By Dustin Bomley Production Manager, Alpine Archery
Feb 21, 2008 – 6:58:49 AM
Shadows of Spring
As I sit here and write this very column, There is snow-blowing blizzard conditions all around. Major highways closed, schools and even government agencies shut down or delayed dramatically due to winter weather conditions. Even with the current status of being indoors and attached to a computer, I find my mind wandering to the lush green spring grass, smell of a fresh April rain, and the clatter of a steel bait barrel or echoing bay of a walker hound. Being a bowhunter, I find myself, like many, looking for another opportunity to be in the woods. Springtime offers so much for bowhunters. Aside from the weekend archery shoots, bowhunting for black bears is always a heavy weighted option.
There are 3 popular ways to hunt black bears. First is the always possible “spot & stalk”, second is hunting over bait, and third being the use of hound dogs. Spot and stalk tactics are best when there are lots of open area where the bears are likely to feed. The use of high quality optics is a definite must. This is probably the hardest type of bear hunting as one must find then stalk along with judge for size. Bears are hard critters to field judge and one must really know what to look for to determine trophy caliber. A bear is measured for trophy by the combined measurement of the skull. This said, one must determine a trophy by the bears head size. Three things to look at are size of the ears in relation to the head, spread between the ears, and length of the legs in relation to the body size. Just like in humans, God made these creatures to be all different sizes and just because you have a 300 plus pound bear does not mean that his head will measure for the Pope and Young record book. Spot and stalk is also more difficult due to the keen sense of smell these fuzzy critters have. One must be very aware of the wind direction in a stalking situation as with most wild game.
Bear baiting has in the past been a controversial subject. Some feel it is unethical or unfair, while others see it as a very successful game management tool. In my opinion, to establish a bait is a lot of work, but the amount of up-close action that a bowhunter will see is mind blowing. Of the 29 states that offer bear hunting opportunity, 11 allow the use of bait. Only 8 of the 29 offer spring opportunity. Canada is a bit more liberal in their regulations as 8 of 11 provinces allow baiting. 7 of the 8 provinces offer springtime hunting opportunity.
The Canadian bear hunting opportunity a very viable option as the outfitters are reasonably affordable and most offer the option of harvesting 2 bears per year. Many of the Canadian outfits are established as bait style hunts. All of the spring time opportunity in the United States however, is in the western states. Some offer baiting and some do not. One must check with the state wildlife departments for exact regulations and units.
Hound hunting for bear, somewhat controversial much like baiting, is also a successful game management tool. Most federal trappers use this method of chase. One must own and obtain or know someone who owns hound dogs that are specifically trained to run bears. Not only does it take a special breed of dog, but a unique breed of human to partake in this style of hunting. With baiting, patience is ultimately a virtue. With hound hunting persistence is truly the key to success. Most houndsmen are devoted to there dogs almost as much as to there families, in some cases even more. These guys not only like the reward of harvest, but also the pursuit. They are gratified by seeing the result of their training in the finished product of a good hunting dog. To see well trained hound dogs in action and take part in a hound hunt for bears is absolutely amazing. Regardless of what anyone who has not experienced this type of hunt may say, hound hunting is hard work and the harvest is just as rewarding.
The U.S. seems to be more liberal in the allowing of hound hunting than Canada. This partly is because of the amount of country one can cover by road being more in the U.S. than Canada. 17 States in the U.S. allow the use of hounds while only 2 Provinces see hound hunting as a legal method of pursuit and harvest.
If you are looking for a fun and rewarding hunt during a spring season, don’t bypass the opportunity to bowhunt the elusive black & fuzzy. The only warning is that once you try it, you will most certainly love it! Be sure to check with State or Provincial game departments for regulations and outfitters.
Look for the March “Alpine Insight” column as we will be outlining how to establish a successful bear bait.