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To most sportsmen, spring means gobbler hunting—the challenge and thrill of enticing a wary tom into shotgun or bow range. But there’s another quarry lurking out there, with seasons running in April, May, and June, one that kicks the adrenaline level up a notch—Ursus americanus, the black bear. Almost all Canadian provinces, plus eight western states, offer spring black bear hunting for one to three months when the dogwoods bloom and bruins emerge to forage for trillium, glacier lilies, ants, winter kills, and carcasses left by trappers throughout the West and Canada.

This hunting has so much variety and excitement, and it is unlike any other big-game pursuit. You can hunt bears from houseboats and cabin cruisers in tidal inlets, stalk them along sucker streams, glass across canyons in the Rockies, or hunker near bait and watch as night descends and the biggest boars roam the woods searching for food to fill their winter-shrunken bellies.

Author and his biggest bear—a 7 footer B&C bear from Vancouver Island, 500 lbs.
The author and his biggest bear—a seven-footer, B&C bear from Vancouver Island that weighed over 500 lbs. Gerald Almy

As a veteran of dozens of successful—and a few unsuccessful—bear hunts throughout North America, I can attest that the excitement of bear hunting never dies out. It brings a special anticipation as spring arrives each year. And with North American bear populations approaching 1 million, there’s never been a better time to take up this sport.

No, none of us would want to give up chasing gobblers in spring. But bears definitely have a lot to offer. Licenses are available over the counter in a number of states and most provinces, and many outfitters still have last-minute hunts available. Success rates often run higher than for spring toms. And if you’re not a good caller, no worries. All you have to do is shoot straight.

Once you’ve felt the adrenaline rush of a bear hunt, I bet you’ll be for life like me. Here’s where to go and what to expect this year when you take on the spring bruin challenge.

States That Allow Spring Bear Hunting

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
Men on boat with binoculars.
Glassing for bears from a houseboat or cabin cruiser base camp is great tactic in Alaska and BC. Gerald Almy

Alaska

Estimated Bear Population: 100,000

Harvest: 1,731

Limit: One to five bears depending on game unit.

Website: adgf.alaska.gov

Season

Various dates for different units starting in April. Some areas are open year-round, though hunting is limited by winter denning.

Overall Outlook

Bears occupy three-quarters of Alaska’s landmass. How good is the hunting? Consider this: Some areas have no closed seasons and limits of up to five bears per year. Not only does Alaska offer large numbers of bears, it has big bears. Over 230 have made the Boone & Crockett record book. In most areas, you can buy over-the-counter licenses. “Black bears occur over most of the forested areas of the state,” says Wildlife Technician Erik Bollerud. “They can be found from sea level to alpine areas. In southeast Alaska, black bears occupy most islands with the exceptions of Admiralty, Baranof, Chichagof, and Kruzof. Those are inhabited by brown bears.”

Potentially Good Areas

For the most and biggest bears, concentrate on thick coastal regions. Kuiu Island is a good bet for a record-book animal, but Prince of Wales produces more such animals than any other location in the world—nearly 100 to date. With its huge population, however, bear hunting is good pretty much anywhere in the state where the animal is found.

Tactics/What It’s Like

Fly-in hunts are a good option for a bear adventure in Alaska. So are boat hunts based in a mother ship with smaller craft used to reach shore. Glass and stalk inland backpack hunts are also popular, and some areas of the state allow the use of bait. “Be prepared physically and mentally for tough weather, difficult terrain, isolation, and weather delays,” Bollerud says. “All are normal features of many Alaskan hunts.”

Tip for Success

Do your homework to determine the best areas and times to hunt. Purchase reliable equipment, and practice with it ahead of time.

Arizona

Estimated Bear Population: 2,500

Spring Harvest: 27

Season: General: March 20 to April 30, 2020; Archery: May 1 to July 31, 2020

Limit: One bear

Website: azgfd.gov/bearhunting

Overall Outlook

“Spring bear hunting is looking very good,” says April Howard, Predator, Furbearer, and Large Carnivore Biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. If the low kill total seems shocking, Howard says, “Only 10 to 15 percent of our bear harvest comes during spring.” That means plenty of lightly pressured areas. Better still, she adds, “Many spring hunts offer over-the-counter licenses.”

