Spring bear hunting is dear to my heart – public ground bears roaming large tracts of rough country with limited hunting pressure.
I’ve been spring bear hunting in Idaho for the last seven seasons, learning the hard way. Limited on time, I spend the majority of my bear hunting efforts on the weekends and I save precious vacation time for fall elk hunting.
This year, the hard work paid off.
A Bear Hunter’s Playground
Northern Idaho is home to lots of National Forest land, wildlife, and predators. At the time of this writing, the Idaho Fish and Game department is doing their best to curve the population of cats, bears, and wolves; so in the particular unit I hunt, you can purchase two bear tags over the counter.
To get into bear country, you’re looking at several miles of driving through mud and snow before parking and hiking into merging basins.
In order to spot bears, you have to find places that they like to hang out. I glass the melting snow line, looking for places where cover isn’t too far and green grass and water are close by. I like to set up glassing stations (we use 20×50 Vortex Kaibabs on a tripod).
The rule of thumb is the longer you glass, the more bears you see. I bounce around gridding and rechecking likely areas where a bear can be caught feeding on a green hillside or abandoned logging road. If you have the wind in your favor and some fairly quiet stalking conditions, you can close quickly on grazing bears.
With the mild snow pack this season, my dad and I were able to get into one of my favorite spots quite a bit earlier than years prior. While checking for fresh peels, scat, and tracks we glassed up a beautiful black bear mowing down the spring’s first grass.
At just 29 yards away, my bear was completely unaware of our presence. I took the opportunity to get settled before taking aim at his black chest.
He turned broadside and I fired.
My orange Bohning fetching punched through the bear’s chest. The boar began to run and made it 200 yards from the hit before piling up in the bottom of the drainage.
For spring bears, I bounce back and forth between the Mystery Ranch Dragon Slayer and the Crew Cab system.
I like to use the Dragon Slayer for scouting or day hunting. Even with this smaller pack, I can still keep my bow, a tripod, and other important essentials stowed nicely while I cover ground.
For the pack out, I really like the Crew Cab set-up with its multiple pockets and straps. I can keep my bow on the back, a tripod on the side, and all my optics and gear stored neatly in addition to the bear meat.
This year, I was able to have my dad help pack the bear hide and meat out of the steep canyon.
The Adventure Continues
Each year I learn more and more about bears, their behavior and how to find areas that they cannot resist. You learn their patterns. You become better at reading signs and deciphering age and quality.
Bear hunting keeps your hunting senses sharp, your broad-heads dialed and keeps you in great elk shape. With elk hunting season a long way off, it’s a date with the mountains and the hunt is just enough to get me by until fall…well, almost.
About the Author: Dan Staton is an avid bowhunter from Washington State. He owns CrossFit Spokane Valley. You can keep up with him at ElkShape.com or follow him on Instagram: @danthefitnessman
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