Northwestern Montana is one of my choices for top bear hunting in the Lower 48 if you’re looking for an economical, unguided hunt. Only spot-and-stalk hunting is allowed, but bears are so numerous that you can often see a half-dozen or more from your pickup. Of course, you can also see Venus from your pickup. The big question is whether or not you can physically get to a distant bear, and how much time you’ll have to get there before it ambles off into timber or you find yourself out of shooting light.

I’d look at the region north and west of Missoula, generally in the area east of the Idaho border. For an economical hunt, you can base out of a public campground in a national forest and hunt along hundreds of miles of logging roads, many of which are closed to traffic.

My favorite strategy is to park at a gate and hike the roads where there’s been recent logging activity. Bears are easier to spot in clear-cuts. If those logged-over areas are not fresh, however, clear-cuts quickly grow in, and visibility might be almost zero.

One word of caution: Hunting early in the season might not be productive if there are heavy lingering snows, since bears might delay their appearance from dens.