• Stories
  • Spring Black Bear Hunting Gear Guide | Cody Rich & James Nash

Spring Black Bear Hunting Gear Guide | Cody Rich & James Nash

Spring Black Bear Hunting Gear Guide | Cody Rich & James Nash
March 10, 2021

Hunting black bears in the Spring is one of the best ways to sharpen your hunting skills, put meat in the freezer, and spend some time in beautiful country. Hunting black bears presents unique challenges that require lots of time glassing and hiking around in the black bear’s domain. With a sense of smell greater than the normal game you target, black bears will deliver a chess match of a hunt. James Nash and Cody Rich came to Gearbox Talk to discuss their black bear hunting rifle setups, how black bear behavior differs in spring and fall, sidearm selection for bear hunting, effectiveness of bear spray, scent control for black bear hunting, hunting black bear over bait, bear hunting safety tips and what season of black bear tastes the best.

Join a community of shooters, hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts

Gear Mentioned

James Nash's Gear
Sig Sauer Cross Bolt-Action Centerfire Rifle

Federal 270 WSM 150 Grain Nosler Partition Vital-Shok

Sig Sauer P220 Combat Semi-Auto Pistol

Black Hills Ammunition 45 Acp 200gr Match Semi-Wadcutter Ammo

Sig Sauer tactical scope Christmas Tree reticle (MRAD DEV-L)

Sig Sauer Zulu 6 Image Stabilizer Binos 16 power

Cody Rich's Gear
Custom Hunting Rifle

230 Grain Bullet

10 MM Glock

230 Grain Bullet

10 MM Glock

220 grain hardcast lead

Siuri Tripod VI Fluid Head

Maven B1 11 11X45

Maven S1 Angled

Maven RS1

Show Notes:
Clay Newcomb’s Bear Episode
Cody Rich’s Podcast: The Rich Outdoor Show
James Nash’s Social: 6 Ranch Outfitters

Brad: Did you know bears can smell every ingredient in your breakfast bar from hundreds of yards away even better some people think they can actually smell a deer carcass across several miles even worse they could smell your fear that is probably not true unless you are so fearful you actually your pants then yes the bear can smell fear along with all your hunting buddies but it's true bears are thought to have one of the best noses in the wild and that makes them really difficult to hunt in addition to that challenge it's really difficult to gauge good bears at a distance so to tackle those challenges and others I went out and found two incredibly passionate and talented bear hunters and we're gonna talk all things bear hunting in this episode James Nash and Cody Rich are good buddies of mine and today we're tapping into their bare brains to learn about the rifle setups how bear behave differently in the spring versus the fall sidearm selection bear spray does it work or does it just make the bear angrier so it kills you faster why scent control makes James laugh hunting with baits more bear safety tips and what season of bear tastes the best for Cody and which one James can cannot stand that's it it's a great episode let's dive on in this is Gearbox Talk with Cody Rich and James nash

 cody Rich and James Nash how's it going guys

Cody: good man how are you good

James: awesome yeah glad to be here

Brad: glad to have you welcome to Gearbox Talk I got to say before we get rolling James I think that's a hippo you said up in your the corner of your screen there I just want to call it that's the first hippo we've had on Gearbox Talk so congrats sir your prize your prize will be mailed all right we're going to dive into some bear hunting guys Cody we're going to start with you man what's your rifle set up for for black bear hunting

Cody: so for for black bear hunting and pretty much everything I kind of like James james is on doing broadhead talk and he likes to throw kitchen sinks as fast as they'll go I'm the same way when it comes to rifles and especially with bears it's like I've seen too many bears get away they don't bleed well and you know they just they're big tough animals so I am shooting a 300 hca with a 230 grain bullet doing about 3 100 feet per second so shooting a custom rifle it's kind of my setup for everything deer elk bears and I like that because I'm super comfortable in any situations my kind of my go-to gun awesome James

James: I'm shooting a cross rifle from sig sauer it's in 277 sig fury it's 150 grain nosler accubond I definitely have a lot of use for a 200 grain 30 cal bullet for just about everything but with spring bear hunting especially I'm moving around a lot so weight is a premium and being able to fold that rifle up throw it inside my pack it's really helpful so I'm also hunching off my motorcycle quite a bit and being able to break that gun down to you know 24 inches long really helps so last spring I actually had I went to a sniper competition I went fishing and then I went bear hunting all off my motorcycle on the same trip and I was able to get the bear all my gear for the for the rifle comp and and for the bear hunt and then the bear all on top of my motorcycle and still make it down the road to the taxidermist to drop him off

