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Hunting black bears in June

Frank Leung

Best in: Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Hunters who tell you their pulse doesn’t quicken when stalking black bears are fools—or liars—especially when the bears in question are the huge bruins that call northern Vancouver Island home. I’ve hunted these bears twice, and both times I’ve found myself having to go into the thick stuff to sort it all out, including once on my hands and shaking knees.

The long growing seasons and diversity of rich food sources on the temperate island provide all the requisite conditions for growing big bears, much bigger on average than most other places in Canada. Since baiting is not permitted, you have little choice but to pursue these bears on foot along the coastlines and through the logging slashes they inhabit during spring while searching for young, leafy vegetation. Populations are such that, in good habitat, you generally have little trouble finding the bears, but getting close means stalking through the chicane of deadfall and other natural obstacles that can often betray your presence. These bears all appear big to the untrained eye; to help identify the mature boars, look for deep bellies and relatively wide spaces between their ears.

Technique

This is a traditional spot-and-stalk game. Most hunters glass clearcuts, logging-road edges and shorelines by truck or boat. Once a bear is spotted, the trick is to get into a downwind position and stealthily move to within shooting range.

Essential gear

Good binoculars are a must, as you’ll be using them often and you don’t want to risk eyestrain. As for firepower, recommended calibres begin at the .270, with a .338 not at all out of place. Use well-constructed bullets designed for deep penetration and controlled expansion. You want to avoid having to track down a wounded bear at all costs in these dense forests.

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Ken Bailey

Ken Bailey

An all-around hunter, Ken Bailey enjoys pursuing waterfowl the most. Based in Edmonton, Outdoor Canada's longtime hunting editor Ken Bailey has hunted every major Canadian game animal, in every corner of the country. For many years, he’s shared his deep knowledge of game behaviour, and wide expertise with all manner of firearms with OC's readers. His work has been recognized numerous times by both the Outdoor Writers of Canada and the National Magazine Awards. Ken is a committed conservationist, dedicated to habitat preservation, sustainable harvests, and passing along our hunting heritage to the next generation. He's also an avid fly fisherman, and a pretty darn good game chef.

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