Baiting black bears is an effective mechanism for hunting these secretive animals. Baiting done well allows hunters to observe bears before shooting, which allows hunters to select larger animals, and avoid females with cubs.
Location, location, location. It's been said that loaction is important for a company to succeed, this is also true if you want your bear bait site to succeed. Although there is no perfect formula for a successful bait stand, you can use a few general guidelines to increase your odds for a great season.
Near running water - this will help in a number of ways. First, it may help cover your sounds (conversely it may cover the bears sounds and you won't know a bear is there until in sight). Second, a running stream will offer the bear an opportunity for water after all the tasty treats you have offered him! Third, in general there is good vegetation near running water which may help get the bears to you fairly early as they are looking for greens after the leave their dens to help loosen a long winter's constipation.
Elevated - if possible, setup your barrel so the bear can have a feeling of security due to his positioning in the forest. Yes good cover is crucial to you and for the bear as well, but many hunters have learned that a bear would prefer eating on top of natural hill instead of a valley 100 feet away.
Away from people -this is a good idea for legal reasons as well as for your success. Legally, you can not setup a bait station within a quarter mile of a road system (only 440 yards, this is usually easy to meet) or within one mile of a house (of just about any kind). The mile distance from a a home can be a bit trickier; simply because you'll need to walk around your potential site a mile in all directions. That can be a lot of walking. Otherwise, it's just a good idea to get away from folks so you station doesn't turn into someone elses new favorite hunting location (intentionally or accidentally).
This could be the controversial area in bear baiting. However, a good rule of thumb: Sweets will attract more black bears; stinky rotting food will bring more brown/grizzly bears. Add in most area it is illegal to hunt brown/grizzlies over bait, so you may want to think hard about finding sweet smelling baits.
"Sweet baits" may include the obvious: donuts, jellies, snack cakes, honey, syrups, etc. But remember, even plain bread may have a sweet smell in the air that will attract bears. Don't rule out molasses, sorghum, oats, etc. Again, these will put good smells in the air, and can be purchased relatively cheap at feed stores.
It is recommended to get these good smells in the air to attract the bears, and put inexespensive 'feed' out so the bear will stay and eat. This could be dog food, oats, rice, grains, etc.
For just good plain entertainment try throwing out marshmallows around your site, the bears seem to love them, and will roll, play and eat. It's a hoot to watch a small bear play with food like this while sitting in the tree stand.
Put out LOT'S of bait. It's simply amazing how much a couple of bears can eat in a day or two. Many hunters get a 55 gallon drum (or two) and fill it with dog food or similar dry goods. The drum serves more than one purpose: 1 - it protects the dry goods from getting wet and ultimately molding, 2 - If you carefully cut an opening in the barrel the bear will have to 'work' in order to get the food. Might keep him around a bit longer, and might save you a few heavy loads into your stand.
Be sure you secure your barrel; use a high quality-high strength cable or chain - bears are strong, and will make short work of a rope or weak tie down method.
Numerous sources will state at how powerful a bears sense of smell is -- use this to your advantage! Get smells in the air!
Use an old heavy wool sock and fill it with molasses or similar type goey smelling bait. Hang this HIGH in a tree, 15 feet or better, be sure it isn't close to heavy tree branches or trees, the bear will climb it, and will eat it. If possible judge how the sun will travel through your area and set it up so the sun will hit the sock for as long as possible, 'melting' the mess and allowing it to slowly drip and let it's essense travel through the air.
Honey burns - these really work. Get a one gallon paint can (new, or extremely clean with no residue) and pour a bottle of honey in the can... use a sterno heater or camp stove to get the honey boiling -- a nice grey smoke will begin to fill the air around and travel with the wind. For a nice added touch pour a bit of anise extract in the honey pot. Since you're dealing with an open flame it might behove you to bring an old cookie sheet or something similar to put your fire production on... it will get tipped over, and it will start a fire. When you finish with your honey burn, rig up a rope to pull the can up into a tree (high and out of reach like your stinky sock) and let the smell of honey waft in the air when you go home.
Without a doubt you are going to spend a lot of time, energy and money on a bait station. Bear baiting is not a GIMME hunt like so many like to state. You'll buy food for the bear, gas to get there, time to go and setup, sit in the stand, and ultimately clean up after the season. So, do yourself a favor - you can't be on the site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from April until June, buy a digital game camera. There are so many out there you are bound to find one that fits your budget, and anything that can take a picture and record date/time will pay for itself when you can begin to pattern your bears.
NOTE: Digital - simply because you are going to have countless photo's of birds, bugs, squirrels, the back end of a bear, nothing, rain drops, etc. Why pay for film, developing, etc, only to find great pictures of your hunting buddy stocking the bait station!
A word of caution - if you puchase a game camera, be very careful about handling your bait and your camera. If you get honey on your camera, you probably won't have a camera very long. Be sure to secure your camera very well, both so the two legged critters don't get ahold of it, as well as the big old bruin who is curious about the wierd smelling tumor on a tree.
Not a good place to get cheap. You will spend lots of time here. Make sure it's comfortable, stable, and quiet. Bring a book - it passes the time when even the squirrels are quiet.
Setup your tree stand in such a way that you have good visibility of your bait, but not in the path of the critters. You may have to move your stand once the bears start hitting your station frequently.
Odds are you won't be hunting this station alone. You'll have friends or family working the station with you. Which means, hopefully, at least one of you will connect with a nice trophy. Do your buddies a favor, drag the bear WHOLE at least a quarter mile away from the stand before you begin field cleaning, skinning, etc. And put the remains in an area that all can see easily; you don't want to surprise a hungry bear munching on the remains of your success!
Hunting Black Bear Over Bait