Bear School: How to Hunt a Trophy Bear by Bill Vaznis

I looked down at my watch, and then up into the sky. I reckoned darkness would soon prevail when I thought I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I twisted my head ever so slowly and peered deep into the shadows, but all I could see were dead stumps and low over hanging branches that protruded along the edge of the old clear-cut.I eased back against the tree and tried to relax when a twig snapped off to my left, and then another and another. Something big was working its way towards me, and my pulse quickened.  I craned my neck to look under the dense canopy of fir trees, but nothing materialized.I turned around and faced forward again, closing my eyes. What was making all that noise? Was it my imagination, or the huge black bear I suspected frequented the area?

I opened my eyes again, and slowly looked around. When I glanced down the old logging road my heart suddenly jumped into my throat. A huge black bear had exposed himself, and was now slowly padding towards me. With flared nostrils he held his pumpkin-sized head high, testing  the evening breezes with each step.

Alas, my suspicions were finally confirmed, but before I could line up my sights the 400-pounder melted back into the underbrush—and out of my life forever.

Trophy bruins react differently around feeding stations than other bears.

Trophy bruins react differently around feeding stations than other bears.

How did I know there was a jumbo bruin working that drainage? I read the sign! Trophy black bears, like record-book whitetails, are bigger and stronger than others of their species, and as a result their tracks, gait, beds and other body impressions are correspondingly more robust. They also behave differently around feeding areas and each other. They approach berry patches and beech ridges more cautiously for example and will bully subordinate males at every opportunity.

Indeed, big bears are contradictory, no matter how you hunt them. In fact, it makes little difference if you are spot and stalk hunting western ridges, still-hunting through abandoned apple orchards back east, or sitting downwind of a bait pile somewhere in Canada, if you want to affix your tag to a real jumbo of a bruin, then you must learn to read big bear sign accurately.

Now, one of the best places to learn about big bears and the sign they leave behind is to study them around a preferred food source, and there is no better food source for this exercise than a man-made bait pile. Even if hunting over bait is not in your cards, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned from this activity, facts that can be easily applied to other bear-hunting methods at a later date…

Tune in Monday, September 14th for Part Two of our Bear School with Bill Vaznis series.

Bill Vaznis, editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, has been a professional outdoor writer and photographer since 1983. Bill is a frequent contributor to outdoors magazines including American Hunter, Deer and Deer Hunting, Peterson’s Hunting and Bowhunting World. He is the author of several books including “Successful Black Bear Hunting,” “Still Hunting” and “500 Whitetail Deer Hunting Tips.”  Bear Hunting Magazine–“The Bear Hunting Authority” covers hunting methods for all species of North American bears. Their website has become the go-to online resource for bear hunters.  We’ve heard from many hunters that our Piranta knives helped make the work of skinning and caping a bear much easier.  We’re thrilled that Bill is writing for The Havalon Post and hope that his experience helps you achieve a successful hunt.  As Bill says, “You’ve got to kill it before you can skin it.!”

Bill Vaznis, Editor of Bear Hunting Magazine

Bill Vaznis, Editor of Bear Hunting Magazine

Part One: The Art and Science of Reading Big Bear Sign

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