Bruin Destinations

Alberta Bruins

When it comes to hunting bears it’s safe to say I’ve been blessed. Hunts have taken me from Maine to Idaho and numerous points in between. North of the border I have been fortunate enough to hunt every province, several more than once.  With the exception of Newfoundland and Quebec I have hunted Alberta more than any other province in Canada. It is one of my favorite bear destinations and I have many memorable experiences there on several hunts out of Fort McMurray before it became to oil-boom town it is today, and along the Slave River just outside Wood Buffalo National Park. I had to fly into Fort Smith in the  Northwest Territories for that one, an adventure in itself.  

On one hunt I recall traveling for hours by boat on the Slave River to a remote tent camp and killing a nearly seven footer the first afternoon out. Having purchased a supplemental license I killed my second slightly smaller bear the very next afternoon and spent the rest of the week fishing for monster northern pike, something I have enjoyed when opportunity allows since my first time in Labrador several years before. I had an extra day in Fort Smith before departing, so accompanied by native guides we made a trip inside Wood Buffalo National Park  and saw wolves, moose and a herd of the massive buffalo the park is name for.  

When it comes to hunting black bears there are a number of reasons to give Alberta top consideration no matter which area is hunted and why the province is one of my favorite destinations in Canada.   

To start, Alberta covers just over 255,000 square miles. Of that huge expanse some 188,417 square miles, about 75-percent of the province is considered prime habitat and is occupied by black bears. Bears are found throughout the northern boreal forest, the central parkland region, along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and foothills in the west which they share with a population of grizzliesBlack bears seem to be everywhere.   

There is no indication black bears in Alberta are going through a population boom, but it is safe to say they are doing extremely well. In recent years bears have moved into areas of the province where sightings and non-transient populations were considered rare or uncommon a decade or so ago As they are across much of Canada black bear population estimates are rare. The last one in Alberta was taken in the early 1990s and estimated at 40,000. It is the same figure quoted today. Province-wide efforts are reportedly underway to get an updated and more precise estimate but when and if it is ever completed few would be surprised if the number were to increase. Regardless, even if the number stays at or close to the historically-quoted 40,000 Alberta is home to one of the largest and healthiest black bear populations in Canada. 

Despite a healthy bear population not a large number of bears are killed. In 2015 the number was just 1,968 and in 2016 2,261. In 2,360 were tagged in 2022 so the number of bears taken hasn’t increased a whole lot. It would seem that is a rather low success rate, but surveys suggest visiting hunters in particular but a growing number of resident hunters as well have become more selective preferring to take larger bears rather than simply filling tags. With that said, the number of bears killed annually and number of hunters who have shot opportunity are two different things. Many outfitters consistently advertise 100-percent shot opportunity.   

Alberta does produce its share of heavyweight bears which tend to be genetically shorter in length and stockier and thicker in build. Bears in the 300 and 400-pound class and some larger are taken annually. While bears of this size are possible in the vast northern forests or no matter where you hunt on Crown land it is particularly true in the Parkland Region and western Foothills where patches of brush and woodlands mix with agricultural fields of oats and other grain crops.  

There are other highlights that make Alberta a popular bear hunting destination. Of most important to most visiting hunters is all wildlife management units in the northern boreal forest region, many in the central parkland region and a handful along the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains are two bear zones.  Some outfitters include the second bear in their rates but interested hunters should check when making arrangements.  

The other major drawing card is Alberta is known for its colored bears. Depending upon the region the percentage of brown, cinnamon and blonde bears runs 20 to 40 percent. Of all the bears I have killed over the years taking a monster colored bear remains on my To Do list. When I get ready, for that reason and more Alberta will be high on my list of considerations.  



Bear Population: Estimated at 40,000 

Bag Limit: Varies by unit. Many units allow two bears. 

Spring Season: Yes. Varies slightly by unit commencing April 1 and ending May 15, May 31 or June 15. Spring hunts can be combined with fishing.  

Fall Season: Yes. Varies by unit. Fall archery in some units open August 25 and close August 31, others open September 1 or September 6 and close November 30. General fall firearm season generally opens September 1 and ends November 30. Fall hunts in many areas can be combined with deer, moose, elk and pronghorn.  

Baiting Allowed: Yes. Most spring hunts and fall hunts are over bait. 

Spot and stalk hunts are most common in no baiting units. . 

License Availability and Cost: Hunting license are available OTC and through outfitters. Check with outfitters or Alberta Wildlife Branch for cost and details.  

Legal Weapons: Most centerfire calibers, muzzleloaders .50 caliber or larger, vertical bows and crossbows. Check regulations or with an outfitter for minimum draw weights and other particulars 

Contacts: Alberta Wildlife Branch/ 1-(403) 297-6674 / 

Alberta Professional Outfitters Society / 1-(780) 414—0249 /