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Bear Hunting Tips
Bear Hunting Tips

​​​​Bear Tooth Extraction

As part of your mandatory bear harvest inspection, a CPW wildlife officer will perform a bear tooth extraction. Watch our video to see how it is done.​

Need to Know

  • NEW! LICENSES IN GMUs 21, 22, 30, 31, 32, 41, 42, 52, 53, 63, 411, 421 & 521 NOW LIST B INSTEAD OF LIST A... Hunters can have up to two bear licenses for the 2017 season in these units.

  • INSIDE DENS. Hunting, harvesting or harassing bears inside their dens is prohibited.

  • CUBS. Black bears accompanied by one or more cubs cannot be killed. Cubs (bears younger than one year old) cannot be killed.

  • BAITING. It is against the law to hunt big game over bait, whether or not the person hunting personally placed the bait. Bait means to put, expose, distribute or scatter salt, minerals, grain, animal parts or other food as an attraction for big game. Salt or mineral blocks used for normal agricultural purposes are not considered bait. Scent ​sticks that smell like food are illegal for bears.​​ ​​

  • EXPANDED BEAR RIFLE SEASON. ​​Rules for the new “Concurrent Rifle” bear season are explained on page 59 in the Big Game Brochure​. ​

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Black Bear Behavior 

Colorado bears come in a variety of colors, but they are all members of the same species,  North American Black Bear.

Seasonal Changes

Understanding the physiological and behavioral changes that bears undergo can drastically improve your hunting experience! 

  • In mid-August, black bears enter a period of hyperphagia, or feeding frenzy. 

  • More importantly, their diets change. 

    • While their summer diets consist of leaves and flowers of broad-leafed plants and insects, in the fall bears eat primarily fruits and nuts. Fruits and nuts provide the high fat and carbohydrates needed to put on fat for winter hibernation.

  • ​Many bears actively forage up to 20 hours per day during the fall feeding frenzy. This contrasts with 2-4 hours of active foraging during much of the spring and summer. 

  • Bears know which areas have good fruit and nut production. Often bears make migrations of 20-30 miles from their summer range to traditional fall ranges. 

  • Even though the bears are concentrating on feeding, their senses are quite keen. Their sense of smell is astounding, and contrary to much of the popular literature on bears, they also possess keen eyesight.

    • Moving slowly through dense brush stands will not prove an effective hunting technique for most hunters. The better technique is to scout for areas with abundant bear food and bear sign, locate a higher point for observation, and patiently watch the area. This allows you to sight the bear and have time to carefully identify your target.​

Habitat 

The location of bears is highly predictable during September, luckily for hunters! Still, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Nearly all bears concentrate at the lower-elevation habitats where fruits and nuts are abundant from mid-August to late September or early October.

  • Locations of black bear sign and activity from mid-summer are irrelevant by bear hunting season.

  • Bears may have a resident home range of 20-200 square miles.

  • Bears may migrate 30 miles for fruit and can travel 15 miles during a day of rambling. 

  • Most of the good berry and nut producing vegetation in Colorado is found in dense stands where visibility is limited. Hunters should use terrain to obtain visibility into stands of shrubs.

Feeding

Hunting success is most likely in areas with abundant fruits and nuts. The species of fruit will vary around the state. Colorado black bears eat fruits of serviceberry, chokecherry, pin cherry, squaw apple, mountain ash, buffalo​ berry and currant. The primary nut producing trees are Gambel oak and pinon pine.

Use feeding habits to specify an optimal hunting location​​​​:

  • Many bears will feed at the same site as one another, but usually at different times. ​

  • Bears often move on after filling their belly and look for new sites, likely returning to good sites periodically. 

  • During the feeding frenzy, each bear may defecate 5-15 times daily, thus bear sign is abundant. 

    • With a casual examination, hunters can find out which species of fruits are being consumed, which will help them specify the area to be hunted. ​

  • Most of the better fruit areas are at lower elevations of bear habitat, often distant from the pine and spruce-fir forests that many hunters associate with bears. 

  • The fruit-producing areas may not be adjacent to summer habitat. For instance, in some high-elevation parks, bears may travel across several miles of sagebrush-dominated mountains to lower canyons where chokecherries are found along streams. 

  • Bears move across open sagebrush at night, but actively forage in riparian zone throughout the day. Wherever ‘oakbrush thickets’ dominate the mountains, you can count on finding black bears in September.

  • If you usually hunt an area with poor fall bear foods, you may want to look at nearby areas (up to 30 miles away) where bears could migrate to. 

    • ​Hunting on travel zones may be productive when bears return to their summer range in late September or early October. Bears are like us in many ways: they travel the paths of least resistance during long trips, so scout natural passes and game trails. 

Hunting black bears without hounds or bait will require a lot of scouting and a familiarity in recognizing bear sign and foods. Find the abundant food production areas, and you will find the black bear. Scouting and persistence are keys. ​​

Identifying Bears

Bears are active throughout the day, but peak activity still occurs in early morning and late evening. Their new fall coat will be in good shape during September, and their long hair can cause many to overestimate the size of a bear. 

Avoid Hunting Cubs

  • Yearlings and cubs can be nearly the same size and distinguishing them can be difficult. It is best to observe small bears for several minutes. 

  • Yearling bears tend to grow their fall coat slowly, so if you see a bear with badly bleached, thin hair it is probably a yearling (55-90 lbs). 

  • The presence of a larger bear acting familiar with a small bear suggests a family unit. However, the absence of an adult bear does not rule out the possibility of the small bear being a cub. The cubs and mother are not always in close proximity;​​ they wander several hundred yards apart much of the time. 

  • Two or three small bears of similar size together is most likely a group of cubs. Even without the mother present, this suggests a sibling group. 

  • Bears with narrow faces and long noses are usually subadults.

  • The size of the ears relative to the head is a good indicator of adult bears. The smaller the ears appear to be, the larger the head is, and usually the larger the bear.

  • Quality binoculars will help locate bears and assess size.​

  • All members of the family group, mother and cubs, are protected by law. 

Be Especially Careful in Identifying Your Target

  • The fall bear season overlaps with archery deer and elk seasons. Many archers, dressed in camouflage clothing, successfully hunt deer and elk by stalking in the dense, low-elevation shrublands. 

  • Use binoculars, not rifle scopes, to look for bears. 

Care of the Meat and Pelt

​The warm temperatures of September, coupled with the heavy fall pelt and fat layer of bears, dictate special attention be given to the meat and pelt. 

  • ​A bear should be skinned immediately after death to cool the carcass.

  • Thick layers of fat should be removed.

    • Even on cold nights, the pelt and fat will insulate the meat and spoil it.​​

  • The pelt should be refrigerated as soon as possible. 

  • If you plan to have a bear rug made or a head mount, it is always advisable to consult your tax​​idermist BEFORE the hunt for specific instructions on pelt care.

  • The pelt and head of all hunter-killed black bears must be presented to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer by the hunter within five days of the kill. The pelts will be sealed and data on age, sex and location of kill will be collected. This is an effort to monitor the number of bears killed and age and sex of animals harvested by hunting time. 

​ 

Tips on Hunting Black Bears in September 
By Tom Beck, Wildlife Researcher 
Colorado Parks and Wildlife