Have you ever dreamed about the excitement and the thrill of hunting dangerous game with your bow? There is no greater challenge than trying to outwit an animal that has the tools to also challenge your survival. Black bears are the blue collar bowhunter’s chance to test the waters and see if you have what it takes. Spring is the perfect time to take on that challenge.
Black bear numbers are healthy and they are prevalent across the west. Their populations are not as high as say, deer or elk, but in the spring their numbers are condensed. If you can unlock the secrets to locating bears it can be your most thrilling hunt of the year. Seeing a big pumpkin headed apex predator lumbering into your effective range can send your adrenalin off the charts. Truth is bears are made for bowhunters you just have to be able to consistently locate them to get your opportunity.
I have found that every different part of the spring season the bears have different habits and tendencies. Tapping into these behaviors is going to be key to finding where bears are hanging out. I find bears are similar to other game animals as they like to live in certain pockets of country. Basically, there will be miles and miles of void country and then all of a sudden you find a piece of country that will hold multiple bears. Now they are not living in family groups and all interacting but where you find one usually there are more around.
Early season can be productive in turning up bears. Now timing is different across the west but I would say late April to early May would be considered early. Bears this time of year are just coming out of their dens. They stay close to their dens for the first week or two. They poke out when the weather is nice and will feed around on the fresh green grass chutes that are starting to show up in the spring. They feed close to their dens so they can crawl back inside for cold nights and nasty days.
The key this time of year is to find where the bears like to den and be looking there. I know bears will dig in dens and then some will use natural caves. I seem to do best this time of year looking for real rocky, cliffy, gnarly country. The bears just gravitate to this type of terrain for their dens. Now most of the time I would tell you to look for the best neon grass and you will find bears. This is great advice except for the early season. They will still look for fresh grass but will be looking around denning locations.
This early season is a great time to pattern bears. If you see a bear there is a good chance you will be able to find that bear in that same area for the next handful of days. Watch the bear carefully and watch where he feeds and then where he disappears to. They are not traveling much this time of year so take notes and pinpoint his hide out.
I find that early spring bears want good weather. The warmer and nicer the weather the better chance to pick one up. They are lazy and lethargic this time of year making the middle of the day productive. I do not see many bears at first light or during early morning hours. Around mid-morning once the sun warms the mountains up they start to show themselves. They will feed around for an hour or two then put away for a nap and repeat throughout the day. Evening is always my favorite time to look for bears and we always refer to the two hours before dark as “bear thirty.”
Early spring is a great time to knock the dust off your hunting gear and get to the mountains. Put some miles on your boots and time behind your glass and you may end up with a thrilling stalk for dangerous game. Keep your wits about you; steel your nerves and you may end up with the trophy of a lifetime.
Want to read more about hunting spring black bears? SUBSCRIBE HERE to read Brian Barney’s full article in EBJ 95.