Potentially Good Regions

Howard points to Units 3C, 23N, and 27, with strong and growing bear populations. The heaviest bear densities occur in the interior chaparral and pinyon-juniper woodland areas of the state. These range from 4,000-8,000 feet and provide abundant food for the bears. Gila County is a hotspot for B&C bears, with a number of record book entries.

Tactics/What it’s like

Dogs and bait are not legal. Hunters glass and stalk, still hunt, and call to harvest bears. This state is legendary for being a great place to call. The go-to sound is that of a bawling fawn, but rabbit in distress and other predator sounds can lure in a hungry bruin too. Just be sure to position yourself on a rock or ledge where you can see a good area and a bear can’t sneak in behind you. Sometimes animals charge in fast and close before the hunter sees them. Be ready.

Tip for Success

Howard recommends pouring over the information on the game department’s website, to plan your hunt and uncover where the oldest trophy bears are coming from. With relatively sparse populations, hiring a guide is wise for your first trip if you can.

A large chocolate color phase bear taken in Idaho.
A large chocolate color phase bear taken in Idaho. Ben Romans

Idaho

Estimated Bear Population: 20,000-30,000

Spring Harvest: 1,905

Season: April 15 to July 15 or July 30, depending on the area

Limit: One bear; two in select GMU’s; (Non-resident deer and elk tags may also be used to harvest a bear.)

Website: idfg.idaho.gov

Overall Outlook

Bear hunting should be great in Idaho this spring, according to Katherine Oelrich, Carnivore Biologist for the Idaho Fish & Game Department. “Spring has come early here in most of the state, so I would suspect bears will be out long before the season starts looking for green-up food,” she says. All three major bear hunting methods are used here—baiting, stalking, and using hounds. “Over the past two years, 60 percent of bears harvested were taken off of bait sites, 22 percent by stalking, and 13 percent by hound hunting. Licenses are available over the counter and also by draw for controlled hunts. Bears can be hunted in 84 of Idaho’s 99 Game Management Units.”

Potentially Good Spots

“The most bears are taken in the Panhandle Region units 1, 4, and 6, Clearwater Region units 10A, 10, and 12; and Southwest Region units 24, 33, and 39,” according to Oelrich. For the chance at a record book bear, Idaho County is tops.

Tactic/What It’s Like

This is a great state for classic spot-and-stalk hunting. There are plenty of mountainsides where you can glass across canyons, concentrating on south-facing slopes, and then plan a stalk. “Southern Idaho has more open landscapes and less forest cover for glassing than northern Idaho,” Oelrich says. That also is the best bet for a color-phase bear. “Color varies with the amount of solar radiation exposure. Bear coats in open arid southern Idaho are predominantly brown. In the thick forested northern Idaho region, they are predominantly black.”

Tip for Success

“Springtime is filled with mixed weather conditions,” Oelrich says. “Be prepared for snow, slush, rain, mud, and sunshine. Research road access and conditions before you go.”

Gerald Almy glassing on National Forest land in northwest Montana.
The author glassing on National Forest land in northwest Montana. Gerald Almy

Montana

Estimated Bear Population: 13,000

2019 Spring Bear Harvest: 856

Season: April 15 to May 31 or June 15, depending on the region.

Bag Limit: One bear

Website: fwp.mt.gov/hunting

Overall Outlook

“Bear populations are relatively stable in Montana,” says Neil Anderson, Program Manager with the Wildlife Division. “They can be found on private and public land, and western Montana has a lot of public land to hunt. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks also has a Block Management Program that provides hunting opportunities on private property.”

Bear licenses are available online, at regional FWP offices, or at local distributors such as sporting goods stores. Licenses purchased during the season cannot be used for 24 hours after purchase. Completion of an online bear identification test is required before a license can be purchased, to make sure hunters know the difference between grizzlies and black bears.

