CO bear advice

Jim Anderson

Active member
Joined
Jun 14, 2018
Messages
125
Location
Meeker, CO
Hello,

I drew a bear tag for units that cover quite a bit of varying terrain and elevation. I hunted bears a couple times in SoCal, which centered around water and food sites, but it didn’t have the added variability of huge changes in elevation, and vastly different terrain types. They were kind of concentrated into cert

So my questions are:
-what elevation is most typical to find a bear in September? I assume they will be lower than summer?
-is oak brush valuable? It seems like there is just so much of it that it would be impossible to focus on any one area.
-what other vegetation types are preferred?

my tag is for 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33, 131, 231. If anyone wants to volunteer some general areas, please PM me.
Thanks,
Jim
 

Chix

New member
Joined
Jun 21, 2021
Messages
19
Hello,

I drew a bear tag for units that cover quite a bit of varying terrain and elevation. I hunted bears a couple times in SoCal, which centered around water and food sites, but it didn’t have the added variability of huge changes in elevation, and vastly different terrain types. They were kind of concentrated into cert

So my questions are:
-what elevation is most typical to find a bear in September? I assume they will be lower than summer?
-is oak brush valuable? It seems like there is just so much of it that it would be impossible to focus on any one area.
-what other vegetation types are preferred?

my tag is for 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33, 131, 231. If anyone wants to volunteer some general areas, please PM me.
Thanks,
Jim
Best advice I can give you for September is to find the wild berries. In Washington it's wild blackberries, salmon berries, huckleberries. Especially in years of drought.
 

Little Canyon Creek

Active member
Joined
Oct 23, 2012
Messages
78
Location
A Bobcat amongst Badgers
So my questions are:
-what elevation is most typical to find a bear in September? I assume they will be lower than summer?
-is oak brush valuable? It seems like there is just so much of it that it would be impossible to focus on any one area.
-what other vegetation types are preferred?

my tag is for 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33, 131, 231. If anyone wants to volunteer some general areas, please PM me.

The acorn crop from the oak brush is really what allows western Colorado to have the number of bears it does. The good fall bear habitat will be at lower elevations than you would think. I hunted fall black bears in 2019 and 2020 in SW Colorado, which was my first time hunting western Colorado even though I grew up in Fort Collins. I get that focusing on the oak brush can be really intimidating because there is a lot of it, but sometimes you don't necessarily hunt the oak brush. In 2019 I took a scouting trip in August and found that while there was a lot of oak brush, there were no acorns. A quick email to the local biologist confirmed that there had been an acorn crop failure. I switched it up when I went on my hunt and focused on finding chokecherry stands. By doing that I was able to get into some bears. Unfortunately, the best chokecherry Shangri-La I found was a long ways from the trailhead (though not high in elevation). The temps were getting into the 80s, and I didn't feel like I could pack out the meat quickly enough to prevent it from spoiling. If I had either livestock or a packing partner it would have been easily doable. I did find another dense thicket of chokecherries, but the bear that was hanging out there was small and I gave it a pass.

In 2020 my dad and I hunted another unit. We were able to get in a scouting day before the season started and we again discovered that there were next to no acorns on the oaks in the majority of the unit due to a late frost. However, we did find a few localized areas where the oak brush was spared from the frost and that is where we found the bears. We saw bears every day in these areas, and we saw over 20 bears in a week. They were definitely chowing down on what acorns there were available, and in one spot they were eating the manzanita berries. We were ~50 yards away from one of them, which was close enough to here it crunch the manzanitas. I do think it was a really rough fall for the bears food wise. I had quite a few layup opportunities on smaller bears, but I was looking for a good boar. It took me too long to judge one big boar (it can be hard in the oak brush) and a second boar made it into cover before we could catch up to it in the fading daylight.

