I am getting stoked about the upcoming spring bear season. Warmer weather, green grass, lots of sunshine, and big ol’ pumpkin-headed boars roaming around, has got me excited for April. I can’t wait to start climbing up to some epic vistas looking for bears. As exciting as that sounds- bear hunting is 98% boredom and 2% sheer chaos. You might sit there all day and glass, and then see a bear 1.5 miles out and have to start running cross country to get in range. All the while hoping that he is still there.
Part of the struggle with bear hunting is getting yourself into good country, and being in the right country, at the right time of the season. Seasoned bear hunters know where to find these bears as the season progresses from mid-April through mid-June. I get asked by a lot of guys wondering how I turn up so many bears in a season, and my immediate response is PATIENCE; glass until your eyes bleed!!
Mid Season is from about the first of May through about the 21st and is probably the best time to be out looking for a bear. It seems like if you find some good green south facing aspects, or old logging units with lost of fresh growth, a near by water source, and dark timber close by, you will see bears if you can sit there long enough. Mid day though the evenings can be the most productive times to glass but I still see bears earlier in the day. Walking closed logging roads this time of year can be pretty amazing. The bears are generally preoccupied with feeding on the lush green grass on the road, and can be a great opportunity to stalk them with a bow. This has always been the most productive time of year for me, bears are plentiful and haven’t quite started to cover tons of ground yet.
Transitioning into the later part of the season there are a few variables that can make or break the hunting. By now everything is pretty well green, the days get to be nearly arctic in length, its warmer, and the bear rut is in full swing. Basically the bears are less concentrated in certain areas, and are more spread out. I still try to hunt the snowline this time of year, its nicer temperatures to hunt in than lower in the valley, and if I can find a hot sow there is a good chance of seeing a big boar. If you happen to find elk calving grounds, these are dynamite; those fresh little calves generally are laying around the first couple days and bears have been hunting them for generations. Killing any bear near a calving ground can really save some elk!!! The long days can really wear you out toward the end of the season. but is pretty awesome if your a 9-5 kind of guy and it’s light till almost 10 o’clock every day.
If you can get a good vantage point that lets you look over miles of country, you will see bears. A lot of my epic glassing spots are hard earned; the best spots generally rocky outcroppings with unobstructed views of huge canyons. Optics are everything out there, and I cannot stress how crucial my spotting scope is to my success finding bears. There are some locations where I’m glassinganywhere from 1-5 miles out, patiently breaking down the country into smaller zones until I pick up what I’m after. I can locate with binos at these distances, but its just not possible to judge a bear accurately at those distances with 10’s or even 15’s. Glassing is an art form, a difficult skill to master, and not too many people out there have the mind power to sit and glass country for extended periods of time. One tool I use frequently is some kind of aerial imagery app on my phone. Once I locate the bear and decide to go for a stalk I will drop a pin where the bear is, so when I get on the other side of the canyon I am not lost trying to figure out where I am supposed to be. Most of the time I can get there on sheer reckoning but I really like having his location pinned if I have any doubts.
For those of us lucky enough to hunt where we have both grizzlies and black bears, please, I beg you to be proficient at being able to differentiate the two species. Generally speaking,when you first see a grizzly you know it. It has a completely different look from a black bear: big massive head, very distinctive shoulder hump, and a commanding presence on the landscape. There is nothing worse than hearing the stories every spring/ fall of hunters mistakenly shooting a grizzly.If you don’t know, or are skeptical at all, don’t shoot! MT FWP has a great online test that helps you to distinguish between the two.
I hope everyone hunting bears this spring has an awesome hunt; it is such a beautiful time of year to be in the mountains. I am excited to get out and start hunting again, up on some nasty, wind-blown rocky point glassing for a bruiser!
Guide Cody Carr’s Hunting Adventures
Photo Credit: Brandon Purcell, Mariah Purcell, & Calvin Conner