Black bears are one of the most commonly chased big game species in North America. Black bear hunting provides an exciting sport as well as the ability to regulate bear numbers in various states. While it is critical to check local restrictions and secure the proper licenses, many states in the United States permit black bear hunting. So, what states can you hunt black bears?
Each state has its own set of rules and seasons, often influenced by bear populations and conservation efforts. In the states allowing bear hunting, bear hunters need to obtain a state permit. Bear hunting season is usually in the fall, however exact dates vary depending on region and hunting method. The maximum number of bears a hunter may take in a given period (also known as the bag limit) varies by state.
In this article, we’ll explore which states allow black bear hunting and what you need to know before hunting.
What States Can You Hunt Black Bears?
Here are the best states to consider for great hunts: Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon. Let’s explore each state’s requirements and laws in detail.
Alaska is the black bear hunting holy grail. You can shoot up to three bears per year, as long as they are in an appropriately designated area. Besides, you can also hunt in the spring and fall – with dogs, with bait, even from a boat or snow machine as long as you are coming to a complete stop before shooting.
Alaska has a population of around 100,000 black bears, it’s well stocked with huntable bruins. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and certain locations are nearly bear-free.
Other locations, particularly near the coast, may be overrun with black bears but also have a high density of brown bears. Before shooting, be sure you can distinguish the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear. You should carry bear spray if you end up in a grizzly bear-infested area.
Tag cost is low, $225 plus $85 hunting license. Alaska enables you to harvest a game animal other than the species on your tag. As long as there is a suitable open season and a tag for the other species costs less than the one you have. For example, you can shoot a black bear when you encounter one and put your tag on it if you hold a caribou tag worth $325.
The state has some quite complex restrictions and laws governing traditional harvest and so on. So, make sure you’re well knowledgeable in what you can and cannot do before embarking on a DIY hunt. One important rule to remember is that the skull and all meat from bears taken between January 1st and May 31st must be salvaged.
Maine has one of the largest black bear populations in the US, with an estimated 35,000 bears living in the state. The hunting season runs from late August to early November, and hunters can use rifles or bows to take a bear. Maine also offers over-the-counter tags, making it a popular destination for out-of-state hunters.
The state allows both baiting and hound hunting, although there are certain restrictions in place. For example, hunters are limited to one bear per year, and any bears harvested must be registered with the state within 48 hours.
What states allow bear hunting? Montana is arguably the best spot-and-stalk black bear destination in the Lower 48. Public land with healthy bear populations is abundant, especially if you’re ready to travel into wilderness territory.
However, you must be aware of the “don’ts” when black bear hunting in Montana. Foremost, never shoot a grizzly. Before you can get your black bear tag, you must first take a state-provided identification course.
Baiting, hound hunting, electronic predator calls, trail cameras and communicating via an electronic device (radio, text message, cell phone) are illegal. Also, be sure to perform your necessary bruin inspection within 10 days and your mandatory reporting obligation within 48 hours following the kill.
Montana is an excellent hunting destination in the spring. Most units open in mid-April and remain open until their quota is met or May 31st, whichever comes first. Best of all, once you have a Montana black bear tag, it is valid for any open unit (anywhere the quota remains unmet) during any season. You can hunt the spring season, then archery, and then fall seasons until you get your bear.
During the first half of September, the state offers an archery-only season, as well as a few archery-only districts. A $10 “bow and arrow” license is required in addition.
For black bears, New Mexico is a bit of a sleeping state. It does not have as many bears as the other states listed here, but it does contain a large number of color phase bears. Calling with a predator mouth call (electronic calls are illegal for bears) can be very effective. Baiting is illegal.
The state operates on a quota basis, thus non-resident hunters can buy a tag at the counter, but once a unit’s quota is met, it is closed down. All bear hunts in New Mexico take place from late summer to autumn. There are no bear hunts in the spring.
Hunters must be properly licensed at least two calendar days before hunting. So make sure to get your New Mexico hunting license, habitat stamp, and bear tag ahead of time, if you’re coming from out of state. Units 1 and 4 in the north, and Unit 10 in the west, have historically had quota restrictions of more than 100 bears (total).
A few units have limited draw tags available, while a few more have resident-only draw tags. The application deadline for such tags is February 10.
Colorado is known for its large black bears, with many weighing over 400 pounds. The hunting season typically runs from September to November, and hunters can use rifles, shotguns, or archery equipment.
Hunters are required to purchase a license, and there is a limit of one bear per hunter per year. Additionally, hunters are not allowed to use dogs or bait when hunting black bears in Colorado.
Western states lag far behind North Carolina in both black bear harvests and bear size. Hunting dogs are allowed in most counties in the state. Baiting is prohibited.
Season dates range from mid-October to early January, but exact dates vary greatly between different places, so do your research before planning a hunt. Most of North Carolina is private land, so non-resident hunters have to hire an outfitter with leased access or have a very good pal with access to a lot of land.
Oregon has plenty of bears. Black bear hunting in Oregon is strictly controlled. Dogs and baiting are not permitted. You cannot hunt black bears during deer or elk season unless you have a current, unused deer or elk permit. Moving decoys are forbidden.
Black bear populations have been increasing for several years, particularly in densely populated coastal areas. Bears emerge from hibernation a couple of weeks sooner toward the coast, and spring hunting can begin as early as mid-April.
Advice For Black Bear Hunting
Here are 4 tips to help you have a successful black bear hunt:
- Be Prepared: Ensure you’re physically and mentally prepared for a black bear hunt. Bears are strong, fast, and can be dangerous if provoked, so make safety your top priority.
- Practice Shooting: Ensure spend time practicing with your weapon of choice. Be proficient with your equipment to ensure an ethical and successful hunt.
- Bring the Right Gear: Ensure you have all the necessary gear for a black bear hunt, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and camping equipment. Additionally, consider bringing bear spray or other non-lethal deterrents.
- Respect the Animal: Ensure avoid causing unnecessary suffering, and follow all regulations and guidelines to ensure a humane harvest.
In conclusion, there are many states where black bear hunting is legal, each with its own unique set of rules and regulations. Before embarking on a black bear hunt, make sure you’re familiar with the hunting regulations in your state, choose your weapon wisely, scout the area thoroughly, and be patient. With the right preparation and mindset, black bear hunting can be a challenging and rewarding experience.