Bear Hunting Gear | Josh Kirchner
Bear Hunting Gear
by Josh Kirchner
Through my years of pursuing black bears in the West, it has become apparent to me that bear hunting is largely a mental game, both in terms of mental fortitude and knowledge of the species and its habitat. For instance, I’ve learned more about plants — that bears consume — chasing bears than I ever imagined I would. Paying attention to the different species along with when they’re ripe and fruiting is an intricate part of bear hunting. That said, there are several key gear items that have been extremely helpful for me along the way. Here’s the breakdown …
I remember a handful of springs back; I was sitting at the head of a remote basin, scanning for feeding black bears with my binoculars. As luck would have it, I spotted a mature boar out for a bite to eat. The more I watched him, the more I realized that there was no way in this world I would have spotted it without quality optics. Bear country is big and oftentimes dense in vegetation. Having a quality binocular/spotting scope combo pays huge dividends. On top of that, be sure to mount binocular/spotting scope on a tripod. This will really let one scan thoroughly and make keeping an eye on a spotted bear easier. A great bino/magnification combo I like is the Vortex 10×42 Razor HD binoculars and the Vortex 22-48x65mm Razor HD spotting scope.
Bear country is the roughest of the rough. It’s rocky, steep, and just downright unforgiving. In order to find the bears, covering ground with, not just your optics, but your boots is key. Walking through nasty canyon bottoms will tell tales of bears that have come and gone. Traversing from vantage point to vantage point for different views through your glass will let one maximize their spotting efforts. Plain and simple, a bad pair of boots can ruin the experience of a hunt. It isn’t fun dreading every step you take. For that reason, it is imperative that a hunter have a good reliable pair of boots for their hunt. Be sure to break them in way ahead of the season and take them on training hikes to get used to them. Don’t forget a good pair of socks either. Merino wool is king here and will help prevent blisters along with moisture mitigation. All of this will make for happy feet in the end. My preferred boot and sock combo is the Crispi Colorado GTX along with the First Lite Triad Sock.
Once you get a bear down on the ground, the real work begins. A mature boar’s hide alone can range between 70-100 pounds. That doesn’t include all of that tasty bear meat one gets to bring home. Having a quality backpack to haul your load from point A to point B is going to make life much easier. This is really something that you shouldn’t try and cut corners on. Backpacks can be pricey, but you won’t regret purchasing a high-quality pack. Focus on a pack with a good suspension system, functionality and fit. A pack that has served me extremely well in all of these attributes is the Exo Mountain Gear K3 4800.
I often say that gear is not everything, but it is definitely something. Basically, you don’t need to be obsessed and go overboard, but bear hunting gear includes a few simple — yet, high-quality — tools of the trade.
For more information, see the author’s article on Bear Hunting Basics