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School me on Western Spring Bear

tmcdowell

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Joined
May 7, 2021
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18
Location
Manhattan, Montana
Last year I hunted spring bear for the first time in SW MT. It was a great season, hiked my ass off, and eventually had one close encounter with a small bear late in the season. Needless to say, I didn't notch my tag. I did learn/reaffirm a few things in the process: bear hunting ain't easy, springtime is one of my favorite times to be in the mountains, and there is a lot I don't know about finding bruins at that time of year.

In MT, the season opens mid-April and runs until mid-June in most of the state. I'd say my hunting efforts were distributed uniformly across the span of the season, but I didn't see any sign or actual bears until late May. I hunted an area that I know holds some bears - I seem to see them all the time in the fall (but, as the story goes, never when I have a rifle and tag in hand!).

Some questions linger in my head that I'd like some input on from those who have more experience - what the heck are bears doing early in the season before the snow melts and before the green-up really kicks in? What does their diet consist of? Which parts of their range/habitat would be most "productive" when snow still lingers?

I've read somewhere that some folks don't bother to hunt the early season - and that's fair. Maybe some are still emerging from their dens at that time. But surely there must be some boars out roaming that early, else why start the season so soon?

Just a few questions that I have been ruminating on... And for any of those western hunters that have taken a bear early one season, let's hear your story.
 

MTLabrador

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Apr 16, 2020
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3,359
Location
Montana
I think the best times for spring bear are all locally variable.
And variable year to year. I’ve watched bears in a green park the last week of April one year and had the same place look like the arctic the next.
 
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RobertD

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Jul 16, 2020
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Southwest Georgia (GA)
And variable year to year. I’ve watched bears in a green park the last week of April one year and had the same place look like the arctic the next.
So in other words, if you were going into a drainage blind, you'd basically need to get a feel for snow level and available food sources before just plopping down and glassing?
 

tmcdowell

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Joined
May 7, 2021
Messages
18
Location
Manhattan, Montana
makes sense, thanks for the input. During some of my April hunts last season, when snow was still a factor and the south-facing slopes were still brown, I never cut any bear sign. I wasn't sure if that's cause they hadn't all emerged from their dens that early, or if they had they made a bee-line for greener pastures.
 

Trap

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Apr 17, 2021
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432
I have a freind that used to rehabilitate or take care of orphan cubs when idfg still did that. They had the bears typically until the next spring or fall then fish and game would take them and dump them somewhere in the woods. The freind told me the bears woke up at the same time every year. A lot of hunters will say an early spring will have bears get up earlier. It’s not true according to my friend, it is according to the amount of daylight or length of the day. A lot like the deer rut is determined. I think bears move around more with an early spring so it seems like more are “out”. Anyways my experience is exactly like stated, where you find the bears is variable according to the weather and the area. I shot a bear once on opening day which is April 15 here. This spring I can’t even get to that spot due to snow. Where I mainly hunt I like mid may but the place I have gotten my biggest bear hasn’t good for me till June.
 

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