The 1 Thing You Learned- Bear Hunting

OP
Oregon Hunter

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“If you’re not glassing, you’re just camping.”

My routine looks more like glass, nap, glass, walk, glass, nap, glass, eat Mtn house, go to sleep.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten my first CA bear yet.


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Sounds like you're doing the right thing. Maybe switch to a totally different type of area? Like somewhere that burned a couple years ago
 
OP
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Most of my bear hunting has been in working forests/tree farms, so take it for what it's worth. The one thing that would have ensured I used my time more efficiently was to focus on areas with little to no human traffic. Of the 4 bears I've killed in the last 5 years, all have been in isolated areas where i'd expect few folks to have ventured into. 3 of them were in cuts at least 2 miles from the nearest gate.

A buddy killed a giant boar we'd seen driving a mainline road a couple years ago in late May, but given other experiences, that certainly feels like the exception. He was likely cruising looking for sows, but otherwise every other bear i've seen has been in spots that certainly don't see vehicle traffic, and are unlikely to see much human traffic.
Great advice about learning the idiosyncrasies of our specific areas
 

68Plexi

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Sounds like you're doing the right thing. Maybe switch to a totally different type of area? Like somewhere that burned a couple years ago

Yes, that’s a good idea. And there are a lot more burned areas here after last year. To be honest, I’ve done more dear hunting with a bear tag in my pocket. Trying to devote more time just for bears every year.


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RichMangus

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Apr 12, 2022
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Depends on there you hunt bears…LOL

I grew up hunting bears in northern Idaho but live in Alaska and have hunted bears here for 30 years, so will give you my lessons learned from Alaska bear hunting, mostly spring hunts! These lessons are for hunting big smart old boars, which I call “fighting boars” the ones with battle scars all over their head and body, white claws, teeth broken off/worn down, the big boys who are smart and most likely the king of the valley!

  • If you’re not glassing, you’re just camping.
  • Wind & scent are paramount, scent leaves a history, don’t be walking around till you see the bear you want, check the wind direction constantly.
  • If the wind direction is wrong, don’t make the stock, wait, bears will usually hang out in an area if not disturbed
  • Glass and hunt till dark.
  • Bears can see much better than most people think, Brown bear I believe can see as good as us.
  • Of course, shot placement is vital, but also used enough gun and more important than headstamps, good, controlled expansion bullets.
  • If you blow-out (gets your scent) a “big bear” you won’t see him again, trust me on that.
  • Last, but not least is the toughest lessons of all, judging size! There are a gazillion articles out there on judging bear size, all I can said is after you kill a lot of bears you kinda figure size out, if you’re looking for a “monster”, you know it the minute you see him, if you must talk yourself into shooting. You’ll be disappointed when you walk up on him! Been there, done that!
Of course, all of this is just my option on hunting big bears, if you are just looking for a bear or meat that’s all good too!

Good Luck hunting bears this spring, we will be back down at Cold Bay in May
Great points
 

roosiebull

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oregon coast
Hey Roksliders! I’m back with another installment of the “1 Thing” theme, this time focused on the rapidly expanding popularity of Bear Hunting. I think most of us make a mistake over and over again. We go on a hunt, but don’t make the effort to think critically about 1 thing we learned and will do different next time.

Think about it, how often do magazines write about a hunt, but fail to single out an action item to change in the future? Just 1 thing, maybe something you learned about elk behavior, your rifle setup, clothing, or camping system. We can consume all the information we want, but if we don’t change anything, did it really do us any good? I’d like to continue the series of discussions to get us in the habit of reviewing our hunt, and share highlights about the 1 thing we learned on a particular topic. To start, 1 thing I learned is about Bear Hunting.

In the Pacific Northwest we have plenty of black bears, but I learned the hard way just how fleeting opportunities can be. After days of glassing old clearcuts, I finally saw a black mass amble out of the creek bottom. By the time I finally unscrewed my spotting scope mount from the window and got my rifle rest ready, it had made its way behind some trees and was gone forever. As a quadriplegic my hands don’t work great so this gear transition took longer than it would for an able-bodied person, but I think we’ve all missed out by not being quick enough before. Now I'm going to use the new Spartan Pro Clamp so switching between optics and my rifle takes just two seconds. In the future I’m going to make a much greater effort to be able to switch between glassing and a rifle ready shooting position as fast as possible!

So what is the 1 thing you have learned about Bear Hunting?


View attachment 386633
For me, there are always a ton of dynamic variables hunting bear depending on the season, part of season, and year… how are Oregon seasons are set up, it’s all about food… we get a little pre rut at the end of spring season, but food is what we hunt… bear are picky gluttons. Bear key in on certain food sources, but there are micro and macro aspects… micro would be the shifting seasons, macro would be the more obvious and basic..

