Bears are one of the hardest big-game animals to field judge. To the untrained eye, bears simply look bigger than they are. Also, black bears are on the average much smaller than many hunters realize. While black bears can reach weights of 500 pounds, the average animal is closer to 150-200 pounds. Anything over 200 pounds is considered a good bear.
Many a disappointed hunter has shot a bear he thought weighted 250-300 pounds only to discover the animal barely scaled in at 150 pounds. One of the most consistent means of judging bears is to pay close attention to their ears. The difference in ear size from an adolescent bear and a huge adult animal amounts only to a millimeter or two. If a bear appears to have long ears, it’s probably because his head is small in proportion. Large bears have huge heads with ears that are barely visible.
The neck is another good clue to overall bear size. If the bear has a distinctive neck, the animal is almost certainly a young bear. Adult bears have necks that are as large or larger than their head. When seen from a distance a huge bear appears to have no neck at all, but rather a head that simply runs into his shoulders.
Tracks are another good way to judge the size of bears. An adult bear has a front paw print that measures four inches or more across the pad. Very large tracks are a sure sign that an adult bear lives in the region.
Bow Hunting Tips
Black bears are a challenging target for the bow hunter. Because of bears’ physical make-up, the broadside shot isn’t the best option. A bear’s vitals are well protected by his massive legs and shoulder blades.
A bow hunters best shot is at an animal quartering slightly away. An arrow that strikes the arm pit area and angles up into the chest cavity is a deadly shot. Most bears shot in this fashion travel less than 60 yards. A poorly shot bear can travel for miles.
The best broadheads for bears are heavily constructed fixed-blade versions with cut on contact designs. Because bears have long hair that soaks up blood like a sponge, a three- or four-blade broadhead that cuts a nice hole is preferred.
A few broadheads ideally suited to bear hunting include the Rocky Mountain Advantage and Titanium, New Archery Products Thunderhead, Hoyt Top Cut, and Satellite Titan.
Bow hunters who choose to watch a bait need patience. Large bears have huge home ranges. Once a bear visits a bait, it could be days before he visits again. In the spring when bears are mating, an adult boar may travel many miles a day in search of a receptive sow.
If You Go
If you decide on a black bear hunt, keep in mind that it takes several years to produce a quality black bear. Areas with moderate to high hunting pressure rarely produce monster bears.
Wilderness areas that see little hunting pressure are the best bets for both trophy bears and numerous bear sightings. Labrador and Newfoundland are two of the premier bear hunting areas in North America. Throughout much of this region bears are rarely hunted. Those animals that do get shot are often trouble seeking bears that make a habit of raiding camps and dumps. A good contact in this region is Alonzo.