By Zach Lazzari
The fall hunting seasons might be winding down, but that doesn’t mean we’re letting off the gas. Wyoming elk applications are due at the end of January and we will be mountain lion hunting during the winter months. Soon after that, we will turn our attention to spring bear hunts in Idaho!
Joining a Table Mountain spring bear hunt is an incredible opportunity. Hunting with hounds is something most hunters dream about and the quality and quantity of bears in the region is impressive. If you want a color phase bear, this is the place to hunt. most of the bears harvested here have been color phase bears.
Among all the spring black bear hunting opportunities in North America, Idaho offers one of the best. Many other states do not allow spring black bear hunting with hounds or bait. Idaho offers both. And the state has healthy black bear populations. If you’ve wanted to try hunting alongside skilled houndsman for color phase bears, these Idaho spring hunts are a perfect fit.
If you have a hunt booked or plans to get on the roster, here’s how you can prepare:
How a Hound Hunt Works
Hunting over hounds is a unique experience. The dogs are exceptional at tracking and treeing bears in the woods. On a hound hunt, we hunt in the mornings starting from the truck. You and your guide will drive until the hounds catch a scent of a bear. This scent can be hours old or perhaps the bear just crossed the road. We will let a hound go to see if it can “start” or point the direction of the bear. If it does, we will release the other hounds to join the first dog.
We will then follow the dogs as closely as possible. Show up in good physical condition because the bear and dogs are liable to cover a great distance and difficult terrain before the bear scrambles up a tree. Hunters should prepare to do some walking to stay with the dogs.
Get Yourself Ready for the Hunt
The first step involves booking your hunt with Table Mountain Outfitters to lock down the dates. These hunts take place in May and June. Please contact us for the latest openings and availability.
Next, make an exercise plan and work on physical fitness. Anything can happen on these hunts. Some bears are treed close to the truck, requiring only a short walk. Others will require strenuous hiking through steep and rugged terrain. Be prepared by hiking regularly. If you don’t have steep hiking trails near your home, use stair machines and treadmills with incline settings. Stadium steps are also great for training. The vertical nature of western hunts is difficult without some physical training.
These training hikes are also a great way to test your boots and make sure they fit properly. Don’t wait to discover blisters or other issues when you’re on the hunt. Get your boots and your legs in good shape and be ready to hit the mountains.
Learning to Judge Bears
Hunting with hounds and over bait means you have an opportunity to evaluate the bear before making a decision to harvest. This is part of what makes these methods such great management tools. Field judging bears in this manner is much easier than glassing bears at long distances.
Your guides here are experts at judging bears and will help you evaluate the opportunity. Field judging includes assessing the size, age class and sex. When identifying sex of treed bears, look for testicles to indicate a boar or nipples on a sow. The sows also tend to have bigger hind quarters while a boar has broader shoulders. Field judging bears is a fine art because the head and body size relationship is sometimes deceiving. When you’re in the field, take this opportunity to learn from your guide and ask what they are looking for when evaluating a bear.
Again, hunting black bears with hounds and over bait allows hunters to be more selective. We can focus on taking mature boars and avoid harvesting younger bears. For this reason, our hunting area has a healthy age class of bears. The use of hounds and bait are important management tools for quality black bear management.
Color Phase Bears
The high density of color phase bears makes Idaho a wonderful place to harvest a black bear. You might find pure black, blonde, brown, cinnamon and combinations with different shading across the coat. These bears make for beautiful rugs and taxidermy pieces.
Reserve Your Spring Bear Dates
To reserve your dates for a 2021 spring black bear hunt in Idaho, please contact us. You can also find more information on our Bear Hunting page. We look forward to helping you plan a memorable spring hunt!