WA black bear after september?

wawhitey

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So i live in an area of washington that has the highest bear density yet the shortest seasons. all spring and summer i see bears everywhere, like they outnumber deer, then the service berries dry up. then our september 1st opener happens and they disappear. i know they go after hawthorne and plums and apples at this time, but i cant find any except on private property. does anybody have any advice for me besides cold calling? the only thing i know to do is wait and wait and wait in cool shady wet areas, but man that gets boring. there has to be a better way. ive had well over 70 bears on cam this year, and in july i saw over 20 different bears in one weekend! but i struggle to find one single bear after september first! what am i missing? last year i got lucky and a bear tried to sneak up on me while i was sleeping. shot him at 8 feet. should i just say to hell with it and go nap in the woods again?
 

JJHACK

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I live in Wa. State and in Elisrass South Africa
I think I can help you with this.

I have worked in a professional capacity with the bears of Wa. State and much of the PNW for much of my adult life. I was the wildlife manager for Weyerhaeuser tree farms in all of Wa. for 12 years, and for the Washington Forest Protection Association as well. I mention this not as an arrogant or boastful statement, but rather so you can understand that I have more then a sportsman's basic understanding of this topic.

The Bears of Wa. and much of the west side of the cascades through BC and Oregon as well are migratory. Its why you see them in one place in one month and then they are gone. When I was running my guide business with bait stations, and I had 60 stations using 90,000 lbs of feed on 360 thousand acres every season with three employees working for me. There was little that I could do to keep bears on y baits by Sept 15th. Drums of meat, Purina Bear chow, doughnuts, crates of apples, candy, etc. Nothing would keep them locked onto the feed at 500 feet elevation. They would migrate up to the elevations that held natural foods like blue and huckleberry bushes.

We had collared bears that we could track and follow to see where they were. At times they were on my bait stations for 3 weeks every single day, then out of the blue in Mid Sept they were gone. Out comes the tracking device and we see they are now at 5000 feet in knee high blue berries. I eventually came to the conclusion that by Sept 20th if you can find Mtn goats you will find the bears. The natural drive inside them is to move up in elevation ( in areas where they can,) or maybe as they learned from the mother bear as cubs.

Over the years we eventually figured out the migration plan they had. Bears need to sleep at an elevation if possible higher then any mid winter thaw and rain can soak them and freeze them. They need high elevations to get a solid blanket of snow that will stay until March or early april. By coincidence this is also the same place that the berries are ripe last. When you find ankle or knee high berries above treeline, you will see bears there. They are most active middle of the day in the warm sunshine. They will curl up and hide when its cold or near frosty. Calling has been limited because they don't have much get up and go this time of year. They will lay up in a very berry rich areas.

When you find this place, do not wander around and stink it up with Human scent. Use your glasses and find the one you want to shoot first. Stalk from that point. When it's in the 80's at this elevation in Sept/ oct during the mid day sun. they may only be out in the sun 30 minutes at a time before over heating. Just because you glass and see nothing does not mean they are not there. They are just sleeping in the shade under a bush. Be patient and glass every inch over and over. Great glasses are at their best advantage in this type of hunting. Seeing into the shadows is critical.

Stalk from above and with the wind in your face whenever possible. You get far less winded hurting down hill then up. A racing pulse does not make for a steady shot. With this in mind stay high, or as I have written many times, when in doubt go up. it's usually easier to stalk quietly down hill too.

Hope this helps, any questions I'll check back and see if I can help further. This does not apply on the coast where there is not easy access to higher elevations. ......Oh, just for your interest. In spring, they bail out of these higher places and head to low elevations looking for salmon berries, dandelion flowers, horse tail shoots, and skunk cabbage roots. These are plentiful in late April and May, then they chase springtime heading back up in elevation as the berries ripen higher and higher.
 
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wawhitey

wawhitey

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191
I think I can help you with this.

I have worked in a professional capacity with the bears of Wa. State and much of the PNW for much of my adult life. I was the wildlife manager for Weyerhaeuser tree farms in all of Wa. for 12 years, and for the Washington Forest Protection Association as well. I mention this not as an arrogant or boastful statement, but rather so you can understand that I have more then a sportsman's basic understanding of this topic.

The Bears of Wa. and much of the west side of the cascades through BC and Oregon as well are migratory. Its why you see them in one place in one month and then they are gone. When I was running my guide business with bait stations, and I had 60 stations using 90,000 lbs of feed on 360 thousand acres every season with three employees working for me. There was little that I could do to keep bears on y baits by Sept 15th. Drums of meat, Purina Bear chow, doughnuts, crates of apples, candy, etc. Nothing would keep them locked onto the feed at 500 feet elevation. They would migrate up to the elevations that held natural foods like blue and huckleberry bushes.

