Planning to go black bear hunting for the first time? Don't underestimate them! You need to be fully equipped and prepared to even have a shot taking down one of the smartest, strongest beasts in the forest.
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7 Tips for a Safe, Successful Black Bear Hunting Trip
1. Stay Unscented
Black bears have an amazing sense of smell. Judging by their large, black noses alone, you can already tell that their snouts are physically capable of taking in smells from a very wide range.
It's difficult to quantify their senses, but reports say black bears can detect scents from more than 18 to 20 miles away. However, the same report states that conservative researchers note the black bear can only smell food within a two-mile radius.
Either way, they have an amazing sense of smell that outperforms even a bloodhound's. It's no exaggeration to say that the biggest mistake any hunter can make when hunting black bears is underestimating the creature's ability to detect various smells.
With that in mind, do your best to stay unscented. Weeks or days prior to your trip, opt to use unscented soap, deodorant, and shampoo so you start neutralizing the odor your body emits.
For a more neutral skin scent, set aside all the air fresheners, scented candles, and air purifiers in your home.
2. Pack Your Clothes
Apart from going above and beyond to maintain a neutral skin scent, strive to keep your clothes scent-free as well. To do so, start using unscented soap and detergent on your hunting clothes. Wash your other clothing items in a separate cycle as well.
Also, don't wear your hunting clothes at home. Wearing your hunting gear on the drive to the hunting site exposes your clothes to all kinds of unnatural scents, from the leathery scent on your car seats to the smoke from the passing vehicles.
Instead, opt to gear up on the hunting site. Pack your hunting clothes in a dry, airtight ziplock bag to limit their exposure to unnatural odors not found in the wild.
3. Always Stay Downwind
No matter how neutral your skin and clothes smell, you'll still emit some sort of odor while hunting, especially later in the day as you start to sweat. With that in mind, never assume an upwind position.
Trust us, you'll never be able to trick the nose of a wild black bear. Stay upwind for even a few seconds and your supposed prey will immediately catch your scent.
4. Attack at the Right Time
Prey are often most vulnerable when they're feeding or sleeping. Fortunately, black bears love to sleep around. In fact, after eating a heavy feast for a couple of hours, you'll soon find them plopping their bodies on the ground to sleep.
There are plenty of windows for you to attack. You just need to master your timing, know how to stalk properly and remain undetected all throughout the process.
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5. Know the Correct Shot Placement
As we mentioned earlier, black bears are very strong creatures. That means hunters will likely only have one chance at landing a fatal shot on their prey.
The quickest, most efficient way to take down a black bear, whether you're using a bow and arrow or a rifle, is to aim for a double lung shot. This is a broadside shot around five to six inches back from the shoulder.
You can try for a heart shot, but it's much harder to execute. The target area is too small and bears don't often get into a position where their heart's exposed.
Try to avoid the shoulder area as much as possible as these are their thickest parts capable of taking a certain level of beating. Also, wait for the bear to assume a broadside position.
Do not shoot at the animal while it's lying flat on the floor or sitting down. You might feel tempted to attack while it's seemingly defenseless, but unless you hit the correct shot placement, you'll only be irritating the animal.
6. Pack The Correct Weapon
When it comes to hunting bears, hunters generally have two weapons to choose from: a bow and arrow and a rifle.
The bow and arrow is for seasoned hunters capable of executing a double lung shot properly. Remember, arrows are exponentially weaker than a rifle. Unless you hit the weak spot itself, you won't be able to take down your target.
Rifle hunters, on the other hand, have a bit more leeway. Just avoid the shoulder area as much as you can and you should be fine. In the worst case, you can fire multiple shots with ease as long as the black bear is already having difficulty moving.
7. Prepare for Close-Quarters Combat
Studies show that black bears are generally timid creatures. Despite their large, dominating appearance, they have evolved to become afraid of various predators. They are currently one of the timidest bear species there is.
However, a black bear attack is not impossible. This type of emergency situation often occurs with newbie shooters who fail to take down their prey in one shot.
After the failed shot, the bear might catch a whiff of your scent and detect your location. Expect the animal to come charging at you. Although, there are many cases where the bear simply runs away.
If it does come charging at you, however, be prepared. For fast defense and shooting in case of a bear hunting gone wrong situation, make sure you have a large knife and a strong handgun on hand at all times.
Check out this video by Stuck N The Rut where seasoned black bear hunting experts explain the best placement shots:
Overall, the key to a safe, successful black bear hunting trip is proper preparation. Bring the necessary firearms and weapons, utilize wind direction to your advantage, avoid wearing anything scented, and most importantly, do everything you can to avoid close-quarters combat.
There's no doubt that bears are exponentially faster and stronger than humans. The only surefire way to take down one of these beasts is to outwit them and make the most of all the tools at your disposal.
Do you think you're ready to go on a black bear hunting trip? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
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