HELENA – April 15 is circled on almost everyone’s calendar. For most, it’s because it’s tax day — but for others, it’s a more enjoyable occasion; it’s the start of spring black bear hunting season.
Hunting during the fall here in Montana gets a lot of the limelight. But spring in the Treasure State can also be a great opportunity to get outdoors and hunt black bear.
“We sell about 32,000 licenses a year,” said FWP game management bureau chief John Vore.
“Some of those come with a combination license that includes also deer and elk and upland birds. But then we also sell separate licenses, and we sell about 19,000 of those a year. It is popular with folks.”
There are a few steps you must take though before heading out after one of these bruins.
First, before purchasing your tag, everyone must pass an online bear identification course through Fish Wildlife and Parks.
This helps hunters identify the difference between a legal black bear and a grizzly. Because color isn’t always the best evidence.
“Grizzly bears can come in all colors,” said Vore. “There can be real, real light ones and all the way to black ones. And black bears come in lots of different colors too. We have quite a few, about 40-50 percent of the bears here in Montana a brown or red phase.”
You will also have to check and make sure the bear is alone.
“Take 20 minutes or a half hour. If it’s a lone bear, take a look at it and make sure there are no cubs with it,” added Vore. “Because often times cubs are not with their mother all the time. And sometimes it will be 20 minutes to half an hour, even longer, before the cubs rejoin the mother. So be sure you know your target.”
If you are lucky enough to harvest one, the next step is to take it to an FWP regional office or Warden. They’ll check the sex of the animal and remove a tooth for aging, which is all crucial hunter provided information for bear management.
And just like any other time you are hunting in Montana, use caution and common sense. Wear your hunter’s orange, carry bear spray and tell someone where you are hunting.
If you do that, this time of year can be a great time to be a hunter.
“Spring bear hunting is a pretty cool thing to do,” said Vore. “You can get out in the woods at a wonderful time of the year and see all the things that the woods have to offer.”
Bear meat is not for everyone, but if you do plan on eating any make sure you cook it thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any possibility of getting trichinosis from the meat.
And if you have any questions play it safe and contact FWP here.
-Andy Curtis reporting for MTN News