I intend to be bowhunting as long as I can, and one of the best ways I can ensure that I have the strength to do so is through diligent practice and exercise. This is especially true of a guy who’s about to turn 60, but anyone half that age can benefit from the advantages of regular practice.
It has been said a trophy game animal is in the eye of the beholder. After more than four decades of hunting black bears, having traveled far and wide to do so and after seeing literally scores of bears taken by hunters in camps from Alaska to Newfoundland I believe that old adage is true. Some of those bears were unique in some way, perhaps with white “Vs” on the chest or were blonde, brown or otherwise off-color. My aging brain can’t recall each and every one, but I remember enough to say although there were some big bears in terms of weight only a small percentage were of such massive body size to be considered truly impressive. A fair number tipped the scales less than 200 pounds and only a faction, including only two of mine, had skull measurements that met record book eligibility. Yet, I can’t recall ever seeing a displeased look on the face on any hunter, and no doubt each bear was considered a trophy. And so they should have been, and should be, because every bear killed is a trophy in some way.
If you are bear hunting from late May into June, your hunt will be influenced by the bear rut. Knowing all you can about it will make you a better hunter. In a research paper written by Kim Barber and Fredrick Lindzey in Washington State, they noted that female bears range from 6 to 16 days in estrous each spring with the average being 9.25 days. The length of estrous often depends on how quickly the sow is bred. During the research period, male bears were with females from 2 to 5 days, indicating that this was when they actually bred. It’s important to note that this data was collected by radio-collared black bears. Black bears are “promiscuous” breeders, meaning they can have multiple partners. Biologists once observed a female grizzly bear breed 10 times with 4 different males in a two-hour period.
Why does it matter if modern hunting persists beyond our lives? It’s a legit question requiring some soul searching for an honest answer. The challenges surrounding the lifestyle of modern hunters in North America are numerous and even daunting. Just to name a few, we’re struggling with hunter recruitment, access to hunting land, and a population that is growing further away from its hunting roots. There is also a relatively small group of people who adamantly oppose hunting, the anti-hunting community, and they’re doing a good job of propagating their ideas to the undecided masses. Therein lies the lynch pin of protecting and securing our lifestyle – the undecided masses. As ironic as it sounds, the people that don’t care, have little information about and no history with hunting, will be the ones that help decide our future.
Whether archer, bearhoundsman, or just around camp in bear country, a potent handgun on the hip is so much handier than a nine-pound rifle over your shoulder.
Bears are bears are bears, they live for two primary reasons and the two are directly related. Studies by numerous state and federal agencies have concluded female bears that do not have sufficient amounts of the right foods may forego breeding some years or abort their young. It is also known it is not uncommon for both sexes to enter dens early if protein-rich late summer and fall foods are scarce and bears entering dens without adequate amounts of fat stores may have a difficult time surviving until green up once emerging in the spring. With all said and done, adequate food supplies are a major predictor of bear growth and reproductive success.
One of the most asked questions I get when I come home from a bear hunt is, “What are you going to do with it? You’ve already got lots of bears.” My first response is usually aimed at making the person asking feel a little bit ridiculous. They act as if I haven’t thought this through, and naturally, I feel an obligation to make them reconsider their assumption. My next response is usually quick and blunted and often revolves around one of these five things to do with bear hide. Here are some ideas for your bear.
Shooting young bears isn’t just a “trophy” mishap, but it’s a conservation mishap. Targeting mature animals is best from a management standpoint as well. And even better, targeting older mature males is the name of the game, and if you can select the right one for harvest, everybody wins. Judging trophy bear is difficult, and many consider the most difficult big game animal to judge. Horned game is relatively easy compared to it. Here are five thoughts on judging trophy bear that didn’t come from surfing the internet looking for the traditional judging methods, but have come from personal experience judging bears all across North America.
After all the work of getting within shooting distance of a big bear this spring, you’ll need confidence in your ability to make a great shot. Bears are big, tough animals that are unforgiving when hit bad. Many new bear hunters carry with them shot placement and strategy derived from experience deer hunting. It’s similar, but different. Bear anatomy is slightly different, but more importantly, a bear’s body structure allows for some odd angles and considerations that the bear hunter must understand. Here are five keys to making a great shot this spring.
The most heartbreaking moments I have had in hunting involve making a bad shot and losing a bear. There's nothing quite like the sickening feeling of shooting something and not being able to recover it. I'm not an Olympic or champion archery shot by any means, and it's hard to blow a 15- to 20-yard shot on a bear. I have been fortunate that prob­lem shots I have been involved in are mostly not caused by poor shooting, but by a poor choice of a shot angle.