We had collared bears that we could track and follow to see where they were. At times they were on my bait stations for 3 weeks every single day, then out of the blue in Mid Sept they were gone. Out comes the tracking device and we see they are now at 5000 feet in knee high blue berries. I eventually came to the conclusion that by Sept 20th if you can find Mtn goats you will find the bears. The natural drive inside them is to move up in elevation ( in areas where they can,) or maybe as they learned from the mother bear as cubs.

Over the years we eventually figured out the migration plan they had. Bears need to sleep at an elevation if possible higher then any mid winter thaw and rain can soak them and freeze them. They need high elevations to get a solid blanket of snow that will stay until March or early april. By coincidence this is also the same place that the berries are ripe last. When you find ankle or knee high berries above treeline, you will see bears there. They are most active middle of the day in the warm sunshine. They will curl up and hide when its cold or near frosty. Calling has been limited because they don't have much get up and go this time of year. They will lay up in a very berry rich areas.

When you find this place, do not wander around and stink it up with Human scent. Use your glasses and find the one you want to shoot first. Stalk from that point. When it's in the 80's at this elevation in Sept/ oct during the mid day sun. they may only be out in the sun 30 minutes at a time before over heating. Just because you glass and see nothing does not mean they are not there. They are just sleeping in the shade under a bush. Be patient and glass every inch over and over. Great glasses are at their best advantage in this type of hunting. Seeing into the shadows is critical.

Stalk from above and with the wind in your face whenever possible. You get far less winded hurting down hill then up. A racing pulse does not make for a steady shot. With this in mind stay high, or as I have written many times, when in doubt go up. it's usually easier to stalk quietly down hill too.

Hope this helps, any questions I'll check back and see if I can help further. This does not apply on the coast where there is not easy access to higher elevations. ......Oh, just for your interest. In spring, they bail out of these higher places and head to low elevations looking for salmon berries, dandelion flowers, horse tail shoots, and skunk cabbage roots. These are plentiful in late April and May, then they chase springtime heading back up in elevation as the berries ripen higher and higher.

wow a lot of good information, i appreciate the thought out response. however, it seems that my area is a little different. you say in mid september they go higher up in elevation and get into blueberries and huckleberries. around here all the huckleberries and service berries are dried up by september 1st when our season opens. in july and august i see them everywhere from 3000-5000 feet around here, but by september they seem to disappear from the high areas like that, as there are no berries left. everybody who has lower private property, like 2000-3000 feet, says they have them coming around their orchards / plums / hawthorne bushes in september. i just dont have access to those food sources that i can find. well last night anyway it was raining and very unpleasant out so i decided to be a lazy ass and go sit in my truck and watch a big draw where ive seen bear / cougar / big bucks moving. after about a half hour of glassing up the draw i spotted a small chocolate sow at 350 yards, laid out prone in the rain with my rifle rested on my backpack, and made the shot. so got lucky again this season, but i still feel like thats all it is, luck. if i could hunt them in august here, or draw a spring tag, id feel like i would get a bear because i would KNOW where to find them at those times. i guess i just need to keep trying to find an area with a lot of wild plums and hawthorne or something that would be a big food source for them this time of year.
 

gonhunting247

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wow a lot of good information, i appreciate the thought out response. however, it seems that my area is a little different. you say in mid september they go higher up in elevation and get into blueberries and huckleberries. around here all the huckleberries and service berries are dried up by september 1st when our season opens. in july and august i see them everywhere from 3000-5000 feet around here, but by september they seem to disappear from the high areas like that, as there are no berries left. everybody who has lower private property, like 2000-3000 feet, says they have them coming around their orchards / plums / hawthorne bushes in september. i just dont have access to those food sources that i can find. well last night anyway it was raining and very unpleasant out so i decided to be a lazy ass and go sit in my truck and watch a big draw where ive seen bear / cougar / big bucks moving. after about a half hour of glassing up the draw i spotted a small chocolate sow at 350 yards, laid out prone in the rain with my rifle rested on my backpack, and made the shot. so got lucky again this season, but i still feel like thats all it is, luck. if i could hunt them in august here, or draw a spring tag, id feel like i would get a bear because i would KNOW where to find them at those times. i guess i just need to keep trying to find an area with a lot of wild plums and hawthorne or something that would be a big food source for them this time of year.

