Bear baiting is a popular hunting method in Alaska, particularly for black bears. It’s regulated and practiced by many hunters across the state, offering an effective strategy for harvesting bears in the wilderness. This guide offers valuable tips to enhance your bear baiting hunting experience.

bear baiting

By Nigel Fox

There has always been controversy around baiting for bears. Some people do not think it is fair or ethical. Being perched in a tree or in a ground blind (which I would not recommend doing in Alaska) waiting to kill doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you live in the Lower 48, spot-and-stalk is a much more common practice to hunt bears—mainly black bears with a rifle, shooting long distances. Hunting in this manner can make it very hard to judge the size of the bears, whereas with baiting, you’re up close and personal, so it’s much easier to judge a bear’s size.

Baiting Regulations in Alaska

bear baiting

A clear shooting lane to the bait barrel, with a black bear feeding. Photo credit Jamey Rothmeier

Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Alaska allow baiting for black bears. Alaska is the only state which you can harvest black and grizzly/brown bears over bait in some areas. This year will be the first year Alaska residents will be allowed to hunt grizzly/brown bears over bait until June 30th on the Kenai Peninsula. In past years we have not been able to take a grizzly/brown bear over bait after May 31st. Generally, we do not see grizzly/brown bears at our baiting site until the middle of May and the last couple weeks of June, so this is a welcome regulation change.

The timing is one of the reasons why baiting for bears in Alaska is so appealing. It is the beginning of our Alaska hunting season and after a long Alaskan winter, it’s nice to get out in the woods.

Typically, in Alaska, April 15 marks the beginning of bear-baiting season. Bait stations may be registered in person at an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) office 15 days prior to the start of the season. Bait may not be placed at the site until the season is open. There are many requirements to bait bears in Alaska, so you want to make sure you are following all laws. Here’s a link to ADF&G requirements.  I always look it over every year to make sure I am within the law, and I strongly recommend you do the same.

Tips for Successful Bear Baiting in Alaska

Here are a few tips to follow if you are thinking about baiting for bears this season in Alaska. Some of these tips are from trial-and-error and some of them have been learned through others with whom I have been baiting bears with the past few years.

bear baiting

Jamey Rothmeier of Northern Simulators with a big Alaska black bear. Photo credit Jamey Rothmeier

Selecting a Baiting Location:

The first thing you have to figure out is a great location to bait. If you are a first-timer, baiting on your own, but have hunted with someone else who has their own bait site, you could start by asking them a general area they think would be good to start. You can do a little online scouting on onX Hunt until you get a chance to get out on foot and check it out.

One important thing to look for when picking a bear-baiting location is water. Water needs to be close by. Be near or set up on top of ridges to help get your bait-site scents out. Keep in mind that you still want there to be plenty of cover to ensure the bears feel somewhat safe coming in.

Also, when you are choosing the perfect location, make sure there isn’t a lot of human pressure in the area. Too much pressure in an area can make for a bad bear baiting experience! Trust me I have been there. If it is hard to get to for you, then it is probably good for bears.


bear baiting

The author found his black bear laying in thick cover not far from where he shot it. Photo credit Nigel Fox

When choosing your bait site, you want to remember that you have to get all your stuff into this bait site, so make sure that it is feasible for you to do so. I only bait on the Kenai Peninsula because I live in this area. It is very hard to maintain a bait site if you must drive a long distance to get to it. In my opinion, you want to bait bears closer to home so you can keep your site full of food. You also want to check trail cameras weekly and be able to hunt at a moment’s notice.

Scent Management:

A curious black bear looking up at the tree stand. Photo credit Nigel Fox

Once you have found the perfect area and start putting your bait in, you want to get scent high in the trees to help get it carried around by wind to bring bears to your location. To do this, you can use a scent ball, scent yo-yos, and can spray high branches in a tree with some sort of scent attractant. Lots of scent, high, is going to better your chances of drawing bears in.

Once you start getting bears in, you want to get some sort of scent/attractant down around your bait site so the bears can track it around in the woods and draw more bears into your site.

