Liquid Scent Lure
The effectiveness of a variety of scent lures were tested by conducting experiments with captive grizzly and coastal brown bears at Washington State University, the Grizzly Discovery Center, and Northwest Trek in Washington State.
Rotten logs were introduced with lures applied to all but one, maintaining a control. They were placed in the bears’ enclosure equidistant from each other and away from objects they avoid or favor such as electric fencing and day beds. In some tests, the logs were rearranged before the bears were released a second time. As the bears were released into the enclosure, we recorded their reactions to each log with respect to length of time, sniffing, licking, biting, and rolling via enumerated grids and video tape.
Coalescing the experience of trappers, biologists, and zoo curators, the following were tested:
- Bases: aged cattle blood, fish oil, fatty acid scent (expensive)
- Musky: beaver castor, skunk essence
- Intense: butyl mercapto, oleoresin capsicum, shellfish essence, cheese essence, anise oil, Tabasco, liquid smoke / bacon oil, fermented egg essence, garlic, bag balm antiseptic, turpentine
- Sweet: calamus powder, honey, cherry oil, peppermint oil, lavender, loganberry, banana, almond extract
The results were extraordinary, as the bears had consistentand extremely exaggerated responses to each scent. Responses to the lures ranged from disgust to no reaction to excessive rolling and salivating upon, and they remained consistent even after the lures had been rearranged. In some cases, scents seemed to elicit a response related to the nature of the odor. Sweet or food-like odors (i.e. cherry or shellfish) resulted in chewing the log or board sometimes to the point of splinters, while skunk resulted in the bear rubbing and rolling on the scent. None of the lures could be considered a food item in their own right, so it appears the response was simply based on the odor, not on an expected calorie reward.
Anise oil (black licorice) is widely known as the best bear lure, “wrinkling the black bear’s nose in fits of desire,” yet through our testing we found skunk essence, shellfish essence, fermented egg essence, liquid smoke / baconoil, cheese essence, cherry oil, and beaver castor were preferred over this licorice scent. It is important to note that skunk essence was largely favored by the three bears tested at WSU but elicited little response from the Kodiak brown bears of the Grizzly Discovery Center. An aspect of scent lures that we were not able to test is the ability of the odor to carry on the wind. The methods employed with captive animals allowed the bears to investigate each board, so we could not determine how effective the lure would be at attracting bears at a distance. As was noted with the bears at Northwest Trek, even the control boards gained some attention simply because of the association the bear made between the board and novel stimuli. In an attempt to account for this, we subjectively measured the strength of the lure and excluded those that seemed unlikely to carry well, both immediately upon application as well as after weathering for a day or two.
Glycerin, at a 7:1 ratio, has proven to be superior over charcoal, rum, and “Super Lure Gel” by mixing each with the lure and exposing them to the elements for fourteen days. Lure kept over the winter was preserved with sodium benzoate.
A long distance scent lure was important to offer a varied scent for each snagging session and to achieve better scent travel. The scents were poured into film canisters filled with wool; in the field, these canisters were punctured and hung from a tree above the snag site. For the 1998 field season, beaver castor was chosen for the first session to simulate a carcass odor in spring; skunk essence, fennel oil, cherry oil, and liquid smoke / bacon oil were usedfor the others; fermented egg essence and shellfish essence were added in 2000. A better method would involve pouring the scent onto a rag with a small piece of cardboard above to protect it from rain; this, however, will require more than twice the amount of tinctures and would increase cost.
How to Brew
Procuring blood from slaughterhouses yielded us five to ten gallons per week. It is imperative that you add a generous amount of anti-coagulant to prevent large clots from forming. We employed a 1:7 ratio of sodium citrate to water as an anti-coagulant used in a 1:9 ratio of anti-coagulant to blood. The anti-coagulant should be poured into the five gallon jugs before being filled at the slaughterhouses and mixed well after. If you intend to store the blood in a large drum it is recommended that you apply a sealant to its interior.
With regards to rendering fish oil, expect about ten to twenty gallons of oil from a fifty gallon drum. It is important to note that a commercially produced sun rendered fish oil often harbors little odor, but making your own will require a large amount of fish, heat source, and appropriate storage space. Depending on our sources we used mostly lake trout, but grocers also offered shellfish and salmon. Oil from most trout and perch is the thinnest and carries a less rank odor than ocean fish.
A long distance call lure is important to offer a varied scent for each snagging session and to achieve better scent travel. The scents are poured into film canisters filled with wool; in the field, these canisters are punctured and hung from a tree above the snag site. A better method would involve pouring the scent onto a rag with a small piece of cardboard above to protect it from rain; this, however, will require more than twice the amount of tinctures and would increase cost. For most liquid long distance call lures such as anise oil and shellfish essence, less than a quarter ounce should be used per film canister. When using skunk essence, three ounces of pure tincture can be mixed with a pound or more of lanolin or a smaller amount of glycerin.
Brewing the Lure
In a barn in the Flathead Valley sits 173 fifty gallon drums. Forty-three drums are filled with cattle blood donated from area slaughterhouses. The other 130 are filled with donated fish. All are heated and aged over many weeks to produce much fouler smelling blood and an oil from fish to bottle. In 1 and 3-liter containers, blood and fish oil are mixed with glycerin to preserve the scent. These containers were then sealed in Ziplocs and Pelican camera cases for backcountry use.
Trapping Supply Companies:
M&M Fur Co., Bridgewater, South Dakota (605) 729-2535
Northwest Trappers Supply, Inc., Owatonna, Minnesota (507) 451-7607
Sterling Fur & Tool Co., Sterling, Ohio (330) 939-3763
E.J. Dailey’s Lures and Baits, Cortland, Illinois (815) 286-3039
Faler, Rich. Bear: Baiting and Trapping Black Bear. 1993. Beaver Pond Publishing, P.O. Box 224, Greenville, Pennsylvania 16125 (412) 588-3492
Carman, Russ. The Complete Guide to Lures and Baits. Spearman Publishing & Printing, Box 550, Sutton, Nebraska 68979