Hibernation Awakening: Spring Bear Hunting with Steep Kuntry
Spring is the time of year where the weather evolves. The damp ground rejuvenates the grasses and plants that have laid dormant for the past five months. The colors transition from tans and yellows to lush greens. Yet, the vegetation isn’t the only thing coming out of a long slumber, so are the bears.
There are two seasons to hunt bears in the state of Idaho; spring and fall. These two seasons present hunters with three different methods of take, ranging from spot and stalk, baiting and hound hunting. The Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologists have deemed the bear populations high enough throughout the state to legalize these methods and seasons within the parameters set for each unit. Depending on the terrain, some methods are more effective than others. Consulting with a Fish and Game biologist or officer may help you understand how best to pursue your bear.
As a black bear stumbles out of the den it has spent the previous five to six months in, it has only one thing on the mind; FOOD. This also rings true before the black bear settles in for the hibernation vacation. Bears are constantly on the move and are always grazing and eating in order to maintain a healthy weight. Because of this, a common misconception about black bears is that they are solely herbivores. In reality, they are omnivores. Black bears do feed on a lot of plant based food, but they also love the sweet taste of elk and deer meat. For us, this not only deems it necessary to hunt bears for their meat, but for predator management to help preserve the deer and elk populations. Elk and deer are in a fragile state when spring arrives, as they are on a mission to put back on the weight that they lost during the winter. This makes them an easy target for predators such a black bears. Not to mention spring is also calving/fawn season for elk and deer. Bears are opportunists and if the opportunity presents itself on a weak/young elk or deer, the bear will take advantage. This is exactly why we hunt bears.
We choose to hunt bears from treestands, as this is very similar to whitetail hunting. Our treestand sits can last anywhere from four to six hours depending on the time the bears are coming by our stand. This depends on many things- including the weather, moon cycle, the bear rut, etc. Bears are very intelligent animals and are very calculated when they choose to lumber through the woods. If something is not right, they will sense this and air to the side of caution. This can present many challenges for us and means we must be perfect in our setup when sitting 15 feet off of the ground waiting for a bear to come in.
As we sit in the pines, the Idaho weather can be very unpredictable. Therefore, it is important that we are prepared for anything, including temperatures ranging from the high 40’s to the mid 80’s, thunderstorms and rain. Sitting in a tree can get miserable pretty fast so it is important we stay warm with our Pnuma Heated Core Vest and Pants or have the 3L Element rain gear on hand for a shift in the forecast. The Gunnison hoodie is a perfect layer when conditions are moderate. Gear preparedness also rings true if you are on a spot and stalk adventure. It is important to have Pnuma gear essential to a September archery kit, as well as items for when the elements change. After the kill, not only have we taken part in a conservation effort, but we bring home some of the best meat out there…at least in our opinion. Contrary to popular belief, bear meat is a very delicious choice when it comes to burgers, sausage or jerky. Bear meat is dense and rich, full of flavor and nutrients. Per eight ounces of bear meat, 74 grams of protein, 29 grams of fat and 586 calories are packed in.
All in all, spring is a time of change and a time of action. It provides the first opportunities of the year for outdoorsmen to be on the mountain, an opportunity for the animals to start feeding and roaming the hills after a long hibernation, and an opportunity for the plants to begin the process of showing their true colors. No matter how you decide to spend your spring season, get out there, work hard, and do something to make yourself better.
-Richard Bettencourt, Steep Kuntry Outdoors