Top 5 Bear hunting Questions #1
What is the difference between Spring and Fall Bear hunting?
It is winter and all the bears are now settled in for their annual long nap. Pretty smart animals if you ask me, nature has a way with self preservation.
Over the years i compiled a list of the Top 5 bear hunting questions i hear from prospective hunters when speaking about planning a bear hunting trip. I am going to post them one at a time and give my best answer/s on each one.
The question #1 i am going to post today is;
" What is the difference in a spring vs fall bear hunt?"
There are several differences in the two hunting seasons and it all comes down to their natural habits and needs for survival.
In the spring bears emerge from their den and contrary to belief they do not go straight to eating. Before they entered their den in the fall they had eaten some roughage like coarse thistles and other plants that have a tough stalk. This helps form the "Plug" or "Cord" that develops in thier digestive tract to aid in not defecating in the den during the long 4-5 month long hibernation. (They are not really sleeping just very docile and all their systems slow down). When they come out of the den in spring they are not foolish like domestic animals, in the sense that they won't gorge themselves and eat themselves to death like a cow will if it finds an open grain bin. Bears wait until they expel the "plug" and kick start their digestive system. They are obviously hungry as they visit the baits and lick some of the bait but they refrain from eating any amount. To kick start their digestive system they must eat a lot of frsh greens that start to show up once the ground and air temperatures are warm enough. Often we see small bears way up in the south facing tree tops eating the first buds. A very good indicator that the bears are well on thier way to full blown eating is when we see dandilions bloom. This is what we look for every spring, and once they bloom it's game on, the bears will be hitting the baits hard within a day or two.
In the fall bears are all about food and particularly carbs and fats. They will make a trustworthy bait part of their daily schedule and will stick around this easy food source until it runs out or they are forced to make their way to the den. Some believe it is hard to compete with all the natural foods in the fall. I disagree. If you place your bait in those natural food area, and use great bait like we do, it will work FOR you instead of against you. They will naturally be atracted to those spots and will relish in the ample variety of different abundant foods.
The Rut as it is called is the same as any breeding season in the wild but occurs only in the spring, late May and early June. The boars will really put on miles looking for hot sows, therefore you can't count on seeing the same bear twice. On the other hand you will see many other bears visiting the baits as they also travel in search of sows. It is the most exciting time to hunt bears if you ask me because of all the marking and territorial behaviors going on. The boars rub on "marking" trees, and bite them to show their size. They will also bend a small sappling over a well used trail to grab scent of bears coming and going. It's very interesting if you pay attention while out in the woods.
Rubs gennerally occur in late spring but depending on the spring temperatures, and i believe the amount of wood ticks, the time and severity each spring varies. Some years are worse than others and it may be due to many factors that we aren't aware of. But once you take a close look at that big heavy winter coat they are sporting it becomes obviously uncomfortable once the temperature rises. Something to be aware of is that although a taxidermist can not fix a rubbed hide, depending on the severity and sie it can be mitigated with a few tricks they employ. Most rubs are on the rear half of the bear and many hunters have had front shoulder mounts done on badly but rubbed bears. it pays to look a bear over closely before you shoot. That is another reason we like to have both bow and gun hunters quite close to the baits so they can look a bear over closely for rubs and size, but that is another topic for another day.
Spring coat vs fall coat is quite different. In spring they have very thick and long coat of winter hair, that's what helped them get through the long cold winter. We have measured the long gaurd hairs on their backs as long as 6 inches! In fall they have a thick coat also but their hair is much shorter. It is usually very shiny due to the high quality food they are eating.
Some ask which is nicer and it really comes down to personal preference. In my opinion they are both beautiful and really good reason to have a variety of both spring and fall rugs/mounts on display.
A spring bear can still be very big, especially here in Manitoba as their habitat is ideal and genitics are the best in the world. But a fall bear will be fat, big and round and fat.
Spring bear hunts are very popular for the simple reason that there are not many other open hunting seasons. In the fall there are many other critters to hunt across the country. The opportunity is equal for both spring and fall seasons. Especially here where we have so many bears and a very diverse habitat.
So that is my best explanation of the two different bear hunting seasons. I hope it may help you decide which season may work best for your trip planning. If you have any comments on this please fell free post them below and we can discuss it.
Written by Gildas Paradis
Riverside Lodge 2016
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