Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bear Baiting and Scent Attractants
If you have ever hunted in California you should know that baiting is illegal. I am sure Ted Nugent will never make that mistake again. The reason I mention Uncle Ted is that we all have to follow the law. Everyone must adhere to the law and that includes celebrities with TV shows. Now, while it is against the law to bait, I don't necessarily feel that the law is right. I have discussed bear baiting with my hunting buddies and with Kari Murray over at her blog, I Don't Wear Pink Camo to the Woods. Kari's recent post about bear baiting is exceptional and I urge you to go read it. No, she doesn't bash anyone, nor does she put people down. She explains her stance and why she does it. It's a very good read. Be sure to read the comment from Tammi as she makes an excellent point.

I have been talking to people and trying to find a good way to hunt SoCal black bears without bait and within the letter of the law. Not only are we not allowed to bait, but we also are prohibited from setting up near a water source for more than 30 minutes. You'll find that tidbit in the 2010 CA F&G Digest under CCR T14 Section 730(c). I think that it is ridiculous, but I have to follow the law. What about CA F&G biologists? Are they exempt? If you read this 2008 article by Mark Muckenfuss of the Press-Enterprise out in San Bernardino/Riverside area you'll think that CA F&G biologist Kevin Brennan is. The very last paragraph states:
After sitting for an hour on a perch above a trickling stream waiting for a bear, all that emerges is a nearly full moon, climbing into the darkening sky. Brennan packs up his gear and heads back to his truck, leaving at least one bear far happier tonight than it otherwise might have been.
I wrote to Mr. Muckenfuss last year regarding this article. Not sure why, but I never got a response back. Here's part of my letter sent to Mark:
I wanted to comment and ask you about Keith Brennan and the laws regarding hunting in California. Did you know it is illegal to hunt over a water source for more than 30 minutes? In the article you say he is in his stand for an hour. On the DFG Q&A website there is an article regarding hunting over water. Here it is:
§730. Camping Near or Occupying Wildlife Watering Places.
(a) Camping/Occupying Defined. For purposes of this Section, camping/occupying is defined as establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than thirty (30) minutes at a given location.
(b) Wildlife Watering Places Defined. For purposes of this Section, wildlife watering places are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.
(c) Prohibitions.
(1) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within 200 yards of the following:
(A) Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.
(B) Any of the wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area as depicted on the Bureau of Land Management maps of “Calif. Federal Public Lands Responsibility,” “Calif. Desert Conservation Area” and the new “Desert District, B.L.M.”
(2) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within one-quarter mile of the following wildlife watering places:
(A) Butte Well--T31N, R14E, Section 28, NE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(B) Schaffer Well--T31N R14E, Section 25, Center, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(C) Tableland Well--T31N, R14E, Section 17, SE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(D) Table Mountain Well--T31N, R14E, Section 32, SE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(E) Timber Mountain Well--T44N, R6E, Section 33, M.D.B.M., Modoc National Forest, Modoc County.
(F) Belfast Well--T31N, R14E, Section 31, NE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.

To me it looks like Mr. Brennan is clearly breaking the law. What's your opinion on it? I have brought this issue up before on other blogs with mixed results. Some feel it's breaking the law, while others state the law is meant for campers who are near lakes and ponds. I say the law is the law. If it says you can't be over water for more then 30 minutes then you'll have to move.

There's no hunting over waterholes in California. Ok. Sure, it's a dumb law, but ok. So I wondered if we could use scent attractants, especially for bears. Is there another law that says we can't do that either? I received my answer in the form of a California Department of Fish and Game News Release through the California Outdoors Q&A newsletter. Here is the question and answer from the email.
Question: I know you can't bait bears but can I use any scents (liquids or sprays)? (Kendon A.)

Answer: Yes, you can use scent attractants when taking bears, but use extreme caution in your selection and use of a scent product. Under some circumstances and depending on the nature of the product you use, it could be classified as bait.  Aerosols sprayed into the air and not onto any solid surface are probably the safest types to consider.

Baited area is defined as "Any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, and such area shall remain a baited area for ten days following complete removal of all such corn, wheat or other grains, salt or other feed" (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 257.5).

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) retired Capt. Phil Nelms, using any substance that can be seen or felt and not just smelled (e.g. liquids that do not immediately evaporate, scented pastes or gels, even aerosols sprayed onto trees or leaves) may be sufficient reason to classify them as "feed" because they can be eaten or can entice the animal to consume the surface on which the scent is deposited. 

It looks like I am going to give something like the Bear Bomb - Sow in Heat a try. Have any of you used it? Have you been successful? Most of all, how do you all feel about baiting?

I'll be going out sometime this weekend to bear hunt, no bait, no waterholes and I'll follow the law to the fullest. I am going to try the Bear Bomb and see if it'll work. Hopefully, come Labor Day, I'll have meat in the freezer and a deposit down at the taxidermist. There's probably some law against THAT, too.


  1. Al, there's a lot of confusion about that "occupying wildlife watering places" regulation, but if you read it at face value, it's actually pretty clear that it refers to specific areas. It is not a general ban on hunting over springs, seeps, etc. (a ban that would not only be impossible to enforce, but that may also be nearly impossible to obey in some hunting areas).

  2. I hear you, Phillip, but most game wardens down here would argue against you. I think it is mainly because they interpret the law a bit different. Some of the wardens will actually park by your truck, if they know you are near a water source, and will time you. If you are in there longer than the 30 minutes, you'll be given a citation. It may be impossible to enforce, but the law is there. Many would argue that this means no hunting over water, period.

    (A) Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.

    I see your point and would love some proper clarification from the DFG, but so far none has been given. It seems that this is a line they are cautious to cross.

  3. Hey Al. Thanks for mentioning me. I figured I would Pee off alot of folks with my comments, but I'm a fly by the seat of my pants, say whats on my mind kinda gal. ;)

  4. Al, I know one of the DFG guys has commented on this before, but I can't remember if it was on Jesse's (JHO) or in an email exchange. If it was in email, I can't locate it in my archives.

    A "guzzler" or a "horizontal well" are man-made, and the distinction there is quite clear. That doesn't include natural springs, seeps, streams, or ponds unless they are captured in guzzlers, troughs, etc. Of course, down where you are around San Diego, especially over in the desert, most of the surface water sources are man-made, which is probably why you'll find more enforcement down there.

    The rest of the law is specific to geographical areas (listed)... several of which are also in your neck of the woods.

    Anyway, next chance I get to talk to Dr. Loft or Harry Morse, I'll see if I can get a good, clean explanation.

  5. Thanks, Phillip. That would be greatly appreciated. I would love to be able to discuss this in our seminars to give guys the proper explanation.

  6. So how did the Bear Bomb work?

    1. For the record, I never used it. I called a local warden and asked him. He said the Bear Bomb would be considered bait and that it would be illegal to use it. It got sprayed in my trash bin. Too bad, too.