Your area seems similar to ours, in that the bears are in the huckleberries earlier(august) and move down through the choke cherries, acorns, mountain ash, blackberries, elderberries then the fruit. They seem to consistently work old clear cuts for old stumps and logs with bugs in them as well as digging ground nest's for bee larvae. Bears are where the food is, with some food definitely higher on the list. I think some bears migrate a long distance for food sources, while others will stay a lot closer and earn a living in a smaller area. It's probably an obvious statement, but IMO, boars will cover a lot more ground, while sows cover less with the cubs. Also, if you mark a bear in an area a certain time of year, it will probably be there a similar time the next year as long as the environmental conditions are similar. Bears seem very habitual to food sources and stay pretty consistent to learned behavior. (whether learned as a cub or learned due to some other factor.)
Back on your subject, I think your exactly on the right track. Look to find any accessible food sources, or maybe even more importantly, find accessible staging areas for those food sources. These staging areas are over looked a lot of times and will sometimes provide opportunities for a couple reasons. One being that the food source may require the bears to be too exposed, so they will wait on the fringes to access them after dark( especially after any pressure) and two being that a lot of time the super tempting private land food sources are limited, causing the bears lower on the pecking order, to hang out and feed on less desirable food sources while waiting for an opportunity at the other ones. Lastly the the draw you took your bear in, or ones like that, are perfect to watch. I don't see your success necessarily as luck, but as a smart way of adjusting to the situation. Those are prime areas, whether it be a staging area, a travel corridor or just a good food source in itself (Bears eat a super diverse diet, not just the main ones we pay the most attention to.) If you have a good spot that bears are using, being there consistently and being patient will usually pay off. I know guys that sit in the same locations year after year and more often than not they hang their tag on a bear.
One last thought is that as these resources get used up and it starts getting in to late Oct., early Nov. the bears seem to start to disperse and gradually make their way up(as stated in one of the posts above) towards their denning elevations and locations, eating any available food source on the way there. I think this time period is the hardest to tag a bear, other than the incidental take, while deer and elk hunting. Each area is different though and in your area this timing might be good for the area available for you to access. I'm sure each area is different due to many environmental and other factors, but maybe some of the characteristics here can be applied to your location.
Anyway good luck and as I stated above I think your on exactly the right track!
 
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wawhitey

wawhitey

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5000ft? Treeline?

5000 ft is about as high as it gets here in my area, and there is timber all the way up. the berries are all long gone by september except for the elderberries stick around. they dont seem to be much of a draw though, but i think the bears eat them a bit after they start freezing.
 

gonhunting247

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5000 ft is about as high as it gets here in my area, and there is timber all the way up. the berries are all long gone by september except for the elderberries stick around. they dont seem to be much of a draw though, but i think the bears eat them a bit after they start freezing.

Definitely sounds similar to the area I'm in. It seems like they only use the elderberries as a fill in on the way to other sources or when other sources are used up. As stated above, I think your on the right track, looking for staging areas or food sources closer to the big draw of the current food sources.
 

pdrake

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@JJ Hack: Your information is extremely valuable.

We are dealing with two completely different areas, however. The far NE corner of WA (the Panhandle of Idaho is very similar) has lots of bears, and NF acreage up to about 5,000'. Huckleberries are abundant in the late summer, but by September the berries are completely gone, and the bears are gone, too. Just last week I hunted the ID 'reduced non-resident bear' tag, and saw not a single animal. I share WAWhitey's frustration.

On the other hand, I also run cameras on the very wet side of WA, in territory similar to the WeyCo property that you used to manage. I have gobs of bears on my cameras in certain seasons, but come Sept/Oct/Nov, the bears are gone (our general season runs from August 1 to November 15). My cameras are at 3,000', generally the highest point in the unit.

From your post I learned that bears migrate a long distance. Perhaps they just leave the areas, and I should try to find a completely different area for them during the autumn hunting season???
 

JJHACK

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I live in Wa. State and in Elisrass South Africa
Bears move more then anyone would believe.

I trapped bears right near 1-90 in snoqualmie. Moved them to the south east side of Ross lake with ear tags in each ear numbered for easy ID.

Many times within 10 days to 2 weeks they were on our cameras back exactly where they were captured. These bears became known as "double dippers". Once recaptured they were put down. It was a high expense to move bears that far to nearly the Canadian border from I-90 !!

It was common to have bears on a camera one week and 20 miles away on another camera within that same month. Then back again in a few weeks. Bears wander a huge area and have tremendous homing skills
 

Bar

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5000 ft is about as high as it gets here in my area, and there is timber all the way up. the berries are all long gone by september except for the elderberries stick around. they dont seem to be much of a draw though, but i think the bears eat them a bit after they start freezing.

Yes, I suffered the same thing. We have huckleberries at 11,000ft here. I had found lots of them earlier in the year with the plan of still hunting into them in Sept hoping to find a bear with a mouthful of berries. No such luck. Bushes were dried up, lots of old bear scat full or berries, and the bears were gone.
 

pdrake

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Bears move more then anyone would believe.

