Early Season Black Bear Scouting and Hunting

Show Notes

Bear seasons are opening throughout parts of the Northeast; New York just finished an early bear season in parts of the state, New Jersey opens Oct. 9 and Pennsylvania on Oct. 14.  When food is in abundance, your chances are the greatest to run into bears.  But even with fall bear seasons and a multitude of food sources, your statistical chance of killing a bear in PA each year is less than 2%.  How do you begin to tackle such a feat with an animal in such low numbers relative to whitetail deer?

This week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman, Mitch has New Jersey native Jay Lyon back on the podcast.  Jay is a diehard bear hunter that has been successful consistently throughout the northeast harvesting bear as a solo hunter using a multitude of tactics.  Jay talks about how important it is to cast a large net scouting and not be afraid to put miles on boot leather to find the key components of a good bear hunt.  It's simple (or so it seems), find food, find cover, find bears.  What's tricky is not missing out on the hottest food source on a day-to-day basis.  This means in season scouting and good knowledge of the land, thinking one step ahead on what food becomes available during the fall.  Hunt hard, and scout harder; you'll have a better chance then you realize!

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Show Transcript

Welcome back everybody, thanks for tuning in to another episode. I am coming off of quite the weekend here for those of you that got out for opening day, I hope you had a wonderful opening day, I hope it was eventful [00:01:00] sightings. Successful in any way, shape, or form. I will tell you that my opening day was a little less eventful.

I spent the first part of the day with my dad. We were working on the exterior of my house with this addition project that we're doing. We have an addition on our house and it just feels like it's been dragging on forever. We were we replaced the roof and we were replacing the siding and everything else.

And we're getting close to seeing the home stretch of the outside portion of our house project wrapped up. And I spent the... The first part of the day doing that, and then my wife went to field hockey, and I watched the kids, and then when she got home, and could take over the kids, I went back to helping my dad with stuff, and did that until, basically right up until quarter of seven on Saturday evening, but you know what, it's all worth it, if we get that done, before the bulk of the [00:02:00] fall, I will be happy, I'll sacrifice it, it hurts a little bit I'm in full blown hunt mode within my mind, I'm, But my my life tells me otherwise.

It doesn't seem like that's the case right now, but I did have a little bit of excitement. I told a couple family members and friends to keep me on call for dragging if they were successful and got, got something down, then I'd be out to help them because I was available. And I got a call at 651, and my cousin Jacob, he shot, he called me, and when I, when he got the call, I looked at him this has to be the call, and I called him, I said, you picked the phone up, and I'm like, you have better be giving me the call that you just shot when he's absolutely, I could hear in his voice, he was jacked up, and he shot a buck, he shot a nice eight pointer, dropped what I was doing, put my boots on, grabbed my flashlight, and my knife, and went on down.

And It took me like 25 minutes to get to where he was hunting and helped him go find his deer and he said let's go look at [00:03:00] the last place I saw it and the last place he saw it, it was laying there dead, it was perfect. He smoked it, it was his first archery buck he's ever killed, it was also the biggest buck that he's ever killed, it was a really nice 8 pointer, about 16 17 inches wide, decent beams, nice time like that.

I posted a picture on my Instagram if you follow me, maybe you saw it. But that was really exciting. I was compl I was so jacked up for him. Cough The Reality of me getting out before my big hunt next week is probably slim to none. I'm probably not gonna get out until... Next Monday, next week.

This coming weekend, gonna be hopefully finishing up the outside of the house. There's one more portion that we have to do, button that up, and again, I'm sacrificing another Saturday, but hey, I've got the help, my dad, and I've got a good... Good buddy. That's going to help me and I got to take full advantage of that.

So we'll get that done. Button that up, cross that off my list. And then [00:04:00] hopefully that means I can shift gears into hunting mode and I'm shifting gears and I'm going to be kicking my hunting season off this year in New Jersey. I've said it before and some of you guys know this that I've been on a bear kick.

I've been doing a bunch of scouting in the state of New Jersey at some places and I'm really optimistic. I put a cell camera out and I was real excited. I was getting daily pictures of bear, a lot of them in daylight, some good mature ones. And of course the last, last week sometime I was getting a picture in the last video I got, I could hear bear in the tree.

I put my camera up about one stick, so it was about seven feet up, angled down, and I could hear the bear in the tree. And it happened before the cubs of some of these sows would climb up the tree. And the last one I got, I could hear them scratching into bark. And then I got no more pictures.

I thought I'll tell me that they ruined my camera. And I was down last week and the camera's still there. They did not break the camera. However, they ripped. the [00:05:00] antenna out. They broke the antenna. The threads are busted off inside of it and that was enough to give me poor service and it won't send any more pictures.

But I just left the camera there. I got my tree prepped where I'm going to sit. I'm going to be using a saddle. I'm not big into saddle hunting. I'm fairly new to it, but it seemed like a good tool for this. We're going to have a pretty long walk and thick, thick access. And it seems like the less I pack in with this two sticks, two two stick system that I'm using, I made it, I'm taking two sticks made them quieter with some duct.

tape and put a two step ater on them. With two sticks, I can get up about 14, 15 feet. However, the tree I picked, I'm going to be less than that. I'm probably going to be somewhere between eight and 10 feet off the ground in this tree that I picked, but it should be perfect. I'm hoping I can hide well, and I'm going to sit there all day.

The first day which is like I said, Monday opening day, and I can also shoot. A deer. I have a buck tag and a doe tag, I believe. And that's exciting too, because when we [00:06:00] were scouting this past weekend, we saw a dandy buck. It was there was a group of three buck in this one little pocket of woods at the corner of this lake.

And when we I was watching the spike buck, and that was the direction we had to go, so I just busted them out. And of course, when we did that, the spike buck took off, and behind them was two more buck. What was it? Two year old eight pointer, not that impressive behind that was probably 135 to 140 inch eight pointer.

