Big Mountains & Big Bruins

Brian Barney

Spring is starting to show up across the West which means one thing to this bowhunter, time to get after the bears! I absolutely love spot and stalk bear hunting in the spring. Black bears are apex predators and hunting them requires that I am at the top of my game. My actions and decisions can have extreme consequences and I have to be prepared for intense encounters. Bear hunting ratchets up the adrenalin and is something I crave each and every year. Black bears in the West are also extremely difficult to harvest with archery gear. They are a relatively low population density animal so when I find a good one success means dialing in my hunting strategy and tactics. When all these factors are stirred into the same pot the results are an ultimate challenge. When it’s spring in the Rocky Mountain West give me my bow, big mountains and pumpkin headed boars and I know I am in for one heck of an adventure.

There is still opportunity to hunt spring bears out west. There are draw tags and even OTC opportunities in states like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. There are also multiple mountain ranges with robust bear populations. That doesn’t mean the hunting is easy but there are a lot of good places to go on a spring bear adventure. That said, spring bear hunting is all about elevation. IT IS ALL ABOUT ELEVATION!

I just wanted to make sure you got that as it’s the key to finding bears consistently. The snow and new green growth condenses bears at certain elevations. As the snow melts, new green grass sprouts and begins to grow. This is where the bears will want to be. So, when you are studying up on maps or have boots on the ground in a mountain range look for the green wave that works its way up the mountain. In Montana, it’s different year to year but below are guidelines I’ve developed over years and years of chasing spring bruins.

Bear Location By Elevation Guide
April 15 – May 1: 5000-6000’
May 1-May 15: 6000-7200’
May 15 – June 15: 7200-8500’.

When you spot a bear, use that guide to find more of them. I also pay attention to sign and scat to tell me where bears are living. This real time information is so clutch and I can transpose elevation and even setting to find more bears by putting it to work. Another tip is, where you find one bear you will find more. Bears like similar features so once I find an area that produces sightings, I almost always find multiple bears living in there.

Leave a Reply