These are the absolute best states for black bear hunting.
Black bear populations are up all over the United States. That means there are more opportunities for bear hunters than there have been for years. But where are some of the top destinations to hunt bears?
That's what we're here for. These are some of the premiere bear hunting destinations out there. The hunting opportunities are plentiful in these locations and will provide you the chance at the hunt of lifetime.
These are the top black bear hunting locations in the United States.
Most people think of primarily western states for black bears. But Wisconsin has earned its place on this list with a proven track record; it's not just a whitetail hotspot. On Pope & Young's list of the top 10 bruins of all time, the Badger State accounts for four of them. The largest of those four is 22 11/16-inch monster taken by Duane Helland in Chippewa County in 2003.
The downside of Wisconsin is that the secret is out, and now everyone wants to hunt for bruins there. There are no over-the-counter hunting licenses either. You must apply for the chance.
The Wisconsin DNR's website says that only 11,520 people were awarded a permit out of 109,000 applicants in 2016. Yikes. The odds have been similar across the last few years.
Even if you're planning your trip for years down the line, the time to start applying is now. Wisconsin uses a preference point system. The longer you put in, the greater your odds. You do have the option of just applying a preference point if you don't plan to hunt this season. It's a good way to build up points during what will probably be a long wait.
Chippewa County is definitely the best spot to draw a bear tag in Wisconsin, but don't overlook Jackson or Polk County either. Both of these places have produced big bears on the Pope & Young top 10 list.
The Last Frontier is home to nearly 100,000 bruins, one of the largest populations in North America. The great thing about Alaska is that not only are opportunities to draw a permit better than most areas in the lower 48, but there are even some spots you can purchase over-the-counter bear tags.
Just make sure you do your research ahead of time. Black bear hunting in Alaska is notoriously tough due to the changing weather conditions and the overall vastness of many of the public land areas you'll be hunting. Some areas may have big bruins, but the success rates are extremely low.
You also have to be careful to properly identify the animal, because brown bears and grizzlies abound in the same areas. A good outfitter can help you identify an animal that's truly a black bear and help avoid unusual color phase bears of a different species.
The other downside to Alaska is cost. Everything from traveling to Alaska to purchasing supplies for the hunt is going to be a wallop to the pocketbook. That's just how it is up there. This extends to the costs of tags too. A non-resident bear tag will set you back $450.
Most people think of elk when they think about hunting Arizona, meaning this state flies under the radar for bear hunting. But this is one of the easier states to get in on the action every bear season.
For one, permits for the spring bear season can often be bought over the counter. Tags are also extremely cheap: just $25 for residents and $125 for non-residents. For youth hunters, it's only $10.
You may be wondering if there's a catch with Arizona. Why don't more people talk about bear hunting there? Well, there's a few reasons.
One, it's tough hunting in rugged country. Two, you're not allowed to use bait in Arizona. That means hunting bears is a matter of spot and stalk,almost entirely. Make no mistake, you'll have to work for it!
For some people, it might be difficult to find the animals if you're not already familiar with their habits in a more moderate climate.
The good news is, many bruins grow quite large. Hunters harvest some true giants here every hunting season.
The bruins grow to ridiculously huge proportions in the Keystone State. All it takes is one look at an animal like Tyler Wilbur's 704-pounder to realize you're in the land of the giants. In 2018, Pennsylvania produced bears weighing 679 pounds, 704 pounds and even 780 pounds. That last one was taken in Forest County, in case you're looking for hot spots.
Pennsylvania is state rooted in rich deer hunting traditions, but it's getting to the point where black bears are becoming just as popular.
This state currently has a ban in place on the baiting of bears, so that will make the hunting a little tougher. However, licenses are super cheap and available over the counter here. You're looking at just $16.90 for a resident and $36.90 for a non-resident, making it one of the cheapest bear hunts out there.
If you're looking for options, Idaho is a place to consider. You can spot and stalk, you can use bait and hunt from a treestand, and you can even use dogs if that's your style. Black bear tags are available over the counter here and are quite cheap. It's $186 for a non-resident license. Depending on the unit you're hunting, you may also be able to get a reduced rate license for $41.75, but that tag will be limited to that unit only.
Idaho also offers cheap mentored hunting licenses for newer hunters and disabled veterans for $23.75. Oh, and this state has a track record of nice-sized bruins. The state record, which scored 22 1/8-inches, was taken in Management Unit 11 in 1991 by Tim Bartlett.
Other hotspots for Idaho include Nez Perce County, Bonneville County and Caribou County. All of these places have produced multiple bruins scoring over 20 inches over the years.