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Category Archives: Black Bear Hunts

Hunting Bears With Bows – Decoy Tactics

Trophy boars are smarter than your average bear. But even the savviest old bruin has a few chinks in his armor. Using a decoy is an exciting way to exploit them. Even weary old black bears will come in spoiling for a fight. Here are three strategies for drawing a dominant, hungry bruin into bow range.

 1

The Intruder
Big boars are solitary animals and will claim a food source as their own, commonly defecating along entrance trails to warn other bears away. To get this bear’s attention, stake a small bear decoy near the food source, positioned with its head down and its backside facing the direction you expect a boar to approach. Attach a few strips of black cloth to the decoy’s ears and tail for added realism and collect some bear scat from another area—preferably from a boar—and with a plastic bag, transplant it on the entrance trails.

Now sit back. Any wise old boar that might otherwise camp just off the food until nightfall is almost sure to investigate when he sees your “intruder.” Keep in mind that a boar may visit a food site daily or stop by every second or third day while patrolling his home turf. Be patient, and don’t let your guard down.

2

The Easy Meal
Black bears are fond of fresh meat and will drop their guard to capture an animal in distress. Any small, furry decoy, like those used for foxes and coyotes, wiggling about in plain sight is sure to catch a passing bear’s attention. With a little luck, the bruin will move in quickly to finish off what he thinks is hapless prey. If he hangs up, though, add a few squeals from a dying-rabbit call to entice him.

If whitetail deer are prevalent in your area, a fawn decoy can be too much for any hungry black bear to ignore. Try a few fawn contact bleats, and if that fails, go to a fawn-in-distress call. Nock a broadhead and get ready. The bear will come in fast, so be prepared to shoot pronto.

3

The Feeding Female
You’ll have to wait a few months to use this setup, but it’s a good one to have in your arsenal. Black bears rut in late spring and early summer and will visit bait sites, looking for a sow in heat. If baiting is legal in your area, position a small black bear decoy with its head in the bait barrel, and hang a few scent canisters soaked with sow-in-heat urine 3 or 4 feet off the ground nearby.

Big boars are ultracautious around bait, so odor control is critical. As you’re setting up, wear rubber gloves and spray the decoy down liberally with a quality scent remover. The boar will approach the decoy warily. Don’t rush the shot. As he investigates, you should have plenty of time to draw.

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Hunting Bears With Bows – Decoy Tactics

Trophy boars are smarter than your average bear. But even the savviest old bruin has a few chinks in his armor. Using a decoy is an exciting way to exploit them. Even weary old black bears will come in spoiling for a fight. Here are three strategies for drawing a dominant, hungry bruin into bow range.

 1

The Intruder
Big boars are solitary animals and will claim a food source as their own, commonly defecating along entrance trails to warn other bears away. To get this bear’s attention, stake a small bear decoy near the food source, positioned with its head down and its backside facing the direction you expect a boar to approach. Attach a few strips of black cloth to the decoy’s ears and tail for added realism and collect some bear scat from another area—preferably from a boar—and with a plastic bag, transplant it on the entrance trails.

Now sit back. Any wise old boar that might otherwise camp just off the food until nightfall is almost sure to investigate when he sees your “intruder.” Keep in mind that a boar may visit a food site daily or stop by every second or third day while patrolling his home turf. Be patient, and don’t let your guard down.

2

The Easy Meal
Black bears are fond of fresh meat and will drop their guard to capture an animal in distress. Any small, furry decoy, like those used for foxes and coyotes, wiggling about in plain sight is sure to catch a passing bear’s attention. With a little luck, the bruin will move in quickly to finish off what he thinks is hapless prey. If he hangs up, though, add a few squeals from a dying-rabbit call to entice him.

If whitetail deer are prevalent in your area, a fawn decoy can be too much for any hungry black bear to ignore. Try a few fawn contact bleats, and if that fails, go to a fawn-in-distress call. Nock a broadhead and get ready. The bear will come in fast, so be prepared to shoot pronto.

3

The Feeding Female
You’ll have to wait a few months to use this setup, but it’s a good one to have in your arsenal. Black bears rut in late spring and early summer and will visit bait sites, looking for a sow in heat. If baiting is legal in your area, position a small black bear decoy with its head in the bait barrel, and hang a few scent canisters soaked with sow-in-heat urine 3 or 4 feet off the ground nearby.

