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Tree Stands and Ground Blinds
Using a tree stand is probably the most effective way to hunt your bear bait station. However, regulations vary across land ownerships -- whether state, federal, or private. It is your responsibility as a hunter and outdoor user to check with the proper landowner to understand what is allowed in regards to "structures" in the woods. Do your homework before building or installing a tree stand: Checking with your local Alaska Wildlife Trooper office is also advisable.
Regulation 5 AAC 92.044(b)(10) requires that a bear baiting permittee remove bait, litter, and equipment from the bait station site when hunting is completed. The issue of the actual stand structure itself is a sensitive one, and it’s important that you understand the policies and laws that have been enacted on this subject and their intent. The bottom line is you must have the landowner’s or land management agency’s permission to construct or permanently affix a tree stand on their lands.
The Alaska Board of Game has stated its intent that bear baiting sites be "temporary establishments." This is to help avoid negative perceptions of bear baiting by non bear-baiters, including hunters who don’t support the practice. Many members of the public would agree that no hunter or other outdoor user has the right to stake long-term claims to a site on state or federal lands. Besides being unsightly, unused or abandoned stands can also pose a safety concern.
Under state regulation 11 AAC 96.020(a)(4), cabins or other permanent improvements on state-owned public domain land are not allowed. In fact, on such lands, permanent structures are not allowed for any reason without a permit issued by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
The purpose of pointing out these regulations is to emphasize the importance of your role and behavior: By acting responsibly in meeting local land use rules, you help avoid user conflicts that can reflect negatively on hunting. In short, the best bet is to use a portable tree stand and remove it at the end of the season. If instead you build a stand out of wood, be sure it safely constructed and is allowed at that site for the period you intend to leave it in place.
It is advisable to place your tree stand at least twelve feet off the ground. Place it even higher if you are concerned about brown bears visiting the bait station. Keep in mind the reach or "swatting" distance of an adult brown bear. Brown bears may charge you and climb up to your stand. Be cautious and consider carrying bear deterrents other than a firearm.
When selecting a tree stand location, be sure to consider the visual "background" around the site, including a bear’s view if it should look toward the stand while investigating the bait. Select the stand placement angle that will take advantage of any background cover to best hide your silhouette and movements. Be aware of any unnatural noises (squeaks and rattles) on your tree stand before the season starts. Ensure that you can enter and depart your stand with the least amount of noise that could alert bears in the area.
Each year many hunters around the country are injured using tree stands. Safety issues involved with tree stands are a major topic of discussion and demonstration in all IBEP/NBEF archery courses (see www.NBEF.org). The most important item in your tree stand is the safety harness. You should have a full body harness, fall-restraint system. In order for the harness to protect you, though, you must wear it. The smart tree stand hunter will also use a haul rope to hoist gear into the stand. Never attempt to carry your bow or firearm up the tree as you climb up into your stand. Consider what the consequences would be, for example, if you accidentally sliced open a vein with a broadhead arrow or shot yourself with your own gun. Be safety conscious at all times.
What about brown bear issues? What will you do when brown bears come to your site? Although it is legal to kill a brown/grizzly bear in defense of life and property (DLP), it is not legal to kill one just because the bear is tearing up your bait site. What if you are ready to leave the tree stand but the brown bear won’t leave the bait station? Some bear baiters carry bear spray while others (mainly archers) carry a handgun for personal defense. Carry a cell phone and be prepared to wait for the bear to leave if need be.
In certain areas, a tree stand may not be feasible or a hunter may not be comfortable climbing up and down from an elevated stand. A ground blind may be an option in this situation. You can construct something similar to a duck blind or buy a blind. Look for a good backdrop to settle into; this could be a tree, thick brush or an uprooted tree area. Construct your ground blind 20-30 yards from your bait. If hunting with a rifle, your distance may be increased. Be extra cautious of your range of view, since setting up on the ground will limit what you can see coming into your bait site. You may want to bring a friend to watch your back.