Best Guns & Loads for Black Bear

Idaho spring bearBlack Bear Week on Big Deer continues…

One time out in Idaho, I made a pretty good shot on the big cinnamon bear pictured here. The 150-grain bullet from my .30-06 smacked him in the shoulder area, and he rumbled off into a ravine choked with alders, dead on his pads, or so I thought. I crept in there and found him rolling and flipping like a VW Beetle out of control. Teeth popped; the hairs frizzed on my neck. I put a finisher bullet in his lungs and it worked out, but I learned a lesson that day: A pretty good shot on a bear is not good enough; you want that first bullet to be pretty much perfect.

Bear cartridges/loads: The .270 with a 150-grain load is absolute minimum. The .30-06 with 165- or 180-grain bullet is better and an excellent choice.

Saskatchewan bear outfitter Grant Kuypers has seen and skinned hundreds of 300- to 400-pound black bears shot with a wide range of calibers and loads over the years. He likes two rigs that anchor shoulder-shot bears on the spot and require little blood-trailing in the thick Canadian bush.

Grant’s No. 1 choice is the .300 Win. Mag. with 180-grain bullet. There is some recoil with this cartridge, but you are going after an animal that has the capacity to maul you and chew on you. If you want to be a bear hunter, buck up and practice until you can shoot a powerful rifle well.

Grant also says the 7mm Rem. Mag. with 150- or 160-grainer does an excellent job on bear.

Coming next, how and where to shoot a bear.


How to Field Judge a Black Bear

judge bearIt’s Black Bear Week on Big Deer! Out West and up into Canada, hunters are watching baits, floating rivers or spot-and-stalking for bruins. The hunting will continue into June in some areas; here are some tips if you go.

Is that fur ball in your binoculars big enough to take a shot at? For deer hunters, a black bear can be tough to size up.

If you only have a few seconds to make your decision remember 2 things:

A mature shooter bear has big, thick shoulders and a roly-poly belly that sags low to the ground; the belly drags, or appears to. If you can see a lot of clean air between the bottom of the belly and the ground, he’s likely a young animal.

–Look at the head. Big, wide, thick noggin with small ears indicates shooter!

If you have more time—say a bear is gorging on pastries or beaver meat in front of you, or feeding easily on a greening snow-slide 150 yards away, look and study closer and use these tips from the Boone and Crockett Club.

Body Shape: Bigger bears are older bears…they tend to look “heavy” and out of shape. They monopolize the best feed and habitat, and therefore exert less energy to live.

Head Shape: A big boar will have a deeper, wider and longer snout than a smaller bear or a female bear. His ears will appear to be wide apart and small. If he is aware of you and looking your way, his ears won’t stand up on top of his head like a dog’s ears, they’ll seem to be aimed out to the side of his head. A big bear will have well-developed “bulging like Arnold” biting muscles on the top of his head.

Legs: A big bear will have massively developed front shoulders. His shoulders will look big and burly. A sow’s wrist will pinch in directly above the foot. Not so with a boar. The lower forearm, wrist and the foot on a big boar are all the same width. A big bear often appears to have shorter legs because the body is so much thicker, but keep in mind that the best-scoring bears for the records book are often the lankier looking, longer-bodied bears.

Attitude: Big bears are the toughest, meanest sons-of-a-guns in the valley and they act it. Watch a bully walk down the street–he walks with a swagger and an attitude. A big bear walks the same way. He doesn’t fit and start at every sound like a small bear will. A big bear doesn’t have to; he believes he’s got nothing to fear. Use attitude to sex a bear too. A big, old sow will have almost all of the physical characteristics of a big, old boar. She’ll have the nasty-looking face, the potbelly and the sway back. But the one thing she won’t have, except in exceptional cases, is the “I’m the biggest and baddest son of a gun in the valley.” In other words, a thick, mean-looking and acting bear is almost always a boar.

Do Deer Feed On Dead Human Bodies?

deer eatingSuppose a hiker or a hunter gets lost in the woods, dies and is not found for months. Or some thug murders a guy and dumps the body in a remote area.

Sure, a fox, coyote, bear or vulture or other scavenger would pick the body. But would a deer eat the decaying remains too?

Sounds absurd, but…

From an Abstract published in the Journal of Forensic Science:

Herein, we report on the first known photographic evidence of deer gnawing human remains. As described in nonhuman scavenging literature, forking of the bone characterizes the taphonomic effect of deer gnawing in this case, which is distinct from the effect caused by other scavengers. This type of osteophagia during the winter season is consistent with previously documented behavior of deer gnawing on nonhuman bone, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet.

Popular Science reports that in July 2014 scientists placed a human body in the woods of the 26-acre Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in Texas and set up wildlife cameras near it. (One of the most intriguing things I learned from the POPSCI story is that there are facilities in the U.S. dedicated to studying the decay of donated human remains, and sometimes their work involves leaving corpses outside to rot in order to better understand what happens during and after decomposition.)

On 2 different days in January 2015 they got 2 different pictures of a young deer standing near the carcass with a rib bone “sticking out of its mouth like a cigar.” They can’t say for sure if it’s the same deer, but studying the cam images it looks like it to me.)

The images are the first documented evidence of a deer scavenging human bones, likely to get a taste of phosphorus, salt, and calcium.

The treasure trove of whitetail data that we continue to amass here on BIG DEER is amazing!

(Deer photo credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Camping World Takes Over Gander Mountain

ganderTough times in the hunting/shooting retail world has led, sadly, to another mega takeover.

Earlier this year Gander Mountain, which had been outfitting hunters for more than 50 years, filed for bankruptcy and was placed up for auction. On April 28, Camping World, the nation’s largest RV retailer, was chosen as the winning bidder ($37.8 million is a lot of money to you and me, but seems cheap for a brand like Gander).

The big question: What does this mean for the 126 Gander stores built across the country?

Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis said bluntly, “All stores are liquidating, and the inventory in there is going to go away.” Some stores will likely close for good, but “my goal is to keep open at least 70 and keep them operating as Gander Mountain. I will not be picking stores that do not have a clear path to profitability.”

Lemonis says that moving forward, Camping World intends to “refine the inventory selection,” which many in the outdoor industry take to mean substantially less selling of firearms and shooting/hunting gear. Lemonis said one of Gander’s problems was that the retailer was a victim of its own misguided approach to inventory. “At the end of the day, this company failed because it made some giant inventory mistakes and just bought too much,” he said. “Not the wrong stuff, but just too much. And it didn’t necessarily understand how to operate in a low-cost environment.”

Gander Mountain stores will continue to honor gift cards until May 17, 2017. If you have a card, hurry to your local Gander and use it. After that, Gander Mountain gift cards will no longer be honored in store or online.

The list of Gander stores that will close (or survive) remains fluid, but here’s the latest.

This is sad news for me, because I always enjoyed getting the Gander Mountain catalog, and in recent years visiting Gander stores. How about you? Who shopped at Gander and will miss it?

Michigan: Buck With Third Eye Antler

unicorn eye socket@whitetailpress posted this picture on Twitter and asked: Found this crazy shed while out turkey hunting. Ever seen anything like this?

Yes. While a third beam/tine growing out of a buck’s face is rare, there have been quite a few unicorn bucks documented over the years.

What causes this rarity? It could be simply a freak of genetics, or scientists say a freak tine on the front facial bone of a buck can be caused by trauma, such as a tine puncture from another buck. Strangely, another tine then sprouts out from there.

Most  freak tines grow out from the long, flat facial bone on a buck, though there have instances of weird tines sprouting around and even out of an eye socket, like with the Kansas buck pictured below.

eye socket buck