It was a giant deer. We got a great look. He stopped on the ridge. I was looking at him in the binoculars. He was turning his head. I could see mass. I could see time length. I'm like, holy cow, that's a dandy buck. I'm optimistic. My goals, I just want to shoot a mature bear with my bow.

I'm going to shoot the first one that gets me excited. And I hope that that I hope that happens. We're gonna see. It's hunting. You never know. Bear hunting is unpredictable, but I feel really good about this spot. I've been seeing a lot of bear. I've had multiple different ones on my camera. Bunch of my [00:07:00] scouting trips.

I've seen bear on the scouting trips. The one in one day I saw, but somewhere between six and nine different bear. A lot of those were sows with cubs, but I'm I'm pretty jacked up about that. With bear in mind, I wanted to do an episode leading into our early bear season because we've got the Jersey season opening the 9th.

It runs from the 9th to the 14th and then starting the 14th to the 21st, we've got muzzleloader bear season. Also, archery bear season opening in Pennsylvania. It'll close on the 21st with the muzzleloader, but it'll go for another two weeks after that with the bow. And a lot of people, I'm amazed how many people reach out to me and say they want to hear more bear hunting.

They want to hear more bear hunting. They want to learn more about that. Let me be the first to tell you, it is hard to find people who eat, sleep, and breathe bear hunting. And then when you do, it is also hard to have somebody that is [00:08:00] willing to speak openly on a podcast and talk about it. And I get it, because you work your tail off for a bear, and it can be it can be a little bit...

What's the word I'm looking for? Maybe a little bit put a bad taste in somebody's mouth to give away the secrets. It's, it's just like anything else, but I have a guy in mind and this week our guest is Jay Lyon. Jay was on the show last year when New Jersey opened their their hunt season, their bear hunting season back up under emergency action in December.

And now he's back on again, and Jay is somebody who, he just loves to hunt, but I think of everything that he does on the hunting aspect, bear hunting is the thing that he loves, eats, sleeps, and breathes. He's killed, I don't know how many black bear. In New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, I believe he might have even killed a few in New York.

He's done it with multiple different weapons. He's done it with bait in Jersey, without bait in Jersey, in other states. He's just out there. He's [00:09:00] somebody who spends time in the woods. And I wanted to pick his brain because he's doing it most of the time on a solo mission or just with a few people.

And he's a woodsman. He's calling out food sources and he's putting on boot leather. So we're going to get his perspective on how to handle bear hunting in the Northeast. And this is a great episode. There'll be there was a couple of things that I picked up on in our conversation that I've overlooked or didn't think about from these angles.

And I really hope that I can put that to good use this fall. Like I said, the first two days in Jersey, I'm going to be taking the bow. I'm hoping I get it done. If not, I'll go back down towards the end of the week. If I would be lucky enough to get it. done early and be tagged out in New Jersey and probably going to turn around and come back home in Pennsylvania.

And I don't have anything that I am real excited about from a whitetail hunting perspective yet in Pennsylvania. So there's a good chance that [00:10:00] I am going to take my bow or take my muzzleloader and go hunt some areas that I've got pins on or I scouted earlier or maybe even some places that I've always wanted to go to and just take a walk and venture out and go for a bear hunt.

We'll see what happens. I'm not sure, but I am excited. So I hope you guys are staying safe and enjoying your time this fall. Yeah. We're in the, we're in the thick of it now, guys, before we get to this episode with Jay real quick, I just want to give a shout out to our partners. Radix hunting guys. That is the trail camera that I am using this fall.

I'm using a couple of M core cell cameras. I really liked those. I was sharing them with my. My hunting buddies. I've got three hunting buddies that we're going to Jersey with. And I've been, I put it Radix Amcor out. I'm just getting a ton of really great bear videos. I was sending them on Instagram, but I was sending them to my buddies and they kept asking me, what cameras are you using?

And they're Radix. And I'm like, man, those images are really good. And I agree the image quality on Radix cameras. [00:11:00] Whether it's the Gen Series or the M Core, it's really good. I cannot say enough positive things about those cameras. I'm also using a bunch of stick and pick trail camera accessories, trail camera mounts that you can put into a tree.

I've got a couple of the tripod mounts on some food plots right now. Like I said, can't say enough good things about them. I got a couple of their tree stands out. I'm using a couple hang ons. I've always been a big hang on guy. I was really happy with the way that they set in the trees. They were quiet.

The sticks were extremely quiet and sturdy. I was really happy with those. They've also got Monarch hunting blinds. So check out Radix hunting. It's definitely worth your time. The cost of their cameras is extremely competitive. They're hitting on the market. The use and function is as good as anything I've used.

And that's the honest truth. And also want to give our shout out to Huntworth guys, the the clothing company that keeps you warm, keeps you dry, keeps you feeling good. And at a fraction of the cost compared to a lot of the [00:12:00] competition, this is a Pennsylvania based company. A lot of you guys don't even realize that.

And they've been out since early 2000. And they have a line of early season, lightweight all the way up to their heat boost technology, heavyweight late season clothes. It's versatile. I'm currently using the Tarnan pattern I've got for my early season setup. I've got they're early season hoodie and the Durham pants.

That's probably what I'm going to wear when I'm bear hunting. But I've also got for the mid weight stuff, I've got my Elkins mid weight top and bottom layer. And I wore that in turkey season, in the cooler part of the turkey season. Really was happy with that. I think that's going to take me through the majority if not all of archery season and then I'll run into some heat boost stuff, but you can probably get two or one or two different sets of a lightweight slash mid [00:13:00] weight and a mid weight slash heavyweight and get you through the entire season and you won't be spending a ton of money relative to what's on the market.

Really great stuff. I encourage you to check out Huntworth. And with that, guys, let's get to this week's episode with Jay Lyon.

Good deal. So hey, joining me today on today's show return guest, somebody I was, I've been after for a while cause he's a pretty interesting guy. I've been pretty blessed to pick his brain and learn a few things from him and I wanted to have him back on the show and that's Jay Lyon. Jay, thanks for making it happen.

Jay Lyon: Hey, thanks for having me back.