I think the best documents I found for planning my hunts are the Herd Management Plan documents that CPW puts out. Some of them are older documents, so the management strategies for those units has changed a little. But they are great for understanding the bears and the area you are hunting. They have maps where they have the different locations where bears were killed over a certain date range, but I wouldn't get too hung up on that. Those maps are as much a description of where the hunters go as they are a description of where the bears hang out. I would just use those maps as starting off points to confirm the type of habitat that the bears are using in your area, and then use that information to find other spots to check out. The places where I found bears in 2019 and 2020 weren't really where people have taken bears previously. But they were spots in the fall concentration area and where the vegetation matched what we were focusing on. If I had a friend along with me in 2019, or I hadn't been as picky in 2020 I would have had bears both years.
 

Jim Anderson

Active member
Joined
Jun 14, 2018
Messages
125
Location
Meeker, CO
The acorn crop from the oak brush is really what allows western Colorado to have the number of bears it does. The good fall bear habitat will be at lower elevations than you would think. I hunted fall black bears in 2019 and 2020 in SW Colorado, which was my first time hunting western Colorado even though I grew up in Fort Collins. I get that focusing on the oak brush can be really intimidating because there is a lot of it, but sometimes you don't necessarily hunt the oak brush. In 2019 I took a scouting trip in August and found that while there was a lot of oak brush, there were no acorns. A quick email to the local biologist confirmed that there had been an acorn crop failure. I switched it up when I went on my hunt and focused on finding chokecherry stands. By doing that I was able to get into some bears. Unfortunately, the best chokecherry Shangri-La I found was a long ways from the trailhead (though not high in elevation). The temps were getting into the 80s, and I didn't feel like I could pack out the meat quickly enough to prevent it from spoiling. If I had either livestock or a packing partner it would have been easily doable. I did find another dense thicket of chokecherries, but the bear that was hanging out there was small and I gave it a pass.

In 2020 my dad and I hunted another unit. We were able to get in a scouting day before the season started and we again discovered that there were next to no acorns on the oaks in the majority of the unit due to a late frost. However, we did find a few localized areas where the oak brush was spared from the frost and that is where we found the bears. We saw bears every day in these areas, and we saw over 20 bears in a week. They were definitely chowing down on what acorns there were available, and in one spot they were eating the manzanita berries. We were ~50 yards away from one of them, which was close enough to here it crunch the manzanitas. I do think it was a really rough fall for the bears food wise. I had quite a few layup opportunities on smaller bears, but I was looking for a good boar. It took me too long to judge one big boar (it can be hard in the oak brush) and a second boar made it into cover before we could catch up to it in the fading daylight.

I think the best documents I found for planning my hunts are the Herd Management Plan documents that CPW puts out. Some of them are older documents, so the management strategies for those units has changed a little. But they are great for understanding the bears and the area you are hunting. They have maps where they have the different locations where bears were killed over a certain date range, but I wouldn't get too hung up on that. Those maps are as much a description of where the hunters go as they are a description of where the bears hang out. I would just use those maps as starting off points to confirm the type of habitat that the bears are using in your area, and then use that information to find other spots to check out. The places where I found bears in 2019 and 2020 weren't really where people have taken bears previously. But they were spots in the fall concentration area and where the vegetation matched what we were focusing on. If I had a friend along with me in 2019, or I hadn't been as picky in 2020 I would have had bears both years.
Man, that is great info! Thanks for that👍 It’s much appreciated.
 

Muley_Stalker

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Messages
1,405
Location
Colorado
I've seen bears at 12,000ft in Sept but it's not the norm. I don't have the luxury of a lot of natural food where I hunt for bear. I need a bit of luck to catch one in ear shot of my calling. Sometimes i'll see one glassing. Probably moving to an area with good natural food. Sometimes when deer and elk hunting is good a few bears will hand out to get the gut piles. I'll stake out my own gut piles and combine calling to try and bring a bear in. We can't bait in Colorado but we can use a gut pile as bait as long as it's not moved from the kill spot.

If you're hunting a good natural food area your odds go way up. Otherwise, you need some luck.
 

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