How to Shoot a Black Bear

judge bearBlack Bear Week on Big Deer continues…

If you’re sitting 40 to 60 yards away from a bait pile, range with a rifle is no issue. But if you’re spotting and stalking, play the wind and sneak within 200 yards of a bear feeding in a snow slide or burn…150 yards is better and 100 is best and generally achievable, since a myopic bear can’t see you. The closer the shot, the better your odds of placing that first bullet perfect.

Where to hit them: A bear feeding his face is not in a hurry to go somewhere. Chill, stay patient and he will turn broadside or quarter-slightly away.

Now one good option is to place your scope’s crosshair for a high shoulder shot. A bear so hit and shocked will drop like a rock. If your bullet breaks both shoulders, he is not going anywhere.

Western bear guide Scott Denny (tablemountainoutfitters.com) is okay with the shoulder shot, but for first-time bear hunters he recommends the good old lung shot, especially when a critter is quartering away.

“Most people are used to aiming behind a deer’s leg and at its lungs, so they’re comfortable aiming there on a bear, rather than trying to take out the shoulders,” he says. Tuck the crosshair behind the top of the shoulder and halfway up the animal’s side. Don’t aim low for a heart shot! A big bear has long hair that sweeps the ground, so it’s easy to shoot too low if you’re not careful,” notes Denny.

Follow-up: I read somewhere that American hunters love to kick back and admire their first shot. That is an excellent observation. We stalk pretty well, aim well, press the trigger, drop our eye out of the riflescope, watch the critter go down and start smiling ear to ear.

Generally that works out, but it is a bad habit you need to break, especially when shooting a bear. After you hit him hard, bolt another cartridge and lock your scope on him. If the critter tries to scramble away or so much as quivers, hit him again with another bullet…and again to stop him for good. Now you can relax and go check the hide, no tracking required.