My First Time Bear Hunting Tips and Tactics For Beginners
Total hours of bear hunting: 156
Piles of bear shit: 67
Bears spotted: 1
Bears harvested: 0
This article is a summary of tips I’ve learned from my first-time black bear hunting. There are many great resources online that go into great detail on how to bear hunt. My intention here is to share a few things that weren't mentioned in any of the resources I referenced. Often advice provided by seasoned hunters could leave out some glaringly obvious points that are second nature to them, but not so apparent to rookie hunters like myself.
When I say glaringly obvious, I mean you might spit at your screen laughing reading some of these notes, but someone has to share them because I sure as hell can guarantee you that no one bothered to tell me these things when I started out my first season hunting - but you got to start somewhere right?
In case you're wondering how someone could clock 159 hours on the field and only see one bear it’s because I was a scouting new territory almost every time I went out. Dropping pins and making a note for next season. Which brings me to my first point...
Get out and Scout
If it's your first season out, even before you have all your gear in place, just get out and scout! Go for a hike and start exploring areas you were advised to go. Hunting forums are a great way to connect and ask for advice, HuntingBC has an amazingly active community! Even before the bear season, start breaking in those boots and studying areas. Large cut blocks, power lines, old forest service roads, and valleys.
Google maps, give you the ability to save maps and drop pins. When the season opens up, you’re not using up precious time exploring but instead know exactly where you are going.
Always Be Ready
The advice "always be ready" seems silly and you're probably thinking, "no shit Sherlock" but after hours of sitting still or walking along the most unscenic road for hours, you tend to relax and forget to be on guard.
When you're in the prime hours, in a prime location, hike or sit with your rifle in hand and loaded (with the safety on)! I missed my opportunity to shoot at 30-40 yards away on a forest service road because I was hiking with my rifle slung on my shoulder when a big boar stepped out of the bush. He stood up on his hind legs took a whiff of the air and disappeared. I'll admit it took a few seconds to get myself to calm down and by the time I even thought about my rifle he was gone.
Heck, even when taking a shit, it might be wise to squat with your loaded rifle beside you. Just saying.
Wait till last light
Waiting silently was more of a mental battle. I think if I was better prepped to spend 3 to 5 hours sitting still, I would have been more patient and moved around less.
Often I would get restless and leave before last shooting light. After sharing my many failed attempts with fellow hunters, the one question I got over and over again was, "did you stay till dark?"
The Bugs Are Real
In some areas, the mosquitoes were thick. The constant buzzing in my ears and attacks on my face made it very hard to sit still or focus. That being said if you use a neck gaiter or something of similar sorts to cover your face, you might not hear the bear creeping up on you. So as dorky as it sounds, I’m highly considering a bug net next year.
Heavy duty bug spray works but it leaves you feeling sticky, and it wears out quickly. The natural or gentle varieties work for about 20 to 30 minutes and the heavy duty Deet stuff last about 2 to 3 hours at most. Warning Deet is pretty gnarly, I've accidentally sprayed it on my car dashboard and watched it strip away the varnish.
The best advice is to wear tightly woven clothes and spray bug spray on your hat, avoiding direct skin contact.
Take An Afternoon Nap
Bears are active all day eating, napping, shitting - repeat. But like most big game they are more active during sunrise and sundown. Out of all the hours I've clocked on my first spring bear attempts, I caught the sunrise only once because I would be exhausted from the late night hunts. The sun on certain days didn't set until 10:00 pm and was already back up by 4:30 am. Now knowing how long the days are, I would highly encourage those to take a siesta after lunch to recharge and make up for the shorter periods of sleep at night. You're going to need that energy to field dress a bear and quarter it when you harvest one. If it's your first-time, anticipate the process to take a minimum of 5 hours or more.
It's always better to try to shoot an animal earlier in the day for the obvious reasons such as locating the animal and field dressing would be easier (and less dangerous) at midday than the middle of the night; so chase that sunrise!
Connect With A Good Mentor
This last bit of advice deserves a full article on its own. Being active on Hunting BC, the BC chapter of the BHA, and helping out with EatWild, I have had the opportunity to connect with a lot of hunters and noticed that the most successful hunters always have (or had) mentors guiding them.
Geographics play a significant part in the difficulty of the hunt, and especially western hunting in British Columbia because we can have an insane amount of public land we could legally hunt on. But being blessed with an abundance of public land means the areas that are good hunting aren't so apparent, therefore having a mentor will help you narrow down spots to start scouting.
If you have any tips and tactics for beginners (even ones that are glaringly obvious) to add, or a story to share about your first black bear hunt I would love to hear about it! You can connect with me here or leaving a comment below.
Debating if I should attemp fall bear? Thoughts?