We often identify animals by their color. If you use these criteria on black bears you will be mistaken, as black bears come in at least four major colors. No North American animal has more color variation than black bears. I’ve been fortunate to see them all. With a little travel, you can see them all too.
You are about to learn something that will surprise you. If you want to hunt black bears over natural food, the formula may be easy. Eastern and northern black bears are largely dependent on acorns. Acorns are their meat & potatoes. In Alaska, their meat & potatoes are blue. Although bears are known as non-specific feeders or omnivores, eating almost everything from whitetail deer to ants to sedges for most of the year, they prefer and seek out the best foods before denning.
Word rapidly spread throughout town that a huge bear had been shot and was hanging on “Cherry” Kempf’s wrecker down by the bank. My girlfriend Mary (now my wife) and I were part of the crowd that quickly gathered to look at/admire this magnificent creature. The head was at the top of the boom on the wrecker and the feet touched the ground. The bear was estimated to be twelve years old, was 665 pounds field dressed, and measured 7 feet 10 inches long.
Looking through the lens of North America’s thriving black bear population, use these six points to understand who we are and the invaluable service we provide to society. Despite the efforts and opinions of those who would seek to discredit the hunter/conservation model of wildlife management in North America, one powerful fact remains – there are more black bears in North America today than in the past 150 years. In fact, biologists believe that there are more bears today than ever before. In a 2015 article in National Geographic titled “Black Bears are Rebounding – What Does That Mean For People?” the author states, “Scientists believe there are more black bears in North America than there were when settlers arrived in the 1600s.” Hunting over bait, running hounds, spot and stalk and trapping haven’t diminished bear populations, but rather they’ve been in place during a time period when bear populations have thrived. Could there be a connection?
Season after season we are all confronted with the same question as we review our trail camera pictures. The question is the same one that hunters have been asking since they first started chasing bears. How big is he? You never really know until you’ve got your hands on him, and still you don’t really-really know until you weigh it on a scale. However, for the in-the-field knowledge, judging the size of bears based on trail camera pictures is critical for targeting the right bear.
Depending on the season, there are always natural foods that bears prefer, often to the point of ignoring the junk foods hunters put out to attract them. If bears start coming to your bait sites regularly and suddenly stop for days or even weeks at a time, the odds are that they have found more desirable, natural food sources nearby. In spring, for example, bears first fill up on water because they must hydrate their digestive systems after a long winter of dormancy. The spend most of their time filling up on grasses, sedges, buds and (oddly!) the inner bark of evergreen trees, notably pine and hemlock. As the weather becomes warmer they begin rooting for starchy bulbs and plant sprouts. It is difficult to pinpoint where and when bears will stop to feed on such foods because green plants are so abundant in spring. Scouting, which is becoming a lost art, should reveal areas where the animals have spent time digging for roots and bulbs.
The hide of a bear is arguably the most desirable aspect of their trophy status. Iconic of American wilderness, the bear hide is truly a national symbol of our hunting heritage and makes a fine memory stimulator for years to come.
Seven bears gathered over 36,376 video clips across a period of time when bears are most likely to be feeding on moose and caribou calves. The cameras took a 10-second video clip every 15 minutes from mid-May to the end of June, which is calving season. At the end of the study, bears were re-darted and camera collars collected. What they learned was remarkable.
Spring bear hunting gets a ton of attention, and it’s for a very good reason. During the spring time, there really isn’t anything else going on as far as hunting seasons go. You might get out for some turkeys, but that’s about it. It’s a fantastic time to solely chase bears. The wilderness is coming back to life at this time, as are we the hunters after a long winter. However, spring isn’t the only time to get out and try your luck at a big bruin. Fall is equally, if not more, productive as spring in terms of opportunity. There are some states that don’t even have a spring season, but do offer fall hunts. This can oftentimes be a great mixed bag hunt as well. Some fall bear hunts will overlap deer hunts, giving you the opportunity to hunt both at the same time. This is where I personally cut my teeth as a bear hunter and have come to really love hunting bears in the fall. The bears are fat, pressure is usually down due to antlers being on the brain, and the air is beginning to cool. Bears are secretive animals though. In order to find them, you need to put in the leg work and scout. Fall is no exception to that rule.
There are many methods to choose from for hunting black bears across North America, but where legal, driving can be a top producer among them. However it takes considerable knowledge about where and how to put on the right push through the brush to roust any bruin from cover. Follow these five tips to help your crew become a more efficient bear gang.