Western Bear Hunting

Getting The Most Out Of Your Bear!

Western Montana is not only beautiful and soothing to the soul, but it’s a land of  opportunity—especially if you’re a bear hunter. We “Westies” have the option to hunt  black bears both in the spring and the fall hunting seasons. One of my favorite hunts that I look forward to is when the snows start to recede and fresh green grass starts to line the logging roads. Montana is a no-bait state, so it’s strictly spot-and-stalk, but I also run my own bait sites just over the border into Idaho during the spring. In other words, I have bears on the brain all spring. Sometimes I’ll even add a trip into Alberta or Saskatchewan. Bringing home three bears in a season isn’t out of the question, so I’ve become schooled at how to utilize every part of the boar: fat, organs, hides, claws, and skulls. 

            The biggest misconception about bears is that they are not edible. Bear meat is actually one of my favorite wild game meats! They often have a very thick, dense layer of fat between the hide and meat, making processing very greasy and slippery, but if taken care of properly the meat is incredibly flavorful and delicious. It’s important to take steps to make sure your bear meat is safe, such as cooking it to 160 degrees, freezing the meat for a month, or smoking and canning it, which all kill the trichinae  parasite that can cause the trichinosis, a nasty affliction that can be avoided when the right precautions are taken. 

            I typically take the back straps and heart and cook them immediately on the grill or smoker. They are the best, most tender cuts of meat and rival any deer or elk steak  when marinated, tenderized, and seasoned. I then typically take the four quarters to my  local meat processing shop to get smoked. Most meat shops smoke meat in batches and will have it ready to pick up within a few weeks. When bear meat is smoked, it tastes like a delicious Easter ham and is free of trichinosis. My new favorite method for preserving bear meat is to can it with vegetables and spices. My friends, Paul and Dee Servey, introduced me to canning or pressure cooking wild game meat, and it’s an easy way to preserve any meat from a hunt for ready-to-eat full meals in a jar. We use vegetables such as carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes along with the cubed meat and some garlic and spices. For those of you new to canning, I produced a “How to Can Meat” episode on CarbonTV, which you can watch for free on Season 3 of Skull Bound Chronicles. 

Bear fat is also very useful and can be rendered down to a clean, easy to freeze  form that is often used for baking or making skin care lotions, salves, lip balm, and  other skin and hair products. I’ve hunted with the Swampy Cree Native Americans in  Alberta who told me their elders would use the rendered bear fat for hair balm and skin  care. It’s also considered one of the best conditioners for leather, from boots and  clothing to saddles and reins. I have another friend from Missoula who makes candles  and soaps from rendered bear fat. It has dozens of uses and was actually used back in  the day as currency by early settlers. Two of the most famous American frontiersmen, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, were both merchants of bear grease.

When it comes to using the hide, there’s of course the classic bear rug that gives any house or cabin a cozy feel. They adorn my living room, guest bedrooms, and even look great on the walls of my front entryway and office. I’ve also turned tanned bear hides into clothing with the help of a small company called Midnite Leather Goods. Jessica Todd is an amazing leather worker who has made beautiful bear hide vests, collars, purses, and even pillows out of my hides.

Last but not least, I’ve turned many bear skulls into beaded and painted works of art over the years. My favorite style for a black bear is a natural, wooden beaded look with arrowheads and earthy colors. I’ve used their claws on other larger skull designs like buffalo and longhorn steers, and have many claw necklaces, some more rustic and others with sterling silver caps. If you’re looking to have a beautiful silver-capped necklace made, I’ve used Studio Pandora out of Missoula, Montana. Their work is beautiful, unique, and guaranteed to last a lifetime. 

There are endless uses for every part of a bear, from the meat and fat to the hide and claws. They are a spectacular predator that simply needs to be managed in many parts of the United States and are worthy of every hunter’s respect. When all parts of the animal are utilized, it adds more meaning to the hunt. Even though I’m moving to Utah within the coming months, I will surely be back annually to Montana and Idaho to pursue bears every chance I get. 

To watch a variety of archery, rifle, and pistol bear hunts as well as a “How To Can  Wild Game Meat” episode, simply go to the CarbonTV app or online at  www.carbontv.com and search for Skull Bound Chronicles. You can also add  CarbonTV to your ROKU or Amazon Firestick menu by going into the settings, search under the ‘Find Channels’ tab, and add CarbonTV.