Bear Hunting in Oregon
Read about Gary's Oregon hunting tips and trips in his book, Hunting Oregon (pictured to the right), or read one of his many articles on bear hunting in Oregon, which we share below.
Oregon bear hunting is a fun and exciting experience, but you'll need all the bear hunting tips you can get in order to have a successful bear hunting trip.
If you sit in one place long enough, your chances of seeing bear increase. Seldom do you get a look at Ursus Americanus when you are on the move. The predator is so in tune with its surroundings that it is alerted to any sound and scent that seems out of place. No one knew that better than Taylor Skinner, a native of Glide, Oregon, who was showing me his favorite black bear haunts in Oregon’s Coast Range. We sat for a few minutes when he spotted them across the canyon.
Tod Lum thumbed cartridges into the magazine and closed the bolt. We left the truck parked on the road and climbed uphill on a bare slope. Twenty minutes later we worked onto the shoulder of a finger ridge and looked down into a canyon choked with hawthorn bushes. We set the caller below us on the slope and found a vantage point. Insistent, the FoxPro whined its pitiful electronic cry. We didn’t have to wait long. The bear emerged from the bottom of the canyon and stopped to look back. The first shot shivered him and he ran left along the hill.
Oregon’s bear population numbers between 25,000 and 35,000 animals, spread over approximately 40,000 square miles of habitat. In 1994, voters banned the use of hounds or hunting with bait. Hunter success plummeted in the years after the ban, but as bear numbers increased and more hunters adapted to spot-and-stalk and calling tactics, hunter success has improved.
Timbered valleys split the grassy slopes into long green fingers stretching down toward the river. Matt lifted the ten power binoculars to his eyes. A gust of wind blew his blond hair back and he could smell the wildflowers on the warm breeze. For weeks he’d been searching these slopes for a legal bear. Now, with only a day before the end of the 1997 spring bear season, warmer weather had the wildflowers in bloom and the elk out of the river bottoms in search of food.
A breath of wind blew down the canyon, but its treetop rustle was lost to the murmur of the river – running at 13,500 cubic feet per second – the pulse, its every crash, its ebb and flow and eddy. Swallows hunted insects above the water and a long-billed bird dipped on a stone near the boat ramp. On the northern bank, yellow spots of color showed against the green grass. I checked my watch. It was almost 11:00am.
O'Jambo said he was worried about T. Roy and Bill Haltz said he had noticed it too. No date had been set, but RaeBelle was marshaling her forces and it looked apparent that a wedding was in T. Roy's immediate future. "And you know what that means," O'Jambo said. "The worst thing that could happen is he gets married in October."
One of the best times of year to hunt bear is in the late summer. And one of the best places to find them is in Northeast Oregon's Snake River, Imnaha and Chesnimnus Units. When berries ripen in Northeast Oregon, hunters have a chance to see high concentrations of black bear as they move down out of the mountains to put on their winter fat.
Sometime in March or April, when the sun pushes back the clouds, when the grasses green and the buttercups bloom, Oregon's black bears emerge from their long winter sleep. Hungry bruins head straight for the river valleys early in the spring, taking advantage of succulent forage below the snowline. Grasses, grubs, flowers, and the tender shoots of smaller trees and shrubs are the target as the bears get their digestive juices flowing again.
Spring is supposed to arrive on the 20th of the month named for the Greek god of war. As the days march on, snows melt, rivers rise and hillsides turn green, black bear find their way to the sun. When a bear emerges from its den, it seeks available forage that will include grass, forbs (broadleaf plants), bulbs and grubs. At this time of year, the bear needs to jump-start its digestion in order to process more complex foods later in the season.
When the berries ripen in Northeast Oregon, hunters have a chance to see high concentrations of black bear as they move down out of the mountains to put on their winter fat. Oregon has a controlled spring season which is growing in popularity with resident and non-resident hunters, but one of the best times of year to hunt bear is in the late summer. And one of the best places to find them is in Northeast Oregon's Snake River, Imnaha and Chesnimnus Units.