Potentially Good Regions

“Bear numbers and densities are higher in the mountainous areas of the state, but good numbers exist in most of western Montana,” Anderson says. Kootenai National Forest is one of my favorite spots and the Flathead NF is also a great bear destination. Fergus and Meagher counties produce the most B&C bears.

Tactics/What It’s Like

Baiting is illegal, but Montana lends itself perfectly to spot-and-stalk hunting. Just make sure you’re in shape. On one of my recent spring hunts here, we climbed 2,000 feet in elevation to glass distant hillsides—then saw a gorgeous blonde bear right down in the valley where we’d been an hour earlier. We scampered down quickly, lost track of that bear, then saw another big black bear high above on a distant ridge. We climbed again and lost him too. We finally caught up with the first bear at dusk—back down in the valley.

Tip for Success

“Planning is the best way to have an enjoyable hunt,” Anderson says. “Do your homework and prepare for variable weather conditions. Black bears are difficult to field judge for size. Take time to learn what to look for if you are after a large bear. Be prepared, take the bear ID test, and plan for hunting in areas that could have grizzly bears. We recommend carrying bear spray when hunting. Most of all, enjoy your time in Montana. It is an amazing place.”

A large black bear wandering through an open field.
It’s difficult to field judge the size of a black bear, so take your time. skeeze from Pixabay

Oregon

Estimated Bear Population: 20,000-30,000

Spring Harvest: 671

Season: April 1 to May 31

Limit: One

Website: dfw.state.or.us

Overall Outlook

Oregon first declared the bear a legal game animal in 1925. In 1943, it was removed from the game animal list. In 1970, it was added again and a statewide season was set with a limit of one bear. “Mild winters could mean earlier emergence, providing a longer season and increased opportunities for success,” says Wildlife Biologist Derek Broman. “Bears are hunted in most of western Oregon, the Cascade Mountains, and the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon.”

Potentially Good Area

“Northeast and southwest Oregon have the best hunting opportunity, but a few new areas have been added to current hunt boundaries in northwest and central Oregon that should be good,” Broman says. “The Cascade Mountains and Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon are always good.”

Tactics/What It’s Like

Oregon does not allow dogs or bait. This is spot-and-stalk country. “Good optics are especially helpful in eastern Oregon where topography and vegetation allow hunters to search long distances for bears,” Broman says.

Tip for Success

“Scouting is extremely helpful,” Broman says, “but it should not be done too far in advance of a spring hunt due to the often drastic changes in temperature, vegetation, and green-up.”

Utah

Estimated Bear Population: 1,200

Spring Harvest: 152

Season: Most areas May 23 to June 28

Bag Limit: One bear

Website: wildlife.utah.gov

Overall Outlook

Although many hunters don’t think of this state as a great bear hunting destination in the West, Utah has a thriving population of bruins. In 2018, some 365 bears were killed in both the fall and spring season combined, with 228 of them males. Leftover permits are available for draw units that weren’t sold out after March 12.

Potential Good Areas

The Book Cliffs, Manti Mountains, Wasatch Mountains, Central Mountains, La Sal Mountains, Nine Mile, Blue Mountains-Elk Ridge Area, Fishlake Mountains, and Uinta Mountains are all good. Of these units, La Sal and San Juan routinely produce the largest number of bears. For the outside chance at a record-book bear, head for Sanpete County. It has yielded two of the top 20 B&C bears in the world and three of the top 40.

Tactics/What It’s Like

Utah is a prime state for using bait because the bear population isn’t extremely dense. A good bait will draw in animals from long distances. A persistent hunter on horseback or foot can also find bears by using the spot-and-stalk technique. Note that some limited-entry areas do not allow bait. Check the regs carefully. Also, hunters must take an online bear orientation course before purchasing a license.

