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Hunting Black Bears

Black Bear, aspens, Yellowstone Park
A black bear foraging by an aspen forest

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.

Black Bear eating Choke Cherries in Wyoming
Cinnamon colored black bear chowning down on Choke Cherries

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.

cinnamon black bear
Cinnamon black bear at the pond for a mid afternoon drink.

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.

A Wyoming cinnamon black bear

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.

Black Bear Portrait
Black Bear Portrait

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.

Featured Hunting Outfitters
elk hunting guide, jackson hole wyoming
Mill Iron Ranch • (Jackson Hole) Mill Iron Ranch has been a Wheeldon family tradition for three generations. We carry on the old cowboy traditions around here, showing the Jackson visitors how to ride, fish, hunt and camp.
Hidden Basin Outfitters (Jackson Hole) Jackson Hole is home to some of the finest big game hunting on earth, where hunters have the opportunity to pursue animals in their natural habitat. Our experienced and fully-licensed guides will lead you and your party in search of cow elk, bull elk, moose, sheep, mule deer, antelope, and bear. For Big Game Hunters Looking for a True Wyoming Experience!
elk hunters, jackson hole wyoming

Hunting Stories and Information

 

Cowboy, campfire
Steve Horn enjoing a utility fire

How To Build a Fire Pit in the Woods (Without Getting Injured)
One of the most important outdoor survival skill to have is an understanding of how to safely build a fire pit. Learning this skill gives you the know-how to keep warm and cook food in cold weather, not to mention, acting as a line of defense from other animals.  In this article, we will be going over the two key aspects of building a safe fire pit in the woods: safety guidelines and the basics of construction.

1. Clear Out a Campfire Area
It's advised that you clear out at least a 10-foot area around your fire pit. To do this, remove any tree limbs, grass, and leaves from the clearing around your fire pit........rest of article

The Modern Hunter-Gatherer •Walking with a loaded rifle in an unfamiliar forest bristling with the signs of your prey is thrilling. It embarrasses me to write that, but it is true. I am not by nature much of a noticer, yet here, now, my attention to everything around me, and deafness to everything else, is complete. Nothing in my experience has prepared me for the quality of this attention. I notice how the day's first breezes comb the needles in the pines, producing a sotto voce whistle and an undulation in the pattern of light and shadow tattooing the tree trunks and the ground. I notice the specific density of the air. But this is not a passive or aesthetic attention; it is a hungry attention, reaching out into its surroundings like fingers, or nerves. My eyes venture deep into thickets my body could never penetrate, picking their way among the tangled branches, sliding over rocks and around stumps to bring back the slenderest hint of movement. In the places too deeply shadowed to admit my eyes, my ears roam at will, returning with the report of a branch cracking at the bottom of a ravine, or the snuffling of a. . .wait: what was that? Just a bird. Everything is amplified. Even my skin is alert, so that when the shadow launched by the sudden ascent of a turkey vulture passes overhead I swear I can feel the temperature momentarily fall. I am the alert man....................... rest of article

Yellowstone Region Hunters Need To Remember That They're in Grizzly Country • When a person hunts they are the one who is in control of the situation. They choose the time, place, animal and the shot. In the past, it was even a rite of passage for young native tribesmen in Canada and Alaska to kill a grizzly bear with a spear! The key was that they practiced and planned on how to control the situation. Today’s hunters are infinitely better equipped when it comes to hunting, but how prepared they are for a surprise encounter with a formidable wild creature such as a grizzly bear may be another story, unless they too prepare and plan ahead........More

Greater Yellowstone Region Hunting Outfitters

 

A nice Greater Yellowstone Bull Elk

Swan Valley Outfitters • (Swan Valley ID) Swan Valley Outfitters is a family owned and operated business. We offer the best scenic trail rides and hunting in the are . We offer many different hunts from mountain lion to trophy elk. Our experienced team of guides and mounts will take you on the experience of a lifetime.

Hidden Basin Outfitters (Jackson Hole WY) Jackson Hole is home to some of the finest big game hunting on earth, where hunters have the opportunity to pursue animals in their natural habitat. Our experienced and fully-licensed guides will lead you and your party in search of cow elk, bull elk, moose, sheep, mule deer, antelope, and bear. For Big Game Hunters Looking for a True Wyoming Experience!