If you are having trouble getting bears to come into your site, do some sort of controlled scent burn to get scent out in the woods, but do not overdo it because it can deter the bear if it is overpowering.

Bait Selection:

All the scents and attractants that I use are from Bait Em 907 and can be purchased online. Alternatively, if you bait on the Kenai Peninsula or surrounding areas,  Northern Simulators Archery Pro Shop in Soldotna carries a full line of Bait Em 907 products.

With all that scent to draw in those black bears, you need some sort of food to keep them coming in. I like to use popcorn. It is cheap, lightweight to carry in, a little of it goes a long way when filling up the barrel, and it also mixes well with scents/attractants. If you are also trying to draw grizzly/brown bears in, mixing a little dog food in with the popcorn helps. I know there are several things you could use as bait, but popcorn gives you a baseline to start with and then you can add other things to it.

When putting food in the barrel, at first make sure you do not overdo it. Filling up the barrel halfway ensures the food stays fresh, has more scent, and keeps them wanting more. Once you have a lot of bears coming in, then fill the barrel all the way up because they can empty it in a day.

A perfect example of a full bait barrel and the Bait Em 907 products used. Photo credit Jamey Rothmeier

Tree Stand Placement:

Next, I like to figure out two tree-stand locations, considering the prevailing wind. If you hike all the way in to re-bait and sit for the day, you want to make sure your scent is not blowing over your bait. I know many people will say that the bears you have coming in will be used to your scent and I think that is true to a point, but if you have new bears coming in, you don’t want them to not come in because they smell you. It is just good practice to keep the wind in your favor and set up two tree stand locations with good coverage.

I only hunt over bait from tree stands, not ground blinds, because we generally have a lot of grizzly/brown bear activity at our bait site. You are much safer 15- or 20 feet up in a tree than down on the ground. Yes, black bears can climb a tree, but that is not what I worry about. It’s the big brown bear that can’t climb the tree that I worry about. They are always hungry and often unpredictable!

A perfectly placed tree stand with good concealment. Photo credit Nigel Fox

The author, Nigel Fox, bundled up for a cold night in the stand with his Xpedition Archery Xlite 33 bow. Photo credit Nigel Fox

Monitoring and Maintenance:

Check trail cams and bait a couple times every week, but do not be in your site too much. It can scare bears out of your site if you have to much human activity. Your barrel might be empty for a few days, but the bears will stick around and keep checking it daily. Once conditioned to hit your site, it would take a month of an empty barrel for the bears to abandon it, and if you have enough bait scent around your bear baiting site, it should still draw bears in.

Key Takeaways for Bear Baiting

If you follow a few of these steps when setting up your bait site this spring here in Alaska, you should be somewhat successful. Baiting in one location for many years will make the site even better. Having a few guys you enjoy hunting with will also make it more enjoyable, and easier, since you can share the workload of keeping the site baited. Me and the two friends I bait with only bowhunt over bait for bears, and that makes it slightly more challenging than using a rifle. Nevertheless, whatever legal method you use to harvest a bear over will work, and the effort of baiting bears is worth it!

Special thanks to Jamey Rothmeier owner of Norther Simulators in Soldotna, AK for all the help and knowledge about bear baiting. He carries a full line of Bait Em 907 products in his full-service archery pro shop. Also, a special thanks to my sponsors: Xpedition Archery, Vapor Trail, Stokerized and Kill’n Stix.

Current Bow Set Up:

Bow: Xpedition Archery Xlite 33

Rest/String Set: Vapor Trail Gen 7x

Sight: Black Gold Ascent Verdict

Stabilizers: Stokerized M-1 stabs

Arrow: Kill’n Stix Ventilators

bear baiting

The Xpedition Archery bow with a bloody arrow in the quiver after a successful black bear harvest. Photo credit Jamey Rothmeier

Nigel Fox has been co-owner/guide at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for over two decades. He is a lifelong Alaskan and avid bowhunter of the Alaska backcountry. When he is not spending time guiding clients on the Kenai River, he is on another Alaska hunting adventure.

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