Black Bear Hunting
Get ready for round two of one of nature’s best adrenaline rushes – black bear hunting. Black bears are some of the most curious animals on earth, but they’re also some of the most wary.
Black bear hunting requires a little research and patience, but the payoff is completely worth the effort. Research the bears’ behaviors, scout their habitat, and choose your hunting style. Then enjoy one of Saskatchewan’s two lengthy bear hunting seasons to net one of these fascinating animals.
Black Bear Seasons
The spring hunt usually centers around the month of May, with the beginning days occurring in April and the season finale happening in June, around the brink of summer. This is an exciting time of year for black bear hunting because these beautiful bruins are finally venturing out after months in hibernation.
They’re likely to be famished after a winter of fasting, which means they’ll be on the move and actively seeking out fresh vegetation to munch on. Additionally, their defenses are likely to be down as they scramble to begin replacing the fat calories they burned during hibernation.
The fall black bear hunting season typically begins in late August and runs through mid-October. With the season starting at the end of summer, the days may still be quite warm.
Black bears are sure to be fat after feasting for months on berries, nuts, and meat. If you’re looking for a heavy weigh-in, the autumn season is the optimal time to hunt.
Black Bear Behavior and Habitat
Knowing how to hunt black bears means knowing their habitat. As with all mammals, black bears need a reliable source of food and water. Different times of year provide varying sources of these essentials. Knowing where the bears’ feeding grounds and watering holes are will increase your chances of a successful bear encounter.
While any animal will take advantage of easily accessible resources, there are also times when they have to work for their meals. Black bears often roam in search of fresh sources of food.
For example, if bears have stopped visiting the blackberry patch you’ve been seeing them at for the past couple of weeks, they’ve probably gobbled up the last of the berries and moved on to a new feeding spot.
When it comes to water sources for black bears, weather plays a big role. Dry summer months keep watering locations limited to ponds and streams, which makes it easier to locate which watering holes bears might frequent.
During the winter months, when the weather is often rainy, black bears are able to find fresh water in puddles along the trail. Knowing where watering holes are will help you target the best locations when you’re hunting for black bears.
Another element you need to be aware of when black bear hunting is the animals’ habits.
Are they diurnal or nocturnal? When are they most active?
Black bears, like so many other large game animals, are active at varying times of the day.
Interestingly enough, moon phases play a big role in the movement of bears. A full moon often means all-night feedings and daytime naps. The new moon phase may have these animals foraging during the day and sleeping at night. However, as a general rule of thumb, black bears are most active during early morning hours and just before dark.
It’s also important to know when black bears breed since breeding season may help you identify patterns in their behavior. Late spring and early summer breeding is the norm. With frenzied movement as these bears search for partners, spring season hunters have ample possibilities of spotting and harvesting bears.
Scouting and Locating Your Bear
To find areas that bears frequent, search for scat (bear droppings) near trees, bushes, and along trails. Black bears leave loose piles of feces when they’ve been feasting on berries and other vegetation.
When they’ve been dining on meat, their waste is solid with a cylindrical or tube shape, much like that of a canine. The main difference between bear scat and wolf poop is volume. Bears are large animals and leave large piles of droppings behind — a pile of scat can easily be 12 inches across.
In addition to scat, you also want to keep an eye out for rubs on tree trunks. Black bears mark their territory by rubbing, clawing, and biting trees. This leaves their scent and effectively marks the territory as their domain.
Methods for Hunting Black Bear
There are many methods you can use when it comes to black bear hunting. This includes ground blinds, stands, bait stations, and spot-and-stalk. Each style is different and has its own unique set of benefits.
Blinds are ground-level structures with walls on all sides and a roof overhead. These can be built as permanent structures or they can be purchased as pop-up, portable units.
Stands, much like blinds, provide an enclosed space to sit in while hunting, but they’re elevated above ground level and require a short climb to get inside.
Both blinds and stands are enclosed, providing protection from nature’s elements and a barrier that keeps bears and other wildlife from spotting your movements. A great advantage of these hunting structures is the ability to retain some level of heat when a portable heater is used.
