HomeOutdoorsHuntingAn Overview Of Spring Bear Hunting In North America

An Overview Of Spring Bear Hunting In North America

by Brett Stayton
Springtime Black Bear
Photo by Scott Suriano/Getty Images

When most outdoors adventurers start thinking of springtime, it stirs up daydreams of gobbles ripping through an early morning fog. Either that or the thrill of casting into a fat bass spawn or a school of crappies in a feeding frenzy. However, one overlooked springtime pursuit is just as popular depending on where it’s permitted. In parts of North America, spring black bear hunting is just as much a springtime tradition as turkey hunting or enjoying the first few warm days of the year with a fishing pole in hand.

However, unless you’re a dedicated black bear hunter, there’s a good chance you’re unfamiliar with the concept of spring bear hunting. Clay Newcomb is the main brains behind the Bear Hunting Magazine operation. A while back, he took a deep dive into some introductory information about spring bear hunting. Newcomb even mentions that growing up in the south, he spent his springs hunting gobblers and catching fish. But in 2014 he got his first chance to do some springtime big game hunting. He was hooked harder than a flathead catfish on a trotline. Newcomb introduces the concept of spring bear hunting with his typical poeticism:

“What other big game animal can you hunt in April, May, and June? What other beast inhabits such incredible wild places and has population numbers and meat like the black bear? Spring hunting opportunity abounds for both the do-it-yourself and folks looking for a guided hunt. Here are some answers about spring bear hunting that will get you headed toward success, adventure, and backstraps.”

Where Can You Go Spring Bear Hunting In North America?

There are currently 8 states that offer spring bear seasons in some capacity. That list includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska. It’s also permitted only on certain tribal lands in Maine. Only Idaho and Alaska allow hunters to run hounds in the spring. Alaska, Idaho, and Wyoming are the only states that permit bear baiting in the spring. All of the other hunting opportunities are spot and stalk only. If you’re looking to do your spring bear hunting in Maine, going with an outfitter is your best bet. Newcomb recommends Penobscot Guide Service, Mid-Maine Outfitters, Matagamon Wilderness Outfitters, or Tomah Mountain Outfitters.

Washington state was previously a hub for bear hunting in the spring, however late last year the state decided to ban the practice beginning in 2023. It’s an ongoing controversy, and it’s very well possible the season is opened back up in the future.

Spring bear hunting opportunities in Canada are also quite prevalent. The provinces of British Columbia, The Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick all have a spring bear season.

When Is The Season?

May and June are the primary months for spring bear hunting. However, the season does open up in April in some places. Bears typically start leaving their winter dens sometime in April, and by May and June they’re usually all emerged from their wintery hideaways. Weather patterns are a huge determining factor as to when bears leave their dens. Further south in places like Idaho and Montana, bears are usually active by mid-April. Meanwhile, in Canada, snowmelt might keep them in their dens into the month of May.

Why Is Spring The Best Time To Hunt Bears?

The spring is a particularly good time to hunt bears for two reasons. One is that the bear’s appetite is off the charts once they emerge from their dens. The other is that springtime is the breeding season for bears. Being hungry and horny is a combination that will make pretty much anyone throw their inhibitions to the wind. That means it’s a good time to catch a bear slippin’. Bears feed mostly on vegetation in the springtime, and they try to do so while moving as little as possible. That means the bears are easy to pattern if you find a good spot. Boars emerge from their dens earlier in the spring than lady bears, so if you’re spot and stalk hunting then early in the season is the best time to go.

If you’re hunting baited bears, which is common depending on where you’re at, then it’s best to wait until mid to late May. This is about the time of the year when the bear rut starts to kick off, and bait brings a lot of bears into one area and stirs up a mating and feeding frenzy that makes hunting conditions amazing. Peak breeding season for black bears is about mid-June. That means mid-June is to boar bears what the October and November rut is for big bucks. The big boars will be the most active and liable to show up anywhere at any time of the day, so hunt hard and you might be rewarded with a big bear you might not otherwise see any other time of the year.

First Lite Provides Closer Look At Idaho Spring Hunting Season

One of the best looks at the spring bear hunting season is from a film produced by First Lite Hunting Apparel. It’s racked up almost 100,000 views on YouTube. It follows along with a hunter named Paul Peterson who drew a tag to hunt in one of the most coveted spring bear units in North America. To check out the First Lite film Spring Bear Hunt: Ursus Idaho below:

First Lite / YouTube