The black bear is one of the few animals that can be hunted in both the spring and fall seasons. Despite their name, black bears come in a wide variety of color phases including brown, blond, blue, and of course basic black.
Even though many states and Canadian provinces offer two seasons, these magnificent animals see only a fraction of the hunting pressure directed at other big-game animals. Ironically, black bears are abundant throughout most of their range. In many regions one license entitles the hunter to harvest two bears! In addition many of the hunting techniques used for bears are ideally suited to those who hunt with stick and string.
Still, few hunters have enjoyed the challenge and excitement of black bear hunting. The first step towards planning a black bear hunt is to decide upon a spring or fall trip.
Both spring and fall hunts can be very productive and trophy quality is about equal. Fall bears tend to average 70-100 pounds heavier than spring bears, but unfortunately overall weight is only good for bragging rights. The real trophy measurements for bears (the skull size and overall pelt length) change little from spring to fall.
During the fall bears feed voraciously to build a fat layer for their winter sleep. Seemingly always hungry, baiting and setting up a nearby treestand is a popular technique for hunting fall bears. Unfortunately, baiting tends to attract primarily young bears as opposed to the huge adults most hunters seek.
Adult bears can be taken over bait during the fall, but doing so requires the hunter take great caution to keep human scent at a minimum. Bears often circle a bait pile before coming in to feed, making it critical to keep your body and clothing as scent free as possible. Scent free laundry and body soaps, spray-on scent dissolving agents, and scent collecting clothing such as the Scent Lok suit are all excellent investments for the bow hunter after bears.
It also helps to position treestands well above the ground. Stands should be at least 15 feet above the ground and 20 feet is even better. If stands are placed higher than 20 feet, the shot angle becomes very steep and most hunters have a tendency to shoot high.
A fall hunt should also be planned early enough that bears won’t have entered their winter dens. In many areas of the far north, bears are heading for the den before October 1, whereas in the southern part of their range, bears are often active into December.