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Fall Bear Hunting Tips | Spot & Stalk and Bait Hunting

Fall Bear Hunting Tips | Spot & Stalk and Bait Hunting
October 14, 2020

Fall bear hunting is much different than whitetail hunting! This episode will give you tips for spot and stalk bear hunting, hunting over bait for bear and the essential bear hunting gear. Clay Newcomb, owner of Bear Hunting Magazine, gave advice for both of these bear hunting methods as well as the gear that is essential for executing a successful bear hunt in the Fall. Clay Newcomb covers his scouting efforts, how he approaches scent control, bears’ feeding habits, bears’ movement patterns as well as the bait combos that he claims “bears can’t turn down”.

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Gear Mentioned:
Dead Down Wind Wind Detector
Cuddeback Trail Camera
iPhone SD Card Reader
Argali Game Bag
Benchmade Fixed Blade Knife
Benchmade Sharpener
Havalon Knife
Northwoods Bear Products Gold Rush Bear Attractant 
Sardines in Soybean Oil  

Show Notes

Gearbox Talk Episode #4 The Gear It Takes to Thrive on a Backcountry Hunt: 
Gearbox Talk Episode #11 Always Use Fixed Broadheads (Bowhunting)


Brad: Today we're talking about the bears i've got the editor of bear hunting magazine Clay Newcomb on the show and he's gonna shed a metric ton of knowledge about bear hunting today's show is all about Clay's approach to hunting bear in the fall I learned a ton from this conversation we'll hit Clay's must-have gear for fall hunts his approach to simultaneously scouting while he's hunting we'll talk about hunting over bait and Clay gets quite candid when talking about hunting with scent control like very candid this will not be my last show about bear hunting or with Clay so if you're really into this show hit subscribe if you like Clay's stuff and you've seen it elsewhere hit subscribe because he's coming back on and we're hitting these topics all the time also if you're really into this show and you have a friend who might also be into it just take a second to text them the link to the show as always I'll drop links to the gear in the show notes and if you buy any of this gear anything through there we likely make a commission and we're going to donate a percent of our proceeds into an outdoor non-profit that actually teaches kids to hunt they teach them how to shoot a bow it's really cool it's called raise em outdoors so again if you're going to buy anything buy it through those links so that we can get a little bit of cut and give it to an outdoor non-profit all right less chatter more gear discussion this is Gearbox Talk with Clay Newcomb 

Clay Newcomb the editor and publisher of bear hunting magazine on Gearbox Talk and today we're talking about fall bear hunting gear tips Clay welcome aboard man 

Clay: Thank you 

Brad: All right you ready for this

Clay: Yeah man it's cool outside it's fall it's a great time to talk about fall bear hunting

Brad: I love it and you're an eastern guy and I feel like all the western guys want to talk about spring bear hunting today we're talking about fall though man I'm excited to get a show to cater to us eastern folks

Clay: That's right that's right I am on the west side of the Mississippi though Brad so that's true

Brad: I'm pulling you in with me man I'm in Kentucky I'm kind of in the midwest almost so yeah yeah yeah all right man

Clay: We’re in the eastern deciduous forest

Brad: There we go there we go all right man let's talk about your bear hunting setup so so overall for for the fall bear hunting let's kind of hit some of your high level what are your what's the most essential gear that you got in your pack when you're fall bear hunting