Spot-and-stalk adds a heap of adrenaline to your bear hunt, but this style of black bear hunting requires a healthy dose of skill and patience. If a black bear feels threatened, he’s not going to hang around.
If he sees you moving or winds you, your chances at a harvest may be over. In the woods, approaching a bear while remaining undetected is a great challenge.
Bait stations are one of the most effective ways to hunt black bears. Fifty-gallon drums filled with treats are a great way to lure bears in for harvest.
Hunters often prefer climbing stands rather than bait stations. You can also make use of blinds and stands in this situation. Choose the hunting method that makes you comfortable and puts you in the best position for taking a bear.
Weapons and Ammunition
Rifles are the go-to weapon of choice when black bear hunting. What caliber is best? Use your own discretion, but be sure your rifle is at least larger than a .23 caliber. All in all, bigger is often better when it comes to harvesting large game.
A few popular calibers for hunting black bears include 30.06, .308 and .338 calibers. Consider whether you’ll need your round to penetrate brush or reach a long distance. This depends on the hunting environment, you might do better with a shorter-range rifle.
Muzzleloaders are another option for black bear hunting. Whether you’re going old-school with a flintlock or using a modern in-line muzzleloader, keep in mind that the time it takes to reload increases the pressure to make your first shot count.
Shotguns are best used in close-range situations. Shotgun rounds penetrate brush well. You have the opportunity to make a harvest even when there’s vegetation between you and your target.
As far as ammunition goes, buckshot and slugs are ideal for close encounters.
Archery and crossbow hunting add extra thrill and skill to your hunt. Calculating windage, distances, and taking possible obstructions into consideration make archery hunting one of the most challenging methods.
Choose broadheads that make a sizable opening upon impact and continue to work once penetration has been made. Black bears, like all large game, can still move quite a distance when wounded.
You’ll want your bear to fall quickly or leave a substantial blood trail for you to follow.
Scent Treatments and Clothing
Bears have a strong sense of smell. This helps them locate food and water, a prospective mate, other bears, and nearby predators.
Employing some scent-evasion tactics prove beneficial when hunting black bears. There’s no way to completely eliminate your human scent, but you can mute it enough to be able to get close to your quarry.
Layer your scent control for a stronger effect. Launder your hunting clothes in scent-eliminating detergent, and dry them with scent-control dryer sheets.
Store your clothes in a charcoal or carbon-lined bag to keep them scent-free until you’re ready to dress for your hunt.
Use scent-eliminating body wash and shampoo when you shower, and apply a scent-control deodorant to keep your human odor masked.
Mist your hunting pack, boots, and the seat of your truck with scent-killing spray before you head to the woods, and carry a bottle with you for a final spritz once you get in your bear blind.
It sounds complicated, but this will allow you to close the distance between yourself and a bear.
Avoid insect-repellent sprays and lotions when possible. Dousing yourself in DEET or other bug-repelling chemicals could completely unravel the entire gamut of scent-elimination you worked so diligently to achieve.
Wear clothing that protects you from mosquitos and gnats such as long sleeves, lightweight gloves, long pants, and possibly a head net, if insects are thick.
It’s also a good idea to wear boots while black bear hunting to protect you from snake bites, briars and brambles, and other obstacles you may encounter while trailing a bear.
On top of masking your scent and protecting yourself from bugs and briars, you’ll need to check local regulations for a list of safety requirements.
Safety during hunting is top priority and something as simple as wearing the right colors can save you from accidents.
Now that you know the basics of how to hunt black bear, you have the information you need to plan your hunt. Know the hunting seasons, study the behavior and habitat of black bears in the area you’re going to hunt, do plenty of scouting, and decide which style of hunt suits you best.
Next, choose your weapon and stock up on the right kind of ammo. When it’s time for the hunt, take advantage of scent control techniques to help get you up close and personal with a bear.
Black bear hunting takes effort and research, but it’s well worth every second you put into creating the hunt of a lifetime.
If you’re thinking about booking a Northern Saskatchewan hunting adventure, let’s have a conversation.