It’s a little-known fact that the majority of people who purchase an Oregon SW spring bear tag do so on a whim while in the process of buying their Sports Pac, a combination hunting and angling license that includes deer, elk, salmon, steelhead, spring turkey, upland birds and shellfish. A great deal of Oregonian hunters will purchase the tag and never get off the couch. It makes sense in some ways, better to have a tag in your pocket than not when it comes to the first-come, first-serve part of the SW Spring Bear tag. Sometimes it’s the thought that counts. But, for those diehard Oregon bear hunters, tired of sitting indoors during this winter and itching to get out, the time has come.
Open from April 1st to May 31st, Oregon’s SW spring bear hunt is an over-the-counter tag issued by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) annually. 4,400 tags are available each spring. Oregon is prime black bear country, with an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 black bears populating the wild portions of the state. Truth be told, there are likely more than that running around, as those survey results have yet to be recently updated.
“By all early indications, the number of bears in western Oregon has gone up,” ODFW carnivore coordinator Derek Broman says. “The population is very healthy and hunter take isn’t damaging that at all.”
The bag limit on Oregon spring bear is one per hunter. It is unlawful to take cubs less than a year old, or sows with cubs.
Where to Look:
South-facing slopes in the southern coastal range are your best bet to find a bear. If you can find a canyon with a creek running through the bottom that doesn’t also have a road winding through it, that’s even better. Bears don’t like being bothered by people, and will go to great lengths to find little hideaways that keep them away from the two-leggers. Fresh out of their dens, bears are looking to feed on the newly greened-up foliage that grows in abundance on such slopes and near such creeks.
When to look:
Bears are timely creatures of habit. While the old bear-country saying of “a bear will do what a bear will do” is true, meaning that some bears keep odd hours that cannot be easily patterned, the closer to sundown it gets the better chances you have of finding old Yogi. This is because as the heat breaks, and the evening approaches, it is more comfortable for bears to come out and move around.
Look to pattern bear behavior around 6:30 PM, which is also known as bear-o’clock in some parts of the Beaver State.
Also, extreme rain or extreme heat will deter bears from coming out. A good rule of thumb is, if you aren’t willing to go out into it, neither is a bear. If you have limited time this bear season, save your hunting days for the Goldilocks days… not too hot, not too rainy… just right.
What to Carry:
Aside from your rifle which should be something capable of anchoring a 300-pound animal, and reaching out to distances of 200 yards, your binos matter most in bear-land. It is no joke that one should purchase the best optics he can afford when looking to hunt bears. If you can’t buy ‘em, borrow ‘em. A huge part of hunting bears is glassing for them on those sunny springtime slopes.
Layer up. Oregon spring bear hunting has weird weather. Every single year, it has weird weather. A hunter can find himself sweltering under the sun or shivering in the wind. Come prepared with appropriate clothing.
Another key part of hunting bears is judging the distance at which you are seeing them. Investing in a solid rangefinder is an absolute must. If you aren’t wanting or able to do so, brush up on your shooting skills and bullet-drop compensation. Bears are found at all angles, particularly the steep ones.
Remember, ODFW has a mandatory skull check-in for any black bear harvested in the state. This means that it is the hunter’s responsibility to call and make an appointment with the ODFW biologist prior to harvesting a bear. Also, remember to report your tag, kill or no kill, after the season as well.
For more information on the SW Spring Bear Hunt in Oregon, check out: