If you are heading out on your first-ever black bear hunt this spring, you may be a bit confused as to what gear you really need to be comfortable and successful. Besides the obvious, here’s what you have to throw into your duffel.
Don’t care where you go, but a spring bear hunt will, at some point, involve some of the most vicious biting insect attacks you have ever experienced. Bring a ThermaCELL and some 100 percent DEET bug dope. Mesh bug-off suits, complete with head net, are good, too.
A precise first shot is imperative when bear hunting no matter what you are hunting with. A quality laser rangefinder is the only way to accurately know the shot distance.
Many a time I have gone on a north country bait hunt and found the outfitter did not provide a quality treestand safety harness. Now I always travel with one, as well as a nice padded seat cushion. Throwing in a bow or gun hanger and pull rope is a good idea, too.
Bears have superb hearing. Thus I dress in the same quiet clothing I wear when hunting deer or elk. The camo pattern you choose really isn’t all that important, but if you think that on a pin-drop quiet evening if you rake a noisy jacket sleeve or pant leg against some tree bark the bear will not hear you, think again. It will, and it will be gone.
You need the bets boots you can buy designed to handle whatever the conditions will be. When I guided in coastal Alaska it was ankle-fit hip boots. In flat, swampy country I prefer tall snake-type boots with Gore-Tex for both its waterproofness and, just as importantly, the breathability, though some like knee-high rubber boots. Make sure they are broken in and fit your feet like a glove.
Spring bear hunts are filled with down time. To keep from going bonkers you need something to pass the time, both in camp and on stand. Paperback books, a Kindle, a Game Boy, whatever, you need something to pass those long, lonely hours. Attention smart phone freaks: Odds are there will be no service in bear camp.
A quality binocular is essential for spot and stalk hunting as well as hunting over baits, both so you can both sex the bear and evaluate the hide quality. But then, would you ever go big game hunting of any kind without one?
Skin Him Out
On a guided hunt the guide will skin and/or butcher your bear. If you do it yourself, you’ll need a very sharp hunting knife. However, for the fine work of fleshing the hide and taking out the paws and skull, the lightweight Havalon Piranta with its replaceable scalpel-sharp blades is awesome. When a blade gets dull, you simply unsnap it and replace it with a fresh new blade and go back to work. These are excellent knives and relatively inexpensive. For example, a Havalon Piranta Z Combo, with 12 spare blades and holster, costs about 45 bucks; a pack of 12 replacement blades less than six dollars. And never forget a multi-tool.