Six Things To Know About Spring Black Bear Hunting
Black bear is one of the few species hunters can take advantage of in the spring season (there’s also a fall season for bear). Even though bear is an incredible opportunity for hunters in Alberta, it’s an under-utilized resource that doesn’t garner the same attention as deer, elk, or moose.
Be a hunter who takes advantage of one of our province’s best resources: read on for the basics of getting with your black bear hunt!
Many Wildlife Management Units allow for the baiting of black bears. Check the regulations before heading out to ensure you are hunting in an open zone, if baiting is allowed, and if a supplemental tag is available to harvest a second bear. Black bear licences and tags purchased for the spring hunt can also be used in the fall.
Black bears are present throughout the mountains, foothills, parkland, and boreal forest. Number one? They’re motivated by food. In the spring, areas that green up first are prime locations to find bears. South-facing slopes, cut lines, and pipelines with south exposure and wetland edges all sprout quickly and grow the first green grasses, sedges, and clover of the year. When dandelions show up, bears are soon to follow. Find spring greens, and you’ll find bears.
If there is one thing a hunter can do to get close enough to a bear for an ethical shot, it is to stay downwind. Stalk bears with the wind in your face. Set up stands and baits to be downwind of the primary game trails coming to the site. When feasible, place the stand to have the sun at your side or back for an evening hunt.
Most bear encounters are close. Archery gear, shotguns with slugs, muzzleloaders, or centrefire rifles are all good options to harvest a bruin. Make sure to practice shot angles if hunting from a stand. Sharp broadheads are a must for proper penetration. Big slow bullets work better at short-range, while a magnum rifle is best suited at long-range.
The heart and lungs of a black bear sit middle of the chest when the animal stands on all four legs. A standing broadside shot is best. A bear lying down or standing on its back legs is not a good option, as the vital zone moves and is hard to target—aim behind the front shoulder or even centre of mass. Shooting a bear in the front shoulder does not always provide a fatal wound.
Daytime temperatures can be warm, so be prepared to skin a harvested bear as soon as possible. Take game bags in your pack to store and haul meat out of the bush. The bags will help keep the meat clean and ensure insects stay out. Cool the meat by hanging it at night, where a cold breeze can lower the temperature below 5°C. If required, place the meat in a cooler of ice water to bring the temperature down fast, but do not leave it in the water for more than two days. Prolonged exposure to moisture can grow bacteria. Age the meat if possible, and cut and wrap like any other big game animal.