Mitchell Shirk: You've been a busy guy here lately. You've got your hand you've got iron in multiple fires right now. I know this time of year correct me if I'm wrong, you're busy with with salmon fishing in New York, right?

Jay Lyon: Correct. My fiance and I, we own a salmon camp up in Pulaski, New York.

And this time of the year is when the salmon leave the lake and they come into the tributaries to spawn. And that brings the fishermen [00:14:00] in. So we're quite busy. We're quite busy at camp right now. So we're back and forth and we're trying to run our bear baits in New Jersey and Yeah, we're being pulled in every which direction.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah, that's usually the way it goes and you touched on what I wanted to really pick your brain on tonight you brought up bear hunting and I've said this before on my show and I said it to you off the air and stuff like that, like I've been a deer hunter my whole life but I've gone bear hunting my whole life but I still wouldn't consider myself a bear hunter and I'm trying to learn and I've made it a point that my goal this year is I'm going to put bear as my priority and I'm going to do the best I can between New Jersey and Pennsylvania to try to wrap a tag around a bear specifically with my bow, but you're somebody who I feel like in talking with you, bear hunting has always been towards the top of your list.

Jay Lyon: Yeah. I I came into bear hunting a little late, but I'll tell you what, it's a dick thing and I really enjoy hunting them. I, I've [00:15:00] learned that every bear is an individual, and I'm still learning myself. And just getting out there, and exploring, and watching Mother Nature and watching those, the bears mannerisms, when you're out in the field.

Seeing what they do, how do they react to different things and whatnot is, it's fun, to

Mitchell Shirk: say the least. So you're from New Jersey. Tell me a little bit about cutting your teeth on bear hunting, like your introduction and what really made you tick. Was there any, anything that really was like, man, this is what I want to spend my time focusing in on and doing.

Jay Lyon: Growing up, I came from a big upland pheasant hunting family. My grandfather and my father, we all hunted Pennsylvania. Pike County, Pennsylvania, Sussex County, New Jersey right along the Delaware river there. So I was blessed that way and nobody in my family bear hunters and it was always something that intrigued me.

So probably in my early twenties, I said, you know what, let me get a Pennsylvania bear tag and go out and hunt. What do I [00:16:00] have to lose? My first day out hunting, I shoot a 407 pounder. That, that made Boone and Crockett. How do how can that not be interesting, to get the addiction rolling, ever since then, I just I've been fixated on bears and then, back then we didn't have a New Jersey bear hunt and now we do and, being from New Jersey and all, our regulations over on that side of the river, a little different from Pennsylvania's.

We're allowed to bait and it just makes it a little bit more interesting, it makes it a little bit more interesting and I'm learning a little bit more. Every time I'm out there in the bare woods.

Mitchell Shirk: And like with whitetail hunting, I think, whenever I think back to some of the big learning experiences I've had, it all comes with experience, right?

And, I feel like when you hunt in target rich environments for deer, You can learn things a little bit quicker just because, obviously more numbers, more experience, it speeds the process up. Take into account people [00:17:00] who hunt big woods, white tails and see, they might sit for days on end before they see a single deer, that amount of experience to, to solidify what you believe from a scouting and hunting perspective, it takes longer to accrue that knowledge and reassurance.

And I think about it from a bear's perspective, bear hunting, like in Pennsylvania, we average. about 3, 000 bears a year or so, give or, sometimes it's more, out of 200 plus thousand bear hunters. The percentage and your chances of actually killing one are very low. And, to do it on a consistent basis, anybody who does it on a consistent basis, man, my hats are off to them because that impresses me.

And I think there's... Certain things that people that just hone in on bear hunting really notice. But I wanted to ask you this question, in your mind, what does a good bear hunter look like? You think about people who go hunting versus are hunters, and from the [00:18:00] scope of bear hunting what makes a good bear hunter?

Jay Lyon: Ooh, what makes a good bear hunter? That's a tough one to answer, all right. It's,

it's, it's like hunting big white tailed bucks, I'm not a big white tailed deer hunter. I do hunt deer religiously, but, big black bears are just, they're very smart, especially, you get them on the Pennsylvania side where baiting isn't permitted, and you gotta really get in there, you gotta know your animals, and you gotta find their food source, and when I have a new hunter, A new bear hunter come to me and say, Hey, listen, what can I do to better my odds?

What can I do? I said, you know what? Get out there in the field in the early seasons, do some small game hunting, hunt other game and do your scouting then, like peasant hunters, they're always in the cornfield and bears that time of the year, October, they're starting to [00:19:00] slow down and they're starting to try to bulk up, get ready for that long winter.

So you're out there speaking to those hunters. And they run into the bears and they run, when they're out there with their dogs, they run into the the sign. That's basically a good start, and just being out there and just figuring them out I don't think I don't think I don't think I'll ever figure out a bear Like I said, everyone's an individual everyone has a different taste, you know in their mouth or whatever it is that they're looking for

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Find out more about this system and get your seed at vitalizedseed. com And be sure to check them out on instagram and facebook. One thing that I really didn't You know, over the years hunting and I think back if I'd have known then what I know now moving forward, like the years I spent bear hunting I've, hunting in a camp and I still do to this day hunt with a camp with a group of guys and make drives in areas that, have thick cover, have terrain and things that on paper should hold bear.

But I've gone through years where we'll see and kill no bear. And then there's years that we. I feel like we can't let a laurel or a rhododendron bush unturned without there potentially being a bear behind it. And I understood that, there were years where acorn crops in that area that I hunt fluctuated, but never really putting two and two together that how much of an impact that has on the volume or the concentration of.

bear [00:21:00] until number one, I started talking to other people and talking to people like yourself. And then, I also had a conversation with the Pennsylvania bear biologist and her shedding light on the home range of a bear versus a whitetail. Like I just realized starting out. I was putting myself in too much of a headlock and not covering ground.

Like I was too, like I was, I had that whitetails hunting mindset oh I'm probably within a one to three square mile radius of where I want to kill this buck, right? And it's zooming out is the hardest thing for me or the biggest leap I had, so to speak. So like on an average year for you, Jay, like when you hunt, whatever you do, do you try to cover a lot of ground in order to hone in on where you want to hunt?

