Spring bear hunting can be an exhilarating and challenging experience for any hunter. With their solitary nature and low population density, bears can be tough to spot and even tougher to stalk. However, by understanding their food preferences and using that knowledge to your advantage, you can narrow down your search and increase your chances of success. Here are some tips to help you master the art of spot and stalk bear hunting in the spring.
Understanding Bear Food Sources
Bears are omnivores, but up to 85% or more of their diet may be plant-based. They have an inefficient digestive system when it comes to breaking down plants, so they are selective eaters and seek out food that has the most nutritional benefit. This means they will target new buds, berries, and mast crops like acorns and pine nuts in the fall.
In the early spring, food sources may still be limited as most of the range is covered in snow. This can actually be a great time to hunt bears as there are fewer areas they are likely to be found. High country avalanche shoots and lower country with early growth are productive areas. Dandelions, for example, can be one of the best bear magnets as they are nutrient-dense when other sources of food may not be in good supply.
Locating Productive Areas
When scouting for bears in the spring, visually look for neon green areas that are abundant in nutrient-rich growth. These areas may include snow lines, open areas, edges in the timber, along logging roads, and in burns. In the alpine, focus on openings near the snow line and below where new growth of skunk cabbage can be found. In timbered country, clear cuts and old logging roads can be productive, especially in lower country where there can be early growth of clover, dandelion, and grass. South slopes may also hold a concentration of food, including some berry species that held through winter. Additionally, creek and stream areas where overwinter rose hips remain are good locations for bear activity.
As the spring progresses, food sources become more available and spread out. Bear may start digging more starch roots like glacier lily, balsam root, and sweet vetch of the open high country. Any pocket of greenery is a sure bet bears will seek it out as a food source. Later in the spring, fawns and calves become an easy meal for bears, so locating elk calving areas can be a great place to concentrate efforts.
Tips for Successful Spot and Stalk Hunting
Once you've located an area where bears are likely to be feeding, it's time to employ your spot and stalk skills. Here are some tips to help you be successful:
- Use Binoculars Constantly: Invest in a good pair of binoculars and use them on a tripod to help you scan the area for bears. This will help you spot them from a distance and plan your approach.
- Grid the Area: a tactic of glassing back and forth across a large area can help you pick bears out. Concentrate your efforts by focusing your time looking in the highest productive feeding areas.
- Be patient: Spotting bears can take time. Get comfortable and don't rush. You may be sitting and glassing all day for one bear to step out in the open. I like to think of bear hunting as days of glassing for moments of exciting spotting.
- Watch the wind: Bears have an incredible sense of smell, so it's important to watch the wind direction and make sure you are downwind of the bear.
- Plan your shot: Before taking your shot, make sure you have a clear and ethical shot placement. A well-placed shot will ensure a quick and humane kill. A wounded bear can be hard to find. Make your shot count.
Spring bear hunting can be one of the most exciting hunts out west, but it can also be one of the most difficult to master. By focusing on food sources, being patient glassing you are on your way to finding more spring bears.
I’ve been doing deep dives on all of your podcasts, and one thing that I hear come up a lot is about changing wind patterns depending on location, time of the day, temp., etc. I was wondering if reading and anticipating wind patterns is something you could do a full podcast about?