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.
Please Let Us Know If You Have Any Questions Or Comments Below
Wayne Ackerman says
Are gated roads common north of Campbell River or is the north island more open to public access?
Hey Wayne, As you get further north Island there are less and less gates and more crown land.
Thanks for your comment! Good luck getting a bear this spring.
Hey guys trying to get out this weekend for a hunt south island. Wondering where you would suggest this early on. I only ever hunted them starting in may.
Where would be a good place to try for a spring bear in the port renfrew area? Thanks
Haven’t hunted Port Renfrew that much but I’d be looking for south facing slopes and re-countoured roads with lots of grass and clover growing along them. When the sun comes out, so do the bears!
South Island I’d be around Cowichan, Nitnat, Port Renfrew… South facing slopes and re-countoured roads with grass and clover.
Up hunting copper canyon got locked behind the dam gate i need to find a place on the island with no gats to go fishing and hunting till dark what a joke the South Island is timberwest think they can just lock you behind gates even when you have registered at the gate they don’t give two bits about family members or anyone just lock the dam gate need to fight with the government to get the gates open taxpayers build the road with tax money we have Park’s up there and no access what the hell !!
I hear you! There are a few different groups trying to fight for more access on Vancouver Island.
leave the bears alone
Please tell us everything you know about the sustainable bear hunt in BC? Why are you opposed? You’re in the wrong place if you want to change anyone’s mind but we might be able to enlighten you as to some of the facts that surround it. BC has an abundance of bears and the populations are managed accordingly.
Do you have a system of sizing bears from a distance? I was told if the ears look big ( like Mickey Mouse ) it’s a smaller bear ? Any tricks ?
Good job Carl
As to the “leave the Bears alone person”
Well the hunters will survive when we hit Armageddon. We will hunt and Harvest meat that you won’t….and we hunters will live on.
Thank you for the comment Skyla!
From a distance is can be tough. Get a good spotting scope. Yes, if the ears look big it’s generally a small bear. Look at their behavior too, the way they walk and behave. Big Boars act like big boars. They have a bit of a swagger. If the belly is dragging it’s a good sign, lol. As you get later in the season (may/june) the bears will be hooking up with sows and then you can also find a bigger bear a little easier as they usually have the sows, in my experience anyway.
Good luck this year!