Should You Use Bear Calls When Hunting With Black Powder?
If you're planning on going hunting for black bear this season using your muzzle loader, you may be wondering if you should use a bear call or not. It certainly isn't against the ethics of black powder hunting to use these tools -- your ancestors spent many winter nights by the fire fashioning game calls out of wood. But is using bear calls wise? The short answer is -- no -- with certain exceptions.
Times When Bear Calls Might Be Useful
Bear calls are most useful in situations where you've got a nuisance bear hanging around your home or camp. Calling the bear out into the open where you can get a clear shot is often the best way to eliminate a nuisance bear before it becomes a bigger problem. Bear calls are also helpful when:
- You want to shoot a boar in the spring. A bear call emulates the sound of a sow in heat, and if there is a boar within hearing range, the sound will bring the boar running.
- You're in a hurry. A predator call that makes a sound like an injured rabbit or other small game animal will generate interest in any bears in the vicinity.
Only expert shots should use bear calls in the circumstances described above. Inexperienced shooters run the risk of merely wounding the animal, and a wounded black bear is extremely dangerous. You should never hunt black bear alone, and always have your black powder reloading supplies close at hand.
The Cons of Using Bear Calls
The good news about bear calls is that they work. And the bad news about bear calls is -- they work. The pioneers used them sparingly in the situations described above, and you should as well. Keep in mind that you don't get many chances with black powder hunting. By using a bear call you've eliminated one of the main factors in successful bear hunting with black powder firearms -- the element of surprise. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Bears that respond to bear calls are alert and aware, and coming right toward you.
- Only use a bear call that emulates a sow in heat as a last resort to get rid of a nuisance boar, and only when you're using adequate protection such as a bear stand. Your ancestors used these often. With this type of call, you run the risk of attracting more than one boar into the area, so you need to be shielded in the event that they start fighting over you thinking that you're a sow in heat.
- Predator calls also work quite well, but they also trigger the prey drive in bears. As with the sow-in-heat call, you run the risk of drawing more than one bear into the area.
- Predator calls can also sound like cubs in distress, and you risk bringing anxious mother bears into the vicinity by using them.
Bear calls are sometimes used successfully by hunters who are using modern weapons with more firepower than black powder guns provide. This is probably where those new to black powder hunting get the idea that bear calls might be a useful tool during a black bear hunt. Those with high-caliber firearms are in a better position to successfully use bear calls because their weapons are more likely to produce a clean kill.
A better tool for those using single shot firearms with limited firepower is a well-stocked bear baiting station. Although the ethics of bear baiting is currently being hotly debated among hunters everywhere, it was widely practiced by pioneers who needed to give themselves an edge over the bears in their quest for survival and is therefore deemed an acceptable black powder practice. Consider packing a bear call along with your gun reloading supplies next time you go hunting.