A man kneels behind his kill in the field after a successful outing of spring bear hunting.

Getting Ready for Spring Bear Hunting: What You Need to Know

Learning how to hunt big game isn’t an overnight process. Brett Benton shares his expertise about spring bear hunting, from prep to scouting to taking them down.

Bears have always fascinated me. I always kept an eye out for them during my childhood trips to the Appalachians. However, it wasn’t until I moved out West in 2016 that I finally learned how to hunt bears.

This wasn’t an overnight process — I didn’t tag my first bear until 2020. He was 11 years old (discovered via tooth aging), and his skull measured 20 and 3/16 inches. If I wasn’t obsessed before, I definitely was after that first bear.

I’ve dedicated a lot of time to educating others on all things bear. I hunt, process, and eat them myself. I’m a lifetime member of the American Bear Foundation, I started a media company surrounding bear hunting, and I even write blog posts about bears (like this one).

Let me teach you what I know.

Why Spring Bear Hunting?

I love springtime. After a long, cold, sleepy winter, I can’t stop thinking about the mountains — how they slowly wake up and come alive during spring. The barren trees bloom, temperatures rise, and the snow-capped mountains reveal their rocky faces. Most importantly, though, the animals start to move around.

Spring bear hunting is a great way to participate in predator management. Deer and elk reproduce in the fall and winter, and areas with high bear populations can put undue stress on those species.

It’s not uncommon for a boar to chase a sow and cannibalize her cubs so she can go back into heat and re-breed. Targeting mature boars in the spring allows those cubs to grow to adulthood, benefiting the overall bear population.

Spring bear hunting is a great way to familiarize yourself with your local wildlife movement patterns. It’s also an ideal time to hunt for antler sheds, mushrooms, and turkeys, since turkey and bear seasons usually overlap.

Prepare for Spring Bear Hunting: Tips for New Hunters

Spring in the mountains is beautiful, but the weather can be temperamental. I’ve experienced days that start in the sunny 70s and end in the snow. Being prepared for adverse weather is key — I keep rain gear, a puffy jacket, and gloves in my pack.

I always have some kind of fire starter and multiple lighters on hand, too, right alongside my medical kit. I also recommend carrying a GPS locator, such as a Garmin inReach, so people can find you in an emergency.

Finally, I always let someone know where I’m headed, when I’m headed there, and when I plan to leave. That way, if I don’t turn up where I’m supposed to be, they know to call for help.

If you’re hunting in a state with mountainous terrain, physically prepare for your hunt. Elevation differences can be cruel, and bears tend to hang out in steep areas. Being in physical shape helps.

The right footwear is also a tremendous help. I recommend hunting boots with good ankle support. You may want to bring trekking poles for extra stability, too.

Pre-scouting the area where you want to hunt can save you time and energy. Modern technology can give us “eyes on the ground” without being there in person, thanks to GPS maps like onX Hunt. Reading blog posts (like this one) and watching YouTube videos of spring bear hunts helps as well.

If you’d like a more comprehensive crash course, look into Treeline Academy, run by my friend Mark Livesay. His spring bear hunting e-scouting courses are particularly helpful.

States for Spring Bear Hunts

Below, we’ve listed the eight U.S. states that offer spring bear hunts, as well as pros and cons for nonresidents to consider before traveling for spring bear hunting. Time frames and regulations vary from state to state, so check with local wildlife agencies for up-to-date information.

Infographic: Getting Ready for Spring Bear Hunting: What You Need to Know

Black Bear Hunting Tips, Safety, and Tactics

Black bears tend to run away when confronted. However, they can dish out life-threatening injuries. This is especially likely if you meet a sow with cubs.

Staying Safe

While bear hunting expeditions in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana target black bears, those may not be the only ones you encounter. Grizzly bear populations are on the rise, and currently, they don’t have a regulated hunting season. This means these naturally aggressive critters are less averse to people. In the last few years, the number of grizzly attacks has skyrocketed.

I always take careful stock of my surroundings when I hunt in grizzly country, especially if I’m using a predator call to attract a bear. I carry a readily accessible pistol alongside my rifle, and I recommend you do the same. Some people opt for bear spray, but I don’t consider spray as reliable as a sidearm.

More often than not, attacks happen because a hunter stumbles into a bear’s territory. Bears are tough creatures, and even with good shot placement and an appropriate caliber bullet, they can continue to charge. I’ve experienced this — it’s terrifying.

Never follow an injured bear into thick cover. An injured bear will often run into thick brush where visibility is low. Give them time to expire before following them in and have your firearm drawn and ready. It may even be best to wait for the morning before pursuing your target, especially if it’s already dark.

Bears are food-driven creatures. They may follow you into your camp or even visit the kill site of an animal you just harvested. Stashing your food away from your camp or up in a tree helps you avoid trouble. This goes for any meat you’ve harvested out in the wild, too.

Finding Bears

If you can find their food, you can find the bears. Bears’ food sources change throughout the year. In spring, they’re attracted to green, fresh grass, close to the snow line.

Torn stumps and flipped rocks can be signs that a nearby bear is searching for insects, grubs, and larvae. Prey animal populations — especially deer fawns and elk calves — often tempt bears close, too.

I have the best luck finding bears in steep, rocky terrain. They run hot because of their thick fat and fur, so they like to hang out around water or in the shade to stay cool. I’ve found them in ponds, wallows, and old timber burns for the same reasons.

Spot-and-stalk hunting is my favorite bear-hunting method. If you want to try, invest in a good spotting scope or pair of binoculars. Bears are most active in the mornings and evenings, so glassing during these times should yield the best results.

Glassing also allows you to play the wind correctly, as bears have incredibly acute senses of smell. As a nice bonus, it keeps you from spreading your scent all over the mountain.

I’ve found that spring bears like old logging roads. I prefer the gated ones that prevent vehicle access. Bears travel them for two reasons: they’re quiet, and they’re often bordered by rich, green grass shoots. They like the path of least resistance.

I love hunting with a predator call, but this method isn’t without risk. Good visibility and preparedness are key — you’re trying to bring a hungry and potentially angry bear closer to you!

Final Thoughts on Spring Bear Hunting

Spring bear hunting can be challenging, especially if you’re new to it. Preparation goes a long way.

Just observing these creatures can be rewarding, even if you don’t make a kill. I consider myself lucky just to get out there, learn more about them, and traverse our incredible public lands. It’s all about the experience and what you take from it.

The only way to be successful is to get out there and try. I wish all of you spring bear hunters — experienced and new alike — the best of luck in this upcoming season.


by Brett Benton, MKC Customer Experience Manager, and Avid Bear Hunter.