Brad: that's awesome I got to see that sig cross last year at shot show no shot show this year but that that was an awesome awesome first look at it I know that gun's not been out very long I wanted to come back to something Cody said and it's actually something there we go it's something that James has talked about on his broadhead episode of Gearbox Talk too as you said they don't bleed well can you guys talk we'll we'll go to James on this question can you talk real quick about why that is why they are harder to track

James: so bears have a lot of fat and they have actually relatively thin skin so thicker skin tends to resist a bullet or broadhead a little bit more and you'll actually get a larger cut or tear in it from that projectile whereas thin skin doesn't and then it plugs up with fat really quickly my favorite prize from a bear is actually the fat and I've got a a jar of it right here so I use this for pastries I use it on leather all kinds of stuff it's wonderful so what's good about the bear being the fat is also bad about trying to track that bear because that fat will just clog that hole up immediately and they just do not bleed

Brad: okay good great answer great answer there can you pull that rifle up so I didn't realize that was the one sitting behind you there when we started

James: yeah so this is that gun and then you know she folds down nice and little

Brad: what do you know the weight how much does it weigh do you know

James: six and a half pounds

Brad: look at this guy we'll keep hitting him on the questions here and see if he knows all the specs no you know James I know you're of the opinion you're really big on going rifle only on bears and and maybe getting away from the archery a little bit can you talk about why that is

James: if you have an archery only season then that's the time to hunt bears with a bow but if you can use whatever weapon you want go with the most lethal option that you have you know there's there's really no sense in trying to bring a weapon to the fight that gives that bear a bigger chance of getting wounded getting into the brush and getting away so just bring a rifle

Brad: excellent all right guys I know again this show is kind of kind of beginner often a lot of beginners are listening to Gearbox Talk and I it vary so much on spring to fall but also west to east so Cody I'm going to come to you can you talk through some of the differences in that spring to fall and spring to fall and also the region differences with with hunting black bears

Cody: yeah I would say you know for the most part we spent a lot of time in the west I live in montana we spent a lot of time doing spot and stalk hunting now there's all kinds of bear hunting throughout the country from holland hunting to baiting to spot and stock you know and a lot of that will vary depending on terrain so if you want to talk about you know there's not a lot of spot and stalk going on up in the northeast where there is nowhere to spot from or stock to so it's very thick country and so you know a lot of those guys rely on baiting same up in canada you know there's parts of canada where you're just not going to be able to spot stalk where I'm at in montana for the most part you know very open country and you can see a long ways and so we we do a lot of spot and stalk we do a lot of spring bear hunting for that and we'll kind of get into that but you know spring is the time when bears are out and they're feasting and they're the the food that they're actually targeting is happens to be in very open areas and so that's why you can see them a lot more they're focused on the the wild onions and the roots in in a lot of those vegetations that are growing in the sun as the snow kind of melts you know seeing along in those areas so you know that's a good time to target bears specifically out west that seems to be the most popular tactic to some degree and it's kind of what I enjoy for the most part and you're kind of hitting those bears in that pre-rut rut phase so you're seeing a lot of action you're seeing a lot of bears out whereas a lot of even the west say in the fall they're targeting different food sources and they can be harder to find harder to see now there's different like you said there's different types of hunting all over the country different areas have different vegetation that bears target different vegetation whether it be arizona california all the way up to the northeast corner and a lot of eastern states as well so it does vary throughout the entire state

Brad: I had clay newcomb for a bear hunting episode and he had a lot to say about the the fall seasons if anybody wants to check that one out well James I want to kind of come over to you and talk a little bit about your approach for spring and fall anything you want to add or anything maybe a little bit different with your approach

James: spring's just a great time of year to get out and all that we really have going on in the springtime is fishing bears and turkeys and a lot of times you can do all three of those things in the same spot and that's an awesome day right and it's a really good opportunity for you to develop skills for glassing that you're going to use for other big game seasons later on and it's just a great time year to be out now with the fall seasons one of the the best things about that is in oregon you can get two fall bear tags and for a non-resident they're $16 apiece it's just a tremendous opportunity

Brad: that's awesome so you mentioned Cody a little bit on the spring what you're targeting can you get a little bit more on the weeds on on the food sources for spring and fall

