By Clay Newcomb

Editor, Bear Hunting Magazine

We had a tremendous opening weekend of bear season here in Arkansas. My 13-year old daughter, River, was able to take her first bear with a bow. This was also her first bowkill. We purchased a Mission Craze for her back in July and she’s faithfully practiced with it for the last several months. We worked a lot on her form and she’s learned how to be consistent with her anchor and bow arm. The excitement of the hunt was unparalleled, for her and myself. I was filming for an episode of Bear Horizon to be released on Friday, October 8th, 2016. You’ll be able to watch the whole hunt and a lot of our process of baiting. River is a special girl and a true sportsman. She’s paid her dues in the woods for the last 8 years and I felt like she was ready to bear hunt – this is a privilege, not a right in the Newcomb home.

River and Clay Newcomb

13-year old River with her first bear and first bowkill. The bear didn't run 25 yards after the shot. She was shooting a 125-grain Badger broadhead. River was shooting Mission Craze bow at 40 pounds. It's an amazing weapon that will fit her for the rest of her life. 

In Arkansas our hunt opens the fourth Saturday in September and by that time most of the mature males have turned nocturnal or left the baits. Adult male bears seem to be just like big bucks and the fading daylight hours put them in a different gear. It’s not hunting pressure that makes them nocturnal, because it happens before we start hunting. Regardless, all the big males that we should be harvesting are usually unkillable by late September. That being said, the odd big bear will stick around in daylight and get killed. It’s amazing to me how many 400-plus pound bears we’ve got on our baits – almost everyone of my baits has a giant. However, by late September we’re killing the stragglers – often immature males and sows. The best move for conservation would be to create a season structure that was favorable for killing mature males and to encourage hunters to pass female bears. This is difficult. If a big sow (without cubs) had walked in on me this weekend I probably would have shot it.

River and Clay Newcomb

On top of the world in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. I do love my First Lite gear. 

In our hunting party, all three of our hunters killed bears on the first evening. It was an awesome feeling driving back to the rendezvous point and hearing all the stories of successful hunters. It was really fun getting so see River tell them she’d killed a bear! As well, we had a big dinner cooked and ready for us when we got back. It was almost too much fun. Look for the episodes of Bear Horizon that will have River’s hunt and James Lawrence’s hunt in the coming weeks.

River and Clay Newcomb

An amazing opening day ending with everyone in hunting party killing a bear in Arkansas' Zone 2. James Lawrence, River Newcomb and Nancy Copes. 

 *The Oklahoma opener is this Saturday, October 1st. At this point, I don’t have any giant bears on camera – which is a little surprising. However, I hope that one shows up between now and then. I did have a new color phase bear show up on camera last week though – probably in the 225-pound range. I will be using the traditional bow this year, which is always a challenge. I’ve set the stand up for close shots. I will let you know how things go.

Bear Hunting Magazine

A new chocolate bear hitting the bait in Oklahoma captured on the Cuddeback Camera.