Hunting Black Bears
What could be better than a Black Bear hunt in the Greater Yellowstone Region? First, you get to go to the Yellowstone region; second you get to hunt one of North America’s greatest big game animals. Bear hunts are often exciting and much of the fun is the adrenalin rush of courting danger.
The black bear ranges across forested Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia as well as much of the United States. The population here around Yellowstone is very high, and the bear harvest is good.
They can be seen at any hour of the day, especially during berry season which often is with early fall hunts, but are most active at night. Black bears can be found from northern Alaska east across Canada to Labrador and Newfoundland, and south through much of Alaska, virtually all of Canada, and most of the U.S. into central Mexico. Prime habitat is characterized by relatively inaccessible terrain, thick understory vegetation, and other general obstacles that make hunting such a thrill. During periods of inactivity, black bears utilize bed sites in forest habitat; these sites generally consist of a simple shallow depression in the forest leaf litter.
If you will be shooting at Black Bear, you better know what they look like. They are usually black in color, particularly in eastern North America. They usually have a pale muzzle, which contrasts with their darker fur and may sometimes have a white chest spot. Western populations are usually lighter in color, being more often brown, cinnamon, or blonde. Black bears are distinguished from grizzly bears by their longer, less heavily furred ears, smaller shoulder humps, and a convex, rather than concave, profile. Bear sizes run from 85.8 to 899.8 pounds to a length of 47-inches to 78-inches.
Several techniques can be used when hunting black bear. Spotting and stalking requires patience, extensive knowledge of the region, a keen eye, and expensive spotting equipment. Still-hunting is best done in an area where there is evidence of bear activity, as you can simply sit and wait for the bear to come to you. Black bear hunting from a tree stand is most effective when done near natural game trails and common black bear food sources. Predator calling is a good early season technique. Bear baiting and hunting with the assistance of dogs is allowed in some Yellowstone Region states but not in Montana.
Black bears possess a high level of intelligence and exhibit a high degree of curiosity and exploratory behaviors. Bears have three senses you need to consider: they possess one of the keenest noses in the entire animal world; get upwind of your target, and you won't have a target for long. They possess acute hearing and contrary to folklore and heaps of literature on bears; they can see quite well. Considering these exceptional senses make your stalk from downwind; put your nose into the wind and walk as light as a feather. If you hunt in steep terrain of which we have an abundance of around Yellowstone, remember to test prevailing air currents, currents go up in the morning then down in the afternoon as the temperature warms then cools. Use terrain, trees and other sight-blocking obstructions to hide your approach, and find game trails or other routes where your walking won’t be a warning bell to all the critters of the forest.
Spotting and stalking commences once a bear is targeted, and you've made the decision to pursue it, your movements to get closer to the animal will test your predatory prowess. A black bear is a predator too, and will be on full alert for signs of trouble.
During fall they are more concerned with building fat reserves for the coming winter by eating fruits, nuts, mast crops (acorns pine nuts etc.) and berries than by targeting meat sources. Here around Yellowstone Huckleberries, choke cherries, service berries are plentiful and all attract hungry bears. Finding bears in fall is really just a game of finding each of those food sources as they ripen in bear country. You find these food sources during summer scouting, and experience and networking will tell you when the right forage will ripen in your area.
Still-hunting is very effective if you chose a good spot to install a tree stand. It is important to build the tree stand in at a height that will not make the trajectory too steep preventing double-lung shot optimum height will be between ten and twelve feet. The tree stand should also be built where it allows the hunter to remain as still as possible so the bear does not become aware of the hunters presence.
Predator-calling is productive in late summer, before berry crops ripen, you can take advantage of the black bear's predatory ways to fill your tag. Insects, leaves, and flowers of broad-leafed plants make up the summer diet So a bear isn't likely to turn up its nose at a wounded varmint or other small animal, the sounds of which are reproducible.
Predator calls are designed to, well, call in predators so don't be surprised the first time a predator comes into your call, also be prepared for It to not be a bear. A bobcat, fox, coyote, or mountain lion, grizzly or wolf could all be interested in wounded varmints. So don’t use predator calls to attract bears when you're hunting alone. This is a tactic for which at least two hunters, sometimes three, are needed to hunt safely and efficiently. A lone hunter with a varmint call will have a field of vision of about 230 degrees, without the ability, to see what is sneaking up behind. Your position should offer a good field of view from a secluded, elevated stand that allows you and your partner to sit facing opposite directions. You watch for critters approaching his backside while he watches for those approaching yours.
Talking to your partner is not recommended, a quiet kiss sound has no noticeable adverse affect on bears, especially if you can follow the sound with another squeak or squeal without getting busted. This is a good way to communicate with your partner when you need to get their attention. This is an exciting way to hunt black bears and usually gives you ample time to check over your potential target for size, pelt condition, or other considerations you may have.
There are no guarantees in hunting, but bear hunting over a bear bait is often as close as it gets. Most bear hunting outfitters have close to 100% success rate when hunting over a bait. Bear hunting over bait is not as easy as you may think. Big old bears often wait until dark to venture into bait piles to avoid being shot by hunters.
Most guided bear hunts are relatively inexpensive compared to many big game species. Many bear hunting outfitters offer bear hunts that cost anywhere from $800 - $3000 dollars and last up to seven days.
Bear hunting over bait, is perfect for bow hunters. Bait piles are often less than 30 yards away. Frequently, bait piles are positioned so that when the bears approach the bait, they are broadside. With a well-placed arrow, bears will typically die within 100 yards from where they are hit. Gun hunters should sight their guns in for close range to prevent shooting over the top of them.
When bear hunting over bait you should try to remain as scent-free as possible. Most experienced bear hunters wear scent-eliminating clothes like Scent Blocker or used odor-eliminating sprays. Bears keen sense of smell will detect human odor, they often avoid a bait pile until after dark.
Bear baits often are barrels filled with smelly food like old doughnuts, grocery meat that the grocery store has pulled off shelves, expired farm animals, roadkill and in some places outfitters take out old horses and put them down where they think a bear might come in. Winter killed carrion is a big food source in the spring and that is when many hunt bear hunts are in the spring and that is when the bear coats are in the best condition.
Wind direction is crucial here as it is in all hunts. Putting it together in the field takes practice, patience and, most important, time. Now go out there and make some bear hunting stories.