With the explosion of black bear populations all over the country during the last few decades, opportunities for harvesting a bear are greater than they ever have been. Hunters who find themselves living in states that have traditionally seemed like a million miles away from the nearest bear, now have a chance. I grew up in Kansas and as a kid in the 1980’s, I never even dreamed that decent bear hunting would one day be found just a few hours from my home. Bear hunting is getting popular and there is a decent chance that you are closer to bears than you think you are, so how should you prepare for your first bear hunt?
First off, depending on your choice of weapon, you will need to have an adequate killing machine. If you are a bow hunter, most bows and crossbows are up to the task of dispatching a live black bear, so it is up to you to choose the right broadheads and practice your precision. If you are a rifle hunter, a few more details should be attended to.
Choose a proven bear caliber. Research is easier than ever now with the internet and all the websites and forums available. Find a caliber you can afford and handle. If you are buying a rifle for bear hunting, figure out a popular caliber for bears and think about getting one caliber larger.
One of the most important aspects of rifle hunting for bears is to choose a bullet wisely. Bears have thicker bones and denser meat than deer, so you will want a bullet with some penetrating, or knock-down, power. And always remember, the only thing better than a well-placed bullet in a bear is a second well-placed bullet in a bear. Bears are stout and a lot of bears that drop from a single bullet shot often regain their footing and take off. A good follow-up shot is essential in not having to recover a possible lost and dangerous animal.
Once you have your weapon squared away and you realize that shooing a bear might not equal killing one, you will need to remember a few more tips learned from seasoned bear hunters who have years of experience. In my three decades of hunting and guiding, I have learned many helpful hints. One good method to remember is to always try to shoot through a bear and hit his outside front leg bone. If you can send a bullet through the vitals and into the outside leg, you should have enough time to make another follow-up shot.
Another good tactic is to never shoot a bear farther away than 200 yards, and try not to shoot in or near heavy cover. Hopefully your patience will allow you to wait until a bear is in an open and clear area which will aid you in making a closer shot. If you are within 200 yards, you should have time for the two shot rule. If your bear is near heavy cover, you might not get that chance. Be patient and try to get the perfect shooting scenario.