Tip for Success

Don’t be afraid to try calling if you’re in a good unit and know bears are around. It’s a great way to draw them out in the open for a shot or allow you to put a stalk on once you locate them. Just make sure you wait for a big one. There are B&C bears roaming here. Some of them might be world-record class.

bear next to barrel in forrest.
A chocolate color-phase bear hitting a bait barrel. Ben Romans

Washington

Estimated Bear Population: 20,000

Spring Harvest: 97 in spring, (483 total for the year)

Season: April-June, with dates varying by specific area and hunting unit. If you missed the draw, fall season opens soon—August 1.

Limit: Two bears per year, one in spring

Website: wdfw.wa.gov

Overall Outlook

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Communications Manager Samantha Montgomery rates the spring 2020 season as an “eight on a scale of one to 10, since we had a mild winter and food resources should be plentiful.”

Potentially Good Regions

Bears are abundant and hunted statewide except the Columbia Basin. The top four Bear Management Units for Washington are Coastal, North Cascades, East Cascades, and Northeastern, with 200-300 bears killed per unit including the fall seasons. Though most hunting is on public land, you might do well to focus on private property in areas where bears are a problem.

Tactics/What It’s Like

If you want a color-phase bear, this is a good place to find it. But you need to focus on the right region. “Color phase is related to forest type,” Montgomery says. “West of the Cascade Mountains, only about 10 percent are color phase, whereas east of the Cascades, it is closer to 60 percent. Spot-and-stalk is the most common method of taking bears here. Washington law prohibits the use of baiting or hounds.”

Tip for Success

Find a high ridge or bench where you can glass across canyons. Use 10X binoculars to search for bears and a 20-40X or 20-60X spotting scope to analyze fur quality and bear sex and age.

Hunter with a large color phase black bear.
Washington state is a good place to find a color phase bear. Ben Romans

Wyoming

Estimated Bear Population: 2,300

Spring Harvest: 277

Season: April 15 to June 7 or May 15 to June 15, depending on the area

Limit: One bear

Website: wgfd.wyo.gov

Overall Outlook

Thousands of outdoorsmen hunt during Wyoming’s spring bear season, with 10 to 20 percent of them using a bow and the rest using a gun. The 10-year average is 212 to 300 bears taken each spring. Non-residents have a 25-percent success rate, residents 10 percent. “A general license can be purchased over the counter,” says Sara DiRienzo, Public Information Officer for Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Harvest is controlled by a female harvest limit that closes the season for each area when the limit is met.”

Tactics/What It’s Like

Bait hunting is popular, with up to two baits allowed per hunter, which must be registered and identified. If a grizzly hits them, the Game Department must be notified immediately. Spot-and-stalk hunting is also fun and productive here. On my hunts in Wyoming, I like to combine the methods, glassing mountainsides and grassy openings in mornings and watching bait in evening.

Potentially Good Regions

Hunt Areas with high bear kills include Burgess Junction, Northwest Bighorn, Laramie Peak, Unita, Sierra Madre, Snowy Range, Grey’s River, Green River, Hoback, Absaroka, Gros Ventre, and Lander. “Bear populations are generally highest in the northern and northwestern corner of the state, however, all major mountain ranges in Wyoming have stable to increasing populations of black bears, with good to very good hunting opportunity,” says DiRienzo.

Tip for Success

“Hunters should be aware of regulations regarding the prohibition of baiting in some areas of northwestern Wyoming within or adjacent to the Grizzly Bear Primary Conservation Area,” DiRienzo says. “Details are on the game department website.”

Canadian Provinces That Allow Spring Bear Hunting

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
Black bear on the back of a four-wheeler ATV.
Spring bear hunting in Canada is a great option for hunters who do not have such a season in their home state. Gerry Bethge

Alberta

Population Bear Estimate: 50,000-60,000

Harvest: 2,122 (for the year)

Season: April through June

Bag Limit: Two bears

Website: mywildalberta.ca/hunting

Overall Outlook

Bears occupy some 179,000 square miles in Alberta, which is about three-quarters of the province’s landmass. “They are present in mixed woodlots and farmland and deep, heavily forested areas. With little pressure and so much territory to hunt, the outlook is excellent for this spring’s season,” says Jess Sinclair, Press Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Parks. Thirty years ago there was little interest in bear hunting. Now, due to the province’s abundant animals, two-bear limit, and large-sized bears, it is extremely popular both among residents and guided non-residents. The top record book animal from Alberta scored 22 9/16-inches, which is very close to world record status.

