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By Dick Scorzafava

One of my favorite techniques in my bag of tricks when trophy hunting big black bears over the years has been a honey burn, especially if I wanted to bring in a bear that had been coming in after dark.

Several years ago in Saskatchewan I had hunted a big bear all week and he was coming in after dark every night. We had captured his pictures on an old film scouting camera.  On the last night I decided to set up my sucker-punch honey burn at the bait.  My guide started the honey burn while I was setting myself up on stand.  He tapped the barrel several times with a stick as if playing a bass drum and walked back to the boat (we call this “ringing the dinner bell” routine), started the motor and headed back to camp.  I could still faintly hear the motor on the boat coming across the water when the bruiser walked by my stand directly to the honey burn.  I was able to harvest my trophy within 30 minutes of getting into my treestand.

I have two methods of using a honey burn at a bait location and both are very effective.  Before you use a honey burn make sure it is legal in the area you will be hunting.  First, we need to select the location for the bait and I always select a spot as close to creek drainage if possible.  These are unsurpassed locations to set up a bear bait because they the area will cover the sounds of the hunter going into his stand and it will carry the scent from the bait up and down the creek drainage covering a great deal of area.  Depending on the wind velocity the effective downwind range of a honey burn can be just over a half mile.  Keep in mind the stronger winds will hold the odor closer to the ground over much larger distances.

The first technique that I have used works especially well in the fall when I want to get a bait hit quickly.  It is important to note that it’s more difficult to attract bears to a bait location in the fall especially on years with bumper crops of berries and/or mast crops.  In the spring, you are not competing with natural feed sources and it is much easier to attract the bears because there is not much food available especially early.

In the fall I use a large coffee can with approximately two or three cups of honey and place it on a single propane burner stove on high under a large canopy of trees.  The honey will begin to boil in a few minutes omitting a yellowish white cloud of smoke that has a strong, pure, sweet odor.  When most of the honey is burned off out of the can the smoke will change to a thick black smoke with a bitter unpleasant smell.  This smoke will stick to the canopy of tree vegetation above and every time the wind blows it will carry the honey odors deep into the area to attract bears.  I always remember that old Indian saying someone told me years ago.  An eagle will see the leaf fall.  A deer will hear the leaf fall, but a bear will smell the leaf fall. I found that piece of wisdom very true.

I honestly can’t tell you which of the two odors the bears prefer or if it is a combination of the two all I can tell you is that it works. We have had bear hits at our baits in less than 24 hours on many occasions using this technique especially in the fall as I said earlier.  We have proved this time and time again with our trusty Cuddeback scouting cameras.

When using these honey burns to start up a bait I place the honey burn directly on the top of the bait barrel so the honey odor that sticks to the vegetation above is straight above my bait barrel.  This will make it much easier for the bears to locate the actual bait barrel when coming in for the first time.

The second technique I use for a honey burn works equally well in the spring or fall bear seasons across the North American range of the black bear.  I had great results using this honey burn technique trophy hunting a big bear and bringing him into the bait when I’m sitting on stand.  It seems to work best when used the first time.  So I like to save it in my back pocket for later in the hunt if the bear I’m hunting is not coming into the bait while I’m on stand.

I firmly believe that a trophy bear will let his guard down a little and react to the attractive alluring odor of the burning honey especially if they have never before been subjected to the smell.  This could be the little edge you need to collect your trophy bear.
I start out by pouring one and a half to two cups of honey into a one pound clean coffee can.  Place this can inside another three pound clean coffee can that has approximately eight to ten glowing red hot charcoals.  This three pound cooker should have air holes around the base a coat hanger bent in a U shape attached to the top of the can so it can be hung on a solid branch approximately four feet or more off the ground.

The honey will start to boil in the cooker in about twenty minutes emitting the sweet odor of the honey into the air.  The amount of honey in the can will continue producing odors to attract bears for approximately four hours while you’re on stand.

I always set these honey burns in a position upwind of the actual bait barrel in a different shooting window for the hunter on stand.   This has permitted me to establish if the bear was actually reacting to the odor of the honey burn or simply coming into the bait barrel.
A honey burn will become much less effective the more frequently it is used at a bait location, which is why I have always held them in my back pocket for late in the hunt as an ace in the hole.  The hunter using a honey burn at a bait must be always ready for an instantaneous hit by a bear despite of the time of day.

A word of caution when using a honey burn always be extremely careful disposing of any hot charcoal, or anything else that could start a fire in the woods.  It is always best to carefully remove everything you bring in with you to insure the forest is safe for another day of hunting.  A honey burn can be just the edge you need to harvest the trophy of a lifetime so hunt smart and keep the woods safe for tomorrow.

To order an autographed copy of Dick’s critically acclaimed book, Radical Bear Hunter go to www.radicalbowhunter.com or visit your local book store.

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