2020 Black Bear

This new meadow I was hunting surprised me. I’ve never really observed bears eating pine nuts, but not only were these bears using this food source, they were fixated on it (https://youtu.be/oge6QGLb7r4). This meadow only contained a handful of pine trees, but each one had tons of bear scat and scattered remnants of pinecones everywhere. There are cone-bearing pine trees scattered throughout the forest, so what makes these trees so special? In any case, there is a huge boulder at the top of the meadow, and my plan had always been to wait until rifle season to hunt this, as the boulder provides a view of the entire hillslope. But because the chokecherry crop is so poor this year in my area, I abandoned my other spots and decided to try this meadow during archery season.

At 3:00pm, I arrived at the meadow, and built a little blind about twenty yards from a well-used wallow (see pic below). I waited two and a half hours, and just as I decided to stretch my legs and go for a walk, I heard some twigs snapping. I grabbed my bow and waited. Sure enough, this bear came lumbering to the wallow. I drew back, but he immediate plunged into the water and didn’t provide a shot opportunity. I let down the string and waited for him to emerge. I didn’t expect him to jump out of the water and gallop away, but that’s what he did. Bummer. As I pondered this missed opportunity (I screwed up two prior in other areas), I looked down the slope to see that bear climb a pine tree, grab a cone, drop to the ground, and start tearing away. This was my chance. The bear was feeding while quartering away, so I crept up to within twenty yards and let one loose. The shot was good, and the bear ran off. I heard it moan about 50 yards down the hill, and walked in the direction of that sound until I found it dead.

This is easily the smallest bear I’ve ever shot, but I was grateful given the long, steep hike to the truck. I try to avoid steep locations for that reason, but if I’m going to shoot something there, I’d rather have a smaller animal to haul up to the truck.

I’m interested in your take on a couple of things from this hunt. There was no blood on the ground until about 20 yards from the downed bear. The arrow didn’t pass through (quartering away shot), and there was lung sticking through the entry wound, which was substantial. If I hadn’t heard the bear moan, I’m not sure I’d have recovered it. How would I prevent this next time?

Another thing that’s got me thinking is this pine nut food source. I wondered how much food was in a single pine cone, so I grabbed one from the ground, and harvested the nuts (see picture). Then I hulled all the nuts, and discovered that only about a third were viable (see picture). In the end, not much food per cone, but nutrient rich. Is it worth the risk of climbing these trees for this reward (see thread on “pine nuts are irresistible” for when I saw a bear fall 80’ from a tree), and if so, why are all these pines being raided by bears?
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Your ability to find and kill bears is impressive to say the least. Kudo's on another solid bear!!! I hope to find one as well. And I'm very surprised they're spending that much time on pine cones, figure for their effort, they could find something with a better risk/reward ratio.
Great story and congrats! Wish I had some good advise about the blood trail. It would be interesting to know if the bears are at the same trees next year.