Example, one fall they may be totally keyed in on chittums, leaving blackberries alone, or they may be hitting blackberries because the black caps were done before the season opened… or they are on skunk cabbage, or elderberry, etc… they seem to focus on certain food sources and it changes by the year, and you also have shifts during the season as quality food sources change

Spring is similar but with less variation because they don’t have options… spring bear seem to mostly ignore skunk cabbage, but some bear make a living off of it in the fall in areas the elk haven’t mowed it all down… spring typically is a grass and dandelion show on the coast, but they may be in the bottoms feeding on canary reed grass early then shifting to clear cuts when they green up, and those dead looking cuts can’t be written off because they are often full of dandelion.

Another common thing to see on the coast is a clear cut littered with fresh tore up stumps from bear… that’s always a good sign… kind of…

Over the years, it seems like 9 out of 10 times those bear that tear up every stump in a cut is either a very young bear or a sow, rarely a mature boar, though I have seen it… I spent a lot of time in the past seeking out those cuts with fresh tore up stumps, now I almost avoid them unless later in the season.

The one big thing with bear that is always very important and never changes is the wind… bear smell way better than anything else we hunt, and will not tolerate human scent… that awesome vantage point is great, but if the wind is blowing towards where you are looking, it’s not going to matter… I have watched bear wind me from way out there, way further than I would ever shoot.

Coming back around to early spring, and those reed grass bottoms… unless you have a good vantage with good wind overlooking one of those bottoms, it really doesn’t matter how much sign is there, on the coast without useful thermals, it’s rare to find those bottoms with wind reliable enough to hunt bear… I have ran plenty of bear out of those areas with very little presence.

Wind is more important with bear than any critters I have hunted… respect their nose or accept frustration
 
OP
Oregon Hunter

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Yes, that’s a good idea. And there are a lot more burned areas here after last year. To be honest, I’ve done more dear hunting with a bear tag in my pocket. Trying to devote more time just for bears every year.


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When I look back on places I've hunted or fished, it seems like I've spent too much time doing the same thing in the same places that weren't productive. I guess if I'm not having any luck, then I wouldn't be missing out by trying something totally different 🤷‍♂️
 
OP
Oregon Hunter

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For me, there are always a ton of dynamic variables hunting bear depending on the season, part of season, and year… how are Oregon seasons are set up, it’s all about food… we get a little pre rut at the end of spring season, but food is what we hunt… bear are picky gluttons. Bear key in on certain food sources, but there are micro and macro aspects… micro would be the shifting seasons, macro would be the more obvious and basic..

Example, one fall they may be totally keyed in on chittums, leaving blackberries alone, or they may be hitting blackberries because the black caps were done before the season opened… or they are on skunk cabbage, or elderberry, etc… they seem to focus on certain food sources and it changes by the year, and you also have shifts during the season as quality food sources change

Spring is similar but with less variation because they don’t have options… spring bear seem to mostly ignore skunk cabbage, but some bear make a living off of it in the fall in areas the elk haven’t mowed it all down… spring typically is a grass and dandelion show on the coast, but they may be in the bottoms feeding on canary reed grass early then shifting to clear cuts when they green up, and those dead looking cuts can’t be written off because they are often full of dandelion.

Another common thing to see on the coast is a clear cut littered with fresh tore up stumps from bear… that’s always a good sign… kind of…

Over the years, it seems like 9 out of 10 times those bear that tear up every stump in a cut is either a very young bear or a sow, rarely a mature boar, though I have seen it… I spent a lot of time in the past seeking out those cuts with fresh tore up stumps, now I almost avoid them unless later in the season.

The one big thing with bear that is always very important and never changes is the wind… bear smell way better than anything else we hunt, and will not tolerate human scent… that awesome vantage point is great, but if the wind is blowing towards where you are looking, it’s not going to matter… I have watched bear wind me from way out there, way further than I would ever shoot.

Coming back around to early spring, and those reed grass bottoms… unless you have a good vantage with good wind overlooking one of those bottoms, it really doesn’t matter how much sign is there, on the coast without useful thermals, it’s rare to find those bottoms with wind reliable enough to hunt bear… I have ran plenty of bear out of those areas with very little presence.

