One of the biggest mistakes black bear hunters can make is shooting the first bear they see. Once on the ground, regret often sets in as they realize it wasn’t as big as they thought it was. Black bears can be tough to field judge. That’s why bait barrels are often used as a benchmark for establishing the maturity of a bear. However, without a bait barrel or other bears around to compare each other to, field judging becomes more obscure. Tim says it really comes down to experience. He notes his own process of trial and error and learning to field judge and says that when he first began bear hunting he ended up letting a huge bear walk because of his inexperience with field judging. Outside of first-hand, on the ground experience, Tim says to spend some time looking at pictures. Analyze the difference in physical characteristics between young bears and old bears. Look at the way older bears have swayed backs and bigger bellies. Look at their heads and how large or small their ears are in comparison. If the ears are more rounded and dwarfed by the size of the head, chances are you’re looking at a large mature bear. Also note the space between the ears.
The amount of sound or movement you can get away with while hunting bears is probably largely dependent on how much hunting pressure there is in the area. The more human activity there is, the more the bears will get used to those sounds. Tim says it’s incredible how quiet a 400-pound bear can be as it slips into a bait sight. It is also interesting what sounds can set that bear off. A cough or a sneeze may or may not be a deal breaker. However, sometimes it’s the slightest sounds that can send the bear running before you have a chance to react. He recounts an archery bear hunt where a bear came in and sat in front of his stand for a good period of time. As the camera man’s arm began to fatigue, his clothing brushed up against the bark of the tree and that slight rub on the tree was enough to make the boar take off.
Shot placement, regardless of the weapon you are using, or animal you are hunting is always important. However, for archery bear hunters it’s even more crucial. A bow doesn’t have the same hard-hitting power that a rifle provides, so making sure your shot placement is spot on ensures a quick, clean, ethical kill. Tim says the last thing you want is to be trailing a wounded bear into the woods so being prepared and knowing where the vitals are is crucial. Tim says archery hunters need to avoid the shoulder as they won’t get much penetration. Ideally, you want to take one of two shots – when the bear is broadside or quartering away. Quartering to, standing, laying down and sitting are all much more marginal shots that are tougher to execute perfectly. Tim says the vitals on a bear shift in odd ways when they are laying down or sitting so you have to be careful if you take those shots. He reiterates that the quartering away shot where you slip an arrow right behind the shoulder will give you the highest chance of hitting as many vitals as possible.
Listen in as Tim also talks broadheads, baiting, shot range and getting as close as he can to the bears he hunts. He’ll also highlight the all-new, 13thseason, of “Inside Outdoors TV” that will start in July and air every Tuesday at 7:30 pm ET on Outdoor Channel. He teases a Utah elk hunt where he took a bull at 6 steps, a whitetail hunt where he scored his biggest buck to date and another hunt where his co-host Dave Poteat smashes a giant whitetail in Kansas, also giving him his largest buck to date. Be sure to listen in!
Catch “Inside Outdoors TV” on Thursdays at 11:30 pm ET on Outdoor Channel until the new season begins in July. You can also find previous seasons and episodes of “Inside Outdoors TV” on MyOutdoorTV where you can watch anytime!
Bear, it’s what’s for dinner.