Loaded for Bear
The phrase originated with American hunters and woodsmen in regions frequented by the bear. Bears are the largest land-based predator on earth, and when expecting to deal with them the hunters would bring much more powerful rifles than they would if hunting other game.
Hunting for bear? Better have the right weapon and ammo. No matter what you choose for a weapon, you have to hit hard and in the right spot. Bears are tough. They can take a good hit and still get away from you. As hunters throughout the ages have learned, the right load and accurate aim are key to bringing these animals down.
Where to aim
A bear’s heart is positioned low and forward in the chest and is protected by a large, hard bone. The lungs are large but are positioned behind an equally large shoulder bone. All of the vitals are underneath a heavy coat of matted hair, a thick pliable hide, and a substantial layer of fat. The fat can clog up holes just like a cork, stopping blood from seeping out and making tracking very difficult. No matter what ammo you choose to use, knockdown power is vital.
Aim carefully. The ideal shot is one that passes through both lungs. Such a shot 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.
A shot placed 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.
Recommended weapons and ammo
The right equipment is crucial. Before going on a bear hunt, check with your guide to see what he recommends.
- Rifles: In general, larger calibers, 30 caliber and up are recommended. 7mm mag and .270 with good lead (SST or ballistic tip) are adequate. If using lever action rifle, choose selections such as the .44 mag, .45-70, .32 Winchester Special, and .35 Remington.
- Muzzle loaders: A 50 caliber muzzle loader is more than capable of taking down a large bear. With a muzzle loader, however, you typically have only one shot, so bullet weight and proper shot placement are imperative. The heavier the lead, the better. There are a lot of good choices on the market for heavy muzzle loader lead. Check with your guide to see what he recommends.
- Handguns: Anything from .41 Magnum up to the .500 S&W. As far as the right bullet, there are a lot of conflicting opinions. Some experts say any big-bore cartridge that throws a solid bullet weighing 200 grains or more at 1000 fps is adequate. Others say that a jacketed or solid copper hollow point bullet is best. The emphasis here, once again, is heavy... and strategic shot placement.
- Shotguns: Should be rifled barrel 12 gauge slug guns, pumps, or semi-autos.
- Bows: At minimum, it's best to go with 100 grain broad heads, preferably 125 grain with a cutting width of at least 1.25”. All bows--whether compound, re-curve, or long bow--should have a bare minimum draw weight of 50 lbs.
- Crossbows: For small bears, you'll want a crossbow with a draw weight of 175 lbs. or more. For grizzlies, you'll want to go with a 200 lb. draw crossbow. A word to the wise: You can't afford to miss a grizzly bear at 40 yards out, knowing that it will take you at least 5-10 seconds to prep the crossbow for a second shot. A grizzly bear in the wild can cross a football field in roughly 6 seconds, so hopefully you're in a tree stand at this point. Check with your guide for recommendations.
- Scopes: A low power scope is a good idea (no more than 4x). All scopes should be sighted for 25 yards.
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.
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.
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- "Come Experience Hunting Like Nowhere Else On Earth with One of Canada's Most Respected Outfitters"
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.