Spring Bear Hunting With a Bow
Bear hunting in the spring is a fantastic way to break up the monotony of the calendar year. Hunting season has been over for just long enough most hunters are exploding with the desire to get back into the woods with a bow and arrow just as a way to stay sane. After a long winter, warm temperatures and an adventure establishes the idea of bear hunting as a gift from heaven. While some hunter across the country chase gobblers into the distance, others match wits with bears emerging from their dens, looking replenishing their bodies on nutrient rich grasses and plants or bait piles from being depleted after a long tough winter. Spring bear hunting is no walk in the park regardless of how you hunt them. Their senses are legendary and they have the ability to cover more ground than you with just a few bounds with their stocky legs.
Several states and multiple Canadian provinces offer fantastic spring bear opportunities. However, hunting bears in the spring is much more than just strolling out into the mountains. If you have never hunted bears at all, let alone the spring, listen up!
Spring Bear Hunting
There are several ways to hunt bears. Baiting, using hound dogs to cut a track and tree bears, spot and stalk, ambush and calling are the five tactics one can potentially use depending on which state you hunt. Bears crawling out of the den are looking to replenish and prepare for the coming rut which takes place typically in June. Finding bears can be as maddening as trying to find a mature buck in the fall. Baiting, hounds, glassing, calling and ambushing are never guarantees but have proven themselves as effective tactics time and time again.
Bear Hunting Tips
Before heading out to the bear woods, understanding a bear’s anatomy is critical. With extra fur, bears are deceptive in appearance. Black bears especially can be difficult to judge and knowing where your arrow hits is critical. Dark carbon arrows hitting black fur can be difficult to track. In the heat of the moment, you may mistake exactly where your arrow hit. In states where lighted arrow nocks are available using a red Nock Out arrow nock will let you see exactly where your arrow hits and you will not loose your arrow in the early spring green foliage. A wounded bear is trouble, especially at night!
Lighted arrow nocks allow you to be a more ethical hunter and make the best post-shot decisions. Like with any heavy hided animal, a heavy arrow and broadhead combination over 400 grains is recommended shooting from a bow set at a minimum of 55lbs in draw weight and higher as it ensures enough kinetic energy to drive an arrow deep enough into a big bear to keep the blood trail short and true.
Bear Hunting Tactics
Bait Piles for Bear Hunting
The most common tactic for hunting bears in the spring is with the use of bait. The idea of spring bear hunting is most often connected with the idea of sitting over a bait pile. Yet, just because bait is involved does not make things any less easy. When hunting over a bait pile the work is in establishing the bait sight. This means many weeks worth of work to establish a habit with a big bear. Consistent baiting is required to persuade a mature boar to hit your bait on a nightly basis. Bears can be very cautious approaching bait which can make the hunt maddening when they won’t commit while you are sitting a few yards away. If you are not working with an outfitter doing the work for you, gather materials like expired doughnut fillings and let over pastries, dog food, waste from food companies, blocked apple puree; anything you can carry into the woods with a high sugar content and aroma to pull the bear from the timber.
Both ground blinds and tree stands can be used for hunting bears. Some hunters want the adrenaline of hunting bears from the ground while others do prefer the assumed safety of elevation. Much like hunting deer or elk, using a trail camera is the best way to pattern bears hitting the bait. Hunting efficiently with the time you have is achieved through knowing when bears are hitting your baits. Just make sure to use a bear box and lock to avoid having your cameras ripped from the tree.
Using Hounds to Hunt Bears
Some states still allow the art of tracking bears with hounds. This rich tradition is by no means any easier despite the goal being to run a bear up a tree. Make sure to have a good pair of boots since you might be hiking many miles to catch up to your dogs. Every hunter is familiar with shooting at a downward angle. When hunting with hounds you will have to make an ethical shot at an extreme upward angle. Remember to bend at the waist and lean backward not simply rating your arm upward since this will force the bow to fight the natural motion of your body and cause an errant shot.
Glassing for Bears
If baiting or hunting with hounds is not an option then hiking and glassing to find an ideal spot and stalk situation is what you will need to do. Let your glass do the walking by packing a quality spotting scope. Being able to pick apart distant hillsides and meadows from a vantage point will save you time and energy. Both of which are precious commodities when hunting. This is where you can work to pattern a bear feeding in meadows or on snow lines to create an ambush. Like watching a mature whitetail buck, a mature bear in the spring will work an area for a few days feeding. If you can establish his pattern from a distance move into position to be able to complete your stalk when he appears from his bed in the afternoon. With a bow, getting close to a bear feeding out in the open is no easy task. Setting yourself up in a position to be able to make the best move is the key to success.
Distress predator calling has been known to work on big bears. From rabbit, distress sounds to elk and deer, and even bear cub calls have been known to bring bears in close. Spring bear seasons coincide with the calving and fawning seasons for deer and elk. Nature is a cruel mistress and fawns and calves are an easy meal for a hungry bear. Finding elk and deer sign in the spring can lead you directly to bears trailing the groups which makes them an easy target for a calling set. This may be the ultimate rush for a bear bow hunter. Having a big bear loping to within bow range tests your nerve and skill. Make a note as you will likely be forced to make a frontal shot. This shot placement is widely debated as it is a tough shot to make unless you have 100% confidence in your equipment and skill. This is left to each individual bow hunter to decide if they can make the shot ethically. A bear is a very muscular animal making a frontal shot a test for equipment. Featherweight arrows and broadheads need not apply.
Bear Hunting Gear
Early spring bear season should be prepared for with the similar cautions of the late fall. Proper clothing through using a proper layering system is highly advised. Bear country is rugged terrain and ominous weather can settle in quickly regardless if you are hunting over bait or in the mountains glassing avalanche shoots. Bug repellant and head nets are also a must for anyone venturing into the thick brush of the North country. When mosquitos the size of dimes buzz any open skin relentlessly for days on end your overall enjoyment and ability to focus on chasing bears will drastically decrease.
Depending on the type of hunt you are on will determine the type of footwear you choose. If sitting over bait trying to coax a weary bear to within short bow range, then scent control is of utmost importance. Rubber boots help cut down on your scent walking to and from your blind or stand. If a mountain hunt is your opportunity to chase spring bears than a sturdy pair of hiking boots you would use for deer or elk are what you will want to use. Spring bears on the mountains can be found at higher elevations forging for the fresh grass where the winter snow has since melted. Tough hiking can be expected. Just make sure to have a sturdy pack on your back to carry out a few hundred pounds of meat.
Spring bear hunting is the perfect bridge between the long winter and the fall hunting seasons. Not only do you have the opportunity to focus on chasing an animal you may otherwise not have a chance to hunt, but you also have the opportunity to continue to hone your skills as a hunter.