first bear hunt, any suggestions?


April 6, 2009, 01:57 PM
I'm going for spring black bear next month in south west Montana. Will be hunting by myself. Been hunting for years, but this is the first try at a bear.

Any suggestions?

I know we can't use dogs or bait, so my current game plan is to trek as far into the selway wilderness as possible and hopefully find some sign.

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April 6, 2009, 04:36 PM
My friend hunted in Canada for spring bear, got a big one, but it was over bait. This is some things I remember him telling me...they are very quite, an said early morning an very late evening was about the only good time...without bait, look for a food source first...they will be hungry, try glassing open area's for a stalk.....good luck.

April 6, 2009, 04:54 PM
With all due respect, hunting alone is asking for trouble. Hunting bear alone is REALLY askin' for trouble - who the heck ya gonna kneecap ta leave behind while ya outrun the wounded bear?!?? ;)

Seriously, though - too many things can go wrong in the woods for me ta want to hunt solo.

April 6, 2009, 05:06 PM
Don't forget the bells and pepper spray.....

April 7, 2009, 03:30 AM
I don't advocate that anyone hunt alone, but I'll admit I've done it. Please be sure to leave copies of maps home with your game plan and don't deviate from it. Make sure that someone knows when to expect contact from you. Take all the safety measures you should.

I've never hunted Blackbear where Brownbears may be also coming out of dens so take special precautions. If I was to look for early/spring Blacky's in eastern Washington, I'd find that snow line and cut some tracks. If you know the area, you're looking for Deer birthing grounds and old clear cuts with rotted logs with bugs. Areas adjacent to wild flower meadows that will have beehives in the woods near by. Grasses growing on south facing slopes. Stay in or at the edge of the woods and glass as much territory as you can see. Blackbears don't hibernate like Browns do, but they do sleep for extended periods, so when they come out, they are hungry. They'll cover a lot of ground in one day foraging for food. Find the food, you'll find the Bears. Go where you've seen Bear scat before.

Be extremely careful if you encounter one in the woods at close range. Sows with cubs are what you really need to keep clear of. Keep track of the wind at all times.

You may try a Doe in distress call, or even a wounded rabbit call. (Killing Coyotes during Bear season is still fun!) Poor eyesight is an exageration. They can see you, but most of the time, they'll smell you long before you see them. If you see one Bear, you've probably scared off a couple already. Glass a lot, sit, listen. Bears are noisy eaters.

I assume that you've already studied the anatomy of a Bear. There are three possible shots to make. Heart, lungs, or spine. Often the heart shot is like the White tail Deer.... They don't know they're dead yet, so be careful. Lungs, Takes longer for them to bleed, they get to run more. Spine is the toughest kill. If lucky, it's the quickest kill. Bears don't always run down hill when shot. I don't know how many people told me over the years that they did.... I just ain't true.


April 7, 2009, 03:47 AM
Take a backup pistol, 44 Mag or larger.
Not a good idea to hunt by yourself.

April 7, 2009, 03:49 AM
Bear hunting is my passion. While I agree that hunting alone isn't the best, it is my usual habit.

Do you already have dates planned?

April 7, 2009, 05:02 AM
Don't miss!!!!!!!!!!!

April 7, 2009, 08:35 AM
You can do your hunt solo, no problemo.
Ive been looking for Browns and Blacks a our Arctic Spring aproches, but sinces its barly above Zero, it may be a week or two, before I get what I want, a nice FAT Bear to eat.

I hunt them alone often, and since Im the one with the gun, Im hunting them.
If the Bear charges you, the rifle your carrying is 9 outta 10 times the "one" your gonna defend yourself with, so a "back up" is not nessearry. Good to have handy in camp, for when your gathering wood, fishing, cooking, ect, but just dead weight when you have a much more powerfull rifle IN your hands....~~LOL!!!~~The rifle; he only "True" Bear Stopper.
As an Alaskan hat has eaten many many Bears, I offer you this;

take a gun you can hit with. The biggest "bear Gun" doesnt mean squat if you dont place the bullet right.
For Blacks .243W with 100 Grns will shoot right through them, for Brown, a .308W 180 gr. and up is my reccomendation, and I personally use a Finn SAKO Mosin Nagant M-39 with Czeck LPS FMJ steel core 7.62X54R on both, with NO problems. The round is a Bone breaker and hell of a tumbler.

Get confident in your shooting skill, and just go for it!~:D~

April 7, 2009, 10:39 PM
Keep your wits about you, Mate. There will be bears about so keep a sharp eye.