Big boars are ultracautious around bait, so odor control is critical. As you’re setting up, wear rubber gloves and spray the decoy down liberally with a quality scent remover. The boar will approach the decoy warily. Don’t rush the shot. As he investigates, you should have plenty of time to draw.

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Sighting in Your Rifle

So you’ve acquired a new hunting rifle. After saving your hard-earned cash and landing permission from your other half, the gun rests in your hot little hands. It looks great, feels great… it probably smells great… but more importantly does it shoot great? Now its time to hit the range and get this baby sighted in.

Truth is the same holds true for rifles we’ve had for many years. Chances are they don’t require the full-meal-deal, but sighting in, confirming that our equipment is in good working order, or realigning sights is something we should do on a regular basis.

Unfortunately many of us try to kill two birds with one stone. We visit the range infrequently and attempt to sight in and practice shooting all at the same time. It’s important to remember, sighting is very different from regular shooting practice. The process of sighting in involves aligning the scope (or other sights) with the firearm when using a specific bullet and load. Shooting practice involves discharging and often experimenting with different positions to allow our bodies to grow accustomed to the form and function of shooting.

k_wilson_sighting_in2Believe it or not, many of us don’t sight in properly. It never ceases to amaze me how many hunters pick up their guns once or twice a year, assume it’s shooting straight and hit the woods without a second thought. As a professional outfitter I see it all the time. In fact, I’ve seen guests take it personally when, after arrival in camp, I ask them to take a few practice shots – just to make sure their gun is properly sighted in. As though I’m insinuating that they haven’t prepared for their hunt, once in a while I get a hunter who thinks I’m a control freak. Then the truth comes out. After a few shots it becomes obvious; better than half are inevitably in need of scope adjustments. Every one swears that they were shooting one-inch groups at home, but now their rifle requires major scope adjustments. In their defense, a multitude of things can happen to guns in transit. Blunt trauma to cases or directly to the scope itself can throw it way out of whack; hence the need to sight it.

To be honest many of us are guilty of not maintaining our rifle and scope. If you shoot regularly that’s one thing; you’re constantly checking it and tweaking the scope when necessary. In reality, most of us don’t. By in large, recreational hunters pick up their guns a few times each year. Whether you’re tuning a brand new rifle or confirming the accuracy of an old one, here are a few tips for sighting in:

1) Bore sight your rifle before shooting
k_wilson_sighting_in3This first step applies mostly to rifles and scopes that have a new marriage. The first time a scope is mounted to a rifle the gunsmith will usually use a bore sighting tool. This tool is used to approximately align the crosshairs of the scope with the rifle barrel. Unfortunately some folks erroneously rely on bore sighting alone to zero their gun. Remember bore sighting can be precise but most often it only approximates accuracy. If, when you visit the range, you discover that you’re not even hitting the paper at all, consider rough bore sighting your gun. Practical with bolt-action rifles, by removing the bolt, you can stand behind the gun, look through the barrel and center the target. Then without adjusting the gun, look through the scope and make the necessary adjustments to bring the crosshairs in alignment with the target. This should get you hitting the paper in no time, then you can move on to shooting.

2) Shoot from a stable platform and rest
To reliably confirm the accuracy of your rifle and scope, you must shoot from a rest. I’m not sure I should say this or not, but I will. To illustrate the naivety of some, I’ve actually witnessed guys trying to sight in their rifles at the range by shooting freehand from a standing position. Needless to say these are the guys that get frustrated because they’re not hitting anything.

Remember, when we’re sighting in our rifles we’re not testing our shooting skill, but rather the accuracy of the gun, scope and bullet being used. Our goal should be to eliminate or at least minimize human error and allow the equipment to do its thing. With this in mind, a stable shooting bench or table is always recommended. Most shooting ranges are furnished with suitable tables or benches and adjustable stools. If you’re using a portable bench, make sure it is resting level on solid ground. Likewise, it’s imperative to use a shooting rest. In my opinion a vice can be that much better. I really like MTM Case-Gard products (www.mtmcase-gard.com). They make a variety of shooting supplies that are both affordable and practical. Few of us exhibit perfect shooting form. By understanding the biomechanics involved with aiming, breathing, squeezing the trigger and following through we can better acknowledge how to eliminate torsion while shooting from a rest. By cradling the rifle fore-end on a rest or in a vice, we can align our sights with the downrange target and maintain that alignment for a long period of time. Then, by gently squeezing the trigger to discharge, we minimize our human influence thereby allowing the firearm to perform more or less on its own.

