bait site and enjoy. Thanks to trail cameras, you can figure out each bear’s habits, which direction they travel to the bait site from and if they come at a certain time. Smaller bears will come in earlier to grab-and-go before the larger ones show up. Hunting with dogs offers a completely different adrenaline rush and you’re listening and watching the dogs, guide (probably) and looking ahead at or for the bear. There is no guarantee that you will even see a bear while you are out hunting but knowing that they are around and could step out at any time, keeps you on your toes.
I encourage everyone to try bear hunting once. There are incredible guides across Maine that have the knowledge and experience to help get you started and see what it’s all about. Or, like I did, tag along with a friend who bear hunts and find out what you’ve been missing. You won’t be sorry that you did!