A receding snow line gives way to an ever greening and growing layer of tender flora. Frequent showers feed life back into a ground that was forced into dormancy by heavy snowpack. The spring thaw is here.
Spring has its options of opportunity for hunters, and I know many guys who pursue several avenues during the first months of a new year of growth. 3-D archery leagues, shed hunting, turkey hunting, and fishing are among a few of the things to fill ones time. However, over the last several years I have become incredibly partial to spring bear hunting. Hell, for that matter I’m probably considered an addict to it now by clinical definition.
As the snow melts and the bears emerge, the longing to hunt comes roaring back in my mind. Here in Oregon, we are blessed to have a great selection and opportunity to hunt bears most every spring if you want to put in the effort. While baiting and hound hunting are not allowed, one can find plenty of opportunity to put a tag on a bear with some time spent in the field. If you’ve wanted to bear hunt, or are on the fence about when and where to go, here are a few basic things that have helped my success in the past.
1) Find Food. Bears coming out of hibernation will be looking to slowly ramp their metabolism back up to a normal level for everyday activity. The first week or two after emerging from a den they will be sluggish and not particularly active. As time goes on they will continue to feed on tender plants growing in the wet earth below the receding snow line. Look for green vegetation in wet ground as good places to spot bears. Early in the season this will be more concentrated to south facing slopes, but as the weather warms or even gets hot, bears may seek the shade of north facing slopes to thermoregulate as they will still have their thick winter fur in place. Glass for them accordingly and glass long and hard. You can spot bears absolutely any time of the day in the spring.
2) Stay With Sign. We have killed a couple bears in recent springs where a bear has been living for several weeks within a few hundred yard radius. If you find a spot with tons of bear scat and tracks, they may be using the area daily. Play the wind and wait it out. There’s a good chance that bear will show up the same evening if you haven’t been winded.
3) Look Near and Far. Bear density obviously changes based on the area you are hunting, but in most areas there won’t be a bear in every draw. Glass frequently and effectively. Look at ridges behind the the nearest one to you. You may be surprised at the distance you can spot a bear from, and the distance at which you can stalk one from in a day. Last spring we harvested a bear that we spotted from over two miles away. A single opportunity like that one can easily be overlooked if you don’t spend the time to pick apart distant draws and hillsides.
4) Stalk Fast. As the season progresses boars will begin to search for sows and will be on the move constantly. This can make those long stalks difficult to close at a pace where you will still relocate your bear. Close the distance as quick as possible and keep the best visual contact that you can with the bear you are pursuing. Because of poor eyesight, bears can be stalked rather quickly with great effectiveness. Play the wind as your primary decision-making factor in picking a route. I try to keep even the several mile stalks less than two hours. If you keep your stalks under two hours and keep consistent visual contact with the bear at intervals along the way, your chances of a successful hunt will be good.