5 Hotspots For Spring Black Bears

Despite its hulking frame, the big bruin moved silently through the forest as he made his way closer. Sitting high in a spruce tree I watched the brute slowly cut the distance until he was just 25 yards away.

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

When it comes to offering up a wide variety of prime spring hunting opportunities, and good chances at color-phase bruins, Canada is tough to beat. Here are tips to help narrow your search.

CappsBear600As the sound of a snapping twig broke the eerie late-evening silence, I slowly turned my head to scan the forest beside me. Now on full alert, my heart skipped a beat when I saw an approaching bear so large it reminded me of a Volkswagen Beetle. To top things off, the bear’s thick coat was a beautiful, rich chocolate-brown.

Despite its hulking frame, the big bruin moved silently through the forest as he made his way closer. Sitting high in a spruce tree I watched the brute slowly cut the distance until he was just 25 yards away. The bear then paused, sitting on its haunches and staring off into space—seemingly distracted—so I used the sleepy interlude as an opportunity to slowly lift my shotgun and find the bear’s vitals in my scope. I leveled my crosshair and held steady; at the gun’s loud report the bear fell over without so much as kicking a foot. Adrenaline surged through my veins like an out-of-control freight train, and I was forced to sit down for fear of falling off my perch.

BearBed 600Hunting spring bears can be addictive, and I now consider it an annual tradition, as it draws me into remote northwoods settings every spring. And these days, the hunt makes sense for most anyone looking for wild spring adventure. With the current North American economy, a Canadian bear hunt is a truly affordable adventure; with the American dollar currently worth 25 to 30 percent more than the Canadian loonie ($1.00 Canadian coin) there is lots of buying power.

Indeed, your biggest obstacle may come in the form of too many good choices. Hunters who wish to sample Canada’s fine spring bear hunting must somehow choose from many prime opportunities in 13 provinces and territories. So, how do you narrow it down?

BearPaw600There are many considerations when it comes to bear hunting, so focusing on some aspects that are most important to you is the best way to whittle-down your options. Do you want to do a spot-and-stalk hunt, or would you rather sit silently on a bait site? Do you want long-range shooting opportunities using a special rifle and optics, or do you want to be “up close and personal” with your bow? Are you hunting for fun, excitement, and personal gratification, or are you a trophy seeker looking for the best-scoring skull possible? Is a color-phase bear important to you? Do you know the best areas for color-phase black bears?

Based on my experiences, here are five of the best places to book a spring bear hunt in Canada, providing solid options for most any hunter looking to put a big bruin on the ground. And if you go, remember to use your smartphone and HuntStand app to check wind direction and weather conditions, to ensure you’re headed to the right stands, and are toting the right clothing for the conditions. HuntStand’s recent expansion into Canada offers an ideal opportunity to educate outfitters, and campmates, on its many helpful features, including satellite views of stand sites and access trails.

The Pacific coast is well known for producing big bears. From Alaska to Oregon, there are plenty of good-sized black bears, due to the exceptional habitat. To improve your odds even more, have a look at BC’s Vancouver Island. The growing season here is longer than the coastal mainland, and with 1,658 miles of shoreline—encompassing rugged mountains and huge stretches of coastal temperate rain forest—it is a bear hunter’s dream. Add salmon in the streams and things couldn’t get much better. The long growing season means the bears are well fed and grow very large. Forestry activities have opened up pockets of mature trees and the cut-over areas, and associated logging roads, are bear magnets.

IslandBearsA hunt on Vancouver Island can be customized to hunt from a mobile boat base camp, hiking in from the beach, and you can also choose to stalk mountain trails and roads, offering many prime scenarios ready to challenge both long-distance shooters and up-close-and-personal, adrenaline-junky archers. There are a number of good outfitters on the island offering a wide array of hunt options. Bears are normally black in color with little to no chance of a color phase.

Recommended Outfitter: Vancouver Island Guide Outfitters

There are some unique “bear friendly” circumstances that come together in northern Alberta that make this area a must-see; fertile valleys through the boreal forest hold some of the most-northerly agricultural fields, on which are grown unusually productive cereal and other prime grain crops. Of course the local bears are drawn to the fields, and the bruins here also benefit from the natural bounty of the surrounding forest. This area claims to have the most sunshine of any agricultural zone in Canada, with close to 24 hours of daylight during the prime of the extremely long growing season. In short, the bears here are plentiful and can grow to be huge. A nice bonus for Alberta-bound hunters is receiving two tags with every license; even if you harvest a real bruiser you can still be in the game to find a bear bigger than you ever imagined.

ChocBear 600Another bonus is variety. Color-phase bears are abundant here, with many outfitters boasting a 25-percent success rate on bears other than black. Baiting is a popular way to hunt most zones, but where black bear populations overlap with grizzly bears the hunting is spot-and-stalk only. In other words, there is plenty of opportunity no matter what you want to hunt.

For More Info:
Alberta Professional Outfitters Society
Recommended Outfitters:
Red Willow Outfitters
W&L Guide Services (780) 635-2230
Grand Slam Hunting Adventures 

The northern regions of Saskatchewan are also unique, holding more than 10,000 lakes and linked waterways. Here you’ll find a mix of boreal forest and Canadian Shield, but the biggest thing hunters will notice is the lack of infrastructure. Most of the north country is absolute wilderness, and when bears are given a place to grow old, without ever being seen by man, you know there is prime opportunity to shoot a whopper. The record books show that northern Saskatchewan has good genetics, and consistently puts big black bears in the books. This is also a good place to head if looking for a color-phase bear.

One advantage you get when hunting Saskatchewan is the ability to hunt right into the rut. The season extends to the end of June, longer than in most provinces, making big boars more vulnerable. The days might be terribly long, but the hunting and opportunities will keep you focused.

Recommended Outfitters:
Family Wilderness Outfitters
Cree River Lodge
Lloyd Lake Lodge

Central Manitoba, especially the areas around Riding Mountain National Park and stretching to the north, is well known for its “big-bear” genetics. With the park as a source of big bears that can’t be hunted, the surrounding farmland and forest are a great place to target these brutes. Some of the biggest bears harvested in Canada come from this region, as shown in the Boone and Crockett records. The big bears stretch north through the Interlake Country, where baiting is the most-popular way to hunt and target bears. Bears do extremely well in this unique habitat of scrub oak, and boreal forest. A proliferation of big lakes and large blocks of wilderness areas are the final pieces of the puzzle to grow big bears.

Besides trophy-sized skulls, color-phase bears are taken here on a regular basis.

For more info:
Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association
Recommended Outfitter:
Steeprock River Outfitters

Way out on the east coast of Canada is Newfoundland. Anyone interested in hunting black bears would be remiss to leave it off a hotspot list. This large, rugged island is home to a number of big game species, and the black bear population is estimated to be as high as 10,000 animals. As you can imagine success rates here are high, and the province offers easy access for people in eastern North America.

Newfoundland bears are black with little chance of seeing a color phase. Baiting is popular in the densely wooded, hard-to-reach wilderness areas. These bears are known for their big heads and big bodies. Seasons run right into early July, giving you prime opportunity during the rut, when big boars can suddenly show up out of nowhere.

For More Info:
Newfoundland Environment and Conservation
Newfoundland Tourism

Recommended Outfitter:
Cyril Pelley, Island Safaris



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