How to Spot-and-Stalk Spring Black Bears

What to do this spring? The logical choice is easy: A challenging, exciting, do-it-yourself, spot-and-stalk bear hunt.

by Nick Trehearne


Spring bear hunting has a rich heritage full of exciting traditions.

Spring bear hunting has a rich heritage full of exciting traditions.

Bow-bagging a deer, turkey, or maybe even a bear over bait, are all great accomplishments. But what should be your next step? For me the logical choice was easy: A challenging and exciting, do-it-yourself, spot-and-stalk bear hunt. With opportunities available both spring and fall across North America, there is nothing that should hold you back from sneaking up to a black bear at eye level. For me, this is the one hunt that I am not willing to miss each year—especially come spring. I consider this annual adventure a near-perfect transition between winter predator hunting and summer scouting. Don’t miss out. Spot-and-stalk spring black bears. This adrenaline-pumping spring hunt is surprisingly in reach—especially for those packing a hotspot-finding HuntStand app, and zeal for wild adventure.

Planning the Hunt

Last year, as the snow started to melt, I was getting the itch to once again hit the woods in search of a bruin with my bow. The season had not yet opened, but that didn’t matter—I was spending hours on my HuntStand app scouring maps, looking for areas that had the right contour and clearings, that would help them be among the first to experience “green-up.” Many late nights were spent pin-pointing where to go, as well as prime access roads, and following the weather patterns and wind direction to plan a perfect ambush. Soon I was set. All I had to do, was wait for April 1—opening day.

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The Hunt Begins

On our first morning out, it did not take long to run into our first snag. Although we had our travel routes figured out ahead of time with help from HuntStand, there was nothing that could have prepared us for the vast amount of blowdowns that were blocking access into our carefully chosen, remote area. Spring hunters everywhere should take note; blowdowns are a common occurrence when you’ll be the first ones accessing an area after winter comes to an end. Thankfully we had planned for the “worst-case” scenario and had packed a chainsaw, so we slowly cut our way deeper and deeper into the backcountry.

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Finally, Arrival

Finally arriving at our destination, there was no question on the game plan. For spot-and-stalk black bears in the early spring before the rut starts, the equation is quite simple: If you find the food, you’ll find the bears. Since we were able to get to a high vantage point that overlooked an old pipeline, as well as several nearby clear-cuts, we knew we’d found a good area. Although our first attempts at glassing the area proved fruitless, our confidence remained high. From the start it was obvious we had been able to locate the only area within miles that had “greened up,” and we found the area literally covered in dandelions. Discovering this fact would turn out to be every bit as valuable as spotting a big-bellied bear.

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Scouting for Bear Sign

The rest of the day was spent working over to the freshest growth, and exploring for any bruin sign. Upon arrival, it didn’t take long to cut fresh tracks and scat. With limited daylight leaving no time to investigate another area, we stayed put in hopes that a bear would show itself, but nothing emerged from the dense forest. Still with high hopes, but knowing that my hunting partner had to work, I opted to return solo the next morning. I had one of those gut feelings, which was helped along by the prime, isolated “new growth” location. I figured it was simply a matter of waiting out Mr. Bruin.

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Go Time

Anxiously heading out that following morning, it did not take long after arrival to locate a bear with my Nikon optics. My suspicions had been right and sure enough, there he was, feeding on dandelions in the middle of the pipeline. Eager to make it happen, I made a quick, aggressive stalk and within minutes found myself within 50 yards. I edged closer, inch by inch, in hopes of getting within 20 yards. Suddenly, it was “go time.” As I crawled closer, I looked up to gauge my progress—and saw the bear charging aggressively, right for me! Instinctively I came to full draw; as soon as my pins landed on black hair, I let the arrow fly. I hadn’t realized that the wind had begun lightly swirling; the bear must have caught my scent. Needless to say, I am thankful I looked up when I did!

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Bear Down

As the arrow buried into the bruin’s chest, he spun and darted back across the pipeline and into the bush. My experience with “head-on” shots has proven to be either extremely good or very bad, so I decided to sit back, calm my nerves, and call my hunting buddy to skip out on work and join the blood trailing. After all, I did not have a backup weapon, and it never hurts to have someone over your shoulder with a gun, when you’re on hands and knees looking for tiny drops of bear blood.

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The Track

Upon my bud’s arrival, we wasted no time getting on the bear’s trail. Sadly, it was not looking promising—the arrow had fallen out just a few yards into the brush, and there was virtually no sign of blood. Gridding back and forth for close to an hour, we finally found the first sign of blood roughly 100 yards from where the arrow had fallen out. At first, it was just a drop or two—then a steady trail. Following the blood trail for close to 500 yards, we were feeling quite skeptical. Suddenly my hunting partner caught movement 100 yards ahead. There the bruin sat, still alive, with his beady eyes staring right at us. Stumbling to nock another arrow before the bruin’s next move, I somehow managed to get to full draw and follow up with a vital shot—finishing the bear promptly.

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Prior to this hunt I had never even hunted this province, let alone the specific area. Here I was just a few days into the season, sitting next to my first British Columbia, DIY black bear. The feeling of accomplishment on a spot-and-stalk, DIY hunt is like none other—especially for a large predator like this one. It is almost a surreal feeling when all of your scouring of hunting regulations, pouring over maps, and many phone calls to local fish and game offices all comes together—especially early in the season!

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Plan Your Hunt

Regardless of where you’re located in North America, there are DIY black bear options available for spot-and-stalk hunters willing to travel. For US citizens, Idaho and Alaska are two of the most-popular destinations. Here, you’ll find great bear densities and even multiple tag opportunities in many state areas. For Canadians, Saskatchewan is without doubt a prime target for a DIY bear hunt. This is not to say that these select locations are the only areas to look into, but are good starting points if you’re looking to go it alone. Wherever your search takes you, you won’t regret it if you end up with an adrenaline-pumping hunt like the one I was fortunate enough to experience last spring. Are you ready for the DIY, spot-and-stalk challenge?




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