Planning a spring bear hunt? Good! The fall big game seasons are still months away. But why wait? Spring bear hunting is a perfect opportunity to get into the mountains. States like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming offer over-the-counter licenses for black bear. Grab your hunting gear, purchase a license and go hunting this spring!
Spring bear hunting will require some obvious gear like good optics, a quality backpack and a versatile layering system. But there are a few items that might be easy to overlook as you’re packing for a spring bear hunt.
Here are a few things you might want to remember, and why we think they’re important:
1. Mountain Boots
Some of the best places to look for emerging black bears in the spring are on steep slopes in very rugged terrain. While mountain black bears tend to hibernate on steep, north-facing slopes, the first place you’re likely to see them in the spring is on the opposite south side, where green grass and flowers first appear.
When hunting in steep and rugged terrain, one of the first pieces of gear to consider is a pair of quality mountain boots. We’d recommend a tall boot with excellent support and a waterproof/breathable membrane. Our pick on spring hunts is the non-insulated Kenetrek Mountain Extreme. This boot comes in a men’s version and a women’s version.
These boots are comfortably stiff yet lightweight, making them an ideal boot for steep mountain terrain. We highly recommend a tall boot like this, plus a set of gaiters when hunting in wet spring conditions. This combination will keep your feet dry and comfortable.
2. Tripod with Binocular Adapter
It’s no secret that spring black bear hunting means glassing…lots and lots of glassing. Putting your spotting scope on a tripod might seem obvious. But when you’re glassing for hours, it’s essential to have your binoculars on a tripod too. If you’re not used to mounting your binoculars on a tripod, you might be surprised at the difference it makes.
Even your standard 8x42 or 10x42 binoculars will greatly benefit from being mounted on a tripod. The difference can be so remarkable, you might feel like you’re using a new set of binos. Use a tripod with a smooth-panning head, and you’ll be much more comfortable for hours behind your binoculars.
3. Meals on the Mountain
Your best bet for spotting a bear is to live where the bears are. Plan on being in a glassing position throughout the daylight hours. That means taking your meals on the mountain.
Pack a lightweight and fuel-efficient JetBoil cook system. Along side it, try some of the lightweight meals from Heather’s Choice, Peak Refuel or Mountain House. When you’re sitting on a cold mountain glassing for bears, a hot meal will go a long way.
4. Comfort Items
Long days on the mountain glassing for black bears will require some comfort items. First, don’t forget a lightweight sitting pad or folding chair. Therm-a-Rest and Big Agnes both offer lightweight options to keep your rear end comfy during a long sit.
Additionally, bring some of your favorite snacks. A break from the typical backpacking food can lift your spirits. Whether it’s Fritos, candy bars, hot chocolate, or your favorite salami, bring whatever it takes to stay comfortable during these long days. The more you can stay focused, the better your chances for success.
5. Meat Care
Not all states require you to pack out meat from spring black bears. But this would be a terrible waste. Black bear meat is excellent, especially from mountain bears. Come prepared to take care of the meat as well as the hide.
Your kill kit starts with good knives. Havalon knives are perfect for skinning and quartering a black bear. Next, you’ll need a quality set of game bags. The Caribou Gear Small Magnum Pack is the perfect size for a black bear and includes seven game bags: 4 quarter bags, 1 parts bag for loose meat, 1 cape bag for the hide and 1 camp meat bag.
If you’d like to go with a lighter weight system, consider the Muley from our High Country Series. This system will fit an entire quartered black bear and includes five game bags: 4 quarter bags and 1 meat parts bag for loins and other loose meat.
If you plan to debone your bear meat in the field, you’ll want to use our Carnivore III system. With five bags for deboned meat and I.D. tags for each bag, you’ll be able to fit the meat from an entire deboned black bear.
Bonus: See Our New Hunter’s Tarp
When packing out black bear meat and the hide, it doesn’t have to leave your backpack a bloody mess. Our new Hunter’s Tarp is no ordinary SilTarp. It is so waterproof and so durable, blood will not soak through – even under heavy weight. Swaddle your meat and/or hide in the Hunter’s Tarp to keep your pack clean and blood-free.
The new Hunter’s Tarp comes with 4 stakes. It’s perfect for lying quarters down or deboning meat on the ground. Keep your meat clean and in great condition for the best possible end result.
When you’re not packing meat, the Hunter’s Tarp can quickly pitch for an impromptu shelter during a spring snow or thunderstorm. Use a tree, trekking poles or a combination of the two, create a perfect shelter to continue glassing while you wait out a storm.
This multi-use tarp weighs only 4.3 ounces, making it an essential part of every hunter’s kit.
Gear Featured in this Post:
- Kenetrek Men’s Non-Insulated Mountain Extreme Boots
- Kenetrek Women’s Non-Insulated Mountain Extreme Boots
- JetBoil Lightweight Cook Systems
- Heather’s Choice Dinners, Breakfasts and Packaroons
- Peak Refuel Freeze Dried Meals
- Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals
- Havalon Knives
- Small Magnum Pack Game Bag System
- High Country Muley Game Bag System
- Carnivore III Deboned Game Bag System
- Ultralight, Multi-Use Hunter’s Tarp
By Ryan McSparran