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Hunting Late Season Black Bears
With warm weather, lots of food and the rut coming up, now is the time to tag your bear!
Black bear hunting throughout the West is in full-swing. The great news for Pacific Northwest tag holders is that conditions are primed for big, mature bears to be even more active in the coming weeks making frequent appearances on mountain ridges and coastal swamps. Food is plentiful, and with the breeding season coming up, now is the time to be afield.

Breeding Bear Movements: Boars will readily be seeking out sows in late May. They will travel several miles to breed and maintain their territories. According to ODFW biologist Nicholas Leonetti at the Newport, Oregon office, “It is possible that bears could breed earlier in years such as this. It depends on when the sow came out of the den and how healthy she is. Typically a sow’s reproductive tract does not start preparing for estrus until March and won’t be ready to be bred until May (if she does not have cubs of the year). Since some sows were probably active early this year, it could cause them to begin the cycle early.” Normally bears will breed between late May and early August but the peak is the middle of June to mid of July. This should be quite exciting for hunters as bruins will be roaming the woods often times traveling several miles in search of a sow in estrus. Of course, the distance a boar travels greatly depends on the number of sows in estrus within his territory. “Timing is about 3-4 weeks ahead of normal, so earlier May could be a likely bet this year for bears to begin breeding,” says Leonetti.

Breeding boars will remain with a sow in estrus for several days breeding numerous times before seeking out a new mate. Mature males will breed with several females throughout the season. “One boar we ear tagged while doing research in the southern Cascades traveled over 20 air miles from where we caught him during breeding season to where he was killed during the fall season. I can’t say that was all from movements during breeding season though since we did not have a radio collar on him,” adds Leonetti.

Sows need to have a healthy body weight in order to activate their breeding cycle. They can be found feeding on grassy slopes, early berries, succulent marsh greens such as skunk cabbage and sword ferns. Deer fawns, elk calves and carrion are also spring favorites. Food sources and openings along steep canyons are where you will find bears this month. They will be moving at all hours but mainly from dawn until mid-morning and from about 3pm until dusk. Often times they will take a siesta during the middle of the day in the sun to rest and recoup from their ravenous feeding and breeding activities.

Travel Patterns: Later in the season bears will move to higher country once the forage begins to dry out. The high country will hold onto fresh grass and other foliage longer. These are also places where they can root through old logs and turn over rocks in search of insects and grubs. Walking old logging roads is not only an excellent hunting tactic but it is also a popular way for bruins to travel and search for other bears. In thick coastal locations this is a great tactic as is setting up and waiting near a location with good food and water. Ridge lines and thick re-prod with small openings are great places to watch and glass for bear movement. These places are where they travel, search for food and smell other bears. Setting up with a spotting scope and waiting is one of a hunters best bets during the late season. Leonetti also points out, “If this spring stays warm and mildly wet like we have seen so far it should be great for bear hunters. With the longer days and great growing conditions bears should be very active come May. As long as it does not get too hot and dry, the bears should be out taking advantage of the abundant green up.”

Tactics for Success: My cousin and I have had the most success behind a set of field glasses and spotting scope. It’s a great way to dissect parcels of forest and clear-cuts. We also search logging roads for bear scat and look for locations to set up and watch or use predator calls such as rabbit squeals, calf elk and fawn in distress bleats. These seem to work best in locations surrounded by heavier cover. Gary Lewis and Lee Van Tassell authors of “Black Bear Hunting Expert Strategies for Success” remind hunters that late spring is when bears will feed on helpless young ungulates. They are quick to add that bears will constantly be on the move and can cover a lot of ground in a hurry but will usually stay in the same general areas for most of a single day.

Some of the most important things for consistent success on bruins are: 1) Scent control: Hunters tend to overlook cover scents and scent eliminators during bear season. One of the biggest defenses a bear has is its ability to smell and detect food or danger. 2) Patience: Hunters with just about any game tend to call it quits too early. Find a comfortable location and wait a fair amount of time. This is crucial especially during prime hours of movement. 3) Mix it up: If you have been glassing for a couple days without success go for a hike, set-up and do some distress calling. Check out new areas and explore a bit. 4) Go where few have: Late in the season look to locations away from roads or well used trails. Bears will be drawn to these isolated zones. 5) Remain optimistic: For me it seems that often times I see bears when I least expect it. They are quiet and shy for the most part. Try to keep that in mind while pursuing them.



Spicy Italian BBQ Bear Sausage Meatballs, by Troy Rodakowski
1 lb. Ground Italian bear sausage (hot or mild)
1 bottle favorite BBQ Sauce
1 cup chopped or minced fresh garlic
½ Onion diced
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
Tabasco sauce to flavor
½ cup brown sugar
Form 3-4 large sized meatballs with ground. Pan sear in olive oil. Place into crock pot on low add all above ingredients and cook for 6-7 hours. Remove meat, place on a bet of fresh sprouts, veggies, noodles or rice. Slice fresh tomatoes and top with herb infused Gorgonzola cheese.
 
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