Jay Lyon: Yeah, I re I really don't try to cover a lot of ground. I try to cover quality ground. I'll go to those food sources living in the tri state area. My entire life. I have a [00:22:00] benefit of knowing the locations where these bears will be going, to try to bulk up a little bit, bulk up on their fat for winter.

Like this year, we're light on acorns in the area. So I'm looking into the corn now. So there's a lot, if you find a good corn source. Say down in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pike County, Monroe County Units 3D. There's a lot of corn, and the bears like to hold up in that corn.

And as long as they're not bothered, they'll sit there and gorge themselves. And they don't need to travel. They can they can reserve that energy. And just sit there and feed,

Mitchell Shirk: yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Let me ask you this since you talked about corn and acorns, those are, one's an agricultural crop, one's a natural food source.

When you think about food sources, do you have... And for now, we're going to take baiting out of the equation just because right now we're just sticking with Pennsylvania mindset. I want to talk about baiting with you in New Jersey in a little bit here. But when you think about food sources that you [00:23:00] key in on do you have a list in your mind?

That's like i'm going to check this off for this fall. I'm going to make sure that this one's covered like Does that? Is that in the back of your mind throughout food sources in the fall?

Jay Lyon: Yeah, I know some locations on public land that have apple, have old apple orchards, they have pear trees and I know where the heavy acorns should be.

In the beginning of the season, I'll go and I'll look in those areas and I'll see what, see what, what's out there, what should I be targeting, and like this year, we do have a lot of apples and we do have a lot of pears, but the acorns are very light.

And like I said, And with the corn's always readily available to them, you want to be, I want to target those areas, because I know those bears. It's, as I always say, as sure as shit, as clear as day, those bears will be in those areas. They won't, they'll be there.


Mitchell Shirk: all matter of food concentration,

Jay Lyon: yeah, you can go there any time of the day, and you can find fresh [00:24:00] scat on the ground. And like I said, they'll be there.

Mitchell Shirk: And I think just making sure you're covering food sources is important. Now, like I was out in July, I was out in August I'm spending time in the month of September and I'm looking at those food sources and.

One thing that I have noticed when I look at SCAT, like the food sources from different times of the year change. You're going to have summertime where you've got berries are plentiful, and when those run out, you're going to run into other sources where the food source is shifting. In my mind, and tell me if you think I'm thinking of this wrong, like I haven't really put a whole lot of stock into scouting food sources other times of the year.

It seems to me as though the best information for bear hunting is going to be the most recent, close to the season, as far as food sources [00:25:00] change. Is that, am I... And do you agree or disagree with that?

Jay Lyon: I absolutely agree with that because, bears, when I look at a bear, bears are opportunists, and they know what they need to do before the winter comes.

And if they don't have to exert a lot of energy, and there's a valuable food source in the area, they're going to hang tight, so this time of the year, if they find something, If they don't have to travel far to, or they're in a safe corridor, they're gonna hold up in that general area and they're gonna keep utilizing that until they're driven out, either by, other hunters targeting other game, or if they just don't feel safe.

I like to go into those areas, but I don't like to, trample those areas as I would say, so I don't wanna give, I don't wanna give those areas too much attention, if I see quality signs, then I know they're there and the food is there,

Mitchell Shirk: So you basically, am I gathering that scouting from the fringe is how you would approach that? Like from the outside, looking in to see what's there. [00:26:00]

Jay Lyon: Yeah. I'll go in, I'll go into certain locations probably like around this time of the year. And I'll say, Hey, listen, that tree.

plentiful with acorns. That apple tree, that pear tree looks great. And then you can see the limbs snapped off of the fruit trees. You can see the scat on the ground, in the general area. The bears are targeting those areas and, that's a really good solid area to be,

Mitchell Shirk: like, when you think about bear scouting obviously you talked about scat, are there any other things that you're really trying to hone in on detail wise from scouting? I think about white tails, tracks, scat, rubs, scrapes, things like that stand out. There's a couple different ways.

It seems like it's more narrowed for bear. Are there other things that you look for?

Jay Lyon: Yeah, actually, when I'm traveling some of the roads in Pennsylvania, I'll look at telephone poles. I don't know up in Pike County, you're driving down some of the remote roads. If you look at a telephone pole, bears, for some reason, are very attracted to [00:27:00] telephone poles, and they'll scratch the hell out of it.

And you can actually see fresh sign, quite often on those general areas. And, that could be, Just a marker for the bear, his general area that he's hanging out in, And other bears come by and they they mark that tree with their scent as well. Or that telephone pole.

But, telephone poles are a big thing for me. And people think I'm nuts, but next time you're out driving around, take a look at a telephone pole. Especially if you're in a remote area in bear country.

Mitchell Shirk: That's interesting. I've never heard, I don't know if I've ever heard anybody say anything like

Jay Lyon: that.

I actually posted a photo on my Facebook page A couple of days ago, I was I was back in New Jersey. I was doing some deer hunting cause our deer season opened and some of our units and I was out hunting and I came upon a telephone pole and it was really destroyed by bear and there's, bear fur in the pole where it was rubbing and he really did a number on it, but that's, what I'm talking about.

Mitchell Shirk: Thinking about. food sources. So let's let's stick with big woods, [00:28:00] hardwoods that have, have certain mass crops or things like that are going to hold bare. There's places that I've hunted where it's a dominant oak forest and it's not really it's not really Swayed one way or the other from a vegetation type standpoint, it's just solid oaks and the years that those acorns are really good, obviously they hold bear, but I find if you're trying to hunt by yourself, even if you're hunting with a gun, but hunting with a bow or a gun by yourself, trying to tag a bear, sometimes it's a little bit.

Like daunting with the size of some of these pieces of public land in order to know what's my right way of tackling this with food everywhere. So with that in mind, when you run into those years. Like, how are you approaching, are you looking at terrain in any case and point or what's your play then?

