Skip to main content

2017 Bear Forecast

2017 Bear Forecast

Amazing progress. There is no better way to describe the cumulative opinions of the biologists and researchers devoted to bear issues in the U.S. and Canada. I've been following projects and initiatives in the bear world for over four years now, and I want to put some perspective on the results to date.

In 2014, I reported that 75 percent of the 43 responding states and provinces evaluated their bear hunting opportunities as "Very Good" or "Excellent." This year that category has grown to 85 percent, and looks to continue an upward climb. Six states showed notable increases in their bear harvest between 2015 and 2016, and 98 percent of respondents evaluated their bear numbers as "Stable" or "Growing." Notably, Pennsylvania has "huntable bear populations in over three-quarters of the state." Impressive.

BearFC

In 2015, I told you about a possible spring season in Ontario, Canada. I'm happy to report that Ontario now indeed does have a spring season pilot project that will last until 2020, and nonresidents can participate. With one of the largest black bear populations in North America (numbering around 100,000, and second only to British Columbia), this will surely be a fantastic opportunity for hunters.


One of my favorite projects to follow was the New Jersey initiative to have an archery-only season, which became a reality in 2016. Mike Madonia, the Black Bear Project Leader, said that the past season had a record harvest of bears, and the archery-only hunt in October was a major reason why. Over 30 states contributed hunters to New Jersey bear hunting, and the success rate was solid at 30 percent. New Jersey bears increased substantially over the last three seasons, and bear numbers are projected to increase again as this Forecast goes to print.


Understanding food crops is the biggest key to successful bear hunting. Forage varies widely from east to west, but it should be a basic research topic for anyone looking to tag a bruin this year. Also, there are multi-species opportunities that can take advantage of not just food crops, but also the time of year afield. For example, Vermont has deer and bear seasons that overlap for several weeks.

A spring season is available in most Canadian provinces, but only in nine U.S. states (all of which are in the West, including Alaska). Within the nine states, a few have specific restrictions to units or regions that are unique (of note, 55 percent of Montana's statewide bear harvest happens during the spring season, and mostly in the northwest region).

Some places require a guide (all of Canada, for example), but others highly recommend it. Maine, for example, has a very detailed and well-organized guide referral service that is designed to make your hunt a success (maineguides.org). With all these factors in mind, this data table will get you moving in the right direction based on your needs, but it's important to consult with state or provincial wildlife departments for specific rules and regulations.

Another change to pay attention to this year is the "Remarks" section of the data table, as several of the respondents included guidance on areas or units where there are higher bear densities and hunter success rates. But sheer numbers often overwhelm other information, like the fact that Washington, Idaho, and Oregon each have upwards of 20,000 bears, and Wisconsin has a success rate of over 50 percent. Hunters must assess what their goals are for a hunt, as well as their abilities and expectations before they start evaluating what all this data means.




We owe these devoted bear biologists and researchers a tip of the camo hat for the passion and hard work that goes into what we as hunters ultimately benefit from. A bear manager's time is precious, and the generous sharing of information is completely voluntary. I've had the pleasure of talking with many of them at length about not just hunting but also the goals and challenges of what it takes to keep moving forward. I'm honored to receive their insights and cooperation with a yearly project of this scope. Many thanks, and good hunting.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

Danny Farris and Doyle Worbington of J&D Outfitters are hunting turkeys in Colorado.

Better Bow Accuracy: Release Arm Alignment

Better Bow Accuracy: Release Arm Alignment

On this edition of "Dead On," pro archer Randy Ulmer shows you how to properly align your release arm for better accuracy and bowhunting practice.

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt that promises plenty of action.

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Bowhunter contributor Matt Palmquist witnesses a hen trying to destroy one of his decoys while hunting turkeys in Kansas.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles


What's a hardcore bowhunter? That's hard for me to define—most bowhunters I've met are10 Best Exercises for the Hardcore Bowhunter How-To

10 Best Exercises for the Hardcore Bowhunter

Dan Staton - June 30, 2016

What's a hardcore bowhunter? That's hard for me to define—most bowhunters I've met are

The latest top products that will enhance your big-game pursuits this season.New Attractants, Calls and Decoys for 2021 ATA Show

New Attractants, Calls and Decoys for 2021

Jace Bauserman - January 11, 2021

The latest top products that will enhance your big-game pursuits this season.

We all need a spot to place our feet in life … and even more so when in the saddle. The two options are a platform or ring-of-steps.Best New Tree Saddle Hunting Platforms & Ring of Steps Treestands & Blinds

Best New Tree Saddle Hunting Platforms & Ring of Steps

Bowhunter Staff - January 03, 2021

We all need a spot to place our feet in life … and even more so when in the saddle. The two...

A simple, classic steak and French fries duo gets a wild makeover with this Elk Venison Steak-Frites Recipe.Elk Venison Steak-Frites Recipe Recipes

Elk Venison Steak-Frites Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

A simple, classic steak and French fries duo gets a wild makeover with this Elk Venison...

See More Trending Articles

More Conservation

Mountain lions take a toll on sheep on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.Desert Bighorns Decline Conservation

Desert Bighorns Decline

November 04, 2010

Mountain lions take a toll on sheep on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.

When it comes to CWD, there are some things we know, and some things we don't know.The Scientific Facts & Unknowns of CWD Conservation

The Scientific Facts & Unknowns of CWD

Dr. Dave Samuel - March 25, 2019

When it comes to CWD, there are some things we know, and some things we don't know.

While hunting potential blossoms in The Garden State, nonresident hunting may wither in Big Sky Country.Black Bear Hunting In The Garden State Conservation

Black Bear Hunting In The Garden State

February 04, 2011

While hunting potential blossoms in The Garden State, nonresident hunting may wither in Big...

See More Conservation

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now