Potentially Good Regions

Along the Peace River and its tributaries, the boreal forest, and parkland regions are the most consistent bear hotspots, as are the mountain foothills. The greatest bear densities are in the northeastern region, with populations of up to 370 bears per 1,000 square kilometers. Wildlife Management Units with good bear harvests and success rates, according to statistics Sinclair provided, are 336, 338, 347, 349, 350, 351, 356, 359, 360, 420, 426, 500, 504, 509, 517, 518, 519, 520, and 521. Areas that produce the most B&C bears include Nordegg, Cold Lake, Peace River, Grande Cache, Spirit River, Fox Creek, and Flat Lake.

Tactics/What It’s Like

Alberta hunters use a wide variety of tactics from still hunting to glassing-and-stalking to watching bait. The hunt this province is famous for, and my personal favorite tactic, is float-hunting rivers such as the Peace and its tributaries. Using rugged, stable jon boats outfitters provide camp equipment, food, and transportation for a true northern adventure. You’ll float 4-7 days and glassing for bears as you go, and stop to still hunt and glass some areas more carefully. But many bears are spotted from the boat.

Tip for Success

If you spot a bear, resist the urge to go right after it. Often if you go onto shore on the side where the bear is, you won’t be able to see it in the thick cover. Instead, head for the opposite shore where you can see better and spot the bear’s reaction after the shot. Use a flat-shooting cartridge and good optics for these cross-river shots.

A black bear at a bait barrel.
A black bear at a bait barrel. Ben Romans

British Columbia

Estimated Bear Population: 120,000-160,000

Harvest: 4,411 for the entire year

Season: Early April to mid-June

Limit: Two bears

Website: env.gov.bc

Overall Outlook

This province ranks as one of the world’s top bear hunting destinations with its huge bear population. According to the Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks, British Columbia is home to one-quarter of all the bears in Canada. Seeing multiple bears per day is routine, and there are no predators other than hunters and the occasional grizzly. The Kermode (white) and Glacier (blue) subspecies of bears may not be hunted. “The outlook for this spring is excellent,” says Dawn Makarowski, Media Contact for British Columbia Forest Lands & Natural Resources.

Potentially Good Areas

Vancouver Island offers outstanding bear hunting. Also, consider Queen Charlottes Island. The wetter coastal areas and western third of the province have the densest bear populations. The eastern areas of BC have fewer bears, with the northeast corner having the least of all. Areas that have recently been logged are hotspots, as there is plenty of food that attracts bears and it’s easier to glass.

Tactics/What It’s Like

With baiting illegal, this is a glassing, stalking, and still hunting mecca, with bears so abundant you’ll see anywhere from two to a dozen virtually every day. Vancouver Island is a hotspot. Still-hunting there along a logging road yielded my biggest spring bear ever—a massive 7-footer that topped 500 pounds and made the B&C record book. Drive trails and timber roads to glass from high points or simply set out on foot. The most fun tactic of all is a houseboat-based hunt along the many tidal inlets. You’ll have a nice warm bed, refrigerator, stove, toilet, and small aluminum boats to use when you head to shore for the stalk after a good bruin shows up. For inland hunts you’ll need to cover more ground, hiking high and glassing slope-to-slope, in valleys and near streams.

Tip for Success

“This is one destination where it pays to be choosy,” says legendary bear guide Wayne Wiebe. “You’ll see multiple bears daily. Wait for a big one. Killing two bears is definitely doable.”

Manitoba

Estimated Bear Population: 25,000-35,000

Spring Harvest: 1,400 (out of 2,000 total for the year)

Seasons: Last Monday in April to mid-June

Limit: One bear

Website: huntfishmanitoba.ca

Overall Outlook

“Manitoba is a great destination for black bear hunters,” says John Neufeld, spokesman for the Ministry of Sustainable Development. “There are good opportunities in the province to harvest a big bear, as well as color phase bears of brown, blonde, or cinnamon.”