April 7, 2009, 11:40 PM
Biggest tip sounds dumb but ifls a must BE SURE of your shot. A bears can easily run a few hundred yards after a lung shot. About a hundred with a heart shot

We use dogs or still hunt if I have an option it's a head shot or neck. Then I go for heart

Ohio Gun Guy
April 8, 2009, 12:08 AM
Dont miss, avoid rubbing yourself in bacon, and "bare" hunting is not the same thing. :scrutiny:

April 8, 2009, 02:52 AM
I just got my latest North American Hunter magazine and there's an article in there about hunting bears without turning into the hunted, if you or any friend doesn't get it you can probably find it at the local library.

April 8, 2009, 08:20 AM
i would still carry a handgun as back up if possible. god forbid you get rushed from behind and don't have a chance to use the rifle. just remember Murphy's Law.

April 8, 2009, 11:32 AM
You can do your hunt solo, no problemo.

Well, yes, one can hunt solo, I do a lot. But one must be very careful. A small problem can turn fatal. A few years back, in an area near where I've hunted, a guy got his leg caught between two large rocks. He kept a journal until he died.

I've read on here, where many talk about how easy it is to shoot a bear. But when I talk with friends and hunters here in Wyoming, I hear about how people shoot them and never see them again.

On here, people shoot them with 243's and they drop dead. I know one guy that lives to hunt and has never brought a bear home even though he uses a 7mm and a good bullet. He has shot them, they just never stop running. Last year, I went with him one night to his bait site and he told me of several bears he has shot at that site that he never was able to retrieve. By looking at his game camera, he had several nice bears coming in and a moose.

I've noticed a difference in how they drop depending on the gun I use.

I'm curious why brighamr, the OP, hasn't returned to his thread that he opened.

April 8, 2009, 05:29 PM
Hey guys, sorry I didn't come back sooner. After the snow melts, my time online is minimal at best lol.

Wyocarp - dates aren't set in stone yet. Season starts next week. I live within 10 miles of the area I want to hunt but I just moved here during winter so I'm still pretty new. Been going over the NFS maps and trying to plot some likely courses... it's really going to be a guess and check game for spring at least.

I usually hunt alone, as my closest relative is 600 miles away and the closest "friend" is over 1000 :) Would love to have some company along but that's the way it is.

April 8, 2009, 08:40 PM
Remember that bears have a REALLY good nose. If you will be walking a lot to get to your area you will be generating human smell. I watched a 300lb bruin in ME for about half an hour last fall. He was sniffing the air, I thought he was coming to my bait, however it was me he smelled. I was expecting him to come in but he took off after he got the wrong smell. Easy to forget when hunting over bait that your scent control is important as is managing wind direction best you can. Good luck and be really careful hunting alone. Nobody tells the bear that the hunting day is over when you are walking out in the dark. Sow and cubs could be coming to your bait at that time of day and you don't want to get between them.

April 8, 2009, 10:35 PM
Remember that bears have a REALLY good nose.

There's always talk about their sight and their nose but I've never encountered a problem with either. I've surprised so many bears at very close distances that I hardly believe it. Mostly, I think they are not very good at multi-tasking. They often seem to be busy doing something, going somewhere, digging up something, or munching on something to be bothered with what is happening around them.

That is probably the biggest difference between spot & stalk and baiting. They seem to be more skittish when coming in on a bait. But, from what the OP stated, it doesn't sound like baiting is going to be his method.

brighamr, it's always nice for spring hunts for the dates not to be set in stone. Between weather issues and access problems, I find that I don't get out at the beginning of the season very often. One year recently, I had just days prior to May 1 (opening day), by chaining up and doing a lot of digging, was able to get in far enough to access the spot I wanted to hunt. On opening day, we received over 12" of snow and went snowmobiling instead. It was another couple weeks before I was able to finally get in there again. And, the first day I got into the drainage I was aiming for, there was a bear. I couldn't get him to come up the hill that day. My son and I stalked him for over a mile a week later and ended up right over the top of him, not twenty yards away without him having any idea we were there.

April 8, 2009, 11:08 PM
Bring a big gun :)

April 8, 2009, 11:15 PM
thanks for the responses fella.

Wyocarp - totally agree. If you don't mind me asking, what elevation do you normally hunt during spring? Have you written up any of your hunts or do you have any pictures? I'm just getting excited :)

Weather's been pretty good over here. I'm right at 5500' and most everything's dryin. Course it can snow anytime from here to December lol.