Jay Lyon: What I do is, I don't really have too many, too much big woods where I hunt. It's mostly swamps [00:29:00] and and whatnot. So what I do is, I'll it's, in the swamps and in the cornfields, you can see where the bears come in and out religiously. Bears, in my opinion, bears are lazy.

They like to travel the easiest. So if there's a trail, most likely they're going to follow it. And pinch points, stuff like that. But, like I said, bears like, they like thick cover. They like to be, in my opinion, bears to be, protected. They like to have that.

Those laurels, those hemlocks they like to be in the swamp, especially this time of year with the heat and whatnot. But they like protection. They want to feel safe. I always look for those thick covers, those thick patches, up in the barberries. They like, hanging out in the barberry bushes, because they're quite thick.

They'll get right under there. And they'll roll up and you'll never see them, during the daytime.

Mitchell Shirk: It is amazing how they can hide from that. Speaking of swamps, in your mind is there one is it, does, is there a grading [00:30:00] system for. Quality of use for bear of a swamp like does one swamp have a better advantage over another swamp for any particular reason some kind of Characteristic that says this is probably better for bear than this or all swamps created equal

Jay Lyon: I think it's accessed.

I think if the bear can access it and it's it's difficult to access for the bear. I think he feels safe, as long as people, hunters aren't, traipsing through there on a regular basis, and it's remote. I I feel that the bear feels safe and, he can go to and from his feeding area, especially in the late season, they don't want to really travel too far.

They don't want to exert that energy. They want to conserve that fat. They're going to be in the thickest cover possible, but they're going to be close to their food, close to their food source.

Mitchell Shirk: As close as possible, right?

Jay Lyon: Closest as possible. That's correct.

Mitchell Shirk: Gotcha. Okay. And does, so [00:31:00] pressure is one of the things that I want to talk about. We're still talking about, right now I still want to talk about early season a little bit. Let's let's take acorns out of the equation, let's take natural mass crops out of the equation right now. You brought up earlier that what you're seeing, you're not seeing a ton of acorns and this and that, but you're, we'll switch to cornfields.

Corn's obviously a great thing, but I've said this from the agricultural standpoint, since I'm an agronomist agriculture is feast and then it's famine. The minute that stuff comes off the table is just swept clean and it changes things. Corn that's taken for grain, that might stay, throughout, out October into November.

Chop for silage though, it might be gone this month and it's there. What's your play if a field for some reason is taken early. Let's say you're doing scouting in September and man, these bear are hitting this cornfield and it's just loaded with bear and bear sign and then you go two weeks before the season to do some scouting and the cornfield is gone.

It's harvested. How do you adjust from that? What's your [00:32:00] play in that situation?

Jay Lyon: What I typically do is I'll go back to the areas that had heavy acorns. I know you didn't wanna talk about acorns, but I'll go back to the areas that had heavy acorns earlier in the season. And what they'll do is they'll root up the ground looking for 'em.

And I'll really target those areas hard. And we have killed bears in that fashion. And it works.

Mitchell Shirk: And I like that you bring the acorns back up just because you just talked about how you shifted food sources and that's probably important because you're trying to adapt.

Jay Lyon: Yeah. Yeah. Just like the bear, he's trying to adapt and they're getting ready, they're getting ready to slow down come November, December, especially the, the sows, the sows that are pregnant, should be dend up by then. But, the other bears, if there's food out there, they'll be out there scouring as well.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah. One of the things that I'm struggling with from an archery hunting perspective. So I've been scouting some areas and I found areas with bear in them, but I'm really struggling to decide how am I going to [00:33:00] approach my, my, my stand placement? I'm, I think I have an idea of how I'm going to access the area.

That's not going to be too much from a disturbance standpoint, but I'm really trying to say, Hey, if I have. X wind direction or wide wind direction. How do I want to orient my stand location? Do I want to be closer to food? Do I want to be closer to bedding? Do I want to try to find something that's in between?

And the other thing that's tough too is it seems like outside of the food sources, it's all bedding. It's really hard to pinpoint down at a specific area where they're coming from. So if you're not hunting over a baited site and you're hunting just, like I'm talking about, how do you approach stand hunting in that situation?

Jay Lyon: I personally don't hunt from tree stands. Okay. I just sit on the ground and I just move around here and there. But I would locate a spot. Where you think a great travel corridor would be, because bears don't like to be [00:34:00] out in the open, they want some kind of protection from the elements, they're, it's just somewhere where there's a lot of cover, a pinch point maybe, and I I really don't worry about the wind when I'm bear hunting, especially, up in Pike County, it's surrounded by communities, the bears. Are used to people they're used to being around people, you know the sense, you know Of a human is really not, you know a red flag as much to them,

Mitchell Shirk: Interesting.

Yeah, I didn't even give that really much of a thought. I had an interaction, I told, I think I told you this through text when I was scouting. I did have a, an encounter with a sow that had cubs and I chased her and when she came back, she, she called the cubs and then she came back and she made me a little nervous.

It was the first time I ever got nervous by a bear, but I was thinking about it afterwards. It's a sow with cubs, they're a little bit a little bit more protective, so to speak, but where I was scouting, I was in New Jersey, and they hadn't been hunted, correct me if I'm wrong, they haven't been hunted for [00:35:00] basically three years, so I would have to think that their fear of humans is a little bit reduced compared

Jay Lyon: to normal.

Yeah, they, and especially bears in, bears in New Jersey, especially up towards where I hunt, the bears on the Jersey side of Pennsylvania side, to me, they're all the same bears. I've, they swim that, that Delaware River every day, all day long, back and forth, depending on where the great food source is that day, but, what I've done in the past, and, people are gonna say, oh, that, that's...

Not ethical or whatever, like Pennsylvania, especially in Pike County, there's a lot of communities and those communities are surrounded by federal land and they're surrounded by state forests. You get in those state forests, you can find trails. Game trails, especially bear trails, leading into those communities and those bears aren't stupid.

