“Can bears see color very well?” I wrote my dad via text message. “They are especially drawn to the color blonde,” he wrote back. “We’ll just set you out as bait.”
Chuckling to myself, I surveyed the piles of Próis Hunting & Field Apparel camo that littered my “hunting room” floor among other various hunting gear. After 5 years of applying for a black bear license, I finally drew a tag for the first season in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and I’ve been busy trying to ready myself for the trip.
Having never been bear hunting before, I must admit that I don’t know much about the animal or hunting methods used to harvest them. My dad, having a lifetime of hunting experience, is usually my “go to” contact for any and all questions about outdoor related subjects. I have enlisted him as my “Personal Professional Hunter” for this trip, and have been drilling him with questions (along with doing my own research) ever since I learned that I drew the tag.
Here are the tips for bear hunting that I’ve learned:
Bear hunting equipment required
A good rifle and scope are going to be the most important pieces of equipment when it comes to bear hunting. I am planning on using my trusty Browning 7mm Magnum, A-Bolt Medallion rifle, and have made sure to sight it in at the range in preparation for the hunt.
Contrary to what my dad says, bears don’t have very good eyesight, nor do they really prefer blondes to brunettes. They do, however, have a very good sense of smell, so staying scent-free and making sure to be aware of which way the wind is blowing will be key to a successful bear hunt.
In addition to my HerCamoShop scent-free products, I’m also planning on bringing along a pair of Champion shooting sticks, since my dad and I will be hunting out of a ground blind, as well as a ThermaCELL to keep the bugs away.
How to estimate the size of a bear
The size of the bear’s ears is a good indication to weather or not it is a mature bear.
“If a black bear has ears that look small in relation to its head, then it is most likely a ‘big’ bear,” said Mia Anstine, owner of Wolf Creek Outfitters.
The demeanor of the bear will also indicate whether or not it is a mature animal.
“Also, bigger bears will have stocky legs and a belly closer to the ground. They will move slowly and deliberately with confidence. Smaller bears, on the other hand, have ears that appear large and sit close together high on their narrow heads. Their legs appear long and bandy and their behavior may seem quick and nervous,” according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
How to tell the difference between a male and female black bear
An eHow article lists the following steps to deciphering if a black bear is male or female:
- Look at the face and head of the bear. If the ears seem to be large in proportion to the head, and the face seems narrow instead of round, it is likely a female. A male usually has a wider and rounder head, making its ears appear smaller in proportion to its head.
- Observe the bear when it urinates. If the urine appears to come from underneath the bear’s belly, it is most likely a male. If the bear squats and/or the urine appears to come from its back end, it’s probably a female.
- Assess the body of the bear. If the body is large and round, it probably is a male. Black bear females are usually smaller and leaner than males.
Generally speaking, if you see 2 or more bears together, that group is more than likely made up of a female and her cubs. If you see 2 bears together and one is pursuing the other, it is most likely to be a male pursuing a female.
Where the bear’s vitals are located
From what I have researched, I have noticed that a bear’s vital area (heart and lungs) is situated differently than that of a whitetail dear. The bear’s chest is more compact and it also has a thicker hide and strong bones that can cover the vital area, depending on how the animal is standing. Before taking a shot, it is best to wait until the bear steps forward with its front leg (the one that is nearest you) to make sure that the shoulder and leg bones are not covering the vital organs.
“A bear’s most vital area is an 8-inch circle behind the front shoulder. Since bears have massive, muscular shoulders and heavy bones, a shoulder shot is not recommended,” according to the Maryland DNR.
Hopefully the information I have gathered will help me to make a clean shot on a mature Michigan black bear. I’ll let you know.