Grizzly bear hunting is highly restricted and only allowed in three areas of North America.
In 1975, most of the remaining grizzly bears in the lower 48 were designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The one exception was in northwestern Montana, where the state was allowed a harvest of up to 25 bears annually.
Fast forward to 2018, and it looked like grizzly bear hunts would return to Wyoming and Idaho after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted them in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. However, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen put a two-week restraining order on the action, then restored previous protections.
If you want to hunt grizzly bears, Alaska, the Yukon, and the Northern Territory provinces of Canada are your only options. British Columbia was another participating province, but they put the kibosh on grizzly bear hunting in 2017.
Now that you know where you can legally hunt them, let's talk about getting started on one of these hunts up north.
Decide which Alaskan brown bear subspecies you want to hunt. Alaska recognizes two. Kodiak brown bear of the Kodiak/Afognak Archipelago and grizzly bears which are the brown bears inhabiting inland, northern, and Arctic areas of Alaska.
Alaska offers general season and draw-only brown bear hunts for residents and non-residents. You'll want to decide early which brown bear subspecies you plan on hunting, so you get your draw application in before the due date.
You'll also need to decide on spring or fall hunts for brown bears. A springtime bear may give you tastier meat if you decide to salvage it (it is not a requirement unless it's a resident subsistence hunt). Fall brown bear will give a thicker, more visually appealing coat.
Non-residents who are legal citizens of the U.S. must either use a licensed outfitter or a family member over the age of 19 that is a 2nd-degree relative (immediate family) and a resident. Non-citizens must be accompanied by a licensed outfitter.
Make sure you start saving early, because these hunts can really rack up the costs for non-residents. Between airfare, guides, planes, boats, private land-use fees, taxidermy fees, the non-resident license, and the tag fee, it could cost you nearly a year's worth of wages. Guide fees alone can be $10,000 to $22,000.
Definitely put together a gear list. It is so easy to forget an important piece of gear while preparing for a hunt like this. Practice heavily with your rifle or bow, so when the critical moment comes you don't choke and miss.
The Grizzly Bear gets its name not from its temper but from the word ‘grizzled’ meaning ‘streaked with grey hair’. #fact
Ah, the Yukon. A vast, sportsmen's paradise of epic proportions. The bear populations aren't bad either. Much like Alaska hunting, non-resident hunters must use a licensed outfitter when hunting the Yukon. Grizzly bears can be hunted with rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns with slugs, or archery equipment and hunters don't have to salvage the meat.
The Yukon offers general season bear tags for grizzly. While you can hunt sows or boars, the wildlife department suggests the take of males. Hunters are required to pay a "harvest fee" before leaving the Yukon. It is illegal to shoot a denning bear or sow with cubs.
Harvest fees run $500 for boars and $750 for females. You will also likely end up paying a trophy fee to your hunting guide service. These fees can run from $5000 to $10,500.
Check out the Yukon hunting regs for information.
Northwest Territories (NWT)
Grizzly hunts in the tundra of the Northwest Territories in Canada are general season. There are specific units that non-residents and non-resident aliens can hunt, and these hunters are restricted to those units.
Non-resident and non-resident alien hunters must use a licensed guide service and typically hunt out of spike camps. Because of the cost involved to fly hunters back and forth to base camp, hunters "spike out" until the end of their hunt.
Outfitters in the NWT often suggest obtaining small game and furbearer species permits such as wolverine or Arctic wolf, since habitats overlap.
Hunt dates for these units in 2021 are August 31 - October 31 and April 15 - May 31 for some of the units and September 1 - May 31 for others. The bag limit for these units is any number of bears not with cubs or denning.
Regulations for Northwest Territory hunting can be found here.
Exporting any part of your quarry from anywhere in Canada requires a CITES permit. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates the import and export of listed plant and wildlife, including big game.
The permit is free but does have an application processing fee. It is also encouraged to apply early, as CITES permits can take up to 80 days to arrive.
Make sure your level of fitness is on par with the terrain you'll encounter on your hunting trip. Pay attention to timelines for applications you'll need to put in. There are many moving parts for a hunt of this type and the logistics can get a little overwhelming. Plan well in advance!