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Hubby and Young Son returned on Friday from a week-long bear-hunting junket at my sister’s. When it comes to bear hunting, the creatures are so elusive that hunters are allowed to set out bait for them. Each bait station has to be registered with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Bears will eat darn near anything, especially in August and September as they are fattening up for the coming hibernation season. Hubby brought with a bunch of bread and a bit of old turkey. He’s used pie filling in the past. Grease and sweets are popular, but bears will even go for nasty, rotting food.

The best way to bait a bear is to dig a shallow hole, fill it with the goodies, and then arrange a bunch of logs over the hole to cover it. A little something – grease or something sticky sweet and goopy – should then be poured on top of the logs in order to attract the bears to the bait station. The reason logs are used is that typically only bears are strong enough to move them to get at the bait below. Without the logs, any old forest scavenger can come along and raid the bait.

When Hubby and Young Son first got to my sister’s, their bait station, along with the others my sister had set up for her husband and daughter, had been regularly getting hit. After the first day of hunting, none of the baits were getting hit. As mentioned before, bears are elusive, so it is not unusual to go an entire bear hunting season without seeing one. They’re pretty good at lurking aroud a bait station, but not making a move until the hunters are gone. What was strange this season was the lack of hits on the station once Hubby and Young Son had left the woods.

There was more strange activity surrounding this year’s hunt. A pickup truck had passed my sister and her daughter slowly, back and forth, while they were baiting one day. Another pickup truck (perhaps the same one), showed up at my brother-in-law’s hunting spot, stopping next to his truck before moving on.

The scuttlebutt in their neck of the woods (literally, their neck of the woods – they have a really large neighborhood, geographically speaking) was that someone was visiting bait stations and pouring white gas onto them in order to drive the bears away. Some of the land near where my sister lives is public land, which means that anyone can hunt it. When this is the case, hunters will go to great lengths to discourage others from hunting, sometimes even pissing or shitting on bait stands in order to leave a human scent. It’s appalling behavior, but these hunters, who give all hunters a bad name, want the woods all to themselves.

During one of the hunting days last week, my brother-in-law pulled up to his hunting spot and found a pickup parked where he normally parked. He was automatically on guard and ticked off, thinking this was the person who was hanging around, acting weird. Turns out it was the game warden, checking bait stations. My brother-in-law explained the neighborhood theory about the white gas being put onto bait stations. The game warden said that unless the person was caught in the act, there wasn’t much that could be done about the situation. Bummer.