They know exactly when garbage day is I mean believe it or not. It's you know, I mean it's you know, you have to keep a [00:36:00] respectable distance between the You know the community and the game lands, bear, these bears are traveling, you know They're coming out of these communities constantly and they're problem bears, that they don't care about the human scent They don't care about you know you walking around in there in their area so you get out there and, you just do a lot of scouting, a lot of especially around those communities, where you can.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah. And what's amazing to me, Jay so trying to figure out who I wanted to have on as a guest for bear hunting, that's a good bear hunter. One thing I've learned is the bear hunting community. Is way more of a tight lipped community than the whitetail hunting community. And there's a lot of people that don't want to share all their deer hunting secrets and their big buck secrets and stories and stuff like that.

I, and I'm, and I respect that too, but it seems to be amplified with bear hunting. But one thing I will say when it comes to finding out information is. You brought this up earlier in our conversation, like [00:37:00] getting information from other hunters that aren't bear hunters, like that's an awesome way to to learn something.

Like I had a conversation with with a guy that I had on the show here and he's a. Big time deer hunter, big time scatter. And I asked him before we before we hung up and said, Hey, by the way, in your travels are you seeing any bear in your travels this year? What's it like this year compared to last year?

And they're deer hunters. They don't care. They. They want nothing to do with bear. And they'll tell you all kinds of information. And if you're looking to kill your first bear, like that's big, especially if it relates to an area that you hunt. I just wanted to throw that in there. Cause I thought what you talked about with the community things is really thinking outside the box from not just a scouting perspective but also like gathering information from other hunters or the non hunting community.

Jay Lyon: Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, just getting out there and collecting information like, I know some of the people in the communities, they're disgusted because, these bears are breaking into their garages, they're breaking into their [00:38:00] garbage, no matter what they do, it's just, it's, it's just, it's endless, because if the bear wants it, the bear is going to get it, and so you get out there, you listen, you speak to these guys, Women, you know these families and these people will tell you exactly, yeah, I got a bear coming in they're a problem bear.

It comes out of the Delaware State Forest you know if you find the trail that the bear is traveling, and they will travel the same trail, And you get out there, you know a good, quarter mile or so and then you know It's fair game, right?

I mean it doesn't say it doesn't sound At the colon, it's not considered baiting, especially in Pennsylvania because I know how, they like to, baiting is prohibited, but, you get out there, in the middle of the, some of those woods are vast out there, and you find a good solid trail that the bears are coming into the urban areas.

You stick on those trails, you'll definitely find, you'll encounter a bear. And

Mitchell Shirk: I think that's a great point you bring up, because that is a very gray area. I've [00:39:00] heard horror stories, and I think it's the whisper down the alley type thing, but stories of, people killing bears, and then where the bear was killed, there was, it was tracked back to a location, miles away, where there was camps that were feeding, and this and that, and it seemed, and it sounds like it was almost entrapment for a hunter, and again, I don't know how true they are, being miles away in an area that has bear, but there's a baited area far away, or in your case, you're talking about here, you're talking about communities and trash and stuff. I think there's probably merit that somebody under the law or game warden stuff would. Probably make a case for that.

I want to keep that in everybody's ear. I don't know the logistics of all how that works. I just look at that exactly how you said it's, it is a food source they're using. You're not putting it out there. You're not sitting over it. You're just using it for movement patterns to your advantage.

And from what my interpretation, I don't think that's illegal, keep that in mind. I don't know.

Jay Lyon: I always told, I have a lot of friends [00:40:00] up in Pennsylvania and they live in a lot of these private communities and I said, what days do you typically see the majority of your bears on?

And the response I get is, I really don't see them much during the during the week, but this, but the day that the garbage goes out, they're everywhere. Those bears know, that they hear the truck, and you might think that's weird, but if they hear that that truck backing up, they know, they're not, they're, like I said, they're creatures of habit, they know, they can be out there, and hey, today's garbage day, let's go get some trash, and like I said, if you're...

A good distance away, from these communities and you do your scouting and, you can find the trails that they're traveling to get to these locations.

Mitchell Shirk: Right now, do you think like at what point throughout, as fall goes on, things slow down the distance they travel gets shorter and hunting pressure increases.

Do you find that there's a time throughout the hunting season where things will really just. The breaks will just really pump hard and you won't [00:41:00] have that same bears everywhere feeling like you have when foods in abundance in August and September, maybe even in October. Like how, like I guess throughout the process of the fall, like when do you start to see things shift in bear or do you?

And like, when does that happen?

Jay Lyon: I usually see it like around the second week of November. Like right around the second week of November like right smack in the middle when Pennsylvania Rifle Bear starts. Like right around that time I see a change in the bears.

They're, they're really not really moving much. They're, they're feeding, but they're just, they're not moving far. We're, basically like where they're going to be is where they're going to be.

Mitchell Shirk: Do you think, do you have to switch, do, oh, let me ask it differently.

Do you switch your mindset or your approach in how you hunt them from the beginning of the bear season to the end of the bear season with that in mind? First

Jay Lyon: off, I pray for snow because that's [00:42:00] always a benefit to us bear hunters, that way we can get out there and we could do a little spot and stalk or we can, a little still hunting, and look and see if we can cut a bear track and, hope it's a fresh one.

I always hope for a little snow in November that always makes the hunt a little bit more, a little bit more special. To follow that bear track.

Mitchell Shirk: Without that available to you though, because Lord knows we haven't been getting snow the past few years like we normally have in the past.

Do you find yourself getting closer, or like getting tighter to thick cover than normal? Or do you always try to find yourself really in thick nasty stuff regardless of the time of year for bear?

Jay Lyon: Yeah, I tried to get in that thickest, nastiest cover as possible. During the bear season, and that's what those bears like.

And, especially in the late season, you get into that thick, those hemlocks and those. Those laurels barberry bushes, the swamps, anywhere where there's a lot of, a lot of cover. That's [00:43:00] where you want to go. That's where those bears are going to be.

