Vancouver Island, boasts one of the densest populations of black bears anywhere in North America. Yet, it’s one of the most under utilized hunts within the province. With such a healthy population of bears, it’s not uncommon to see several in a day during the peak of the season, making it an excellent opportunity to take out a newer hunter, or a younger hunter into the field for some experience.
It’s illegal to hunt bears with bait in British Columbia, and bears are very rarely hunted out of a stand. On the Island Black Bear hunting will be an exciting opportunity for spot and stalk. Bears will be spotted within the clearcut slashes left over from the logging industry. Because of the vast network of logging roads available, access via trucks and quads is very easy, making Island Black Bears an excellent hunting opportunity for disabled hunters too.
When’s The Best Time To Come?
Bear hunting on the Island is broken down into two seasons, the Spring Bear season which starts April 1st and goes to June 15th and the Fall Bear Season which goes from Sept 10th to Dec 10th. There is also a special bow hunting only season which starts on August 25th – Sept 9th. If you want to see lots of bears then generally the spring season is a better time to come.
For early hunters the month of April can produce the odd big boar, and they usually have a really nice coat of fur but these bears are few and far between. You’ll spend several hours in the field for each bear sighting.
As the weather warms up through May the hunting starts to get much better as the sun starts to heat things up and the bears start getting active. Through mid May and into June the bears are out in full force and it’s not uncommon to see 10-20 bears in a single day, into June it’s the bears mating season and it’s easier to find a big boar as somewhat like deer they get a little silly. This can make for exciting hunting, if you’re trying to introduce somebody new to the sport. And there’s nothing that gets the blood flowing then having multiple chances to stalk trophy Black Bears in a single day!
If it’s a rug you’re after the later spring bears can have rubbed hides, and this is not desirable for a rug or mount. With such an ample supply of bears this won’t be a problem if you can commit a few days or weekends to choose the right bear. Your taxidermist can do a little to make it look better but you’re better off carefully selecting your bear.
What Should You Bring?
Because most bear hunting on the Island is accessed via the logging road network, a truck and camper are a good choice, with a quad or dirtbike to explore all the little spurs you’ll have at your disposal. Here are a few more items in addition to your regular hunting gear that are a must have for hunting on the island.
- Spotting Scope – Spotting Scopes are helpful when trying to judge bears from a distance. You’ll spot many bears during your trip, and have plenty of time to study them through your glass. I always have my spotter, along with a tripod and usually a window mount in the glovebox of the truck just in case.
- 200’+ of Rope – If you shoot a bear, there is a pretty good chance you’ll be close to a road, and even small bears are very cumbersome to drag out of our clear cuts. The rope will come in handy to use a winch on your truck, or ATV to drag the bear out. It’s come in handy for us many times.
- Tarps – If you’re going to quarter your bear up in the field and pack him out it’s nice to have a small tarp to work on. Keeps the meat clean and helps keep the hide clean which is nice for taxidermist too.
- Chainsaw – If you’re into exploring all of the little spur roads with your truck or quad, then a chainsaw is a good idea because you’ll likely have to cut some blow down off the smaller spur roads, especially for early spring hunts.
- Backroads Map Book – These are probably the most detailed maps of our logging road network and will be very helpful in navigating your way around the Island Backroads.
Where Should You Go?
There is more access available the further north you go on the Island. From Nitinat, to Port Hardy is ALL good bear country, aside from a couple parks which are clearly defined in the regs. If you’re driving here from the mainland I would suggest picking up your copy of the Vancouver Island Backroads Mapbook as it provides detailed maps of our logging roads, campsites, fishing holes and more, an invaluable little tool for any out of town bear hunter.
Some popular areas that come to mind for Island Black Bear Hunting would be Port Renfrew, Bamfield, Nitinat, Gold River, Sayward, Campbell River and pretty much any northern town north of Nanaimo is going to have some logging roads accessible close by.
What Can You Do With The Bear?
Many hunters that harvest island bears have the meat prepared into sausauges, hams, pepperoni and other smoked delicasies. The bear we took last year was turned into a rug, and the meat ground up and boiled, and made into a very healthy and natural dog food, which my dog absolutely loves.
If you plan on having your bear turned into a rug or 1/2 size mount it will cost you $1000 or more to have a taxidermist prepare it for you. If you intend on caping the bear yourself, this bear caping tutorial might be helpful. Be sure to take your time and use lots of salt if you can’t get it to a taxidermist right away.
Vancouver Island Black Bear Hunting Tips
1. 3pm till dark seems to be the best time to see lots of bears in the spring time, especially during the month of May.
2. Look for recontoured roads, where the logging companies have reseeded with grass and clover. During the later hours of the day bears often go to these areas to feed, you can find them on these patches at all hours.
3. If you’ve had lots of rainfall on your hunt, it’s tougher to find bears. When the sun shines, get your ass out there and start glassing. The bears come out of the bush and into the sun, to get a quick feed and dry off. We’ve always had good luck finding bears during these short sunny spells.
4. Just because you glassed a clearcut and didn’t see a bear the first 10 minutes doesn’t mean there isn’t one there! The clearcuts these bears live in are littered with stumps and deadfall and it’s not hard for a bear to be swallowed up by the hillside for several minutes, even hours at a time. If at first you don’t see a bear, give it a rest for a few minutes and check back.
5. Before you pull the trigger on a black bear ask yourself if it’s going to be easy getting him out… Do you have enough hands to help? Can you get help? MANY newer black bear hunters learn this the hardway, myself included.
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