Maine’s 13-week Black Bear hunting season opens Aug. 30. Although the natural supply of berries and mast crops predicted for this season will make it more difficult to attract bears to artificial bait sites, outfitters and their clients — the bear hunters — remain optimistic because the state’s black bear numbers are reportedly at record levels.

Recently, bear guide John Floyd of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation talked about the upcoming bear season on my Sunday night radio program, Maine Outdoors (Voice of Maine News-Talk Network, 7 p.m.)

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

Floyd’s knowledge of bear behavior and his insights into hunt strategies that are intended to outsmart the wary black bear made for an interesting and eye-opening interview.

Floyd notes that, contrary to conventional wisdom, hunting bear in Maine over bait from a tree stand has its own set of challenges. Incredible hearing and a keen sense of smell are a bear’s ace in the hole.

“A bear’s sense of smell is seven times stronger than the best blood hound,” Floyd said. And, he adds, “a bear’s hearing is twice as keen as a human’s.”

Before his hunters climb their tree stands for the long 6-hour vigil, Floyd requires that all of his “sports” sit through a power point presentation about how to avoid the most common mistakes when hunting bear from a tree stand.

Guess what single tree stand activity by bear hunters, according to Floyd, has spoiled their luck more than any other?

Reading a book? Pouring coffee from a thermos? Unwrapping a Snickers bar? Snoozing?

None of the above. The answer is cellphones.

“Hunters who really want a bear need to be still, focused and quiet,” Floyd said. “Trust me on this: No texting your buddy. The time for social media posts and your smartphone is after the bear is wearing your tag.”

The second biggest mistakes by bear hunters are eating, drinking and tobacco use.

Floyd concedes that asking a bear hunter to sit quiet and motionless for 6-plus hours is asking a lot, but insists that it is the sacrifice that spells success.

Interestingly, Floyd’s years as a bear outfitter and stand baiter has taught him that bears, who may be lingering 100 yards from a bait site, get acclimated to the smell and sound, even the walking gait, of the person who replenishes the bait site.

A bear that catches a whiff of a different hunter (the one in the tree stand who has not done the baiting), will rarely show itself, no matter how alluring the bait smells might be.

As former bear hunters, who managed their own bear bait sites, and spent many long hours in a tree stand, my wife and I now know why we saw only a few bears over the years. We never used a cellphone, but sometimes a book and invariably a thermos of coffee and a piece of Diane’s gingerbread were indulged — you try sitting still for 6 hours!

Still, we have no regrets, only wonderful memories filled with balmy September afternoons and high anticipation.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, a Maine guide and host of “Maine Outdoors,” a weekly radio program heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books, which can be purchase online through www.maineoutdoorpublications.net. Contact him at [email protected]


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