[feature photo: North River Stone, Alberta, Canada]
Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. In modern times they are among the most favoured big game animals due to their imposing size, elusiveness, sharp senses, and ferocity. Which method of hunting will you choose?
- Bow Hunting - Bow hunters need to be mindful of their shooting ability and their bow's kinetic energy (distances achievable with adequate poundage pulled for good penetration and a successful kill shot). They also must be patient, extremely quiet, and always, always stay downwind.
Whether you use a mechanical or fixed-blade broadhead for bear hunting, you need to know where to aim. The ideal shot is an arrow that passes through both lungs. An arrow through both lungs will typically cause the bear to drop onsite. Bears are tough and can run a long way on one lung. A bear’s vitals are located notably farther back in their body than a deer, for example, and you must shoot accordingly. Their lungs are slightly farther back and their shoulders are a little farther forward.
An arrow placed tight behind the leg and 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the chest will result in a killing shot on a bear, but if that arrow hits high or farther forward, chances for a clean kill and recovery are greatly reduced.
- Baiting - Where legal, baiting is a popular method of hunting. The location, suitable tree for a stand, and proper bait placement are the keys to success. Bears are always close to water--it might be a small creek or big river, small pond or large lake, but bears love water. Take the time to carefully scout out areas until you find the "sweet spot", an area in which there are lots of bears. Trail cams or trail timers are very helpful.
Set your tree stand for bow shots 20-30 yards from the bait. Closer is too close for fidgety bears, further away makes the shot difficult. Tree stands should be set in trees that offer lots of background cover. And it should go without saying that the stand should be set downwind of the bait itself.
A new bait site must be “opened,” meaning you'll want to put out massive quantities of scent to draw in bears from long distances. One way is to cook honey and bacon on a camp stove, sending plumes of greasy smoke into the air. Or you can try using a commercial bear lure on a rag.
When setting up the bait itself, do yourself a favor and position it so any visiting bears will offer a broadside shot. You can do this by erecting barriers of brush, logs, boulders and other obstacles that force the bears to enter and exit the bait site as you choose. This "funnel" should also force the bear to move upwind of your stand and keep his head pointed away from you.
Every veteran bear baiter has his own secret food bait, but the idea is to find something that keeps the bears coming back. Examples of food bait to put in your drum container are: dog food, syrup, honey, molasses, doughnuts, old bread, popcorn, or any mixture of the above items—keeping in mind bears love anything sweet.
It takes massive quantities of bait to keep the bears fed. Once they start hitting your baits they’ll eat everything in sight—but once the food runs out, they’ll leave. That means you have to regularly check your baits and keep the bears fed, or you’ll lose them.
- Dogs - Dogs have a long history of playing the role of partner to the avid outdoorsman, but you'll want to check your State's regulations. Houndsmen use dogs to track a bear and chase it up a tree, where hunters can get a good shot at the stationary target. Using hounds to track bears can offer the opportunity to be more selective about whether to shoot.
Modern dog hunting often includes outfitting the canines with GPS transmitters and radio telemetry on their collars. Once the dogs pick up on a bear’s scent, they are released and the chase begins. With the help of GPS, it is easier to pinpoint their location because they can run for miles until the bear decides to shimmy up a tree.
- Hunting from a boat - Being able to cruise a shoreline is a comfortable way to hunt since the boat is a safe, dry place to eat and sleep. Bears often feed along shoreline, and since they do not have predators from the sea, they pay little attention to boats.
- Spot and stalk - It's imperative to make your stalk from downwind. If you hunt in steep terrain, remember to test prevailing air currents (up in the morning, down in the afternoon). Use terrain, trees, and other sight-blocking obstructions to hide your approach, and find game trails or other routes where your walking won’t sound like you're stomping through a bowl of dry cornflakes.
Experts advise you need three ingredients to find the big bears: (1) old-growth timber for denning, (2) food, and (3) water. Look for big branches broken off trees, claw marks in bark, and rubbed-out bark stubbled with bear hair. Check for scat--the greener it is inside, the fresher it is.
Follow a route that plays the wind and approaches the bear from behind. If the bear alerts in your direction, stop and wait. Only move forward when the bear goes back to feeding and looks relaxed.
- Predator Calling - This is not an activity for the meek. It's recommended that you only use this method of hunting if you have another hunter (or two) with you. Predator calls are designed to do just what their name indicates, and the responder could just as likely be a coyote, bobcat, or mountain lion as it could be a bear. You and your hunting partner should sit back to back, facing opposite directions. Your position should offer a commanding field of vision, ideally from a secluded, elevated stand. You watch for animals approaching his backside, he watches for those approaching yours.
There are a variety of predator calls you can use. Distressed jackrabbits, wounded fawns, and shrieking birds—all these sounds should reel in a hungry bear.
Ready for the Hunt of a Lifetime?
If it's bear hunting you're after, you've come to the right place. Here at Dream Sporting Trips, you'll find some of the best guides and outfitters in the business. We never charge a commission and you're free to contact the guide yourself and book your trip or ask him questions. So go ahead! Plan your trip today.
Hiring a guide has great advantages. A guide offers gear, expertise, and experience. He has already done the scouting, has the proper permits, and will take care of you during the hunt. And in Alaska, for example, hunting with a licensed guide is a requirement: "Nonresident brown bear hunters are required to have a guide or be accompanied by an Alaska resident who is a relative." (Alaska Department of Fish & Game)
Jake Ingram, Scapegoat Wilderness Outfitters, Havre, MT
Offering spring black bear hunts in true wilderness fashion, packing all their camp and clients in on mules and horses.
Bruno Martel Hunting Adventure, Inc., Alberta, Canada
Offering some of the best bear trophies in Alberta with an opportunity to harvest your two-bear limit.
Glen Kleinfelter, Homestead Lodge, Oxbow, Maine
Offering hunting packages for guided bear-over-bait in scenic northern Maine.
Chris Moehring, High Country Outfitters, Des Moines, NM
Offering fully guided hunts for black bear and other game. Rifle hunters primarily spot-and-stalk, while archery hunters primarily stand hunt.
Jack Cassidy, Colorado Big Game Hunts, Montrose, CO
Provides hunters with quality hunts for bear and other game at the famous Packrat Camp on the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Alfred Luis, Central Coast Outfitters, Santa Maria, CA
Offering California hunts for black bear, in addition to their other game hunts in New Zealand.
Ron Nemetchek, North River Stone, Alberta, Canada
Offering guided Grizzly hunts in remote, northern B.C. Our British Columbia grizzly hunts in the Cassair Mountains produce trophy-class bears.
There is a good population of grizzlies within the area, and as they are managed well, it is not uncommon to spot or see signs of bears throughout your hunt.
Loaded for Bear
Understanding Bear Behavior