3) Begin at close range, then move out to 100 yards and further
I’ve heard much discussion about the standard 100 yard shot and arguably for most bore-sighted rifles, sighting in at that distance is fine. But talk to the pros and most will agree that you should begin at 25 yards if you want to do it right. Making adjustments at close range is easier than at longer distances. At 25 yards you’ll find it easier to acquire your target; it simply appears larger and is easier to center the crosshairs at this short distance. Inaccuracies are simpler to rectify and adjustments can be made quickly at that distance. Remember, inaccuracies are exaggerated that much more at greater downrange distances.

k_wilson_sighting_in1
As you make your fine adjustments to your scope, be aware of the increments and don’t overdo it. For example, with my Leupold VXIII, one click = 1/4 inch adjustment. So, if my shots were hitting consistently two inches to the left of center, I would likely need to dial the adjustment eight clicks in that direction, then shoot another round of bullets. Some folks disagree, but in my opinion it is better to make subtle adjustments, then shoot to confirm that you are working toward the zero mark. As long as there are no fliers, a series of three shots is typically representative of where the gun is shooting. Although with today’s scopes I don’t believe it is as crucial, I still like to give it a firm tap to seat the crosshairs after each adjustment.

When your rifle and scope are in sync at 25 yards, move to 100 yards. Most big game rifle and bullet combinations that are sighted in a couple inches high at 100 yards will shoot a hair low at 25 yards – with most deer hunters this is considered ideal (e.g., I like my 300 Win Mag to be 2″ high at 100 yards). Once your rifle is sighted in, try shooting at 200, 300 and 400 yards to better learn how your rifle, scope and ammunition perform at greater distances.

4) Use the same ammunition that you plan to hunt with
Not all ammunition performs the same. Be sure to sight in your rifle with the load that you plan to hunt with. Ballistics of variable bullet weights and designs (not to mention manufacturers) will perform differently. For instance, Winchester Ammunition’s 150 grain Supreme Elite XP3 (www.winchester.com) will inevitably perform differently than Remington’s 180 grain Core-Lokt, PSP (www.remington.com) shot out of my 300 Winchester Magnum.

If you reload your own ammunition, then you’re likely acquainted with factors affecting bullet performance. Working the right load may take some trial and error, but the same applies – always sight in with the bullet and load you intend to hunt with.

5) Record and reference each shot
Sighting in can be as labor-intensive as you make it. As a rule, several items are required and several more make the job that much easier. As an absolute necessity, we require a table or bench, a shooting rest, our rifle, ammunition and a target. Beyond these basics, the job is much easier with a spotting scope, tripod, and additional targets along with a marker.

As you begin shooting, be sure to analyze and record each shot. I like to use a Bushnell Elite 15-45x 60 mm spotting scope (www.bushnell.com) mounted on a solid tripod. At 45 power magnification, I can see every detail on the downrange target. My scope allows me to closely assess where I hit in relation to where I aimed. Further, many shooters like to keep a matching target on the bench while they are shooting. By checking their shot, then marking it on the target beside them, they can better track their progressions to confirm any scope adjustments and accuracy. This eliminates much of the guessing about which shot was which.

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Field dressing a black bear

With the bear hunt just around the corner, we will cover the basics 🙂  Pictures have been withheld due to graphic nature.

Instructions

imagesFG3W4IGS 1. Clear an area surrounding the black bear. Make the area large enough to allow room to move around and roll the animal away from the entrails. The lowest part of the ground should be reserved for the entrails. Move the bear onto its back. Spread the rear legs and either have your partners hold them apart or secure them with ropes. Repeat with the front legs.

