Many bear hunters come from a background as a deer hunter. In fact, some studies have shown that while whitetail deer hunting is the number one big game pursuit among bowhunters, the second big game animal most bowhunters target is the black bear. Unfortunately, bowhunters who have experience in deer hunting often overlook the significant differences in black bear hunting when it comes to the importance of arrow penetration and shot placement.
The .45-70, now almost 150 years old, is a pretty good bear cartridge. It has a modern, strong brass case and shoots nicely heavy, but because of one popular antique black powder rifle, the Trapdoor Springfield, the powder charge in factory ammunition must duplicate the puny original black powder load dating back to 1873.
Hunters have some relevant questions that need to be answered about bear home ranges. Do bear home ranges overlap? If you saw a giant bear in the summer near where you hunt, will he be there in the fall? Could a big bear that you’ve got pictures of on your hunting lease get killed 25 miles away? Are bears territorial? These are some questions we’ll seek to address in this article.
Predators have become a popular topic as of late in North America. It seems just about any big game species that you can hunt is being affected in some way by predators. Everyone in the West is well aware of the reintroduction of the wolf and the havoc it is wreaking in certain areas on elk and moose populations. Mountain lion populations are on the rise and affecting sheep populations in some areas as well as mule deer. It is well known that coyotes have now spread east all across America and many studies have shown coyotes have a predatory effect on not only neonatal white-tail deer, but also a percentage of the adult population as well. These are all predators that when discussed don’t get much argument as to their predatory status. However, when it comes to bears, there seems to be a disconnect from predatory status for some reason in many debates, at least with certain subspecies of bears, that is.
In places where different hunting methods don’t overlap, there may not be overt issues of friction between bear hunters. However, when they overlap in the field or politically, there can be friction. Bait hunters, hound hunters and spot-and-stalk hunters can carry a chip on their shoulder in regards to the way they hunt. The tunnel vision can produce intolerance for other methods. It may seem harmless to vocally dislike another type of hunting amongst friends, but the long-term affects are real in the hunting community. Hunting culture is crafted by one conversation and one action at a time. Social media is also a major place where friction amongst bear hunters is evidenced.
The springtime for black bears is dominated by two biological realties, and a third is a major player. The need for bears to find food and build up their fat reserve after months of denning is the first reality. Black bears emerge from their dens between March and April in most parts of the bear range. They den from 90 to 150 days depending on their northern latitude and food availability. When they emerge, they are looking for green vegetation, carrion, and basically anything with digestible calories. Spring hunting, whether spot-and-stalk or bait hunting, capitalizes on a bears need to eat.
If you’re hunting with hounds you’re interested in the scent left by tracks, however, when still-hunting bears scent means nothing. You can gain three things from a bear track; the general size of the bear, how long ago he was here, and the direction he was traveling. That’s all the possible information that can be gathered. The hard part is that 90-plus percent of the Eastern Deciduous Forest is covered in leaf litter making tracks hard to discern. The only places you’ll find clear tracks in the dirt are in areas of bare dirt. These areas might include ditches along roads, mud holes, creek banks, pond banks, near springs or the odd place that’s void of leaves. Honestly, bears don’t leave a lot of visible tracks in this type of country, so when you see one you need to capitalize on all that it tells you.
As a Southern outdoorsman, hunting big game in the spring was a novel, but foreign idea. We chased big gobbling birds and caught crappie – both noble endeavors. In the spring of 2014, I went on my first spring bear hunt and I was hooked like a flathead on a trotline. What other big game animal can you hunt in April, May and June? What other beast inhabits such incredible wild places and have population numbers and meat like the black bear? Spring hunting opportunity abounds for both the do-it-yourself and folks looking for a guided hunt. Here are some answers about spring bear hunting that will get you headed toward success, adventure, and backstraps.
I get asked a lot of questions. I have found that there are a few common things that come up often, and one of these is the way people envision how and where to shoot a bear with an arrow. With very few exceptions, the hunters asking these questions have experience bowhunting deer and many have a hard time letting go of their notion that shooting a bear is just like shooting a deer. But if you look at the vital organs on a bear, they are not only different in position, but in size. Let’s take a look at some of these issues and examine how a better understanding of the bear’s vitals can help you make more of the quick, clean, humane kills that we all desire.