Where to Find Black Bears in the Spring
The snow is melting, the days are getting warmer and longer, the grass is getting greener and spring bear season is here. It all starts with them hanging out close to the den as they emerge from hibernation, but it doesn’t last very long as spring is a pretty hectic time for bears. There are a lot of different things happening this time of year. First, they are in need of protein and are focused on replenishing depleted fat reserves after drawing on them all winter. They typically hibernate for a period of 3-5 months, or between 100-150 days depending on location.
There are several different ways to find them in the early spring, just remember that their primary focus coming out of hibernation is food. Some states allow baiting, which is a great way to fill your tag if you’re lucky enough to reside in a state where baiting is legal. Some people are under the misconception that baiting is somehow easy or unfair for bears. The reality is that it usually takes more work than going the traditional spot and stalk route. Location, location, location is the crucial factor when trying to take a mature bear over bait. You’re going to have to do some research and find a place with good bear density and little or no hunting pressure.
Bait preparation is also important if you want to have a successful hunt. Bears have strong noses, so you’ll want to make sure you take some time to “develop” your bait in order to attract bears. What smells pleasant to a bear usually isn’t necessarily pleasant to us, so if your bait stinks, it probably isn’t a bad thing. You need to have enough bait to keep the bears coming back to it for days at a time. You also need to be willing to pack your bait into areas most people won’t go, which requires quite a bit of work. Get out some topo maps and find pathways such as rivers or creeks that bears commonly use for travel, making sure you also do everything you can to limit leaving your scent in the area and don’t go into the area unless the wind is right.
Spot and Stalk
Then there’s the traditional spot and stalk method. 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. Look for scat, where there’s scat there’s bears. The size of the scat can be a good indication of the size of bear who left it. If it’s as big around as a pop can, it’s a really big bear. Logging roads and clear cuts are also a great place to find bears. You’re most likely to find them in the early morning right at first light or late in the evening at last light. They are not very active during the daytime. Then comes the rut. Black bears mate primarily during May and June. At this point big boars are traveling long distances to find sows willing and ready to mate. This is an exciting time to hunt as there is increased activity with boars roaming far and wide looking for females, and feeding has become a secondary need. It can also be tough as these bears become completely unpredictable and don’t follow their usual pattern.
The weather can make or break your hunt no matter how well you plan your hunt. You can’t control the weather or the animals, and the weather usually controls the latter. They can be out of their dens early and not even fully awake yet as the season begins. Time your hunt appropriately, do your research, put in the work,and get that bear of a lifetime.
by Casey Jensen