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The Top States to go Bear Hunting

  • June 7, 2016 /

Brown BearFor hunters, there is no season quite like bear season. The thrill of grabbing your bow and setting off into the luscious habitats that the American bear calls home is an exciting rush matched only by the feeling of successfully tracking down this very capable prey and managing to pull off that one perfect shot.

Of course, many seasoned hunters know that bear hunting is actually a story of two hunts. There’s the hunt for the bear itself and the hunt for that perfect location to hunt in.

While there is no shortage of incredible hunting opportunities in America, the fact of it is that certain states are more capable of supporting a strong bear population than others. However, in an attempt to draw as many hunters as possible, these days it seems that every state’s hunting board is trying to spread the word that they are the very best spot for bear hunters looking to get the most out of their hunting season.

But what makes a great bear hunting spot? Large bear populations? Ease of access? Incredible regions? The size of the average bear?

Well, the truth is that the very best states for bear hunting usually possess a combination of – if not all of – these aspects. Their reputation for being the very best bear hunting spots doesn’t come from a brochure, it comes from experienced hunters who return to them year after year and it comes from the records they set that reveal where the true bear hunting really is.

So while America may be blessed with a number of states that provide ample hunting options, these states truly represent the best of the best.


For years, hunters have come to recognize Arizona as one of the nation’s greatest spots for black bear hunting. One of the biggest contributing factors to the amount of bears in the state is the region’s optimal feeding conditions that not only allow bears to feast all year long, but provides them with a variety of food types that ensure that Arizona bears routinely rank as some of the largest in the nation.

However, a staple of all Arizona bear diets is most certainly the prized prickly pear cactus. This cactus is growing in popularity among chefs who have come to recognize its uniquely sweet qualities, but bears have long been attracted to the cactus and will often not venture far from large patches of it.

While these cacti only grow in the fall, it is no exaggeration to say that bears will travel miles in order to get their fill of them. As such, should you be a fall bear hunter, it is advisable that you stake a claim at one of the many publically available arid bear hunting spots near the foot of the mountains where this cactus grows.

If you’re not typically a desert hunter, be sure to take into account the extreme heat you will face during the cactus’ grow season as well as the low-cover terrain that makes regional camouflage all the more important.

Even outside of the growth season of the prickly pear cactus, Arizona still offers some of the largest bears and greatest public hunting spots. One of the most popular destinations has long been the San Carlos Indian Reservation, which happily accepts licensed hunters so long as the proper arrangements are made prior to your trip.

As far as size and availability go, Arizona remains one of the premiere destinations for bear hunters. Should you be so lucky to go during the prized cactus season, then you’ll find this may just be the very best state for bear hunting in America.


If you’re scoffing right now at the thought of Pennsylvania even being in the conversation of best bear hunting states, I can’t say that I blame you. Not only is the region itself not often associated with large pear populations, but the state’s strict regulations on baiting and hounds means that only a very specific type of hunt is permitted here.

There are two very notable catches to these limitations, however. The first is the optimal landscape of the Pennsylvania region itself. The dense woods and comfortable weather of this state during bear season make it an immediately appealing destination for any hunter that believes that in the joy of outdoors as strongly as they do the thrill of the hunt.

However, the main reason that you want to consider Pennsylvania as a bear hunting destination is because of the size of the bears. It’s no simple coincidence that many of the largest hunted bears on record come from Pennsylvania. It may not be the most prolific region for bears, but the bears you will find there are simply shocking. If you’re looking to hunt big prey, it is the place to be.

So far as location goes, the north-central and northeast regions of Pennsylvania are going to be your best bet for large populations. Just be aware that there is a lot of private land in these areas, though the region does have a reputation for being pretty friendly to requesting bear hunters.

It may not be as generally prolific as other states, but there is truly nowhere else in the country that offers what Pennsylvania can provide when it comes to size.


alaska bear huntingThere’s a reason that seasoned hunters usually add the phrase “lower 48” when talking about the best bear hunting spots, and that reason is the high quality of bear hunting you can only find in Alaska.

The vast wilderness of Alaska is uniquely qualified to play hosts to large amounts of wild bears. A relatively scattered population of residents reduces the instances of accidental kills throughout the year while the abundant amount of food, long feeding seasons and overall superior genetic lineage among the species mean that the bears achieve a size worth going out of your way for.

However, Alaska’s biggest calling may just be how much of the region is publicly available for hunters. You could throw a dart at a map of Alaska and the odds are good that you’ll hit a prime bear hunting spot in the process.

