I have killed multiple black bears over bait with archery equipment in Canada and in the Lower 48. I have also baited bears for myself for multiple bear hunting seasons here in my home state of Idaho. Bear hunting can be a lot of fun because of the amount of activity you will have if you are with the right outfitter in the right area but there are several key things to consider about bear hunting, before you choose who you will be hunting with. I will go into detail and break down each aspect.
Body size and cost–As any animal, including bears, is located further north they will increase in body size. It’s a cold thing. To survive the winter the key element is body mass–the bigger you are the more cold you can stand. Cost on bears is close to the same. Average price in the lower 48 for bear hunting will be around $2400 with a quality outfitter and $3500 in Canada (central and western) and $5000 in Alaska. The difference from north to south is about a foot. That’s a lot per inch but everyone is different and some will go for the biggest and not care about cost and others will always pick the cheapest. For me, it’s the middle. I like the northern part of the US and Canada, but I’m a “bang for the buck” kinda guy. As a side note, coats will thicken and lengthen as you go further north as well. Maine, is a good bang for the buck for eastern hunters as the average is $1800 but be wary who you choose to hunt with as there are more bad stories than good from that and eastern Canada as well (get help from a consultant in these areas for sure).
Two bears vs. one bear areas–There are only two places where you can shoot two bears, reasonably…Idaho and Alberta, CA. Alberta has slightly bigger bears on average and both, dependent on area, have about a 50% color phase. Traditionally, Alberta is twice the price at an average of $4500 compared to $2400 in Idaho. In my experience, bear outfitters in Idaho will put 1-3 bears, per sit, in front of their hunters compared to 3-5 in Alberta. It’s just better hunting but twice the price. Something to consider. What I like about a 2 bear hunt is that it allows you to tip over a bear early that may be borderline trophy quality and then be able to hold out for a giant. Most new or first time bear hunters will dump the clutch of the first or second bear that comes in and realize they shot boo boo when they find him. Two bears areas allow for a redo.
Color Phase–Color phase (which is still a black bear, no matter what color they are) is another issue. Some area’s have very high color phase like Arizona (highest percentage (90%)–I know weird, huh), Idaho (50%) and Alberta (50%). Other states and provinces have it as well but these are the most well known. Alaska, Maine and E. Canada are pretty much all black areas.
The Bargain–Please, please, please be wary of any bear hunt under $2000 (excluding Maine). Here is why. Where money is saved, is in baiting. It takes a lot of man hours, fuel and bait costs to run a good bait for weeks before you ever show up. On a cheap hunt that is where the money is saved to get you your “deal.” This is where you will need to remind yourself that you get what you pay for.
Bow vs. Rifle–Safety is not really much of an issue while bear hunting. If you bow hunt–take your bow. They are very close and you will have a good amount of time to make a good shot. One note, if a bear climbs your tree, which actually happens quite often, don’t panic, they are just curious. Just take a bottle of water with you into the stand and if they start to climb, pour water on their head and they will go right down. I’ve had to do this 6 times and it’s always worked great. I included some pictures of that.
I hope that helps you in your search and if you would like help finding the right outfitter we have many to choose from in all the areas I spoke of. Let me know if I can help.