Clay: So there's two kinds of fall bear hunting that I'm doing Brad you know we can hunt over bait here in Arkansas and even in Oklahoma and so that is kind of more like a tree stand whitetail hunt almost yeah hunting over bait but my really my preferred way to hunt bears which is a much more difficult way much less success is just hunting them in national forest just like deer essentially finding bear sign hunting bears so you know I'll start with the latter just kind of like it's really a spot and stalk hunt and you know I got a couple of things here that I was I literally just dumped out my bag from when I did this a week ago so this is like not fabricated but these are essential things windicator man I carry a puffer with me everywhere I go wind puffer because when you're hunting these bears that these vast home ranges they're not like deer like you could just look at the side of a mountain and you could pretty with certainty say there's probably a deer within somewhere within my visual sight of this mountain you know like there's a deer within a quarter mile of me you may stand on that mountain bear hunting and there may not there's probably not a bear within a quarter mile of you so you have to cover a lot of ground and what I do is I scout and hunt at the same time like so I do a lot of my scouting in season covering ground so I'm moving quickly at some points slower at some points constantly testing the wind to help me determine which way to go because essentially I need to cover three to five miles in a day to really find a bear and it may take me multiple times of doing that to find the kind of sign that I want to hunt and more often than not when I've been successful i've killed that bear like that day the day that I the day that I found the sign so I'm constantly testing the wind because if I'm going in there scouting and the wind's wrong you know I'm treating it as a hunt hunting trip and a scouting trip it looks like you're using a dead down wind yeah yeah and that's just it's just what I picked up you know i've got I dumped this out of my pack this is kind of an older model cutting back trail camera I i hang a lot of trail cameras in national forest and in monitor saddles water holes trails any anywhere that I think there's going to be game movement that's going to give me intel I'll hang I'll hang a trail camera and you know i've been using the cutting back cameras for years and i've had success with them 

Brad: And you're hanging those is that any preseason how much pre season prep are you doing with that versus while you're actually out there 

Clay: So what I do is I i like to hang cameras at least a month before season and then I'll check them as I scout and hunt so I'll you know I might have multiple cameras in an area spread out and I'll carry with me that's an essential piece of gear an iPhone card reader yeah a little little iPhone SD card reader carry that in my pocket and as I hit these cameras I check check the cards yeah and see what's coming in and it's not usually highly relevant intel but it kind of gives you an idea if there's bears in the area I mean I'm not if I check the camera and there was a bear there that morning I mean that would be like ridiculously good info but since you're not hunting over bait I mean you're just catching these animals at random right in times I mean like so like there might not have been a bear there for two weeks but that wouldn't discourage me necessarily I would just be like okay

Brad: So the bears are wandering and again i've hunted bears a couple times unsuccessfully and I had no idea what I was doing so and but i've had them in southeastern Kentucky i've had them on my cameras a ton so it sounds like they don't maintain a like if I got a whitetail on camera and he's in that area it's like every three days it's almost like clockwork right they're coming through pretty consistently bears don't they don't do that it sounds like it sounds like it's more sporadic 

Clay: Bears utilize their home range in a different way than a deer in that bears have a very big home range I mean they might have a 20 square mile to I mean honestly even a 100 square mile home range okay and they're going to utilize that based upon available resource of what they need so if there's certain areas that in the fall for three weeks they might know very much so they're highly they have a incredible food awareness as correlated with location i've learned that from baiting bears bears will show up at a bait the same day every year even before you put out bait like for real like that's crazy you know when you're coming they just have this calendar and then they have locational awareness and there's been some research done on their locational awareness it's incredible but they use the natural food sources just the same there might be a white oak ridge that's highly productive that produces year after year and they're going to go seven miles you know to that area to utilize that resource now he's going to be camped out on that white oak ridge until that resource is gone so if you find that like he's highly predictable does that make sense yeah yeah yeah he's he's going to be living there he's going to be eating there he's going to be leaving scat piles he's going to have trails you're going to think it's a bear zoo yeah but finding that spot is really hard and that's why you you got to cover the ground that's why you've got to just you know because they they it's like they're they would probably be on the OCD spectrum bears if they were humans because they're just like hyper focused on on the food source that they find and think about nothing else yeah where whitetail kind of has this bed feed pattern and maybe he's alfalfa for this evening and in the alfalfa over there or in the you know food plot you know they're predictable we know whitetails are predictable but a bear when he's on his fall hyperphagia which is their fall feeding frenzy and preparation for dinning they're just like hyper focused on food so you just gotta find more

