Bear Hunting Workshop and Bear Information
Across the country people are beginning to think about their hunting season this year. Lottery licenses sales are underway and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is responding with information releases and workshops around the state.
Photo from Mountainair Taxidermy .
Learn to hunt bears at workshop in Ridgway, March 14
MONTROSE, Colo. — If you’ve ever wanted to hunt bears or if you want to improve your chances of harvesting one, plan to attend a workshop sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on March 14 in Ridgway.
Bear populations are healthy in western Colorado, providing hunters a unique hunting opportunity.
CPW’s district wildlife managers will lead the presentation on hunting Colorado’s black bears. They’ll discuss bear biology, hunting tactics, field dressing, rules and regulations, and human-bear conflict issues.
The majority of the bear harvest takes place in September when the animals are foraging heavily for acorns and berries in preparation for their winter hibernation. The greater Montrose area offers ideal habitat for bears; so a hunter’s chances of having a successful hunt are high ‒ if they know where to go.
The class will be held 6-8:30 p.m., March 14 at the Ridgway Town Hall, 201 N. Railroad. The class will be limited to 25 people, and registration is required. To register, call the Montrose Parks and Wildlife office at 970-252-600
Black Bear Behavior
Understanding the physiological and behavioral changes that bears undergo can drastically improve your hunting experience!
- In mid-August, black bears enter a period of hyperphagia, or feeding frenzy.
- More importantly, their diets change.
- While their summer diets consist of leaves and flowers of broad-leafed plants and insects, in the fall bears eat primarily fruits and nuts. Fruits and nuts provide the high fat and carbohydrates needed to put on fat for winter hibernation.
- Many bears actively forage up to 20 hours per day during the fall feeding frenzy. This contrasts with 2-4 hours of active foraging during much of the spring and summer.
- Bears know which areas have good fruit and nut production. Often bears make migrations of 20-30 miles from their summer range to traditional fall ranges.
- Even though the bears are concentrating on feeding, their senses are quite keen. Their sense of smell is astounding, and contrary to much of the popular literature on bears, they also possess keen eyesight.
- Moving slowly through dense brush stands will not prove an effective hunting technique for most hunters. The better technique is to scout for areas with abundant bear food and bear sign, locate a higher point for observation, and patiently watch the area. This allows you to sight the bear and have time to carefully identify your target.
The location of bears is highly predictable during September, luckily for hunters! Still, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Nearly all bears concentrate at the lower-elevation habitats where fruits and nuts are abundant from mid-August to late September or early October.
- Locations of black bear sign and activity from mid-summer are irrelevant by bear hunting season.
- Bears may have a resident home range of 20-200 square miles.
- Bears may migrate 30 miles for fruit and can travel 15 miles during a day of rambling.
- Most of the good berry and nut producing vegetation in Colorado is found in dense stands where visibility is limited. Hunters should use terrain to obtain visibility into stands of shrubs.
Hunting success is most likely in areas with abundant fruits and nuts. The species of fruit will vary around the state. Colorado black bears eat fruits of serviceberry, chokecherry, pin cherry, squaw apple, mountain ash, buffalo berry and currant. The primary nut producing trees are Gambel oak and pinon pine.
Use feeding habits to specify an optimal hunting location:
- Many bears will feed at the same site as one another, but usually at different times.
- Bears often move on after filling their belly and look for new sites, likely returning to good sites periodically.
- During the feeding frenzy, each bear may defecate 5-15 times daily, thus bear sign is abundant.
- With a casual examination, hunters can find out which species of fruits are being consumed, which will help them specify the area to be hunted.
- Most of the better fruit areas are at lower elevations of bear habitat, often distant from the pine and spruce-fir forests that many hunters associate with bears.
- The fruit-producing areas may not be adjacent to summer habitat. For instance, in some high-elevation parks, bears may travel across several miles of sagebrush-dominated mountains to lower canyons where chokecherries are found along streams.
- Bears move across open sagebrush at night, but actively forage in riparian zone throughout the day. Wherever ‘oakbrush thickets’ dominate the mountains, you can count on finding black bears in September.
- If you usually hunt an area with poor fall bear foods, you may want to look at nearby areas (up to 30 miles away) where bears could migrate to.
- Hunting on travel zones may be productive when bears return to their summer range in late September or early October. Bears are like us in many ways: they travel the paths of least resistance during long trips, so scout natural passes and game trails.
Hunting black bears without hounds or bait will require a lot of scouting and a familiarity in recognizing bear sign and foods. Find the abundant food production areas, and you will find the black bear. Scouting and persistence are keys.