Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
In no uncertain terms, hunting Black Bear in Alberta is exhilarating. Over the years, Alberta has acquired an exceptional reputation for Black Bear hunting. European hunters discovered the quality and size of Alberta’s Black Bears, and the province’s reputation has now spread around the world.
During the 1970s a few outfitters pioneered hunting by boat on some major Alberta rivers, especially in the Peace River country. Many Black Bears were spotted on the open grass slopes of these rivers in the spring. At the same time, North American hunters discovered good hunting wherever there were forest openings covered with grasses and clover. Black Bears have always been a common big game animal in Alberta’s forests. With various habitats across the province, a bear can be sustained in most regions of Alberta.
An increase in oil and gas exploration over the years has facilitated Black Bear hunting. In the clearings and cut lines created by logging or oilfields, there are a number of legumes and grasses bears eat. A Black Bear can often be spotted frolicking among the clover, oat, and wheat fields near a forest or river valley. The food supply generated by these crops make a nutritious choice for the bear, and an interesting hunt for visitors to the region.
There are a number of areas in the province that still remain unscathed by hunting and exploration. Generally the bears in these zones have not seen humans and are a little more apprehensive when entering a baited area.
Several Black Bears hunted in Alberta have broken records with Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young. Several of these record-breaking bears were of color phase. Alberta boasts 50% colored Black Bears.
Alberta outfitters offer different hunting experiences to meet various hunting styles, expectations, and price ranges. In Alberta, Black Bears can be hunted in spring or fall, although most hunting is done in the spring (as single-species, dedicated bear hunts).
Black Bear hunting in Alberta during spring is truly a fascinating experience. You will see geese, cranes, and other waterfowl overhead, and the vibrant new growth of berries and grasses will surround you. In various parts of the province, you may see wolves, marten, or other elusive animals. Spring hunts also provide the chance to enjoy pleasant weather; however, come with warm clothes in case the temperature drops.
The baiting of Black Bear is popular in Alberta, particularly in the boreal forest and parkland regions. This method became available to hunters in the late 1980s. Recent studies indicate that bear baiting helps promote the survival of sows and cubs, and it decreases the number of human/bear conflicts.
Baiting requires setting up ground blinds or tree stands within close range of the bait. You can often reach these stands by an all-terrain vehicle, boat, or 4x4. Most stands are closer than 40 yards from the bait, which allows for a close determination of the bear’s size and hide quality. Baiting is advantageous for bow hunters who are close to the bait. Bow hunters will enjoy good success and lots of excitement by hunting over bait.
Spot and stalk hunts may also prove successful. These hunts are generally conducted among openings of forest or on open slopes in river valleys. Any area with an abundance of green grass or clover is promising.
In autumn, Black Bear hunts are available as combination hunts with another big game animal. Baiting, and spot and stalk hunting, can be as successful in the fall as in spring.
Whether hunting with a bow or rifle, the hunter should bring a weapon that he has practiced with and that feels comfortable. If you intend to hunt from a tree stand, it is recommended that shooting practice is conducted from an angle that resembles the hunt, to ensure a clean shot of the animal.
As with any other hunt, it is necessary to be completely prepared for the experience. Questioning the outfitter about current weather patterns and bear movement in a particular area is always a good idea. This will allow the hunter to have a full understanding of the hunt he will participate in.
With a history of world-class outfitters and guides, a two-bear limit, two seasons of hunting opportunities, and—most notably—one of the largest bear populations in North America, it’s easy to see why Alberta has become a popular destination for Black Bear hunters.