Brad: This explains my failure of my attempted bear hunts because I treated it like a white tail I'm like man I got them coming through on camera like crazy but it was a couple weeks before I hadn't seen one a few weeks coming into season but I'm like well they'll be back through this is in their range and I'm thinking like a whitetail guy because whitetails you know if you haven't seen one in a few days no big deal you know they're coming back through eventually you just got to be there when they do now obviously that changes the breeding season one not too there's there's nuances here I don't want to oversimplify but it explains like okay he had already basically wiped out that food and probably moved on to something else but what was interesting as you were talking about your trail cameras I'm thinking a lot of the bear scouting you're probably also doing for future seasons right like if you know that that bears early November was tearing up that area then that's a reliable season to come back to for archery next year right 

Clay: Yeah it is and you know the mass crop is so variable from year to year you know it doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be good next year but it might be and you know that it's inside the range that that bear uses it so and I have had success in the same places year after year you know at different times but right like this year one of my really good spots was just no good at all I mean nothing right anywhere that I felt like would produce a killable bear yeah so it's just it's all food dependent very interesting all right what else you got in your gear setup that's a must-have for fall bear you know I this is something that i've been using so I hung off mules a lot Brad and so I'm potentially taking bears way off the grid where I couldn't get a four-wheeler or a truck and this is an Argali game bag yeah I keep a stack of these in my in my pack because if I'm killing a bear in national forest I'm gonna be breaking that bear down in the field you know and so yeah these game bags are really nice i'd carry that just kind of like the cotton cheap game bags in the past but these are reusable really thin membranes so that flies can't yeah get through that lay their eggs on it I'm hunting in warmer weather yeah and I'm usually getting stuff out pretty quick but anyway I really like these game bags 

Brad: And again keeping in mind the audience a little newer for for bears you you have to break that animal down faster right because the hide is so thick and they're they're in warm weather too that heat's going to retain it's not like you know again you talked in another show about how people tend to think of white tail hunting and a lot of people you know you got your white tail and it's in the hide for a long time you don't want to do that with bears though right 

Clay: That's right especially if it's if it's warm at all yeah you know you're gonna want to break that animal down quickly the fat the fur and a bear will spoil quicker than a deer but

Brad: Yeah is that because of the fat is the fat's a little more acidic if I remember right is that is that correct 

Clay: You know honestly I don't know that answer right there I do I have had biologists tell me that a bear just has more bacteria on it because it's a predator then okay okay so there's just more potential bacterial growth on that animal just because of its biology 

Brad: Maybe that's what I'm thinking of I know i've heard I'm like I i listen I have all this theoretical knowledge about stuff like bear hunting or elk hunting that i've never done you know I told you before I'm a whitetail and turkey guy but I like listening to guys like you talk about it and I i feel like I had heard that at some point so all right got your game bags down what else is in your pack 

Clay: You know i've always got to carry with me a full butchering kit you know I had this in my bag this is just a bench made fixed blade mix blade knife and a sharpener man it you know if you have a good edge on a knife you could get through skinning and quartering a bear but it's not nice to have the option to resharpen and so this is this little bench made like it has everything on it it's got the the coarse grain fine grain diamond you know flatbed sharpening stone it's got a guide which is pretty good even man I don't consider myself a great knife sharpener but with this I can be because it's got this angle guide yeah so it shows you exactly the angle to lay the knife and then it's also got the ceramic these are really good for putting a fine edge it's got a ceramic rod that you can just really put a fine edge on it and it's actually got a leather strop on the back where you can just fine tune it

everything you need in that little bench made knife sharpener nice oh yeah so I carry that everywhere because I may have to break down a bear in the back country you know 

Brad: Yeah I find it interesting you're still sticking with the you know a more traditional knife a lot of people have kind of switched to like a Havalon exchangeable blade set up I'm just kind of curious on your philosophy there if you don't like those 

Clay: I carry a Havalon too yeah I i didn't grab it I do carry a Havalon just sometimes I like to have this is a this is just a little bit safer bet in that with a bear you're gonna have to separate the the neck from you know you got to separate the spine once and you know that's pretty hard to do with the Havalon 

