Black Bear season is the first big game hunt of the new year making it popular for hunters wanting to shake off a long winter and get back to the woods. This is what the previous years’ harvest reports can tell you about your hunting zones and the 5 most reliable spots for Black Bear in Alberta.
The most productive zone in Alberta for Black Bear is the Foothills zone. Foothills zones had the highest reported harvests of 2019 with 1,339 reported harvests. Also, its proximity to major cities makes frequent scouting trips easier, and increases the success rate.
When looking for your next Black Bear spot keep in mind your desired experience. Do you want to hunt several Bears over bait or is spot and stalk more your flavor? These 5 reliable spots offer opportunities for both experiences and adventure for the willing.
Located in the Foothills zone the small town of Whitecourt neighbors the most productive zone in Alberta for Black Bear with a reported 182 bears being harvested in the 2019 hunting season. With the large city of Edmonton being just under 2 hours away these zones offer a short drive and ample public land for hunters to roam.
If you want to try baiting Black Bears Wildlife Management Units (WMU’s) 322, 330-338, 348, 358-360 and portions of 320, 324, and 357 offer baiting opportunities for those hunters looking to experience bear behavior up close. The use of trail cameras over your bait sites will allow you to categorize which baits are being hit at what time of day. This information will be essential for your hunt and often leads to early success.
Three common bait types
- Bulk dog food
- Grain (wheat, barley, oats)
Being in the Foothills these WMU’s are wooded making spot and stalk more difficult, sticking to the old clear cuts left over from the years will increase your odds.
Timing in the spring will be helpful here with the new growth coming up in the openings and bringing the bears in tow. With relatively good land access you should expect to put on a few miles checking spots for signs and making long sits during prime hunting hours.
#2 Grande Prairie
Located in the northwest portion of the province Grande Prairie is an ideal location for hunters looking for big game hunting opportunities including Black Bears. The WMU 357 that houses Grande Prairie had a reported harvest of 72 Black Bears in the 2019 hunting season.
Grande Prairie has a few unique advantages that are unique to its geographical location. The vast northern prairie gives hunters that are able to acquire hunting permission on private land the minimal hunting pressure that many of us seek. Although if your not looking to go knocking on doors the neighboring WMU’s offer more public land and depending on your personal hunting techniques you can either hunt in timber or higher elevation.
Bear baiting is allowed in WMU 357 though it is not uncommon to find bears on the edge of timber feeding on the new growth in the spring and leftover crop in the fall.
#3 Peace River
Located another 2 hours north of our #2 spot Grande Prairie, is the town of Peace River. Being on the border of Four different WMU units gives our number 3 spot a unique benefit for hunters that want to either hunt over bait or spot n’ stalk.
WMU’s west of Peace River offers a healthy mixture of private and public land however baiting in these zones is prohibited. Similar to our number 2 spot, taking advantage of small crop fields edged with timber will often result in bears during prime hours. This is however more time-related in the spring and fall.
For spring hunts you will be timing the new growth to help concentrate bear numbers on the fresh greens. Be careful though, too early and the new growth hasn’t developed yet and too late will result in too much access to feed both resulting in frustrating hunts. If you find yourself being too early try looking in the cottonwood stands that have fresh swollen buds.
WMU’s to the east offer ample opportunities for public land hunts and more baiting opportunities for hunters looking to use tree stands and bait to their advantage. When covering a large area with multiple bait sites try pulling a scent line on your way into your baits. This will help guide wandering bears into your stand.
WMU’s 527 and 526 both hold good harvest reports for Black Bear being 46 reported harvests in WMU 527 and 86 in 526. WMU’s 523 and 520 have reported harvest numbers of 42 and 35 bears in the 2019 seasons.
#4 Rocky Mountain House
Moving back to more central Alberta Rocky Mountain House is located in the foothills between Edmonton and Calgary. With a relatively short 2 hour drive from either city, Rocky Mountain House is a good in-between spot for hunters looking for a shorter drive and diverse hunting opportunities.
With WMU’s such as 330 allowing baiting Rocky Mountain House is the farthest south in the province that allows baiting for Black Bear. 2019 harvest reports show 51 Black Bears in WMU 330 being harvested.
If baiting takes too much prep time for you, the neighboring WMU’s such as 328 still hold decent harvest reports of 24 bears in the 2019 seasons. These WMU’s have plenty of public lands reducing the need to go door-knocking for private hunting permission. Hunting here will be in the timber and at best along cut lines. No need to bring the high-power glass for these hunts.
#5 Hight Country
A relatively well-kept secret for those willing to put in the miles and elevation is our number 5 spot for Black Bears. The lower Mountain Zones of Alberta known to locals as the 400 zones ranging from WMU’s 400 up to 410 hold the pinnacle of adventure however not for the faint of heart.
With elevations commonly reaching 8000 feet and higher the access to these zones is as stands, old fashion. Getting around these zones requires miles on foot or horseback with nights spent in the field with nothing but your essentials and strong will.
Recommended Hight Country Gear
- Spotting Scope with a magnification range of 20×60
- kneeling pad or backpackers chair
- Multi purpose tripod for your glass and rifle
Because of the vast landscape, good quality glass is going to be your best friend that will help keep the miles at bay. The common strategy for finding Black Bears in these zones would be to find high ground with ample views and glass openings. Look for the first green hills in the spring and in the fall the last of the berry patches will hold bears before denning up.
Hunting in the mountains allows for experienced hunters looking for long-range shots in wind and elevation to be in their element. With shots commonly ranging anywhere from 250 yards all the way out to 700 yards, this is mountain hunting at its finest. Although don’t be discouraged if long-distance isn’t your drug. The mountains offer a unique experience for those looking to get close. Spotting an animal in the open and making your move on it by using terrain can quickly land you inside archery range.
Keep these 5 reliable spots for Black Bear in mind for your next hunt. Just remember to think about your desired experience and whether or not you would like to bait or spot n’ stalk. Happy hunting.