Potentially Good Areas

Neufeld recommends the areas around Riding Mountain, Interlake, Duck Mountain, and the southeastern part of the province. There are fewer bears in the southwestern region. Areas that have given up B&C bears include Makinak, Russell, Birdtail Creek, Rossburn, Pelican Lake, Swan River, and Valley River.

Tactics/What It’s like

I’ve mostly used muzzleloaders for my many Manitoba bear hunts. That’s the weapon I had when I bagged a gorgeous cinnamon bear there hunting with the Hastings Brothers. The cover is so thick in most areas that bait is by far the method of choice. The great thing about these hunts besides ubiquitous bears and a two-bear limit is the fishing. Smallmouths and walleyes inhale flies and lures on hundreds of lakes throughout the province. Catching one-hundred smallmouth bass in a morning is routine in some areas, leaving plenty of time for the evening hunt.

Tip for Success

You can be choosy here. With 25,000-35,000 bears, its good to wait for a color phase or a particularly large bear. Licenses are available over the counter or electronically beginning in April.

Hunter with a large black bear.
Baiting is the preferred method of hunting in the dense forests of Manitoba. Gerry Bethge

New Brunswick

Population Bear Estimate: 17,500

Spring Harvest: 1,462; 1,863 total for the year

Season: April 20-June 27

Limit: Two bears if two licenses are purchased

Website: www2.gnb.ca

Overall Outlook

“Bear hunters should have an excellent spring hunting season,” says Abigail McCarthy, Director of Communications for New Brunswick Natural Resources and Energy Development. “Last fall there was an abundance of both hard and soft mast available as forage for bears, so the animals should be coming out of their dens in top condition,”

Potentially Good Regions

Areas in the northern part of the province and away from development hold the most bears. New Brunswick is 50 percent private and 50 percent crown land, where anyone with a license can hunt. New Brunswick doesn’t produce many record book bears but Rogersville is a good place to look for a big bruin. It has produced B&C animals in the past.

Tactics/What It’s Like

In certain areas, still hunting or spot-and-stalk are viable, but most hunters (85 percent) use bait to attract New Brunswick bears, according to McCarthy. Booking a qualified outfitter almost guarantees shooting opportunities on several bears. “Non-resident bear hunting licenses are available through application to a random draw or by purchasing directly from guides who qualify for an annual allocation of non-resident licenses,” says McCarthy. Hunting with dogs is illegal.

Don’t come here looking for a color phase bear, but if you find one it would be a unique trophy. McCarthy says, “About one in 1,000 (0.1 %) have the light brown color-phase, often combined with black feet and/or ears. The rest are black, often with a white blaze or “V” on the chest.”

Tip for Success

“Be prepared to use bug repellant or other anti-insect devices after the third week in May, as blackflies and mosquitoes can be abundant during times best for hunting.”

Ontario

Estimated Bear Population: 85,000-105,000

Spring Harvest: 1900

Season: May 1 to June 15 in most areas.

Limit: One bear, except that a few second bear tags are available occasionally to residents when population levels permit.

Website: www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-natural-resources-and-forestry

Overall Outlook

“Ontario is home to a healthy black bear population,” says Jolanta Kowalski, Senior Media Relations Officer at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. “The population is stable except for a decline in the Bruce Peninsula. The government is reducing hunting there. An average of 19,000 resident hunters and 5,000 non-resident hunters pursued bears in Ontario over the last ten years. Average resident success was 16 percent and the average non-resident success was 57 percent. Almost all non-resident hunters used licensed bear operators, which helps explain the higher success rate.”

Potentially Good Areas

The farther you go from major population centers, the more bears you will encounter in Ontario. The northwestern and north-central parts of the province are especially good, but a quality outfitter in any part of Ontario should be able to put you onto multiple bears over a 5 to 7-day hunt. Pencil Lake has produced B&C-caliber bears.