Non-Typical Outfitters • (Star Valley WY) Robb and Dr. Brenda Wiley make their home in one of the most beautiful places that God ever created, the mountains of western Wyoming. Brenda practices veterinary medicine and Robb lives his passion, providing your hunting and fishing opportunities in the Wyoming back country..........We feel that Non-Typical Outfitters has the ability to provide an unmatched opportunity for trophy hunting in Wyoming. The amount of time that we spend in the field before your hunt starts is one of the things that separates us from the rest. We spend extensive days in the preseason locating our trophy animals. For us trophy hunting is a year around job.............We are the most diversified permitted outfitter in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Our hunting area encompasses over 900 square miles of National Forest and close to double that in BLM lands. This gives us the ability to hunt the top trophies in the area without over pressuring any part of it. We can hunt out of a forest camp or a lodge and have the ability to tailor a hunt to almost anyone's needs.

There are several places to hunt Mountain Goats in the Yellowstone Region

Jake's Horses • (Island Park WY) All day or by the hour trail rides, alpine lake fishing, hunting, pack trips & guide service. We are located in Island Park, Idaho.

Mill Iron Ranch • (Jackson Hole WY) Mill Iron Ranch has been a Wheeldon family tradition for three generations. We carry on the old cowboy traditions around here, showing the Jackson visitors how to ride, fish, hunt and camp.

Wind River Trophy Hunts • (Pinedale WY) We provide hunters with the unique experience of hunting in the remote backcountry that contains one of the healthiest elk populations in the state of Wyoming. For hunters looking for the ultimate hunting experience - whether it be elk, moose, sheep, antelope, or mountain lions - Wind River Trophy Hunts is your best bet!

Jenkin's Hunting Camp • (Star Valley WY) Larry Jenkins' Hunting Camp has provided Big Game Hunting since the 1970s. His hunting camp is a family run operation where Larry, his wife Shirley, and their two sons and daughter are all part of your hunting experience. Larry and his family have owned and operated their camp for over 30 years. By specializing in pleasing the individual, Larry can gear the hunt to your own abilities and desires. The saddle horses are all mountain trained and gentle enough to carry you all day in safety. However, Larry prefers to ride as little as possible and still get your game. Your not in the saddle all day long. You can expect an average of 80% success rate on buck mule deer. Larry's hunter success on bull elk ranges from 80 to 100% average each year.Many of these bulls are trophys.

Many Bighorn Rams like this one have been harvested from the mountain tops of the Greater Yellowstone Region

Sheep Creek Outfitters • (West Yellowstone MT) is a small family outfitting business located in the West Yellowstone, Montana Area. I am a full-time outfitter with over thirty years experience hunting Elk, Mule Deer, & other Big Game in the Rocky Mountains. We take only a limited number of hunters per season, approximately fourteen to sixteen rifle hunters and eight archery hunters. Each hunt period is an eight day trip (six actual hunt days) and a nine day trip (seven actual hunt days) for archery. The two non-hunting days are pack-in and pack-out days. We take only four hunters per hunt.

Boulder Basin Outfitters • (Cody WY) Generations of Experience Hunting and Fishing Wyoming Carl and Michelle Sauerwein, owners of Boulder Basin Outfitters, bring more than a lifetime's worth of hunting and fishing experience to their Wyoming outfitting business. Born and raised into a family with outfitting experience that spans back generations, Carl has more skill and knowledge of Wyoming big game hunting and fishing than the average Cody Country Outfitter

Elk Ridge Outfitters • ( Bozeman MT) We hunt the Bridger Range northwest of Bozeman, hunting districts 393 and 312. This 28,000 acre private ranch takes in 2 major drainages. The ridges and slopes are covered with scattered timber and numerous basins. Elevations vary from 5,200 ft. to 7,200 ft. The Bridger Mountains of south central Montana offer hunters one of the highest success rates in Montana for elk. Private land and limited access allows us to manage elk numbers and limit bull harvest.

Absaroka Ranch • (Dubois Wyoming) Our hunting area is the most magnificent Dunoir Valley located northwest of Dubois, Wyoming. The Dunoir remains one of the last truly abundant wildlife and virtually hunter - free areas in the state, if not the entire West. We provide nearly everything for your hunt such as saddles, rifle scabbards and saddle bags, and you will enjoy a comfortable, modern cabin and excellent, hearty meals. All you provide is license, rifle, ammunition, and other personal hunting gear. Please don't hesitate to call or write us for additional hunting information. You'll find the hunting excellent, the crew superbly qualified, and the country spectacular. We'd love to have you along for the fun, excitement, and sheer pleasure of a true Rocky Mountain big game hunt!

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