Fall is here, and with it, prime bear hunting opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to take several bears throughout the West, and a good number in Northern California. One thing I’ve learned during all my years of hunting bear is that consistent success centers around a bruin’s appetite.
we’re seeing a good number of bears already hanging out in lower elevations,” shares guide and booking consultant Parrey Cremeans of justforhunting.com. Based out of Redding, Cremeans has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the bear woods. “With so many acorns still on the ground from last year’s big crop, there are a surprising number of bears in the oak tree habitats,” continues Cremeans. “A lot of these bears drop into the lowlands from higher elevations, seeking an easy food source.”
Up high, extremely dry conditions often cause food sources to dry up, forcing bears to go on the move in search of food. “Bears really like manzanita berries this time of year,” Cremeans says. “If hunters are looking for bears up high, concentrate glassing these food sources. Also, if we get any moisture, the slightest bit of grass greening-up will attract
Personally, some of my best fall bear hunts in California have come amid river drainages where blackberries thrive. The key, however, is finding berry patches that have not dried up in the intense heat and drought, or haven’t already been devoured by bears.
One of the best ways to tell what bears are feeding on is by studying their droppings. Bears have a very short digestive tract, making their food poorly digested. Frequently, you’ll find fresh droppings where all types of berries are fully intact, making it easy to see what they’ve eaten. Find fresh scat, identify the food source and you’re on the way to filling a tag. Bears also destroy many trees throughout the state, especially in the heavily wooded, northern parts. Redwoods, cedars and Douglas firs are all bear food sources. Bears will strip the bark off these trees to access the sweet cambium layer. When they completely ring trees, the tree will eventually die. I’ve been in many wooded draws in the northern parts of the state where I’ve stood in one spot and counted dozens of stripped trees. “This year we’re actually working with a local timber company,” Cremeans says. “They’ve asked us to hunt their land and take as many bears as we can. For each hunter who tags a bear, their name is then entered in to a drawing to hunt a Roosevelt cow elk. There are two elk tags being awarded. Bears are costing timber companies a lot of money each year, and hunters can step in and help keep numbers in check while simultaneously saving trees.”
Over a decade ago I hunted some timber property near Klamath, where a single company experienced over a million dollars a year in lost timber. Bears can kill an amazing number of trees in a very short time, and with growing bear numbers, the problem will only increase in coming years. The unfortunate, unconscionable vote by legislators to ban the use HUNTING of hounds for hunting bears will devastate timber country in much of California, just as it has in other states where hound hunting has been banned. It’s unfortunate such bans are being guided by human emotion, rather than scientific data and the fact hunting serves as an efficient tool of game management and conservation, especially as it relates to bears living in dense habitats. With lots of bears roaming the state, now is the time to get out, put the optics to work and find a bruin. When you get a bear down, get the skin off as quickly as possible, remove the fat from the meat and get the meat off the bone. The key to securing the best-tasting bear meat is getting the carcass cooled as quickly as possible. It’s some of our family’s favorite eating big-game meat, and when you take care of it properly, you’ll see
By Scott Haugen
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