Blowdowns, loggings, logging areas with a lot of trees down. A lot of people think that the bears, they dig a den and that's where they sleep. That's not always the case, they'll make a nest right on top of the ground and blowdowns right out in the open, all winter, they'll even have their cubs in areas like that, this sow as well.

Mitchell Shirk: The thing that gets me though is some of the areas that I look at and think, man, that's got to hold bear. Sometimes they're so thick, it's almost like it's impenetrable. I don't even know how to successfully hunt it. I've, you end up crawling on your hands and knees through places. And I think, how is it, how am I going to get.

To a point where I can get a visual on a bear before this sucker hears me and is gone.

Jay Lyon: Yeah, you know what it is? And I always chalk it up to this, is luck. Yeah. Bear hunting comes down to just luck. Being at the right place at the right time and, just, if you think a bear is going to be there because of what what how [00:44:00] bears, are, during that time of the year, you're probably correct.

There's probably a bear in there. I funded areas where the switchgrass, is taller than me and I'm 6'5 this stuff is way above my head. And I knew there was bears in there, but... What are the odds of finding them, they're not going to move. Let's just step right on top of

Mitchell Shirk: them.

Yeah. Talk about talk about an high high adrenaline potential situation when you're stalking in that close. I've been there where I've kicked them up really close and it always gets excited when they take off, but it is tough and there's really no great answer for it in my mind either.

That's why I wanted, wondered your perspective on it, just because it is a tricky animal to hunt when we're talking about that.

Jay Lyon: Yeah, I just say get out there, cover ground, look for the signs, look for the sign to get in that thick cover. Let

Mitchell Shirk: me ask you, yeah, I like that.

Let me ask you this too. So thinking about I'm going to be hunting with the bow and I'm going to be doing a little bit of, walking and I'm planning on stand [00:45:00] hunting. How do you feel from bear hunting? As far as time of day, it's been shown in a lot of studies, a lot of game is, are not, crepuscular morning and evening, but I noticed that other states, there's a lot of places that they don't hunt bear in the mornings, which I never understood that.

So like in your hunting experience and the stuff like, do you have a preference one way or the other morning or evening and. Do you gravitate to one location as far as like closer to food or closer to bedding morning or evening? Like how do you approach that?

Jay Lyon: i'm a firm believer just being out there, you just get out there and you hunt all day dark to dark that's what I do And i've had a pretty good success rate.

I've killed, bears in the morning. I've killed them midday mid afternoon, you know late in the day. You know When a bear wants to go and, get up and move around, a bear is going to do it. And if you're at the right place at the right time, then, you're going to be a fortunate out

Mitchell Shirk: there.

Yeah, I think [00:46:00] there's a lot of merit to that. And I never used to think of it because a lot of time when I deer hunt, I'm hunting the mornings and I'm hunting the evenings. Certain times of the year, I'm hunting all day. It just depends on my goals and my strategies of what I'm after too. But I think about that from the, like the conversation we had earlier when we were talking about, Bear hunting and like the area, like the amount of ground you want to cover.

And I was putting myself in a hole as far as the amount of ground I'd cover from a deer hunters perspective. So when you think about bear hunting, I think there's a lot to be said and just nothing other than buckling down and hunting hard and putting some volume into it to get out of it.

Because again, we're talking about an animal that has a lower population than the deer, and there's just a lower success rate amongst the amount of hunters.

Jay Lyon: Yeah, without a doubt, so you just gotta be out there, you can't kill them on the couch just get out there and, look, get in those covers, get in those areas that are [00:47:00] thick, find those food sources, and just hone in on that area, and sooner or later, sooner or later, bear will cross your path, and, hopefully it's the one that you you know.

You wanna take, and it's a successful hunt after

Mitchell Shirk: that. Do you think a lot of people that are unsuccessful, like I, I'm sure you, because you've talked with a lot of people and cat outta the bag in the past, you've done a little bit of guiding, you've helped a lot of other people too. Do you find that there's a theme, the people that are unsuccessful bear hunting over the years and what they're doing wrong, that they're not able to ever have any kind of consistency or ever connect,

Jay Lyon: I've spoke to young hunters and I've spoke to hunters that are a lot more experienced than myself.

And and they all say the same thing, it's you just never know when that next world record is going to step out in front of you. You just got to be out there and keep your fingers crossed and always have that in back of your head. And especially in our area, we have big black bears.

You just and [00:48:00] everybody's out there for their own reason, whether it be to fill the freezer. Or, or put that trophy on the wall, to each his own, as I say, but the bears are definitely out there, and you gotta be in it to win it,

Mitchell Shirk: perfect example, like I have my grandfather, he he was, he hunted bear for 45 years until he killed his first bear, and it's the only one he ever killed, and that was one thing he really wanted to do, and was thrilled when he did it he killed it on a drive, he actually the bear wasn't even in the drive, he was getting set up to a location, he was just happened to be walking into an area in a, Bear was feeding on acorns and he killed it.

And that was an awesome thing for him. But I think about him and I think about a lot of people I've talked to over the years that have hunted for 10, 20, 30 years and never killed a bear. And I always scratch my head as what's the overwhelming factor, why some people struggle and then other people's figured out.

And I think it comes down to, there's probably for a lot of younger people that get it done consistently, they probably learned something early on that. [00:49:00] Takes a lot of other people longer to figure out.

Jay Lyon: Yeah, I tell you what I chalk it up to just being lucky I know everybody says it you know, like How do you consistently?

Harvest Pennsylvania black bears. I said, I'm just lucky, I don't do much scouting believe it or not You know, I like I said, I grew up in the area. So I'm very familiar, and you know I do some scouting I think it's just The luck of the draw. I've been very fortunate. I've been very fortunate.

Mitchell Shirk: Go ahead Jay, I'm sorry to cut you off there.

Jay Lyon: No, that's okay.

Mitchell Shirk: That's okay. One thing I've said when you talk about luck though, and I've said this with other good hunters too, luck follows the well prepared. I don't see, there's very few instances where people are lucky on a consistent basis without having a lot of their T's and their I's dotted and crossed.

