Bear Baiting: The barrel

I’m using an old plastic 50 gallon barrel the girls had for barrel racing as my bait barrel. Steve cut a hole in it with the chainsaw. The size of the hole isn’t particularly important to me. I’ve seen large holes bears can stick their heads into and small holes they have to reach into with a paw. One doesn’t seem to work any better than the other.

You need two holes in the back of the barrel. The barrel should be chained or otherwise attached to an anchor, something the bears can’t drag away. I’m using a tall tree stump. Run the chain through the holes, around your anchor and secure tightly.

I asked Steve to cut the holes high so that the barrel isn’t easy to tip over. I watched two seven and a half month old cubs work together to turn a barrel on its side so they could get in easily. It took them less than 60 seconds to accomplish the job. They’d apparently done it before. I want the barrel upright to keep it from filling with rain.

My barrel is chained to this tall stump. The logs have a purpose. The bear will approach the barrel, sniff around, and take time pulling the logs out. This gives me extra time to assess the bear. Is it a bear I want to shoot? Is it a sow with cubs that will come tumbling in behind her? I’m not going to shoot a sow with cubs (or her cubs, which shouldn’t have to be said but we know how this goes). When my adrenaline rush settles in two minutes will the bear really be as big as it seemed when it first cautiously picked its way to the barrel? I’m not looking for a huge bear but I don’t want one that’s too small to provide a year’s worth of roasts, sausage and stew meat.

I’m hoping to tag along with an outfitter soon to take pictures of the different baits he’s using. He uses five gallon pails and half buckets.

The tag above the barrel has my name and address and the landowner’s name. It makes me easy to contact if the game warden needs to be in touch. It’s bigger than the legally required 2″ x 4″ label. It’s what I had on hand.

Mistake #1 of the season: I put meat in the barrel on the first day. I thought the aroma of steak might drift through the air and tempt a bear. Nothing has touched my barrel yet so I had to reach in and pull the spoiling meat out. I don’t want to make them sick. Taylor, my daughter and a future wildlife biologist, was with me. When we got back to the Jeep we had this conversation.

“The dogs are going to love you,” she said.

“I smell like a dough boy,” I replied, referencing the used vegetable oil I’d put out while we were at the barrel (more about that when I talk about my bait), though I knew that wasn’t what she meant.

“Mom! You smell like death!” I’d used a plastic grocery bag to pick up and wrap the spoiling meat but it didn’t protect my hand from the smell. She was right.

“Ya…that too.” We drove home slowly with the stinky bag outside the Jeep. No more meat in the barrel.

I made Mistake #2 this morning. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.