The state of Oregon alone has up to 30,000 black bears. While grizzly bears were once native to the state, they have been gone for nearly a century. Despite their name, black bears can have cinnamon, brown or blond fur.
In Oregon, bear hunting season for 2011 opens Aug. 1 and may last through the end of the year, depending on where you hunt. In honor of bear hunting season, we thought we’d give you a head start with some tips for hunting bears, along with recommended gear that can help, such as hunting knives.
Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes peeled for signs that a bear has been in your area, such as bear feces and paw prints. Don’t forget to look up, as well – you may notice bear markings in the bark of trees.
Do not feed bears. While you do want a bear within range while you hunt, there is such a thing as getting too close. Practice common sense and do not try to feed a bear as if you were in a petting zoo or use food to try and lure one.
Stay away from bear cubs. Cubs look cute and cuddly, with their furry bodies and round eyes, and they feel safe knowing Mama Bear is nearby. Most bears try to avoid human contact, but this does not apply to a sow that thinks you are threatening her cubs.
Make a lot of noise during downtime. Make a lot of noise at your campsite and whenever you are not hunting. Making noise will not necessarily scare a bear away, but it will make a bear aware of your presence without startling it, as bears have poor eyesight but excellent hearing and olfactory senses. A startled bear will not yelp as it jumps with fright; rather, it will immediately act defensively. If it is dark out, use an LED lantern to help you communicate your whereabouts.
Stand out. While reflective or brightly colored vests are not likely to be in fashion anytime soon, using them can save your life by letting other hunters know that you are a human, not a bear. Additionally, use an LED lantern at night so area hunters are aware that it is you rustling in the trees.
Use bear-proof containers. Bears have claws perfect for digging, so there is no point in burying your food and garbage. Instead, use bear-proof containers. Additionally, pack any scented items in these containers, such as lotions and toiletries. While these containers are bear-proof, they may not be human proof, so keep your valuables, such as guns and hunting knives, with you or in a secure location
Stay calm. If you encounter a bear and are unprepared, stay calm. Do not pull out your hunting knife to threaten it, try to make yourself look big or make sudden movements. Instead, look at the ground, speak in low tones, back away slowly and give the bear a way to escape. If a bear stands on its hind legs, it is probably just trying to sniff the air, so don’t freak-out just yet.
When to defend yourself. In the unlikely event a bear does attack you, fight back aggressively. Shout, kick, throw punches, and use nearby sticks and stones to fend off the bear. This would be an appropriate time to use your hunting knife against a bear if you feel you could do so without hurting yourself. After an attack, report the incident immediately to the Oregon State Police or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Use the buddy system. Never hunt for bears alone; take at least one other person with you. Your hunting partners can call for help or assist you in a dangerous situation. In addition to hunting knives, pack an LED lantern in case it gets dark while you are away from your campsite or vehicle.
Follow the law. The ODFW mandates that you take the skulls of any bears you kill to an ODFW or approved business, where a biologist will later examine the skull and teeth. You must also provide the reproductive tracts from any female bears you killed so the ODFW can learn more about the black bears’ reproductive frequency and rate. Keep in mind that it is illegal to hunt cubs less than a year old or sows with cubs.
[ photo by: kckellner ]