I think there, there's still preparation that leads you. When you're well prepared, luck is in a [00:50:00] situation where it can happen. I don't think it just happens by dumb luck all the time. You know what I mean? So like for, for you, for instance, like a lot of the stuff we were talking about and covering from food and scouting, and then just.

Understanding terrain, which we didn't even really talk about terrain. There's a lot of undulation in the mountains in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and stuff. Does that come into play at all for you at all? When you're looking at ground to hunt?

Jay Lyon: I try to find really thick areas and that's like thick areas with swamps nearby, food source, that's what I focus on, I don't really bother with anything else, I just those three things.

If the area has it and that's where you're going to find me, it's come to the point where I actually have people drop me off in areas so they don't see my truck other hunters, so that's

Mitchell Shirk: yeah, I like that. Hey, we're we're on this for a while. One of the thing I want to talk about, we talked a lot about Pennsylvania hunting, bear hunting just [00:51:00] from the side of no bait and stuff, but Jersey.

Bear season's open. I've been talking about it. I'm excited. I've been scouting. I have not used this tactic this year, but I know it's a tactic that can be used and that's baiting and using baits for bear hunting. And I just wanted to touch real briefly before I let you go here. Is there any science in your mind or strategy behind bear baiting besides what you put there, but choosing a good bear, bear bait location?

Jay Lyon: Like I said, it's like in Pennsylvania. I find a nice thick area. I find a spot where I feel that the bears will be comfortable in coming out, but they don't have to travel too far to get to the bait. And in the state of New Jersey, you're allowed to bait, but you cannot hunt within 300 feet of that bait.

You need to get the bears coming out, and the bears, they are creatures of habit. They won't follow the same trail. Once you start getting them to come out to that bait, you got to do your homework. And you got to do it legally and [00:52:00] be, within three, you can't be within 300 feet of that bait.

You got to be outside that, that general area and that's where you got to find your setup.

Mitchell Shirk: There's definitely a a pattern going on down between ample food. Thick cover and just putting your nose to the grindstone and grinding it out. And I think there's probably, that's probably all there

Jay Lyon: is to it.

Yeah. That's basically what it comes down to, like bears, they got to eat, especially this time of the year, their mode is survival and they got to pack that fat on and get them through the winter.

Mitchell Shirk: Gotcha. Hey before we let you go I want you real quick.

What is one bear hunt that just sticks in your mind as one of the most exciting or most memorable bear hunts that you've had over the years?

Jay Lyon: I'm going to say I was. I was in New Jersey, I was hunting with my best friend and I [00:53:00] actually had killed a, we were hunting together, and I killed a bear first thing in the morning, and probably five minutes later another beautiful bear was on its way to the bait, my buddy killed that bear, and we, the bears both expired not far from each other, it was just, it was a gorgeous morning, the sun was out, everything came into play, it was perfect, and I'll never forget that, never forget that ever.

Mitchell Shirk: Yeah. Always going back to doing it with friends is a fun thing. And I never,

Jay Lyon: and the thing is, I've never seen these bears before, and both of them had blazes and both blazes were gorgeous and I, and neither one of us has ever shot a bear with a blaze, so I just thought it was a special, a special moment,

Mitchell Shirk: real good.

What are you looking forward to the most? Are you gonna be targeting anything specific this year? Going into the season? Like a size class or anything like that?

Jay Lyon: No, we don't. New Jersey is like a management hunt we're out there. We're going to do our part in conservation my fiance and I'm actually not going to hunt [00:54:00] opening day.

I'm going to hunt with her and, let her, pick where she wants to hunt and I'm going to sit with her and and we do have a couple beautiful bears on properties nuisance bears. So we're hoping to take them out and give the community a little relief. So that's what we're, that's what we're gunning for.

And that's why New Jersey has this management on, it's to to weed out the nuisance bears and to keep the population healthy.

Mitchell Shirk: I like it. I like it, man. This has been a great conversation. It's getting me excited. We're less than a month away from the opening day of bear season in New Jersey, and we're right around a month or a little bit over a month for when the Pennsylvania bear season opens as we're having this conversation tonight.

So Jay, thanks again for doing this with us. I appreciate it. And I hope that everybody learned something from it to hopefully feel their fire. Because like I said, I know there's a lot of people out there when I talk about things on podcasts, I get a lot of feedback that people want to hear more about bear hunting, learn about bear hunting, this and that.

[00:55:00] But the thing is it's not one of those things that's as easily picked up upon as deer hunting and turkey hunting.

Jay Lyon: Yeah, absolutely. And one more thing I want to add too, is there's a lot of new laws in the compendium this year for New Jersey bear. So I would recommend anybody going out. Please read the compendium before going afield because there is new regulations pertaining to the hunt, and, we want to keep within that, and we don't want to see our hunters jammed up.

Mitchell Shirk: That's a great point, because this is one of those things where you guys fought to get this back, and now it's in place, and you want to do it lawfully, respectfully, and do it in a manner that when the bear management plan comes up for renewal again, that this can continue to happen so that you don't have these problems like you have in New Jersey with too many bears and nuisance

Jay Lyon: bears and to lose a hunt and to regain it is a big deal.

It's a big win for conservationists [00:56:00] like

Mitchell Shirk: ourselves, absolutely. Absolutely. Hey, anything else you want to leave us with before before we let you go?

Jay Lyon: Absolutely. I want to wish everybody a great successful season. Be safe, shoot straight, and hey, share your stories. I want to see the Bears.

Mitchell Shirk: Good deal. Any you mentioned a Facebook page. Is there anywhere where people can follow along with what you're doing?

Jay Lyon: I do have a Facebook page. They can follow me under Jay Lyon. J A Y L Y O N. Either that or Rivers Edge Camp in Pulaski, New York. Either one of those pages.

Mitchell Shirk: Good deal. He posts a lot of neat pictures on there, which I've appreciated looking at over, over the past year or so. So Jay, thanks again for hopping on the show. Thank you for having

Jay Lyon: me.