April 9, 2009, 11:28 AM
brighamr, yeah, I don't know what I was thinking. Montana is a bunch lower in altitude. If I were to hunt at 5500 in Wyoming, I wouldn't need a gun. Maybe a shovel. Here on the plains, in the town of Laramie is 7200. And although we had a bear in town a couple of years ago, they aren't common. My favorite bear spots are in the far north-western part of the state. In April of last year, I went searching for a bait barrel that I have used in the past, mostly for pictures. I snowshoed in, found the tree it is wired to, and dug down in the snow about 5 feet to get to the top of the 55 gallon drum.

Snow drifts and mud often stop me until the end of May. The whole month of May is hit and miss. That leaves only two weeks in June in Wyoming. It is possible to hunt at lower elevations, I just don't prefer that. Currently, I really want to find a blonde colored bear. My son I followed one around once but he was too little.

When I look for new areas I spend some time looking at topo maps and google earth.

As for stories, I've written some of them up. My wife, son, and I had a very exciting bear hunt last spring. I'll have to dig up the story and post it.

You haven't mentioned what gun you are going to use.

April 12, 2009, 07:54 PM
Thanks for the reply wyocarp. I was thinking higher elevations. Actually got to fly over the wilderness in a Cessna, didn't see any bear but we did spot a few hundred elk :) Also gave me a pretty good view of the terrain, etc.

I'm not sure which guns I'll bring yet. My options for rifle are a BAR or a 30-30 carbine or possibly a mosin.

I could be pursuaded to buy a new gun for the opportunity, but wouldn't really know what to get (people have recommended .243? up to 30-06).

April 12, 2009, 08:21 PM
Let's see....yer gonna be dealin' with an animal that can kill ya if they're wounded......Ah'd say minimum 30-06 ta a 7 mag.

But, that's just me...

April 12, 2009, 11:23 PM
155mm Howitzer and my ex wife.:D

April 12, 2009, 11:37 PM
brighamr, about calibers and gun choices. You probably need to determine at what distances you will be shooting. I've never had to shoot more than 100 yards to get a bear and most of my shots have been less than 30-50 yards. With that in mind, I skip the whole scope thing and carry a nice lever action or a pistol.

155mm Howitzer and my ex wife

Joe, so your ex wife likes bear hunting? Just kidding, I'm surprised that you didn't suggest a .25 caliber handgun and your ex wife.

April 12, 2009, 11:56 PM
wyocarp ya got me, how about a Daisey Red Ryder bb gun that has extreme rust issues and the barrel has been cut to 1 inch?:)

April 12, 2009, 11:59 PM
Joe, so your ex wife likes bear hunting? Just kidding, I'm surprised that you didn't suggest a .25 caliber handgun and your ex wife.

Kneecap the ex an' run? :D

Eliot Smith
April 16, 2009, 02:49 PM

where are you living in SW Montana? I too have just begun to bear hunt and perhaps we could go together. I live in Helena.

I went out on the opener but I think there was too much snow for the bears to have too much to eat in the area I went. I've heard that they do not come out in force until they have more food available but, as I said, I am inexperienced.

April 17, 2009, 12:33 PM
Hey Eliot,

I'll be hunting the bitteroot-selway wilderness, west of darby. I tried to get out yesterday, but could only get so far due to snow. I'm thinking the real chances will be in May after the bears wake up and start foraging.

If you're up for a trip west, I'd be happy to have some company!

April 17, 2009, 02:36 PM
I say 'go for it, but use your head'. One issue I like about solo ops is you have only yourself to agree with. I'm more of an Eastern guy but I'd think you would want to get away from human activity & keep watch over some more open slopes with some bear sign in the area. Leave your location with someone & expected return. When you leave your base, truck or camp, have a little gear to stay out overnight & return after dark if need be. I don't think I'd lug around a 3lb sidearm if I have my trusty rifle. I would want something if I was to pack gear or game either way without a rifle.

It would be an adventure even without cooperation from a bear. Maybe check out some varmint regs, marmot, coyote, etc..

Big Bill
April 17, 2009, 02:45 PM
Watch for bears to come out and graze in grassy spots in the morning and evening. And, Good Luck with the hunt.

April 17, 2009, 03:08 PM
I would suggest a good pair of bin oculars and a good long range rifle. Glass the southern slopes where the grass is the greenest. The bears will be eating a lot of grass when they come out of hibernation. A good bi-pod might come in handy also.Stay downwind. GOOD LUCK

Eliot Smith
April 17, 2009, 06:32 PM

I will back in MT on May 3rd, after a vacation east. I'll let you know then. I think I could be persuaded to travel west for some bear hunting. Good luck till then!

