If your passion is big-game hunting, there aren’t a lot of options in the spring and early summer months. That is the appeal of the spring black bear hunt in Manitoba, Canada. For hunters who can’t wait until fall, spring bruins provide the perfect opportunity to keep your adrenaline surging.
The Skinny On Spring Black Bear Hunting
Manitoba’s spring black bear hunt, for the most part, is a mirror image of the fall hunt. The primary tactic for both seasons is hunting from a stand over bait. This sounds easy to those who have never hunted over bait, and sometimes it does work out that way. But, more often than not, it will take every bit of skill and patience you have to take a trophy.
Sure, the outfitter will tell you when baits are being hit and they will have a good idea of how big the bears are. But the key is getting a bear to hit a bait while you are sitting over the top it. The bear is king of the woods when it comes to sense of smell; it’s said to be seven times better than a blood hound.
I talked to Mike Adey of Whiteshell Outfitters in Renne, Manitoba, about the spring black bear hunt that runs from late May through the end of June (depending on where the outfitter is located). I asked Mike, “What is the biggest mistake bear hunters make?” and he didn’t have to think twice about his reply. “Even experienced hunters get overly confident hunting over bait and throw caution to the wind,” he said. “Maybe their scent preparations are a little lax or they move around too much on the stand, all because they assume the bear is going to hit the bait. That’s not necessarily the case.” If it happens to be a big bear, getting it to hit the bait while you are on stand is even tougher. Bears generally get smarter as they get bigger.
Mike did explain some of the differences between the spring and fall bear hunts. “Early in the spring season, bears tend to hit the baits hard and stay on them longer to regain their energy from the long winter,” he said. “As the spring progresses into June, they will begin to move around—especially the bigger bears prior to the rut.”
Some hunters prefer the later spring season, even though the success rate might be a bit lower, because they feel it increases their odds of taking a trophy once the bigger bears start moving around looking to mate. Mature boars may only hit a particular bait once or twice. But if you’re on the stand, it only takes once.
A bear’s pelt is also a bit different in the spring than fall. Their guard hair (the longer hair that bears use to communicate) is at its longest, and some hunters choose the spring hunt for that reason. Mike’s feeling on this: “I don’t see a lot of difference in the two. Some of the best bear mounts I’ve ever seen came from bears taken in the fall.”
Judging The Size Of A Black Bear
Mike said if you decide to hunt in late May or June, “Bring your ThermaCELL, bug spray with Deet, mosquito netting and your fishing rod. Once you harvest your bear, you’re in for the best walleye fishing of the year.”
One of the biggest challenges of bear hunting is accurately judging the size of a bear. Here’s Mike’s advice:
- Keep in mind, a live bear’s hair is standing up and out. Once that animal has died, it is going to look smaller as the hair settles down.
- Look for a vertical crease in the bear’s forehead—a sure sign you are looking at a big bear.
- Everyone knows to look for big ears as being the sign of a small bear, but a small nose is a good indicator of a big bear.
- Given the choice, most hunters prefer to take a color-phase (brown, cinnamon, even off-white) bear, and are so excited to do so they forget to judge size, which can leave them disappointed. Once you determine a bear is the size you want, color phase is icing on the cake.
Planning Your Hunt
If you’re one of those hunters who can’t wait until fall to chase big game, here are a few tips for taking advantage of the spring black bear hunt in Manitoba:
- Nonresidents of Manitoba are required to book bear hunts through a licensed outfitter. Find a list at the Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association (MLOA).
- It is illegal to shoot a cub, or a female/sow with cubs. Learn how how to distinguish a sow black bear.
- Be sure to thoroughly review the Manitoba hunting regulations.
- Entering Canada with a firearm is quite simple. You can find all the information you need at the Canada Firearms Center.
Share your Manitoba spring black bear hunting experiences by commenting below.
The author is the president of Fishulo and is passionate about using his expertise in Canadian wilderness travel to assist anglers and hunters in planning adventures. During a 20-year association with a Canadian fishing and hunting sport-show producer, the author visited more than 300 of Canada’s premium lodges, resorts and outfitters.