Wind is more important with bear than any critters I have hunted… respect their nose or accept frustration
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this info! It's like a bear hunting tutorial for Oregon and Washington. Do you make a plan by scouting out what the food is doing before the season, or just observe what the bears are eating during the season?
 

roosiebull

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oregon coast
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this info! It's like a bear hunting tutorial for Oregon and Washington. Do you make a plan by scouting out what the food is doing before the season, or just observe what the bears are eating during the season?
i just start hunting... for one, i'm never in a hurry, and am always excited to start, whether spring or fall, and in both scenarios, things are changing constantly... spring, their food sources are pretty straightforward of course, so early season i like covering ground and getting a general idea what's getting green and what still needs time.

fall is a lot more going on of course, but the plan is similar, just cruise around and see what food is abundant (blackberries on the coast usually aren't ripe early August, south coast where there are black caps, they may be burnt out already in August, so it's just narrowing down the high yield food, then start figuring out what they are keying in on.... luckily, that's pretty easy, fall bear do a lot of pooping, so finding bear activity usually isn't too hard, and of course their scat has clues to what they are eating, but bear are wrecking balls in food sources, they make their kitchen obvious.... skunk cabbage, they will have a highway through it, tracks are easy to see in swamps, and it's easy to see where they are mowing down skunk cabbage.

elderberries, they just reach up and snap branches off, so if you see elderberries with a bunch of fresh broke branches, you know how they got that way... same with chittum and huckleberry, look for a bunch of broken branches... or with chittum trees, completely busted trees sometimes.

blackberry and black caps, they mash down big areas, and can be spotted a long ways off with optics because it exposes the more white colored underside of the leaves... always glass blackberry patches in the fall, because those spots bears are mashing down are pretty easy to see.

it's all pretty simple stuff, the hard part is walking by good food sources knowing they are currently focused on something else, they are pretty picky when there is a lot of food around, and i don't know why, i just know they are.

one more thing that i just thought of, late fall bear hunting (at least on the coast) the blue huckleberry is the last really good bear feed, when the blackberries and everything else goes away, those areas full of blue huckleberry will be THE spot to hunt bear, it's one of the best bear concentrators all year around here... those older thick clear cuts seem to be the place to find lots of them that are actually producing lots of fruit, and they stick around through October on the coast
 
OP
Oregon Hunter

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i just start hunting... for one, i'm never in a hurry, and am always excited to start, whether spring or fall, and in both scenarios, things are changing constantly... spring, their food sources are pretty straightforward of course, so early season i like covering ground and getting a general idea what's getting green and what still needs time.

fall is a lot more going on of course, but the plan is similar, just cruise around and see what food is abundant (blackberries on the coast usually aren't ripe early August, south coast where there are black caps, they may be burnt out already in August, so it's just narrowing down the high yield food, then start figuring out what they are keying in on.... luckily, that's pretty easy, fall bear do a lot of pooping, so finding bear activity usually isn't too hard, and of course their scat has clues to what they are eating, but bear are wrecking balls in food sources, they make their kitchen obvious.... skunk cabbage, they will have a highway through it, tracks are easy to see in swamps, and it's easy to see where they are mowing down skunk cabbage.

elderberries, they just reach up and snap branches off, so if you see elderberries with a bunch of fresh broke branches, you know how they got that way... same with chittum and huckleberry, look for a bunch of broken branches... or with chittum trees, completely busted trees sometimes.

blackberry and black caps, they mash down big areas, and can be spotted a long ways off with optics because it exposes the more white colored underside of the leaves... always glass blackberry patches in the fall, because those spots bears are mashing down are pretty easy to see.

it's all pretty simple stuff, the hard part is walking by good food sources knowing they are currently focused on something else, they are pretty picky when there is a lot of food around, and i don't know why, i just know they are.

one more thing that i just thought of, late fall bear hunting (at least on the coast) the blue huckleberry is the last really good bear feed, when the blackberries and everything else goes away, those areas full of blue huckleberry will be THE spot to hunt bear, it's one of the best bear concentrators all year around here... those older thick clear cuts seem to be the place to find lots of them that are actually producing lots of fruit, and they stick around through October on the coast
this is awesome advice, thank you!!!
 

Big Dunc

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Do you find more bears by glassing, walking to a new area and glassing some more? Or do you like sitting down and glassing one area until they come out?
A little of both. It depends on the area or time. If I'm in a new area and not sure what's around, I tend to glass for a while then move and glass more. If I'm in a regular area and know a bit about how the bears are acting then I'll glass it until I find what I'm looking for.
 
OP
Oregon Hunter

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A little of both. It depends on the area or time. If I'm in a new area and not sure what's around, I tend to glass for a while then move and glass more. If I'm in a regular area and know a bit about how the bears are acting then I'll glass it until I find what I'm looking for.
Awesome, thanks for the insight on what's worked for you!
 
OP
Oregon Hunter

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For the folks that live in Washington or Oregon, what have you found more success doing, hunting the east side or west side of the Cascades?
 

crossfox21

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"First you have to find the bear....then you have to find the bear again" (After the shot that is)
 

Marmots

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Idaho
For spring bear, I've had better luck hunting every weekend than taking a solid 1-2 week block. It seems like there's a magic few days in May when there's suddenly bears everywhere, and the odds of catching it are better if you spread your season out.
 
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