April 17, 2009, 11:27 PM
I tried to get out yesterday, but could only get so far due to snow. I'm thinking the real chances will be in May after the bears wake up and start foraging.

As I said earlier, that's why, even though I am very excited every year to start hunting, I try not to get too serious until we get into May a little. Like right now, I have a new bear rifle and I'm excited but we got about 12 inches in town last night (I don't know what that means for the mountains).

April 18, 2009, 01:20 AM
Ya need the ex-wife along to carry around the sack of bacon sandwiches!

Just kidding, I'm not a hunter. I couldn't imagine what I'd do with several hundred pounds of dead, stinky bear. Or how I'd get it out of the woods. Or how I'd get in there to begin with.

John Peddie
April 18, 2009, 12:03 PM
.30-30 or similar will work fine on black bears. If you may encounter bigger species, you might want more gun. Shot placement is worth more than calibre, as with most animals.

Remember that bears can be curious. They don't see well, but smelling and hearing are very good. I've often whistled at a bear 50 yards away. Bear stands up to look, presenting a stationary vertical target.

Also, bears can really motor on flat ground or uphill. Downhill, they can be clumsy and even somersault if they try to run. Most won't try. Many that I've heart-shot went at warp speed for 100 yards or so on flat ground, then dropped "dead".

Finally, for any larger animal and especially if alone, if you approach a "dead" bear, do it from the rear / spine side. Never from the front or belly.

Stand at least 15-20 feet back, with the gun at your shoulder, safety off, and watch for chest rising and falling or other movement. First one I ever shot, I waited like this for at least 10 minutes. I was only 18 years old and forty miles from any help, and knew enough to be super careful.

Bears are inherently shy, but a wounded one with enough strength for one last paw swipe (at you) is the most dangerous one. They are very strong and smart.

April 18, 2009, 12:15 PM
I've never hunted dangerous game, but I would be concerned about not having someone watching your back while caping your kill. Sure seems like you will have a lot of scent in the air when you start cutting on your quarry. I am assuming you will be carefully bagging your trophy cape in plastic to contain the scent? Would not be good to be leading a parade of hungry opportunists back to camp.

April 18, 2009, 12:26 PM
Shot placement is worth more than calibre, as with most animals.

I totally disagree. I'll take the "big" gun every time.

Ya need the ex-wife along to carry around the sack of bacon sandwiches!

Maybe a salmon sandwich with a few slices of bacon would even be better. And the salmon should be ripe and the bacon should be covered in the grease from the skillet.

April 18, 2009, 12:46 PM
If you're hunting alone, you might want a GPS and some way to call for medical attention if you need it.

April 18, 2009, 01:29 PM
i'd suggest in a GPS locating beacon since you'll be alone. something similar to what back country skiers use for avalanche danger.

if you dont want to throw down the cash for one, there are some places that may rent them out.

May 1, 2009, 01:08 PM
In May start watching areas where deer and elk calve. Nothing brings in a bear faster than a newborn deer or elk. One year I registered and hunted a bait site in a "sleeper" area, a small old growth forest, with 2 drainages converging. Had seen tracks there previous Fall while hunting elk.
The back meadow was also a calving area for elk. This was a good spring bait site in the Bridger Tetons.. Had a huge blackie consistantly come in, leave scat, claw up trees up high, but only at night it seemed, because I never saw him. One week I changed my tactics. I baited the barrel the evening before. Then the following O'dark thirty. I parked way back on a 2 track, and walked a great distance to the stand. About shooting light he came, but from behind my stand, not the down the trail he had previously marked. I saw him out of my periphery vision, so I began turning around on the stand to set up my shot. I fell out of the stand, binoculars smacking me in the face all the way down, as I was grabbing at branches to slow my fall. I had forgotten to attach my harness, heehee.

May 1, 2009, 02:02 PM
sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well... the bar, he eats you.

May 9, 2009, 04:35 AM
If your hunting alone go to your local sporting goods store and buy one of those "SPOT" beacons they are amazing cost like $100 and track your position and have the IMPORTANT help button. Plus when you get home you can look at how you traveled and use it to plan later trips.

As far as all the other hunting stuff sounds like you know your way around that part, I guess my only other advice would be to check out your area enough so you know if you can afford to wait for the big alpha or you need to take what you can.

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