  1.  2. Insert one of your knives in the cavity at the base of the bear’s throat. Cut the blood vessels with a deep, crosswise motion to open the jugular vein and bleed the animal. Move the bear so the blood will flow away from it and clear the ground as needed.
  2. Cut the skin in a straight line from the breastbone — located just below the rib cage — to the base of the bear’s jaw. Cut the muscles along this area to the bone to expose the throat and windpipe. From the same starting point, cut the skin in a straight line down to the anus. Some areas require hunters to leave the genitals for sex identification; cut around the genitals slightly to preserve them.
  3. Split the breastbone.  This can be done with a bone saw, hack saw or a couple of axes.  If you choose to use axes, hold one axe against the breastbone and hammer it with the other axe; this will break the bone from the base of the rib cage up to and through the top ribs. Open the chest by pulling the front legs apart. Cut the windpipe and gullet close to the head. Lay them in the chest cavity for later.
  4. Cut through the abdominal muscles; start at the base of the rib cage. Take care not to puncture the intestines, the stomach or the bladder; doing so could taint the meat. Sever the muscles down to the pelvic bone. Enlist your partners to hold open the bear so you can work more smoothly.
  5. Break the pelvic bone by using the same technique implemented the breastbone. Do not cut the urinary tract as it may contaminate the meat. Start on one side of the chest cavity and use your knife to cut the diaphragm from the chest wall. Start at the base of the ribs and slice as far back into the cavity as possible. Have your partners pull the organs to the side so you can see and cut more easily. Repeat the process on the other side of the black bear.
  6. Cut the intestines and rectum from the split pelvic bone to where the rectum meets the muscle tissue at the anus. Cut a circle in the skin at the base of the tail; cut 1 to 2 inches from the anus. Cut the muscles to the top of the pelvic bone to free the anus and rectum. Pull the lower intestine, rectum and anus away from the cavity and hold clear. You must not puncture or cut the urinary tract or intestines.
  7. Hold the parts, roll the black bear away and allow the intestines and stomach to spill onto the ground. Grab the windpipe to pull the lungs and heart out onto the ground. Cut any remaining diaphragm tissue to free the organs. Complete the field dressing by draining as much blood from the bear as possible and wiping the body cavity with cloth rags to clean. Do not use water. At this point your main concern becomes to cool the cavity and prepare for transport which can be done by propping the cavity open with a tree branch.

    IMG_6110 - Copy

    Proper field care will ensure less weight and trouble with removal and transportation from the hunt site.

     For more information on black bear hunting, visit us at http://www.wawangresort.com

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Firearm Safety

by Marti Davis

Marti-Davis

Safety, safety, safety

Firearm safety must always be our number one priority. Always remember to treat every gun as if it is loaded. That means always pointing the gun in a safe direction. Make sure you’re using the proper ammunition for the firearm. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

When you’re hunting from an elevated stand, never climb with the firearm. Use a rope to raise and lower the unloaded gun after you’re safely strapped in to your stand. You can never be too careful or safe when it comes to handling and hunting with firearms.

Marti-Davis-rifle

Know right from wrong

Before you do any kind of hunting with a gun, you must familiarize yourself with the state’s game laws and regulations. Even if you’re a seasoned hunter, you need to refresh your memory and check for any changes in the regulations that might affect your hunt. If you know and follow the regulations, when you do have an encounter with a conservation agent, you won’t have anything to worry about.

And while we’re on the subject of conservation agents, if you happen to get stopped by an agent, be courteous. It will take only a few minutes for the agent to check and see if you have the proper licenses and tags. Conservation agents have a job to do, and this is just a small part of it.

Cleaning and Maintenance

While some firearms take more cleaning and maintenance than others, you should take proper care of all firearms. If you do, they will last for many years, with the possibility of being handed down from generation to generation.

I like to use a combination cleaner-lubricant-protectant, such as Break Free CLP. A quick wipe-down at the end of a day afield is sufficient, unless you’ve been out hunting in rain or snow, or in extremely dusty or brushy conditions. In that case you probably need to break down the firearm to a certain extent. Remember to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on breakdown and reassembly. Never skip any steps the manufacturer recommends.

I also like to use a bore snake for a quick pass-through on my barrels. I use a little of the Break Free CLP on the snake and pull it through two or three times. It’s a great time saver for those quick, after-hunt wipe-downs between the thorough cleanings that require breaking down the gun.

And don’t forget that new guns need thorough cleaning when you first get them. Most come packed with a coating of heavy grease.

When it comes to maintenance on your firearms, I highly recommend that you find a reputable gunsmith in your area to take care of any malfunctioning firearms. For safety’s sake, never shoot any gun that is not in perfect working order. When in doubt, consult your gunsmith.

