Opportunities to hunt spring bears in the United States have become increasingly rare. Currently, only a handful of western states host spring dates.
Subtract those where baiting isn’t allowed, and you’re left with just Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. This wasn’t always the case, but we live in strange times. Some "progressive" types don’t think you should hunt bears over bait. They don't think you should own commodes capable of flushing more than three sheets of toilet paper at a time, light bulbs that actually light a room, buy soft drinks larger than 16 ounces or display a Baby Jesus in a Manger scene during the Christmas season. Or the "Winter Holiday." Whatever's most PC this week ...
Anyway, to be fair, not all those opposed to baiting bears (or issues like leg-hold traps) are left-leaning. But it's probably safe to say that much of the legislation limiting your ability to hunt is typically introduced by anti-hunting groups. Politicians, whether they be liberals, moderates or conservatives, who allow such legislation to pass out of sheer apathy pave the way to future restrictions. Like “assault weapons” bans, this isn’t about the thing itself, but baby steps to a final destination of total elimination. If you don’t believe this, please leave the room. Adults are speaking.
If you don’t care for bear baiting, don’t do it. For the rest of you, head north for bear hunting adventures.
Canada’s a country that, despite progressive leanings, has accepted the reality it must operate within an economy based largely on natural resources. Canada also harbors the largest expanse of prime black bear habitat on earth, therefore the largest populations of ursus americanus americanus available. Baited spring bear hunts have become a Canadian institution.
The only downside is non-resident aliens must hire a licensed outfitter. Yet these guided hunts are relatively affordable, at least when contrasted against guided hunts for elk or trophy deer. These hunts normally offer high success rates with some outfits boasting 100 percent success. Let me put it this way: on several bowhunts for Saskatchewan bear I’ve enjoyed multiple bear sightings every sit (on my best evening eight different bears visited my bait site).
Options are highly varied, from Newfoundland and the Atlantic Provinces to the east, stretching to the Pacific coast. Eastern provinces, even Newfoundland (via Nova Scotia ferry service), are easily accessed by vehicle from Northeastern population centers. My top picks for trophy quality combined with high success rates are Newfoundland and New Brunswick.
In the West, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the undisputed champions of baited spring bear hunts (British Columbia is a fine coastal spot-and-stalk destination). All relinquish behemoth bruins annually and include many reputable outfitters. Alberta includes a two-bear limit, giving you more bang for your buck.
Your two biggest challenges are copious biting insects and shooting under pressure. The bug issue is easily remedied by purchasing a bug suit and ThermaCell to keep bugs at bay. Shooting under pressure? Well, that’s entirely up to you. Rest assured, when a pumpkin-headed bruin comes sauntering beneath your stand at 20 yards, your hands will shake and your pulse quicken, because bear hunting remains one of the most exciting aspects of bowhunting available today.
Editor's Note: This was originally published May 3, 2013.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.