Black bear hunting in the West can be an excellent opportunity to get out in the mountains and add another hunt to your fall lineup. This allows a hunter to get the chance at an amazing trophy and also spend more days learning a specific hunting area. While the tips and tactics discussed in this article can be put into practice on any black bear hunt, it specifically relates to my experiences with black bear hunting in Colorado.
1) First and foremost, always touch base with the game warden assigned to the hunting unit. Game wardens are fellow sportsmen who are passionate about helping hunters maximize their Colorado hunting experiences. With black bear populations rapidly growing in Colorado game wardens are often tasked with euthanizing multiple trouble bears per week. They would rather see a public hunter harvest that bear. When you are doing your hunt research and planning, call the game warden and ask specifics regarding bear activity, popular areas, accessibility, etc. Also do not forget to stay in touch throughout your hunt as they will often spot bears and work to send hunters into that area.
2) Spend as much time as possible glassing. Prime bear areas are meadows, canyon bottoms, or creek drainages, all of which can be glassed from above. A good friend of mine harvested a great 12+ year old sow last year by utilizing proper glassing techniques. He looked over 4-10 bears per day, focusing his stalks on mature boars and sows without cubs. After glassing the sow from a distance his stalk resulted in a perfect ambush and shot. Also remember that early morning and late evening are the best periods to see bears moving in the open. Try to situate yourself on a good overlook for glassing during these core time periods.
3) The first week of the September bear hunt is the best time to pattern a bear. Division of Wildlife stats show that 90% of the bears are killed during the first week of September. This time of year bears are typically feeding for extended periods (up to 20 hours a day) and can be consistently seen on a food source. Choke cherry patches are a great food source to find a bear this time of year. Also utilize other available food sources when you come upon them. This year I was making a loop through the timber and found a freshly killed elk (likely lost during archery) that had a sow and cubs feeding on it. I left them alone, set up about 80 yards away from the kill and waited. 15 minutes later a nice boar walked in and I was able to shoot him. All by utilizing a fresh, yet unexpected, food source I came upon.
4) If you are working through dark timber or thick brush utilizing a high-pitched calf elk call can be very effective. While archery hunting for elk I have successfully called in multiple bears per year with this method. On my bear hunts I have never needed to use this method but it is a great tool to use. Calf calls are simply squeaky cow elk mews. Treat this set up similar to a predator calling with semi-intermittent calling sequences and staying in a set up for 45 -90 minutes. Bears don't hardly rush into any food source but they will come if you keep calling.
Hunt hard, hunt often, and be out in it.