Sighting in or Patterning

Before going afield, you must take the time to sight in your rifle or pattern your shotgun. Even if you’re going out with the same deer rifle you’ve used for several years, take the time to make sure your gun is still zeroed in. Even the smallest of bumps can sometimes knock sights or scopes off zero.

With shotguns, make sure to pattern them to see which load works best with which choke. Once you get that figured out, make sure to use the same load each time you hunt with that shotgun and choke.

To be an ethical and responsible hunter, you have to know your own and your firearm’s limitations before you step out in the field. As ethical hunters, we always want to make the quickest and most humane kill shots we can.

Marti-patterning

Transporting your firearms

Transporting can be as simple as using a sling to throw the gun over your shoulder, making it easier to carry in the field.

In a vehicle, I highly recommend a case of some sort when transporting firearms, whether it’s a simple zip-up, soft-sided case or a padded, hard-shell transport case. For one thing, a case protects the gun—for another, in some states it is the law. This is another area where it’s necessary to know the regulations and laws in the state you are hunting—or even just traveling through. Some states also require firearms to be cased when transporting them on all-terrain vehicles in the field.

Marti-Davis-truck-copy-2

Follow-through

When throwing a ball, you must follow through to complete the action. The same applies to shooting a rifle or shotgun. Once you make the shot, you must follow through. If you’re shooting a bolt-action or pump-style rifle, follow-through includes working the action and chambering a fresh round. Be ready to make a follow-up shot if necessary. The same goes for shotguns. After you complete the shot, get another shot shell into the chamber and be prepared to make a quick follow-up shot. Of course if you’re using an autoloader, the gun does this for you. Just stay on the gun and be ready in case you need to take another shot.

Storage

After the hunt, be sure to unload and store your firearms properly. As I mentioned when discussing cleaning and maintenance, wipe down or clean your firearms prior to storage. Always make sure to store all guns beyond the reach of children or anyone else you don’t want having access to them. Always store ammunition separately from all firearms.

Marti-and-Barb-afield-copy

These safety rules need to become second nature, yet always in the forefront while you are working with firearms, especially while hunting.

IMG_2075-e1429190999379

Marti Davis

Marti Davis is a staff member for Browning Trail Cameras, WoolX and Mossy Oak.
She is an authority on most types of hunting in North America, and very active in
mentoring the next generation of young hunters.

 

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A Better Bow Hunter: Aim to Hit

The traits that separate elite bow hunters from the masses are attention to detail and rigorous training. These are year-round archers, and here’s how they push themselves to become deadly hunters.

ODL0814_HUN02

1. Be Challenged
As creatures of habit, we’re guilty of practicing at distances at which we can comfortably stack arrows in an impressive -fashion—typically 20 yards. However, extending your practice distance well beyond your comfort zone accomplishes several things. First, it forces you to tighten your form, since miscues are multiplied as distance increases.

Greater practice distances also force you to identify and correct imperfections lest you continue to splash arrows about the range. This year, if space allows, double your practice comfort zone. You’ll find that when “short” shot opportunities present themselves, they’ll be chip shots.

2. Be Strong
Drawing a bow requires a certain degree of physical strength. Leveling a fiber-optic pin confidently on an animal is difficult, if not impossible, when your arms are trembling uncontrollably.

Sadly, archers who pull out their bow a week prior to the season aren’t physically prepared to attempt an ethical bow hunting shot. The right repetition makes you both strong and accurate.

3. Be Angular
Animals rarely present the perfect broadside shot. But how many of us practice any other angle? Whether you shoot a block or a 3D target, practice a variety of shot angles.

Shooting non-perpendicular angles adds another physical and mental dimension to the shot execution, because the bull’s-eye changes geometrically. When practicing, move about the range, varying your relationship to the target face until you’re proficient in every possible angle.

4. Be Accurate
Many archers think the only way to practice judging distance is with a bow in hand, but the opportunities are everywhere, including grocery stores and parking lots. Mentally measure an object in the distance and pace it off to check your guesstimate. Or stroll through the woods with a rangefinder. Stop occasionally and put an eye on a bush, branch, or rock. Give yourself a few seconds to estimate the real estate, and then check it against the laser. After a few trips, you’ll become amazingly accurate at taping distances with little more than a keen eye.

