How do you want to hunt?
Spot-and-stalk, over bait, behind hounds…there are lots of ways to hunt black bears.
In some states and provinces, bears are hunted over bait with the hunter in a tree stand or blind. Some states allow bear hunting with dogs, and in other regions, drives are a traditional and successful method. In western regions, hunts are typically spot-and-stalk, and calling can also be effective.
By far, the most common way to hunt black bears is over bait. Hunting for bears over bait can be a lot of fun because of the amount of activity you will have if you are with the right outfitter in the right area but there are several key things to consider about bear hunting, before you choose who you will be hunting with.
*While baits are mostly a black bear affair, we do offer a great baited brown bear hunt in Alaska as well.
Bear Hunting with Hounds
Hound hunting can be a thrilling way to hunt bears. There’s nothing quite like the sound of dogs baying to fire up your hunting instincts. Once you “strike” a bear, the chase is on and it’s usually non-stop action from there. The hounds, alongside a truly skilled houndsman, will make for an experience you will never forget. If you are an adrenalin loving hunter, this is the hunt for you!
We have hound hunts for black bears in Idaho, Arizona, and British Columbia.
To stalk a bear takes time, patience and skill. You must play the wind, as black bears have a notoriously keen sense of smell, and they hear well as well. You may fool their sight, but it’s tough to get close, especially if you’re hunting with a bow. Start by getting up high but below the snow line and looking for the greenest areas you can find. Bears will seek out the greenest tallest grasses to fill their bellies. They seek out areas such as creek bottoms and south facing slopes to find new growth. They also love to feed on wild flowers, plant roots, clovers and wild onions. 75% of their diet is vegetation. They get the rest of their nutrition needs met feeding on insects, small mammals and carcasses. Learn more about spot-and-stalk bear hunting tactics.
A very cool way to hunt bears is from a vessel in British Columbia or Alaska, cruising the coastal shorelines and glassing the tidal flats produce plenty of stalking opportunities. You’ll usually be hunting big salmon-fed bears just coming out of hibernation in areas with high bear populations. Large boars with perfect hides are the norm.
A bonus on these trips is that they can often be a combo for waterfowl, blacktail deer, and fishing.
Calling Black Bears
When you’re calling black bears, use a jackrabbit/bear cub distress sound…being as “sorrowful” as possible. Call loudly and don’t let up for 20 up to 40 minutes. Seeing bears before you begin to call always ups your odds of success. Listen to a podcast about calling in black bears.
The Black Bear Rut
Black bears breed from late spring into July and cubs are usually born in January during hibernation. The cubs don’t hibernate and spend the last few months of winter receiving all of their nourishment from their mother. The cubs then spend until eighteen months of age following their mother around. The rut is a great time to hunt big, mature males as they roam looking for a sow in heat.
Diet and Temperament
Notorious for loving berries, black bears feed primarily on vegetation, but round out their diet with insects, fish, small mammals and carcasses of dead animals. They are also fond of preying on moose and elk calves. Black bears tend to be loners, and are timid and withdrawn, avoiding confrontations. Preferring a solitary lifestyle, black bears tend to mark trees with their teeth and claws in order to warn other bears not to enter their territory. In order to warn other predators and intruders that do enter their territory they make curious snorting, jaw popping, and huffing sounds.
Black bears aren’t always black but vary in color from black to chocolate, blonde and even cinnamon or grey color phases. The defining identification is their flat shoulders and straight profiled face. Because they can climb better than almost any other bear species and can run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, uphill or downhill for short distances, these bears can still be dangerous and deserve our respect. Black bears are also excellent swimmers and enjoy a good swim. This is partially due to the fact that where there’s water there’s green grass to graze, and there’s usually fish in water, so black bears spend a decent amount of the time around rivers, lakes and streams.