Calling Bears

Calling for black bears works (see pics below). If you are familiar with predator calling then this will be a piece of cake for you......if the bears cooperate! Use your basic hunting techniques, know your area, watch the wind and try to make it easy for the bear to come in or show itself.

You need not worry too much about camo or concealment if you are hunting with a rifle. If you hunt with archery equipment you will want to be scent free, camoed up and concealed a bit.

I usually hunt by myself, in jeans and t-shirts, sky lined on a stump with a rifle. Sometimes I have a partner sitting 50-200 yards away depending on terrain and area. I also like to "camp" on a spot. I figure if I am here today and the bears aren't, then I am one day closer to the day that they will be there......if I am I could connect. Some guys do well by hitting different spots everyday, but I often wonder, "What is going on at that spot".

My main hunting area is so thick that you are lucky if you see 1/10 of the critters you hear. Normally I cow call (to cover noise) my way into an area and then sit and listen for a couple hours. If I hear a bear feeding then depending how close or fast a bear is moving I will start cow calling or fawn in distress. If the bear is leaving or far away I will call soft moving to hard very fast.

I used a Burnham Bros C-3 Long Range call for many years and more than half the bears I have called have come to that call. But I found that I could buy 3 of the same calls and each would sound different. If the sound is not right then I am not confident. Now I am making my own calls with the sound that I want. Don't get me wrong, I think that bears will come in to any distress sound, but I have a sound and style that has worked for me and I am afraid of change.

Here are some of the calls I have made.

bear calls

Sometimes I camo up, but I almost always put on a cow elk urine cover scent wafer. I feel that if I smell and sound like an elk I get an extra second or two when the bear has to figure out what it is looking at if it spots me before I can shoot. I have actually had bear come to me slobbering and stop and stare while trying to figure what I was. It died on the spot.

I usually hunt from light to about 10 am and from about 6 pm until dark and nap in between, but I have killed bears in the middle of the day. Bears will be feeding most of the day and by fall they may spend up to 20 hours a day in search of food. Last year we had one walk in camp around noon. The story can be read here.

If cold calling, call for a minimum of one hour, two are better. If you can see the bear and it does not respond to the call, try to get closer and try again only harder and louder. Most of my bears have come in hard, some just like they were on a string, straight to me. Some will come in quiet, on the sneak, especially with a cow call. Some have hung up and I have had to get creative to get them to come in.

Not all bears will respond to calling, and some will flat out run away. Some will come in, spook away and come back for another look. If you run a bear off with your calling do not get too disappointed. We have had bears spooked a few times that have come back to the call that evening or the next day.

My calling style is a bit erratic with a little variation due to location, circumstance and my cardio conditioning. Before I start calling I make sure that myself and my equipment are ready and I listen and glass for about an hour. I usually start out with a low cottontail distress tone and cadence. I will call for 30-60 seconds and pause for 10-20 seconds to listen. I hear most bears before I see them. I will repeat this sequence for about a half hour, rapidly bringing the volume up to a loud squall.

Depending on the situation I will use a cow call, trying to sound lost and lonely. I will also use this call to cover my own noise as I move through an area.

I work into a calf/fawn in distress and then into all out chaos. I blow as hard as my call will allow. Sometimes I will cup my hands around the call as if I am doing a cub distress and other times I will try to imitate coyotes attacking the calf/fawn. I feel the key is to sound as lost/scared/hurt as possible and then sound like an animal is being torn apart. My stands usually last one hour minimum and onetime as long as 4 hours.

Thick is not even the word to describe this area. Like I said, we primarily listen for bear. This clear cut is the newest (best) cut for visibility. Most of the cuts I hunt are older and thicker. These stumps and root wads are 7-15 feet tall and the brush and trees are from 3 ft to 20 ft tall. In spots like this I am listening for bears feeding in the cuts on stumps/logs, berries and calling to bears that may be in the Cedar swamp as well as the cut.


thick brush


thicker brush

Called with Burnham Bros. predator call. This bear came in around 1 pm after 1 hour of calling. It scored 20 inches and weighed 400+ lbs


Called in with a cow elk call at about 8 am. This bear scored almost 19 inches and weighed 250lbs

bear called in

Like I said, I think all predators will come to most sounds and while we can discuss different tone and cadence, I wonder how it really sounds to an animal mixed in with the rustling of brush, wind, water, birds and other outdoor sounds. My fawn in distress may sound completely different from yours, but once that sound has traveled to the predator what does it actually sound like after you factor in all the above-mentioned sounds?

There are a lot of different predator calls that will work as well as a couple real good videos. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Good luck


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