Like many of us outdoor types, you’re possibly a bear-hunting fanatic and just can’t seem to wait for the regular firearms bear season to arrive. Since it’s only a four-day season it seems too short, so you opt to take advantage of one of the many other options available.
You have several options: the Oct. 16-Nov. 6 archery season, the Oct. 16–23 muzzleloader hunt, or maybe the extended season that takes place Nov. 27–Dec. 11. Like the rest of us, you’ve been waiting for added chances to harvest a black bear and aren’t about to pass on these opportunities.
Now that it has materialized, do you actually have any clue on how to connect on a bear with archery or muzzleloader gear?
It can be done, but plenty of preseason leg work is involved before setting your game plan into action. The first task will be to scout out and locate several bear in the preseason. Which leads to the next question: do you have any idea where to look for one?
It’s all about finding the food sources the bears will use come fall. If you live near an agriculture forest with fringe areas where corn or oats are readily available, you’ve located a hot spot.
If you’re in a more mountainous area, the bears will key in on the acorn or beechnut crops as the accessible food source. Food sources will be your main objective as bears need to fill their stomachs as they fatten up for the coming winter hibernation.
Your second objective is to try and solve where the bear is possibly bedding during daylight hours. As a rule, bears like cool, dark, moist cover. In the valley bottoms, that may be a thick pine patch or a nearby swamp.
Even in the mountains it may be a shady drainage or possibly a thick impenetrable clearcut. Also be sure to check out the south facing slopes as bears can absorb the warmth of the sun there.
Next you need to ask yourself if you’re the go-getter type or do you prefer the waiting game? Many prefer to sit and wait while hunting from a blind or stand. Setting up near a bedding area or along the daily route to a feeding area will give you the highest percentage for possibilities. If you’re the patient type and can sit still for hours on end, it’s probably your best bet if your scouting was thorough.
But if you get antsy, you probably prefer to still hunt your prey instead of waiting for it to come to you. That’s when you need to put spot and stalk strategies into use. Imagine you’ve found where they live and have finally spotted a bear now. With the name of the game being spot and stalk, your main challenge is to approach undetected.
Believe it or not, approaching a black bear is relatively simple if you move slowly. Your goal as an archer/muzzleloader hunter will be to close the distance as much as possible.
Watch for things such as is the bear moving or standing still. Does the bear seem relaxed or nervous? When you’re close enough, do you have a viable shot opportunity?
Remember, it’s up to you to control the situation as you’re sure to be tense during a spot and stalk situation as you’ll be on edge during such a close encounter. It’ll be a challenge but wait for the moment when you’re offered a broadside or slightly quartering away shot. A risky shot placement is not an option when in tight quarters. Placing the shot in the vitals will bring the bear down quickly.
Once everything has fallen into place and your shot has connected, it’s time to evaluate the situation. First ask yourself if the shot was good, did you hear the bear crash to a stop in the brush or maybe he went down in sight, or did you hear the death moan that guarantees the bear has expired?
If unsure of the outcome, sit back and let things settle down for 30 minutes to an hour before taking up the trail. Generally, a bear will expire after a short distance so there’s no sense in pushing the animal too soon as bears can be tough to blood trail.
Bears have a lot of fat which tends to seal off entry and exit wounds quickly, resulting in a minimal blood trail to follow. You’ve put this much effort into the hunt, so hang back briefly then advance slowly and usually you’ll retrieve your prize.
If you’ve harvested a black bear with a rifle and are looking for a new challenge, then try your luck at tagging a bear in the new seasons. It’s a close-up game that’s guaranteed to get your adrenalin flowing.
Since we have a six-week long archery bear season, the odds for success are good if you’ve done your preseason scouting. As long as you have a general hunting license and a bear license, you’re set too. So add a little bit more time to your hunting season as the season slips by quickly anyways.