I trapped bears right near 1-90 in snoqualmie. Moved them to the south east side of Ross lake with ear tags in each ear numbered for easy ID. Many times within 10 days to 2 weeks they were on our cameras back exactly where they were captured. These bears became known as "double dippers". Once recaptured they were put down. It was a high expense to move bears that far to nearly the Canadian border from I-90 !! It was common to have bears on a camera one week and 20 miles away on another camera within that same month. Then back again in a few weeks. Bears wander a huge area and have tremendous homing skills

Holy Cow! That is fascinating. That is amazing: A bear could move through the rugged Cascades from Ross Lake back to Snoqualmie in 10 to 14 days?!? This would probably explain where the bears have gone. Thanks so much JJ Hack.

@ WA Whitey: I think you now have your answer. The bears have moved on (to somewhere...). You/we just have to find the "autumn feeding areas," because the summer areas will not be the same.
 

JJHACK

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I live in Wa. State and in Elisrass South Africa
I want to be clear on this as I'm aware of how things can be questioned on this site.

A two week trip across the cascades from Ross lake back to snoqualmie has happened, more then one time.

It's not the norm or typical. Only what has been observed as possible. It's been more typical to happen within the same summer period. However just because we don't know they are back sooner does not mean they aren't. We would only know if the bear was harvested, seen on camera, or captured in damage control. There was the ability to glass one in the berries as well. Those big red ear tags were easy to see.

Just know on the west side it's wet and miserable all winter. These bears want a dry place to sleep. On the east side it's dry and much colder. They can find a place to spend the dormant period at lower elevations.
 
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wawhitey

wawhitey

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Well it sounds to me like the reason I have trouble finding bears in September might just be that a majority of them move out of the area I am hunting. I guess that is more acceptable than the thought that I may just be grossly incompetent. I figured this was the case, as from april through august every one of my cameras has bears on a regular basis, it seems like more bear than deer, and I am not baiting my cameras. But as soon as September hits, bears on my cameras are very sporadic, just the occasional bear passing through. Maybe people here just need to start lobbying for the August 1st opener that everybody else in the state has. Certainly our September opener has a lot to do with our overly high bear population, and our very low elk calf recruitment. It seems to me that one way to help the elk herd, which would feed this states "precious" wolf population, and in theory lessen livestock depredation, would be to decrease our bear numbers, which could be done if we had the same opening day / 2 bear limit that the west side enjoys. From what i hear our 4x minimum for whitetail came about from locals pushing for it, so maybe we could push for a better bear season too.
 

gonhunting247

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I thought this was kind of interesting and maybe fits under your topic.
I just spent the last couple days, deer hunting at 2,500 to 4,000 ft. level and even though a lot of bears are down by the orchards, a lot were up higher, concentrated on snow berry, elder berry and digging bee nests. I saw tons of sign and saw a nice bear each day. (The first was a 2 yr. old and the second was a big old coal black old boy.
 

Jesse Jaymes

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I've read JJHacks posts on various forums for probably 15 years now. He is not full of BS.

But I have suffered the same problems as many posts above me. And if whitey is speaking of 4pt minimums, we are in the same 'backyard'.

I generally see near 100 bears a year and keep a running log. It's been very hard for me to find a bear since mid September. Even bouncing across the roads in my travels. I too need to figure out the post-September Bear Blues

I see just soooo much food left standing. I have been looking over the same cuts filled with Elderberries for years. The go untouched. Lots of serviceberries still standing. Zero scat on the many miles of backcountry roads I travel daily. It's weird. Of course I am not saying they're all gone. But they are very difficult to find. 1st week of Sept, it's almost common to see them standing under every apple tree on a hillside. Not so much rt now
 
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wawhitey

wawhitey

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I think figuring out the september bear blues is figuring out how we can push for an August first opener like the rest of the state
 

washingtonalpine

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J hack some good info.

I would say that once the high country berries get ripe, often the same bears will hang around the same area as long as the food stays for the most part. I have one area 4 bears were in a particular area that I saw in August, same 4 bears in exact same area still as of last Saturday.
 

gonhunting247

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I want to be clear on this as I'm aware of how things can be questioned on this site.

A two week trip across the cascades from Ross lake back to snoqualmie has happened, more then one time.

It's not the norm or typical. Only what has been observed as possible. It's been more typical to happen within the same summer period. However just because we don't know they are back sooner does not mean they aren't. We would only know if the bear was harvested, seen on camera, or captured in damage control. There was the ability to glass one in the berries as well. Those big red ear tags were easy to see.

Just know on the west side it's wet and miserable all winter. These bears want a dry place to sleep. On the east side it's dry and much colder. They can find a place to spend the dormant period at lower elevations.

That's pretty cool that you had a chance to collar some of the bears and see just what they do, definitely an eye opener! From what I've read on studies done here in OR, it is amazing what some of these bears spend the winter hibernating in. I have also worked in damage control here(although not even close to what you have!) and find it interesting how bears can be hitting a spot so regular, then just disappear and not be seen again that year.
 
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