The Hot-Button Topic of Bear Baiting


Bear-Baiting Controversy

I've yet to fully isolate why bear baiting raises so much ire with some hunters. I remain in the dark because when I try to have a rational conversation with someone opposed to bear baiting, it quickly devolves into infantile name-calling.

To wit: I recently posted a blog on another forum, one regarding West spring bear hunting. I researched available opportunities, separating non-baiting states (indicating spot-and-stalk or hound hunting, depending on state, as some don't allow hound hunting either) from states allowing baiting. I wasn't promoting a particular hunting style, only offering insight into potential prospects.

Of those who commented, all focused directly on the baiting aspect, and invaribly the word "coward," among other words, were hurled my way. We've no way of knowing if these people were actual hunters, but I've certainly been involved in these conversations before. Invariably, the anti-bait nimrod attempting to shame the pro-bait hunter -- at least making it clear they'd never participate in a baited hunt -- has exactly zero experience in the subject at hand. Come to think of it: Ever notice how those who argue most shrilly normally possess the least amount of hands-on knowledge relating to the subject of their distain? 

Bickering between hunters always strikes me as silly. Bowhunters looking down their noses at rifle hunters; traditional archers waxing superior before modern compound shooters; and on and on and on. These are typically arguments of personal preferences and not ethics, and I always find it fascinating that people can't simply enjoy the sport on their own terms and accept that some prefer to do things differently.

That's the problem with bear baiting -- perceptions. Terms like "coward" and "shooting fish in a barrel" often accompany indictments against baiting because of common misperceptions. Even in the hinterlands of Northern Canada or Alaska, where bear numbers are phenomenally high and hunting pressure nearly nonexistent, there are still many challanges involved (including difficult logistics, nightmarish biting insects, unstable weather, and inevitable nerves while making the shot -- compounded by perceptions of black bears as dangerous game and because such hunts represent once-in-a-lifetime experiences for many). Baiting on your own?  Well, let's just say it involves long hours of back-breaking work.

If "sporting" is to be judged by range alone, then pursuing whitetails from elevated stands must be deemed unsporting. If hunting over food is unethical, where should we stand on guarding a food plot, even the isolated water hole during hot early seasons? My guess is that baiting remains controversial because bears are cute and fuzzy, first of all, and because the presence of a barrel or pile of stale donuts is aesthetically displeasing. For so many, manliness hinges on getting down on the ground and meeting their prey eye to eye. Many also believe that we kill bears only for their hides (which is untrue; bear sausage is delicious). 

If anyone has a rational opinion to offer on the matter, I'm certainly interested in hearing it.