5. Be Crepuscular
Shot opportunities often present themselves in low light, whether the first or last of the day. Try shooting three or four arrows in this tough light. By doing so, you’ll have a real appreciation for what to expect when visibility is less than ideal in the field.

6. Be Blind-Ready
Ground blinds now outsell tree stands, as they offer a portability and versatility that tree stands simply cannot. However, if you’ve never practiced from one, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised when you try to lob a shot from inside its tight confines. Limited drawing distance, extremely small windows (which narrow the shot field), and dark interiors challenge even the best bow hunters. A word to the wise: Pop your ground blind up and practice shooting from it prior to toting it into the field.

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Black Bear…the Basics

Here is a fantastic and very basic overview of black bear, what they are and why we hunt them.  In the case if Wawang Lake Resort, our outfitting is done in the fall, over bait and the average weight of our boars was 278 lbs. last year with 2 over 400 lbs.   Our sows, 180lbs with three over 300 lb.

Black Bear Hunting Basics

paw2
If you’re considering taking up black bear hunting or trying to decide if it’s right for you, it’s a good idea to get an overview of what it’s all about. There are a lot of misconceptions about black bear hunting floating around out there, so it pays to know exactly what you’re in for when you set out to hunt “America’s bear”.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of black bear hunting, including population, seasons, weapons, meat, trophy items, and biology relevant to hunting.

Population, Seasons, and Weapons

Although the population of the black bear (Ursus americanus) is in decline in some areas of the U.S. (due to habitat loss), in other areas it is growing rapidly, and in still others it is at an all-time high. The total population of black bears in the lower 48 is estimated to be between 300,000 to 500,000, and the Alaska population is estimated to be 100,000 or more.

Black bear hunting is permitted in a little over half of the 50 states. Many Western states have black bear hunting seasons. In some of these states, hunters are allowed to take two black bears per year. Other popular areas include portions of the upper Midwest, the East coast, and the South. Even a handful of states in the East where black bear hunting has been prohibited for years have recently opened up limited seasons.

Black bears are hunted both in the spring and the fall. However, spring seasons are only allowed in about eight states, and spring hunting often requires applying for a lottery. Fall seasons are typically general seasons, and this is the time when most bears are hunted.

Black bears can be effectively taken with any of the typical weapons used for other big game, including rifle, bow, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol, and crossbow. (As always, be sure to check your particular state’s game regulations.)

Meat and Other Items

bearroastBlack bear meat is considered by many to be a delicacy. In fact, even as recently as the late 19th century, bear dishes were some of the most expensive items on the menus at the finest, exclusive restaurants. “Bear bacon”, the whole, smoked hind quarter of a bear, was a prized staple in the diet of settlers on the American frontier. The meat is often compared to pork or lamb, but with a distinctive flavor all its own.

Interestingly, that flavor can vary quite widely depending on what the bear has recently been eating. The most highly prized meat comes from spring bears who have been consuming large quantities of grass and other vegetation as well as fall bears who have been feasting on berries, fruit, or nuts such as acorns.

Luckily, although they are omnivores, about 80-90% of a black bear’s diet consists of plant material, so your odds of having tasty meat are extremely good. Younger bears are also widely reported to have better meat than older bears. Assuming you take a younger bear that hasn’t been eating salmon or carrion, you’re in for quite a treat.

An important word of caution here: black bear meat often contains the parasite that causes trichinosis, an infection that usually results in either no symptoms or minor digestive discomfort but in rare cases can cause more serious complications and even death (although only in less than 0.3% of cases).

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy for this. All bear meat must be cooked completely through until there is no visible pink in the meat. Cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 137 degrees is hot enough to make it safe, although the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Freezing the meat has not been shown to be adequate protection against trichinosis.

Another highly edible part of a black bear is the fat. Bear fat (which is quite plentiful in fall bears) can be rendered to produce a useful and particularly flavorful cooking oil. Even from a modestly sized bear, you can easily get a couple gallons of this precious liquid.

In addition to the meat and fat, there are also a few prized items to be had from a black bear. First, the fir is soft and luxurious, and many hunters keep the hide and turn it into a rug or even clothing such as a vest. Black bear skulls are fascinating thing to look at, and they’re a great conversation starter when displayed up on the mantle or other prominent location.

