Practice, practice, practice. You know it’s been said hundreds of times before when it comes to bowhunting, but bear hunting is a totally different ball game. You’ll be given hunting advice from nearly everyone that owns camo pants.
Bear hunts, in many states, is the first big game season of the year. Getting back into using our bowhunting skills can be difficult after a long winter, but it’s imperative to be prepared for what a bear hunt actually entails.
Considerations you’ll want to make before your next bear hunt:
It’s not hard to imagine the work necessary in retrieving your game back to your vehicle. There’s a lot of tracking and retrieval work to be expected. Increase your physical exercise: start walking and do more sit-ups, push-ups, squats, etc. If you’re filling the bait station on your own and want to supply more to lure them in, there is a lot of work to be done with continually filling and mixing the stations.
Gear Up and Be Safe
The hunting clothing and gear for other types of hunting is also appropriate for bear hunting. Bears are intelligent and they’ll almost always know you’re there, so hiding your human scent isn’t a main focus we’ve had. You may, however, want to invest in good mosquito repellent.
Having a good set of binoculars is a must. Having a rangefinder might be helpful, but its usefulness on your hunt will all depend on how your bait station is set up.
Study your subject
Even though bears are big animals, the vital kill area on a bear is small. Think about all the pain and roughness bears inflict on each other. They walk away from these fights with massive injuries but, nonetheless, can still walk away. If you’re going to take one of these bears down, make sure you’re mentally and intellectually prepared.
Understand where the vital shots are from multiple angles. Unfortunately, bears won’t just have their left side facing you for the perfect shot. Understanding their anatomy will ensure for your success, and less suffering for them. You may want to invest in a 3d target. Or cut out your own brown bag the same size as a bear and practice shooting.
Practice shooting your target or 3d brown bag at different angles. If you can find a wooded area (safe from foot traffic so you’re not dropping dear ol’ Aunt Sally), practice in similar hunting conditions. Drop to a knee and shoot. Tuck yourself behind a tree, find your target and shoot. Hunting bears will not be in a controlled environment like shooting targets. Sure, practice your form in a flat target. But the more you can adapt and practice in the wilderness-like conditions your bear lives in, the more comfortable you’ll be on game day. So practice coming to a full draw like you will during your hunt, quickly pick a spot on your target. Keep your excess movement to a minimum. Zero-in on the “real” target (i.e. the vital shots on the bear) and shoot. Treat your practice bear as though it’s a real bear. Observe where you’re shooting and then make the necessary adjustments.
And don’t forget—black bears and brown bears are NOT the same. Here’s a quick
chart to spot the difference.
Chart courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game https://idfg.idaho.gov/sites/default/files/seasons-rules-big-game-2019-2020-black-bear.pdf
Pack the right “heat”
Yep, still talking bowhunting. If you’re expecting an unweighted arrow to take down a massive black bear or grizzly bear, you may want to think again. Studies repeatedly show the benefits to taking down larger game with FOC percentages ranging from 18–20%.
A trophy bear— you know the kind we’re talking about with the saggy bellies and ears that look small on its larger square, head— needs a lot more momentum for a kill shot. You need something to drive through the bear to effectively, and humanely, kill the bear. This can be achieved by increasing your arrow’s FOC weight.
The easiest and least expensive way? Bad Boys.
We carry weighted arrow sleeves called the Bad Boys that ensure you get more bang for your buck when hunting. For smaller game like turkey you’ll want to only add 100 gr FOC arrow sleeve. Medium game like deer or elk, 150 gr FOC arrow sleeve. But for bigger game like bear, you’ll need the maximum amount of penetration, momentum, and accuracy. We’d typically suggest the 200 gr arrow sleeve for large game like bear. What is great about this option is you can quickly judge the size of your bear, slide on the FOC sleeve right there in the field, and shoot. (However, for the sake of practicality and keeping your movement to a minimum, it would be better to have your arrows pre-assembled with various Bad Boys weighted arrows in your quiver. One arrow with 150 gr, one with 200 gr, and one with 250 gr Bad Boys.)
Buy Bad Boys Here.
The benefit of using Bad Boys is you can lower your bow’s poundage. This is nice for those who may not have the strength for what a bear kill might require, or who have practiced on a specific poundage and don’t have time to practice with more poundage. The added Bad Boys’ weight drives the arrow at full force, capturing the same speed, momentum, and accuracy—but with the added bonus of not having to pull 60–80+ pounds!
Beyond safety, have fun! Stay within your legal hunting rights and enjoy your time out in the woods!
We’d love to hear how your hunt went… and if you “packed your heat” right!