You’ve seen all the pictures over the years and heard all the stories but you just are having a hard time pulling the trigger. When you do, don’t make a mistake by booking your black bear hunt with an amateur. Like most states that have a bear hunt Maine has its share of folks who claim to be good guides. There are several guide schools in the state who pump out more than enough guides to take your hard earned money.
Here is a few things you ought to think about before you book a hunt.
1) Look for a member of the Maine Professional Guides Association http://www.maineguides.org/ . The group has been around for a long time established in 1978, the Maine Professional Guides Association is proud to be the largest, oldest organization of Maine guides, with over 1000 members and a 35 year history of successful guiding.
2) Ask how long the guide has been guiding bear hunts. Youth has its advantages but guiding is not one of them. If they spend too much time telling you about the bear they have killed and not their clients you should be weary. Experience counts in the big woods.
3) Ensure your guide actually has a business license (lodge, remote camp) and has a track record of success. New guides will offer you a great price but you always get what you pay for.
4) Ask what the success rate has been for the past few years. How many clients will they have per guide? A good ration is 3 per guide but never over 6.
5) How many baits sites do they lease and when do they start baiting. If they are not leasing sites from the large land owners like Maine North Woods (http://www.northmainewoods.org/business-links.html), Irving, Weyerhaeuser, and American Forest Management, etc. than I would be cautious. If they are guiding on private or state lands be careful.
6) How far do they space out their bait sites? In central Maine there are (according to Randy Cross the Maine State Bear biologist) 1.2 bear per square mile (or 650 acres). Any closer and you and the other hunters in the party will be hunting the same bear.
7) What type of bait do they use? Bear meat taste great when they’ve been feeding on nuts & berry’s, not so good on rotten fish & chicken. That’s my preference and why I prefer a fall hunt over a spring hunt when I’m hunting for food.
8) Get some references and ask about how they were treated as clients. Were the sleeping arrangements comfortable, the food good and was the atmosphere fun?
9) Trophy Care. Do they offer capping services? Do they have a cooler (or other arrangements) to keep your trophy fresh for the butcher? How was the bear meat once it hit the grill? If its “gamey” than they did not field dress your bear and get it iced down in the appropriate amount of time.
10) Ask about a typical bait site. How far off the trail? Ladder or ground blind? How far from the bait? Was the site set up for rifle or bow?
11) How many years have they used this site? (This will tell you about success of this site). I have some sites that are 20 years old and still produce.