Biology Relevant to Hunting

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Black bears can vary greatly in size, depending on genetics, the quality of the habitat in which they live, and their gender and age. Mature boars (male bears) can weigh in at over 800 pounds in rare cases. The average adult male, however, weighs between 180 and 300 pounds, while the average adult female weighs slightly less, between 140-250 pounds. You can expect to net about 30% of the live weight in meat. For example, a 200 pound bear may produce up to 60 pounds of meat.

Black bears possess impressive athletic abilities. They can sprint at speeds over 30 mph, can climb trees with ease, and are accomplished swimmers. They also have short, curved, sharp claws and canine teeth capable of ripping and tearing flesh. With these traits, it’s easy to see why they fit squarely into the classification of dangerous game.

While black bear attacks are exceedingly rare, even for bear hunters, they do happen. And tracking wounded bears means the danger increases exponentially. The tracking is bound to take you through dense cover, and the bear’s thick fir soaks up blood fast, making for sparse blood trails to follow. Bears have even been known to loop around and double back on their trail, lying in wait for pursuing hunters. However, with proper preparation and planning, as well as solid shot placement, most bears can be recovered safely and without incident.

Note: In regions where black bears share their range with grizzly bears, it’s important to know how to identify the two bears and tell them apart so you don’t accidentally shoot a grizzly bear, which is a violation of federal law. Here’s a handy bear identification training you can take online for free so you can know for sure before you pull the trigger.

The size of a black bear’s home range can vary greatly depending on the location of food sources in the area. It can be as small as a couple square miles or it can be much larger — a male’s home range may go all the way up to 75 square miles in extreme cases. Bears are opportunistic omnivores, which means their movements are often unpredictable. This wandering lifestyle requires specialized tactics, the most common being spot-and-stalk, baiting, hunting with hounds, and calling.

Regardless of which tactics you employ, you’ll need to defeat a bear’s considerable arsenal of finely tuned senses if you want to have any hope of getting close enough for a shot.

Jon Hanson - Tiffin, IA 440 lb. black bear

Jon Hanson – Tiffin, IA 440 lb. black bear

Sense of Smell

First and foremost is their sense of smell, which is thousands of times better than a human’s. In fact, it’s been shown that if you take a bloodhound’s nose and multiply it by about seven, you’ll get a sense of the black bear’s olfactory powers.

There are both defensive and offensive strategies you can use in order to overcome these powers and get within range of a bear without it smelling you. On the defensive side, it’s wise to use as many scent control measures as logistically possible. More importantly, always keep tabs on the wind and make sure you’re hunting into it. A wind checker device, such as a small spray bottle filled with unscented talcum powder comes in real handy for this, as does a fine, frayed string tied to the end of your gun or bow.

You can also go on the offensive and use the wind to your advantage. With good scouting and planning, it’s possible to hunt with the wind at your back, allowing your scent to move out ahead of you and drive bears toward another hunter in a tree stand or other fixed position.

Sense of Hearing

bear headNext up is their sense of hearing, which is thought to be significantly better than a human’s, although it’s not known exactly how much better. They can detect a human voice at 300 yards and the cocking of a gun at 50 yards.

Your best defense against a bear’s ears is to simply be quiet. Move slowly and carefully, wear quiet clothing, and speak in whispers to your hunting companions. On the offensive side, always keep your ears tuned for bear sounds. Bears make noise when feeding, such as turning over rotten logs looking for grubs, and they communicate with each other through woofs, sniffs, grunts, and growls.

Sense of Sight

Contrary to popular belief, bears do, in fact, see in color. Their vision is roughly equivalent to a human’s — better, if you include the fact that they have excellent night vision. Although they’re somewhat near-sighted, they are adept at detecting movement, even at long distances.

To win the battle of the eyes, you’ll need to have a solid defensive plan. It’s very important to wear full camouflage and choose a pattern that breaks up your outline and matches the local vegetation well. More importantly, always move slowly and cautiously, and never move when a bear is looking in your direction.

As for offense, always carry a pair of high quality binoculars. The black color of a bear’s fur can make them a little easier to spot than other big game like deer. Carry your binoculars on your chest with a harness or “bino bra”, and use them often. When hunting open country using spot-and-stalk tactics, you can also employ a high-power spotting scope to give your eyes even more reach.

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