Tactics/What It’s Like

“Baiting is a popular tactic and it is a regulated activity under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act,” says Kowalski “Adult male bears in Ontario typically weigh 250-600 pounds while adult females weigh 100-300 on average.” Besides lots of bears, expect to enjoy some prime walleye and northern pike fishing mixed with sumptuous shore lunches before the evening hunt.

Tip for Success

For a different approach to baiting, ask your outfitter (before booking) whether you can try stalking up to several different baits in an evening to break the monotony of watching one spot for the whole hunt. Sometimes if you start late in the day you can sneak up to a bear as you approach the bait, adding some extra excitement to the hunt.

hunter with black bear.
Quebec, like many other Canadian provinces, has dense forests full of bears. Gerry Bethge

Quebec

Estimated Bear Population: 70,000-75,000

Spring Harvest: 4,230

Season: May 15 to June 30

Bag Limit: Two bears, but only one in spring

Website: Mffp.gouv.gc/ca

Overall Outlook

Bears are ubiquitous in Quebec, harassing campers and raiding garbage dumps and trash containers behind houses. “The hunting outlook for this spring is excellent,” says Catherine Ippersiel, Director of Communications for the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks.

Potentially Good Regions

“The Lake St. Jean region, Temiscamingue, and the eastern Gaspe Peninsula are always productive bear hunting areas,” says Ippersiel. “Good bear harvests are also made in the Mauricie, Capitale-Nationale, and Cote-Nord regions.” Along with that, the Echouani Lake area gave up a B&C bear to one lucky hunter.

Tactics/What It’s like

Quebec is a vast expanse of thick forest. Unless you spot a bear crossing a logging road on the way to your stand, hunting over bait is the only way to go. I’m always a bit embarrassed when the subject of Quebec bear hunting comes up. On one of my earliest bear hunts I pierced the ear of a 350 pound boar right at the cusp of darkness with my .30-06. The hunter on that stand the following week killed that otherwise healthy bear and found a clean 30-caliber hole through his left ear. In my defense, the bait was placed further than the chip-shot range most outfitters set them at.

Tip for Success

Most Quebec outfitters offer quality walleye and pike fishing along with the evening bear watch. Bring plenty of spoons, spinnerbaits, and jigs. And pack lots of bug dope.

Saskatchewan

Estimated Bear Population: 43,000

Harvest: 2,773, (1,850 by non-residents)

Season: April 15 to June 30

Bag Limit: One, except two for residents in certain zones

Website: Saskatchewan.ca/Hunting

Overall Outlook

The outlook is excellent in this large central Canadian province, with the bear population steadily expanding from northern forested regions into fringe and agricultural areas. Wildlife managers are eager to keep their numbers in check because of conflicts with landowners and farmers. Bears have also impacted moose populations in certain northern regions and prey on whitetail deer. “The conditions for hunting bears should be optimal as there are lots of bears on the landscape,” said Jamie Gibson, of the Ministry of Environment. The province gives up some of the biggest bears anywhere, with lots of B&C entries. At one time it held three of the top 20 bears in the B&C Record Book.

Potentially Good Areas

“The majority of bear hunting is on public lands,” says Gibson. “Bears are found in the aspen parkland, boreal transition, and boreal regions. They are not found in grassland regions. Harvest success rates are good along the boreal transition zone and in the adjacent aspen parkland regions, particularly from Meadow Lake southeast through Hudson Bay.” Good areas for finding a record bear include Bronson Lake, which gave up a 22 11/16-inch bear, as well as Porcupine Plain, Gronlid, and Arran. All have given up 22-inch-plus bears.

Tactics/What It’s Like

About 20 percent of Saskatchewan’s bears are color phase. If you’re seeking such a bear, let your outfitter know ahead of time and he may locate a chocolate or cinnamon boar using a particular bait and hold that stand for you. Like most Canadian bear hunts, fishing is usually available and offers a great way to spend mornings.

Tip for Success

“Hunters who are able to scout and get bait out early usually have the best results,” says Gibson. Licenses are available over the counter, online, or through your outfitter. If you’re interested in a record book animal, Saskatchewan may be your best bet of all.

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