This is what you need to consider with shot placement on bears.
Hunting for black bears or other bear species is a challenge uniquely different from other forms of big-game hunting. Many hunters might try to shoot a bear the same way they would a whitetail or other ungulates.
That’s a mistake and could lead to a wounded bear and poor blood trail or even a completely missed shot.
Today we’ll go over where to aim for a clean and ethical kill shot every time with a bow and arrow.
Bear anatomy is different
As we’ve already mentioned, archery hunting bear is different than a whitetail. Most hunters are going to want to aim low and close behind the front leg. While that’s one of the best shots for deer, it’s a horrible shot for bears because of their anatomy.
A bear’s vital organs are positioned more towards the center of their body. Likely further back than you realize. The lungs are positioned more towards the center of the body with the heart a few inches further back from the front shoulder blade than a deer.
There are a few other factors that need consideration here. First off, bears are very deceptive looking due to their fat and fur. This can vary further depending on what bear season you’re hunting.
The fur on their belly is going to make the animal look fatter than it is. This has, unfortunately, caused many hunters to make less than lethal hits in the past.
Another factor to consider is the fat. Bears have considerably more than other big-game animals and it presents a couple problems.
First is just penetrating through to the vital areas of the animal. You’re going to want a broadhead that is good at penetration and large blades to open the largest hole possible. That brings us to another consideration. Bear fat often makes for less bleeding than other big-game animals. Most experienced bear hunters and professional hunting guides will tell you the hardest part is getting a quality blood trail.
Where to shoot a bear with a bow
You’ll often hear bear hunters say “Aim for the middle of the middle” when talking shot placement. That just means that the best place to shoot a bear is dead center of its body. The image I put together above shows what’s generally considered the ideal shot placement.
In deer hunting, this shot would be too far back, but on a bear, it’s the perfect shot. Some hunters like to bring the shot back an inch or two forward of center to get more of the lungs, which thankfully, are a huge target on a bear.
Most expert bear hunting outfitters agree that the position of the bear is almost as important as the shot placement. A deer is almost always going to be standing when you shoot it. But a bear could be in a sitting position, it could be on its hind legs. It could have its front feet elevated on a log or your bait barrel.
You also must be cautious about the way the bear’s body is turned. If the bear is turned inwards in your direction, it shifts things. The bear’s front should blade will be protecting most of its vitals. Likewise, quartering away shot makes it difficult to get a complete pass through of the animal’s vital organs.
That’s why the best shot on a bear for bowhunting is a broadside shot. It presents the largest portion of the animal’s heart and lungs and provides the shortest distance between two points for the arrow to travel. Remember what we said about the animal’s fat? A broadside shot allows you to get through that layer at the thinnest point and ups the odds of a pass-through shot.
As we’ve already mentioned, bears are notorious for leaving poor blood trails, so a pass through provides two openings and increases the odds of recovery. Don’t forget to compensate for the angle. It’s going to vary depending on if you’re sitting in a ground blind or tree stand.
A few final thoughts
Bow hunting for bears is often unlike hunting any other big-game animal. Whether you’re keeping it close to home with a hunt for black bears in Wisconsin or brown bears in the Alaska wilds, shot placement is probably more important for a big bruin than any other game you’ll hunt.
Remember, these are large, tough and potentially dangerous animals. Which is why it’s important for bowhunters to spend plenty of time on the archery range shooting at a 3-D bear target or anatomical paper target. Just to be sure your mind is in the right place when the moment of truth arrives. Good luck on your bear hunt!