Even though Alaska’s incredibly dense bear population makes it a naturally incredible location for hunting, like anywhere else there are still certain spots that manage to stand out. This is especially true of the Prince of Wales Island area, which may just be the single best area for bear hunting in the country. Not only is the bear population incredibly dense here, but the island’s diverse landscape provides ample opportunity to mix up your hunting style.

You’re going to want to rent a vehicle on the island to get the most out of it, but the extra investment will pay itself off many times over in terms of availability.

Alaska is sacred grounds for bear hunters everywhere and one trip to this state will quickly show you just why that is the case.


Much like Pennsylvania, prospective Wisconsin bear hunters need to be aware of a couple of barriers that come with hunting in the state.

Most notably, it is not necessarily easy to acquire a license to hunt bear in Wisconsin. Though recent reports suggest that acquiring a Wisconsin hunting license is not nearly as difficult as it once was when waiting periods for the most popular areas would stretch into the years, there are still select locations in the state that will require some patience. This is especially true of the state’s northern region and its luscious forest areas.

The trade-off here is that Wisconsin’s stringent licensing laws and naturally high bear populations mean that the state is ripe with high-quality bear populations. In fact, so far as density goes in a few specific areas, there aren’t many states that can even compete.

Even better, Wisconsin has eased up on its Class B license requirements, which means that non-residents will have an easier time suing hounds and baiting.

So is Wisconsin still one of the best states for hunting even outside of that elusive northern region? By and large, the answer is yes, but you do need to be aware of what counties offer the right opportunities. Bayfield, Price and Sawyer are routinely cited as some of the best, though a little research prior to your trip regarding what counties have been seeing the most recent activity will go a long way.


It should come as no surprise that the state with a black bear on the flag happens to offer as many – or more – opportunities for quality bear hunting as any other state, but in case you need reminding, it is a truly incredible state for hunters.

California’s dense bear population, relatively generous licensing numbers and easily navigated terrain make it an especially popular destination for do-it-yourself hunters that are not interested in acquiring the services of a guide. A simple search of the many available public hunting spots will quickly reveal a daunting number of high-quality options.

However, if you’re looking for a general guide on where to go, the best place to start is the northwest. This region’s generous grow conditions provide ample good and habitat for the bear population, and specific spots in the Northwest are notable for producing especially large bears. Although, it is worth noting that an especially large California bear is usually the exception that proves the rule.

Outside of that region, the famed Sierra Mountains near the Nevada border are renowned for containing large bear populations and plenty of generous hunting spots. Outside of the mountains, Klamath National Forest is an annual source of some fairly impressive numbers.


Right off the bat, it must be said that Colorado is currently only available for fall hunting. There is a strong lobby group trying to change this but, for the moment, you’re not going to even be able to consider Colorado as a spring hunting destination.

Of course, the reason that there is a large group of hunters trying to change the Colorado laws is because it so happens to be an incredible source for large black bears. Colorado’s stunning mountain ranges and surrounding forest regions play host to a variety of nut-bearing trees that pack the bear population in and keep them well-fed.

These conditions turn Colorado into an incredibly popular area for big bear hunters. Coupled with the fact that hunting is only available in the fall, it’s quite easy to find large bears feasting for the winter.

Colorado isn’t nearly as accessible as Alaska and California as far as publicly available hunting spots that require relatively little licensing goes, though, so be sure to apply for tags before hunting here, as well as research the many private areas that surround some of the best locations.


Idaho’s status as a prime bear hunting state has a lot to do with its hunter friendly policies. Not only can you acquire multiple tags here, but it is one of the few states that still allows for baiting and hound hunting with few restrictions. Even better, Idaho features a longer hunting season than most and some incredibly cheap licensing fees.

What’s the catch? Well, there really isn’t much of one. To be sure, Idaho is not renowned for its bear sizes. However, the fact that the region’s wooded areas prove to be a suitable host for sizeable, healthy populations of bears combined with the state’s hunter friendly policies means that the wealth of opportunities for a successful hunt more than makes up for the slightly smaller average size of an Idaho bear.

As far as specific areas go, the Bitterroot Mountain area near the state’s border is fairly renowned for both its lush beauty and variety of black bears, so that’s the first place to look. However, the real key to Idaho hunting is universally considered to be taking advantage of the generous baiting rules.

Bear size aside, there really isn’t much more an easy-going bear hunter can ask for than what Idaho has to offer.