The typical boar (male) black bear can grow to over 600 pounds, and stand at over 6 feet tall. Based on their diverse diet, they are capable of living in a variety of environments that include both coniferous and deciduous forests, mountainous areas, and swamps. This widespread range of habitat is cause for their opportunistic nature when it comes to food. Bears will feed on whatever is around during that season, with berries, grasses, roots, fish and other small mammals making up most of their diet.
Boars are solitary animals with large home ranges, but they are not territorial. However, female black bears (sows) are extremely territorial, and can become very aggressive when they have cubs. Cubs can stay with their mother for up to two years and will grow quite large in that time, so be sure to steer clear of any groups of bears you come across as they are likely mother and cub groups.
Where To Hunt Black Bear
Black bears are native to North America’s forests, and occupy much of Canada and the United States. The bear population in the states is just shy of a half million individuals and is concentrated in the Appalachian Mountains, Northern Midwest, the Rockies, Alaska, and some Eastern states.
Alaska is hands down the best state to chase bears due to its large population, large bag limit, and allowed use of bait. Hunters often have the chance to hunt Alaska’s coastal regions via a small boat or canoe, a method that proves very effective due to the stealthiness of a water approach, and the ability to travel great distances in a short amount of time. This is a method of bear hunting largely unique to Alaska, adding to the allure of a bear hunt here. The state of Montana is also home to many black bears. Unlike Alaska, baiting here is illegal, so bears are hunted spot-and-stalk style. There is also fantastic hunting to be had to the west in Idaho. On top of the state’s extremely high bear population, the opportunity to harvest a color phase bear is also high. These unique bears have a different color fur than the typical black bear, and are often described as being tan, cinnamon, or blonde. Idaho’s bear tag prices are also on the lower end of the spectrum, offering an inexpensive option to harvest a one of a kind bear. To the east lies the bear hunting mecca of North Carolina. Aside from the massive population of bears, the state consistently produces some of the largest specimens in the country, making it a prime location to harvest a trophy black bear. There are also great opportunities for black bear in New England, the northern regions of the Midwest, and Canada.
Black Bear Hunting Techniques
Black bears are targeted several ways. One method keys in on a bear’s obsession with food. The majority of outdoorsmen and women are familiar with the longstanding rules of hanging food at camp, and avoiding eating near your tent. These rules stem from a bear’s incredible sense of smell and careless attitude towards food. Hunters take advantage of this by creating sweet smelling baits from concoctions of molasses and marshmallows or other sweet treats designed to lure in unsuspecting bears. Hunters will position themselves in a tree stand overlooking a pile of this bait and wait for a bear to come in and offer a shot. However, due to its effectiveness, baiting has been outlawed in certain states. These no-bait areas require the use of the spot-and-stalk technique, where hunters will put themselves in areas of high bear activity and attempt to glass up an animal before sneaking in close for a shot. Sometimes, bears can also be called in using a predator call. These calls mimic the screams of a wounded prey animal and can prove very effective on hungry bears. However, you must be ready for action when you call, as excited bears can seem to materialize at 15 yards in a hurry.
Black Bear Hunting Regulations
Bear hunting regulations vary depending on the state you are hunting. Many western states, like Montana, Colorado and Alaska, offer inexpensive over-the-counter options for certain units, but the best units are often limited draw only. Other states, like Vermont, provide a bear tag with their general hunting license, making them a great option to hunt bears without having to go through an application process. Be sure to research where you want to hunt ahead of time, as many of the limited draw applications are due several months before the actual season date. If you are unable to draw a special unit, there are still plenty of quality areas that offer over-the-counter tags that do not require any application process and still provide a good chance at harvesting an animal.
Black Bear Food Quality
The taste of game meat is often influenced by what that specific animal has been eating, and it is no different with bears. Because of the diverse diet of a black bear, it is nearly impossible to know if an individual will taste good or not. For example, if the bear has been feeding on berries all summer, he will likely have a thick layer of tasty fat that can be rendered down into the highest quality baking grease, and meat that can be slow cooked to perfection. However, if the bear has just recently eaten an old deer carcass or several rotting salmon after the spawn, the meat will smell like this rotting flesh and will be practically inedible. Because of the variability, bears are not known for having high quality meat.