When spring rolls around, the main thing on any self-respecting outdoorsman’s mind is fishing, chasing thunder chickens, and possibly looking for that late-season whitetail shed just before the summer heat hits. While all of those activities are great, and something that I look forward to all year, there is one other pursuit that I think can often get overlooked, but shouldn’t; and that is spring black bear.
While most hunters associate black bear hunting with autumn leaves falling, the spring can produce some of the best bear hunting there is, and several states have been known to produce some giants just as the flowers are starting to bloom. But some states are better than others.
Here are five states that consistently produce incredible spring bruin harvests, and will be sure to give you a hunt that you’ll never forget!
The gem state is known for precious stones and an abundance of potatoes, but don’t overlook its impressive population of black bears, and more importantly, spring harvests. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I witnessed it for myself, but the numbers speak for themselves. While Idaho doesn’t have a ton of Boone & Crockett entries for bears, they are still known to produce giant bruins, such as the one that hunter Tim Bartlett harvested in 1991, with a skull measurement of 21 and 13/16 inches.
Not only does that state have impressive numbers, but tags are affordable and relatively easy to obtain. Not to mention the state allows the use of baiting as well as hounds in several units, making it a hunt unlike any other. Combine all of that with the fact that Idaho is known for its color phase bears, with some units reporting over half cinnamon, Idaho is tough to beat.
Often overlooked due to its incredible moose, grizzly and mountain goat hunting, the last frontier is the home of some goliath-like black bears. As soon as the spring green up begins, black bears leave their winter dens and only have one thing on their mind: food.
While hunting in Alaska is anything but cheap, it will be hard to find a more scenic and unique hunt. Black bear hunts in Alaska are typically spot-and-stalk style so be prepared to put some miles on your boots. But be prepared to witness black bears that look more like grizzlies in size, and don’t forget to add a wolf tag, you just might get lucky and come home with two trophies.
Oregon likely isn’t on your list for spring black bear destinations, probably because of the controlled lottery that severely limits nonresidents from getting a tag, with a success rate at only 3 percent. However, this shouldn’t discourage you. There are several units that have such high bear numbers that they will set aside several thousand tags that nonresidents can scoop up.
Unfortunately, baiting and using hounds is not legal in Oregon, but that shouldn’t affect your success too much, considering the abundance of bears that inhabit the brushy hills of Oregon. While I’m an advocate for DIY hunts, this is one hunt that I always recommend getting paired up with an outfitter. The terrain that these bears inhabit can be challenging for those who have never experienced it before, and an experienced guide will know exactly how to use the landscape to your advantage. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging hunt, Oregon is in a league of its own.
While the black bear population in Wyoming isn’t exactly jaw dropping, it still deserves to be mentioned as one of the most consistent states for spring bears. With an incredible amount of public land available, hunters will have plenty of options available to look for spring bruins. The northwestern corner of the state, butting up against Montana and Idaho is known to be the secret honey hole of Wyoming, so break out those maps and start scouting!
Licenses and tags are fairly easy to obtain in Wyoming, and aren’t outrageously expensive when compared to other states. The landscape allows for easy glassing and opportunities to create a stealthy stalk. Just make sure you pack appropriately as weather conditions can sometimes be unpredictable during the spring.
A spring black bear list would never be complete without mentioning the treasure state. Especially since the state recently opened up baiting for spring hunters, which was an incredible push of conservation by the state’s legislation, and one that all hunters and outdoorsmen should appreciate.
Like Idaho, Montana is known for high harvests in every color phase, from cinnamon, blonde, chocolate and even red. Black bears in Montana are known to be massive in stature, as you would probably expect, spotting several bruins over the 6-foot mark isn’t uncommon at all. Getting a tag is fairly easy in most units, and the costs are fairly affordable, relatively speaking. If I could only pick one state to hunt spring bears in, Montana would probably be it.
Hunting black bears in the spring is something that every avid hunter should experience at least once. The challenges it brings, paired with the spring scenery and incredible numbers makes it much different than fall hunting, and thus a unique experience every hunter would enjoy.
Currently only eight states in the U.S. have spring bear season, so the options that hunters have are relatively limited. While I always encourage hunters to just hunt where they are able to, it’s important to appreciate what these 5 states have to offer specifically. If you’re looking for an experience that is going to challenge you in nearly every way possible, or maybe you’re just looking for a change of pace from the traditional spring activities such as fishing and turkey hunting, look into some spring hunts in these five states. You’re in for something special!