Bears: Out and About Early This Year - Initial Ascent

Bears: Out and About Early This Year


It's March 18, 2021, and it's already 70 degrees here in the Treasure Valley of Idaho. Bear season is now less than a month away and the snow in the hills is melting fast. Along with that, things are starting to green up down here at 2500'. What does this mean for spring bear season? The bears will be out earlier resulting in more days of hunting opportunities.

Yes, the bears are going to be out early! The "Green Wave" has already started at the lower elevations (2500-3000') which means spring rains could bring a lot of lush forage in April, May, and even June. There was lots of snow dumped in the mountains this winter so we should be good from an early moisture standpoint. These bears will have PLENTY to eat this spring.

This will mean that if it is typically slow or difficult to access in mid-April at your favorite bear hunting location, it probably will be really good this year. With that being the case, we are sure to have more opportunities this year than in years past just because of early activity. I typically can't get into my favorite spot until mid-May, and with the season ending June 30, I only have 45 days to hunt it. With my schedule, that usually gives me only a couple of 4-5 day hunts for the season. Add another 30 days of opportunity, and I could squeeze in another 1-2 hunts of the same length. That's HUGE!

After all, successfully filling a tag has a lot to do with numbers. Simply, the more days you spend in the field, the more opportunities you'll have to be successful. It is impossible to fill a bear tag, or any other tag for that matter, if you're not in the field hunting.

There is one simple thing to understand in order to find bears in the spring prior to the rut. If you don't remember anything else, "Follow the Green Wave". What does that mean? Green grass. Just follow the bright, chartreuse-colored grass. Chartreuse?

"Chartreuse is a color between yellow and green that was named because of its resemblance to the green color of one of the French liqueurs called 'green chartreuse', introduced in 1764."-Wikipedia

This lush early crop is a welcomed sight for bears that have spent all winter in hibernation. The young, tender grasses, dandelions, wild onions among others are sweet and contain a ton of much-needed nutrients that become a nutritional base for maintenance, growth, and preparation for the following winter. This new, green forage can contain 20-30% protein and have very little structural, undigestible fiber (filler with no nutritional value). As it matures, and this can happen fast, the protein decreases rapidly and the undigestible portion increases.

So, early in the season, these chartreuse patches will start down low in the wetter areas in pockets. This actually helps to concentrate the bears in the area as they can't resist this nutrient-rich environment.

As the days and weeks go on, they tend to follow the "Green Wave" as it moves to the higher elevations. Remarkably, black bears will consume 2000-2500 calories per day and spend only 2-4 hours per day foraging during the spring and early summer. Once late summer and fall arrive, caloric need and consumption will step up to as much as 20,000 calories and they may spend as much as 20 hours/day feeding.

So remember to find the "Green Wave" early this bear season and you'll find the bears. Now, I'm off to my gear room because the spring bear season opener is right around the corner, and I've got to get ready. You should do the same!

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