Most western hunters know and agree that managing predators is very important when it comes to the North American model of wildlife management. Bears play a big role in the predator pie chart for fawn and calf predation and there are many studies out there that show this. That specifically is why I have the desire to go bear hunting every spring. Between wolves, grizzlies, lions and the black bears out there, I want to save as many calves and fawns as possible! Studies also show that mature boars play the biggest role in calf and fawn predation and are known to “hunt” for calves and fawns. There have been many displays of this dating back to films by Gordon Eastman as well.
There are three methods in which you can harvest a bear in the western states, the most common are baiting and spot and stalk. The third method of bear management is using hound dogs, which is probably the most productive. However, just a few states allow the use of dogs, the first that come to mind are Idaho and some areas in Utah.
All three methods are drastically different but the cool thing is that there is a method for every type of hunter out there and I don’t believe any of them are wrong! Let me first say that hunting with hounds and over bait are great management tools. They really up the ante when it comes to predator control. In addition, there are many areas that are too thick, making spot and stalk hunting nearly impossible. When it comes to baiting some people say it isn’t fair chase. I agree with this, kind of.
Bears are smart animals and giant smart old bruins don’t just come strolling into the bait once they’ve found it. Many are nocturnal and it’s very difficult to harvest a good one over bait. A great thing about bear baiting is it is an excellent way to introduce kids to the outdoors and allows them to observe bears being bears! This is an excellent tool to help spark interest in kids at a young age when so many things are pulling at them in this crazy world that we live in.
Lastly, let’s talk spot and stalk hunting. This is the method I choose because it is the most difficult and exciting in my opinion. The reason I love bowhunting is to challenge myself and to get close! Spot and stalk bear hunting with a bow is a rush and is hard to beat when it comes to a springtime hunt in the lower 48. Montana is probably the best state for spot and stalk hunting as baiting is not legal there and trophy quality combined with a majority of color phases makes for a hunt that should be on the top of any bear hunters list.
No matter which method you choose for hunting spring bears the important thing to remember is that you’re contributing to effective and scientifically proven wildlife management. As I’ve said, I prefer spot and stalk but that’s just me, what’s your preferred method for hunting spring black bears?