Mar 01 2014
By Al Raychard
Hunting Methods: Nearly all bear hunts are over bait.
Bag Limit: Two in spring, or one in spring and one in fall or two in fall.
License Availability/Cost: Hunting licenses are available through licensed outfitters.
Non-Resident: $100.00 (generally included in package price)
Estimated Bear Population: 10,000
Range/Legal Hunting Area: Bears are found province wide except on Avalon Peninsula and other rock-
bound peninsulas but are legal game throughout the island.
Spring Hunts: Yes: May 3-July 5; Fall Hunts: Yes-September 14-Novemver 3
Fall Archery Only: August 31-September 13
Legal Weapons: All conventional centerfire big-game calibers using at least 100-grain bullets or that have
at least 1,500 foot pounds of muzzle energy; No rifles in .22 caliber. Shotguns 20 gauge
and larger; muzzleloaders .50 caliber and larger; bows with 40-pound minimum draw. No handguns.
Special Notes: All hunters must have a provincial export permit to transport bears out of Newfoundland and a CITIES permit to export bears outside Canada. Both permits are supplied by the outfitter.
Sows with cubs may not be harvested.
Contacts: Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism: 1 (800) 563-6353 * www.newfoundlandlabrador.com
Newfoundland/Labrador Outfitters Association: 1 (709) 634-9962 * www.nloa.ca
Marine Atlantic: 1 (800) 897-2797 * www.marine-atlantic.ca
Big Bears, High Success, Wilderness Beauty
Just as a refresher, Newfoundland is one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces. Located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence it is Canada’s newest province, having joined the Confederation in 1949.
In area Newfoundland covers just over 43,000 square miles including offshore islands, is the sixteenth largest island in the world and fourth largest in Canada. In 2013 the census put the island population at 526,702 with over half living on the Avalon Peninsula, site of St. John’s, the provincial capital and largest city. Elsewhere on the island other major cities include Gander and Deer Lake, home to major airports, Grand Falls and Corner Brook. Except for villages and small settlements along the coast much of the inland regions are sparsely populated consisting of expansive spruce forests, bogs, some of the oldest exposed rock on the continent, some lakes, ponds and several major river systems. It is fair to say there isn’t much there, which is one of its major attractions. But it is prime bear country.
And Newfoundland has bears. Not as many as provinces on the mainland, or most top bear hunting states for that matter, only around 10,000 by most estimates. But what Newfoundland lacks in number it makes up in potential size. Most outfitters specializing in bear hunts advertise average boar size runs 250 to 300 pounds and specimens in the 400 pound class are taken each year, particularly in the fall. In recent years bears tipping the scales over 500 pounds have been officially reported. Bears of this size might have a skull size in the 20-inch class or more and many expect the next world record to come from the island.
It is believed by Newfoundland’s biologists bears are larger in both body weight and skull size due to several factors, a reliable and varied food supply (an estimated 50-percent of the caribou calves born each year are killed by bears), traditionally low hunting pressure, good habitat conditions, a mild climate and isolated environment that over the generations has resulted in a genetic disposition to large size. As a result Newfoundland bears are officially designated a distinct subspecies, Ursus americanus hamilton, which takes into account these unique attributes. Comparatively, skull dimensions are typically longer and wider and even the measurements of a typical 300 pound Newfoundland boar will outscore that of mainland counterparts.
So, if killing a big bruin is desired few destinations in eastern Canada offer a better opportunity. But there are other reasons to hunt this province.
Success rates typically run high at most camps with 100 percent shot opportunity and high-90 percent kill rates nothing unusual. The legal limit is two bears, either two in the spring or one in the spring and one in the fall, although some outfitters charge a trophy fee for the second bear so be sure to ask when making arrangements. Hunting licenses are easily obtained through outfitters and are generally included in the package price and whatever type of hunting experience is desired, from first-class lodges with all amenities to more rustic fly-in bush camps are available. Whatever the case, the food is always good, the lodging more than adequate and the guiding services second to none. Hunters on spring hunts can take advantage of fishing opportunities for brook trout, landlocked salmon and other species in most cases and fall bear hunts can be included in combination attempts for moose, introduced to the island from New Brunswick is 1904 and/or woodland caribou, the only place on the continent where the species is recognized by the trophy books.
Despite its out-of-the-way location getting to Newfoundland is relatively easy these days. Commercial airlines from major hubs in the United States and Canada fly daily into Deer Lake, Gander and St. John’s where pick-up arrangements can be made with outfitters. For those with the time hunters can also drive to the island by utilizing the Marine Atlantic ferry, which departs North Sydney, Nova Scotia with service to and Port-aux-Basque on the island’s south coast. Be sure to telephone ahead for reservations. For those making the night crossing a booking a cabin and making use of the cafeteria services in the morning before departing is well advised.