Brad: Yeah those Havalons are great for making quick clean cuts on on flesh or or meat but if you get into bones you know you you need another tool I use a Havalon a whitetail but I also have a couple knives like what you have there to be able to do some of the other jobs you know there's multi multiple tools I was just kind of curious if you saw any value to having that with you too 

Clay: Oh I do and I and I do carry Havalon most the time in addition to this but if I had one thing i'd carry this yeah as you can sharpen it and it's a hefty enough knife that you can crack into a bone and right leverage and not break it you know yep so

Brad: Or like me I lost my pack of replaceable blades last year in the field and you know I ended up doing the whole thing with a dull yeah knife 

Clay: That happens that happens. The other thing that I use constantly in the back country is my onX stuff yeah just I mean everybody it's almost it feels like we're overstating it to talk about the importance of or the the functional value of using a GPS mapping system on your phone yeah that's ridiculous

Brad: How much are you scouting either onX or google maps are you are you really looking at these lands before heavily or because you do a lot of your scouting when you get there how much you leaning on preseason versus when you get there and start scouting 

Clay: You know I don't think I do as much preseason scouting on onX google than than I hear some people talk about because it really doesn't tell me what I need to know I mean I'm interested in the types of trees I mean I see general stuff like okay this is an area that's way far away from everything else this is a secluded draw this is the secluded mountain this is those are the main things I'm looking for I'm not necessarily like if I was whitetail hunting which I do in the mountains but I would be probably more concerned with intricate terrain features that I would be looking for to capitalize in terms of pinch points and different things a granite bear you use the mountains the same way as whitetail all mountain game travel the same way in the mountains they're using saddles fingers ridges you know they're they're traveling kind of the same way but I'm less interested in that and more interested in finding seclusion and finding areas that hold bears which topography maps and whatnot aren't necessarily going to tell you that yeah that makes sense 

Brad: Yeah yeah it does very interesting one one thing we wanted to ask you about I know you're checking the wind how much are you worried about scent control or are you just 100% playing the wind 

Clay: Well if I'm hunting over bait you know you want to try to control your scent as much as possible because it's a controlled environment it's more like a whitetail hunt yep but oh man don't get me started on scent control if you've got a if you've got if you've got a scent control sponsors man I grew up whitetail hunting using the strictest possible application of scent control in the 90s when all this came out my dad was a hardcore whitetail bow hunter and we made ourselves miserable with scent control and I can promise you there's nobody that did more scent control than Gary Newcomb and and so I did the same thing when I left his roost and when I left the nest and I started going out and hunting on my own I gradually became less and less interested in scent control in whitetail hunting yeah and started playing the wind yeah and man finally after about five years I said dad I'm killing more deer than i've ever killed and I do nothing for scent control other than watch the wind and stand placement part of it was the way we were hunting he was hunting in a different area the way I was hunting I could do that and so I mean guys just got to evaluate what really are the limiting factors of his hunting yeah that being said I now in some applications for my hunting I'm I'm using some scent shield I'm washing my clothes in good good you know scent free laundry detergent so I'm kind of torn when I have bears in the national forest scent control is non-existent other than playing the wind right because you're hiking five six seven miles in 70 degree weather like it would be foolish to carry a bomb 

Brad: Right there's no masking bears could smell so well too like you're literally just somebody explained it to me one time they said just like you can see layers in lasagna a bear can smell that same way they can smell so if you try to cover something up you got b.o and you're trying to cover it up with something they smell the layer on top of that they don't it's not like it hides it like it would do for us you know yeah and I thought that was really an interesting way to put it and whitetail is the same way you know very similar ability to to smell so so did you know it sounds like you just kind of use whatever you're picking up at a bass pro or a dick's you don't have like a got to use this brand you're more of a general just kind of get some laundry detergent to knock off that initial house smell and then from there it's like kind of just playing the wind 

Clay: That's right that's right and I i've used the ozone products quite extensively and i've just never I really wanted those to work for me for bear and for deer and I just they just failed me over and over so I'm just being honest like I i realize there are companies and people that are making a living and I even believe the science of ozone ozone yeah like I understand that it actually does capture your scent molecules and reduce human odor like I get that that's not what I have qualm with my qualm is with in the field application of using those products and I'm talking about ozone producing machines yeah yeah they've just failed me time and time again yeah and so anyway

