Bear Hunting: Guides Share Secret ­Ingredients for a Killer Bait Mix

Black bear guides share secret ­ingredients for a killer bait mix

Glazed Over Plain white sugar can be a more potent bait for bears than stale pastries.

Everyone knows bears love donuts, but that doesn’t mean you need to raid a Dunkin’ dumpster for bait. We asked three of North America’s top bear outfitters to reveal their single, favorite, easy-to-get bait ingredient, which you can combine at a single site to give bears a permanent bow-range food coma.

Ingredient No. 1: Licorice Spritz
George McQuiston of Wild Idaho Outfitters ­(wild​idaho​outfitters.com) swears by a homemade anise concoction for bringing in big bruins. And the data backs him up. Between 2004 and 2007, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conducted a study on bear attractants and found that the black-licorice aroma of anise extract beat out all others. McQuiston buys anise extract online by the gallon ($40; ­esco​foods.com) and dilutes it by 70 percent with clean vegetable oil. "I put it in a spray bottle and spritz it while walking through the woods and all around the bait site," he says. "The whole spot will be crawling with bears exclusively from that anise smell."

Ingredient No. 2: Popcorn
Looking for an inexpensive bulk filler, Trevor Kunz of Wyoming's 5K Outfitters ­(5k​­outfitters.com) discovered popcorn. "It's cheaper than dog food or grain," says Kunz, who runs 35 bait sites over a 40-mile area in the rugged Bridger-Teton ­National Forest. Unlike wheat, oats, or whole corn kernels, popcorn won't fill a bear's stomach for long, so he'll return to the bait site more often. Last season, with four air poppers, he cooked up 50 55-gallon bags of popcorn. This season, he sprung for an industrial popcorn machine.

Ingredient No. 3: Sugar
Kevin Barber of Hunt N It Outfitters (huntnit​­outfitters.com) in New Brunswick tops things off with straight sugar. "I can turn any bait into bear cocaine by adding copious amounts of white sugar," says Barber. "It makes even a so-so bait irresistible." At less than 50 cents per pound, pure cane sugar can be bought by the pallet at Costco and most other warehouse stores. "Bears have a real sweet tooth," Barber says. "That's why so many people lean on donuts and cake, but you can save money and make a more concentrated bait by using the main raw ingredient."