Best Black Bear Hunting States
Travis Smola

5 Best States for Black Bear Hunting


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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. It's at the point where there are enough seasons that it can be challenging to decide where you want to hunt bears. Fortunately, there are some premiere bear hunting destinations that are quickly climbing the ranks as being better than the others. These are states where large bruins fall with regular consistency and obtaining a tag is easy and affordable when compared to many other states. Today we'll examine our top five picks for the five best states for black bear hunting here in the United States. These states all consistently produce large bruins, and they have either an excess of public land, or outfitters with exclusive rights to private parcels that will help to ensure the hunt of a lifetime.

Wisconsin

Best Black Bear Hunting States

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Most people think of primarily western states when they picture the best hunting opportunities for black bears. However, Wisconsin has earned its place on this list with a proven track record. We suspect it just flies under the radar a bit because it's such a whitetail deer hotspot. In any case, 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 places have produced big bears on the Pope & Young top 10 list.

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Alaska

Best Black Bear Hunting States

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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. At $450, it's not cheap, but they're one of the more readily available bear tags in North America.

The downside? The weather and the logistics. Black bear hunting in Alaska is notoriously tough due to the constantly shifting weather conditions which can not only change bear behavior it can delay your flight out as you wait for better conditions for a bush plane to land. Getting to Alaska also isn't cheap no matter what time of year it is. Then there's 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.

Hunters need to be wary in the Last Frontier. Black 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. However, a good guide will make sure you don't make that mistake. It may be the tougher trip from a travel and organization aspect, but Alaska also offers the most remote hunting without worrying about competing with others. It also offers the most scenic vistas for the hunt of a lifetime.

Arizona

Best Black Bear Hunting States

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Arizona has become an elk hotspot helping this state fly a little under the radar for bear hunting. The good news is this is one of the easier states to get in on the action every bear season. 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.

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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. Yep, that's right. Spot and stalk only. Which is not an easy task with any bear.

And because it's a more moderate climate much of the year, some experienced bear hunters may find it challenging to learn their behaviors. However, this is still a top state to consider. Many Arizona bruins grow quite large. Hunters harvest some true giants here every hunting season.

Pennsylvania

Best Black Bear Hunting States

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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.

Licenses are super cheap and some are 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. In a state rooted deep in deer hunting traditions, bear hunting stands to become more and more popular as time goes on considering how affordable it is.

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Like Arizona, it has a baiting ban in place for all lands, public and private. Which is just fine because Pennsylvania hunters have readily adapted. Most hunt them like whitetails, out of a treestand after patterning them. However, there are some hunters who organize drives for them like deer. Who would have thought? 

Idaho

Best Black Bear Hunting States

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Idaho is the state to go if you want options on style of hunt. 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 these places have produced multiple bruins scoring over 20 inches over the years.

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For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels

READ MORE: FEARLESS BLACK BEAR CHEWS ON HUNTER'S RIFLE IN CRAZY VIDEO

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