Bear Essentials: Bowhunting for Black Bears

If an animal was ever designed to be the perfect animal for bowhunters, it would be the Black Bear. They are located within a short driving distance for most hunters in the U.S., they have a moderately high population, and all Black Bears taken with a bow are trophies regardless of size. 

There are hundreds of outfitters that specialize in guiding bear hunters. This is a good thing as it expands the opportunities for first time hunters or those hunters without the time to do all the work necessary for finding a quality animal and it ensures that Black Bears are properly managed due to their popularity.

The best and most effective way to select and harvest a bear is with bait. Some states don’t allow baiting, which is a shame because there is no better bear hunting method that allows a hunter to observe a bear for an extended amount of time. The longer a hunter can observe a bear, the more likely they are to recognize the sex, health, and maturity of the bear. 

Despite any negative feelings about baiting, the ethics of being able to properly identify your trophy, to ensure you are targeting the best specimen for wildlife management, cannot be disputed. 

Before a hunter goes on a bowhunt for baited Black Bears, a lot of practice needs to be accomplished. Since most hunts are done from treestands, it is essential that a hunter practices from an elevated height. I have practiced from rooftops, balconies, ladders, but I prefer to set up my own tree stand to simulate actual hunting conditions.

Wind is not a huge variable when it comes to hunting average bears over bait; however, it is a very important factor if you are trying to harvest an older trophy animal. Although most bears will come to bait even if they know a hunter is hiding in a near-by tree, the old guys will wait until complete darkness before taking that chance. They did not get old by accident.

Finally, every hunter should know that the vitals are smaller and better protected on a bear than they are on a deer. As a rule, their lungs reach further back than a deer lungs do, but a heart shot is harder to accomplish since it sits further back and very low on a bear. The hardest part to aiming on a bear is to take into account their hair length. A well-haired bear will hide its body well. Learn to account for this and you will be ahead of the average first-time bear hunter.