Early April found me slipping quietly along the top of a hardwood ridge looking and listening for any sign of wild turkeys. At an elevation of 3000 feet, some of the trees had small green buds preparing to burst with color, but many of the larger oaks still looked as dormant as they did in the dead of winter.
Spring bear hunting has become a prevalent time to chase bruins on public land throughout different parts of the United States. At least nine states offer a variety of spring bear hunts, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, and Maine. This time of year can be some of the highest opportunities to harvest a bear in these difficult-to-hunt states comprised of thick mountains and dense timber.
Although tough hunting adventures come and go, Montana black bears have certainly been my Achilles heel of late. I’ve climbed the mountains of northwest Montana the past three springs looking for black gold, even making the long trip twice in one season, and have ended up coming home with pocket change and memories. It’s not the bears’ fault or even mine most of the time.
With the onset of spring, the anticipation was high as we loaded the dog box for the start of another bear season. A familiar routine that we execute the same as most days prior and certainly seasons before on a variety of game. Despite the familiarity with a day that we have seen countless times, this season felt a little different. The kids were alongside us with the schools cancelled once again, six month puppies were loading into the dog box for their first time and there was a sense of contentment in our new found adventure at our cabin.
Clay Newcomb reached out to me with a picture of his bear that he had just gotten back from another artist, having questions about some spots that were on his bear. He sent me some pictures and from there I realized his bear had been severely damaged during the skinning and shaving process, leaving it with bald spots all over its head and body. Clay wanted to turn his trophy bear into a rug, so he asked if there was anything we could do to repair it. He brought us his bear, and once receiving it I saw there was an immense amount of damage done- from there the repair process started.

Based on my own personal experiences there are a number of reasons why hunting Idaho holds such a dear place in my heart. There’s the memories of successful hunts, of friends made, of riding mules into the backcountry and of camping in those remote places under ebony skies speckled with stars so bright it seems you can reach out and grab them, of the scent of spruce and fir and wood smoke on a chilled night at high elevation, of those remote places where bears grow old and big and have seen few humans. But, from the perspective of a hunter planning a bear hunt there are other reasons why Idaho is, as its nickname states, such a “gem.”

Many of you will be familiar with what our household calls “you suck” emails; those terse messages from wildlife agencies that contain the dreaded word unsuccessful. I had resigned myself to being unable to draw a southeast Alaska bear permit while my husband and friends seemed to pull every year. I was considering changing my name but instead changed application areas and this resulted in the word successful ending up in my inbox.
I’ve made candles before. It was in school, and it was one of those fun projects that teachers come up with that doubles as a Christmas presents for the family. Simple, easy, and fun. Imagine me when I realized that I could make bear grease candles! I’m now on a quest to find everything that I can make with bear grease.
My daughter, Teagan, and I enjoy spring bear hunting over bait in interior Alaska for special reasons I’ll explain later. Baiting season opens April 15th, a time of year commonly referred to as “Break-Up,” where temperatures and slushy conditions vary significantly from year-to-year. We land on remote frozen lakes, rivers, and tundra with ski-equipped airplanes, then snowshoe hundreds of pounds of cheap dog food, powdered sugar, and a bucket of foul-smelling “stuff” to our registered bait sites. Then, as soon as the ice melts and we can get back to the baits, we check them by airplanes on tundra tires or floats sometime around mid-May.
April 21st 2022 was an amazing day for bear hunters nationwide, but especially for our Californian brothers and sisters. The California Fish and Game Commission voted 4-0 to dismiss the Humane Society of the United States petition for an all-out ban on bear hunting. But there is more to it than that simple punchline.