Brad: Hey man I love it this is what this whole show's about is getting people on here to what's your experience what are you using 

Clay: As soon as I say that I hear guys that I really trust say man it works yeah and so I'm I'm torn and saying that but i've got to be honest and and I it's not like i've tried them one time like i've tried them in just for years 

Brad: I mean this this argument or this conversation plays out in so many different things in scent control you know we could start talking scent lock and carbon fiber and there's guys that say absolutely head to toe dressing you know carbon activated clothing and it works and then there's guys that go out and like greasy work boots and you know kill pope and youngs it's like there's all kinds of different angles you can come with this and there's all kinds of different opinions I love that you're telling it like like you've experienced it that's cool to me I i know I got to let you go in a minute my final question to you since you do hunt over bait every now and then what is your bait of choice when it comes to fall bear hunting 

Clay: Yeah so yeah we do a lot of hunting over bait in Arkansas for bear and here's my standard I'm not going to name a favorite thing Brad even though you want me to I'm going to you do what you want man I'm asking the question maybe like four things yeah that's fine we use bread like old bread that we get from like a thrift store bread corn dog food and pastries of any kind yeah those four things right there are just gonna be essential and then the fifth thing would be fryer oil that is with Northwoods gold rush fryer grease additive and I mean those guys they advertising their magazine and stuff so like it's no secret that like they're our financial partners if they quit tomorrow and Clay Newcomb goes bear hunting I'm using Northwoods fryer grease yeah I mean it's fire grease additive it's a concentrate it comes in a little bottle it just makes an extremely loud scent yeah that just is it amplifies the scent beyond any kind of natural food so you pour this treated oil over your bread over your dog food over your corn and it makes an incredible a scent attractant

Brad: I'm going to ask you a rookie question because somebody told me this once and I tried it for getting a bear on a trail camera have you ever heard anybody using anchovies like a can of anchovies and kind of let them leak out over time 


Clay: Yeah or sardines yeah yeah and I use sardines in my bear baits often 


Brad: yeah with sardines that's what somebody okay so I was just kind of curious if there was any truth to that because I tried it 


Clay: Hey it's funny you say that I didn't include it in my original list because it's hard to you know you can't put out 300 cans of sardines and bears eat so much but the one thing that I have never seen a bear turn down is a can of sardines oh really we use them extensively but you know again you know we'll put out four or five cans right on on a bear bait with all this other stuff right and it has great scent we get the sardines and and soybean oil yeah you know every year people are like what kind of sardines and it's kind of funny to me it's like think about it for a minute like bears you know any anything with oil is good because it gets scent on their pads yeah it's not it's gonna it's gonna carry much further than anything water-based because you can get sardines water sardines and mustard sardines and louisiana hot sauce bears don't like that kind of stuff they don't like the spicy stuff humans like they'll turn it down so soy beans and I mean sardines and soybean oil is the choice 


Brad: Nice dude this is great I i've learned a heck of a lot from the two shows we've talked to you so this this fall bear hunting show is going to come out first if you really enjoyed this you guys subscribe because we're going to have Clay back on to talk general archery hunting for bear too in a later episode thank you so much man I i really I appreciate your time and sharing some of your wisdom 


Clay: Thanks Brad thank you all right take care 


Brad: All right thank you Clay that was an awesome show now remember to subscribe if you enjoyed it because Clay's coming back around on gearbox talk and we're gonna break down his entire archery setup the whole trad bow arrows broadheads everything we're gonna talk about what compound bow he uses later you might miss it if you don't subscribe so go ahead and hit the bell right there or if you're listening on podcasts subscribe via the platform you're using if you enjoyed this episode also check out my show with James Nash great discussion on broadheads and also check out the show with alaskan bear hunters Lynn and Lacey Hoffman we talk we talk about everything that they use in the back country also a great conversation that's it for me today though I'm out.

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