Cody: yeah so I mean it's going to depend on areas so I grew up in oregon and you know balsamroot was kind of like what I looked for so I was looking targeting those areas where I would see those this this root this plant has this big yellow flower essentially these big leaves and the bears love to eat the roots off that they'll also eat wild onions and things like that now you get farther west and a lot of those bears in let's say fall bear opens august 1st they're targeting like blackberries along logging roads things like that now you move to montana and you know people talk about targeting calving areas so a lot of these at bears are cruising calving areas looking for either newborn calves or the placenta or things like that so they're they're in different areas and so once you key in and this is this is true to hunting no matter what you're hunting or where you're hunting essentially you're trying to key on what their food source is these animals live and die by their food source and so you just need to key in on that so it depends on where you are and what you're we're targeting so for montana it can go back and forth you can still find calving areas you can find good bears and calving areas and you can find good bears feeding on the vegetation that's growing on these south facing slopes awesome

James: I'll be on prince of wales island this may third week of may bear hunting and that's where we'll be transitioning between hunting fresh grass and the tidal flats to trying to find the areas where those sitka blacktail does are having their fawns because that's the exact time that those bears are transitioning from grass to meat when a bear first comes out of hibernation he can't eat meat he has to only eat vegetables in order to get his stomach in into good condition before he can start consuming more proteins

Brad: I didn't know that I didn't know that there was like a time that they kind of delayed okay all right I'm learning stuff here I told you guys I always learned something on Gearbox Talk you kind of mentioned that transitionary period I I've heard other people talk about this how much do you all notice that that diet impacts the flavor of bear cause I hear and again I'm not well versed on cooking bear but I'm kind of curious from both of you guys how much you've noticed that spring bear taste versus a fall bear or maybe even like like James just said that first period of of you know more on the berry side before they start eating the the more dense protein we'll start with James here have you noticed any variation in the flavor of the bear with with their diet

James: yeah I think spring bear tastes like hot garbage but in alaska I think after june 1st don't quote me on this exact date but there is a date where they have recognized that those bears have transitioned into eating fawns and you're no longer even required to take the meat but you are prior to that so it's such a difference that there's actually a difference in the regulations for consuming the meat in that state fall bears I hunt fall bears exclusively in orchards for a couple reasons one I really like apple pie so if I can get those apples instead of the bears that's that's a w for me and secondly if they're targeting fruit then that fat that lard that is so important to me is really sweet and delicious and the meat is Rich and flavorful and it's good but the spring bear meat that I've had is a really long ways from enjoyable and I tend to think that people that like it are lying to themselves and everyone around them

Brad: Cody anything to say about that because I think I've heard you say you like spring bear

Cody: I will argue it or I will disagree with James I've had good bear and I've had bad bear I will say that fall bear is delicious I've killed a couple of ball bears and you know targeting old homesteads where there's our orchard trees apple trees whatever may be those are going to be your best bears any bear that's feeding on fruits and berries is going to be better I've had good spring bear I've had a good spring break and I've had not as good spring black bear my wife is loves spring bear or loves bear meat loves bear burgers that's like her favorite go-to so I that's the one hunt I'm actually like my wife will twist my arm be like you need to stop other people stop letting other people kill bears you need to bring home a bear and so man it's been hit and miss there's a lot there's old theories like you know taking out all the fat so when you kill a deer a lot of people leave the fat on and all these things and so there's a lot to be said for like pulling the fat off bear meat or bear fat excuse me actually goes rancid it can cause the meat to go rancid so when you kill a deer you think oh yeah let's leave this fat on there and it'll be delicious in it you want to take every ounce of fat off of the bear now having said that I've still done that and had not very good bears so who knows what they were eating but I think there is a lot to be said for the fact that when bears start targeting meat sources they're not as delicious as when they're targeting maybe it's just wild onions still still leave the that flavor palette desirable so to speak in the spring bears but I will say James is right fall bears do taste better but I don't think spring bears are bad by any means

Brad: you guys kind of hinted earlier about you're talking about the houndsmen and that's a totally different type of chase for bear but I'm curious have you heard I've heard this before I don't know if it's true or if you guys have heard this that those those bears that get run by dogs kind of end up building up I guess it's like lactic acid or something and that can impact the taste is there any truth to that or you guys know anything about that go with James first

James: I haven't got to eat a bear that was chased by dogs since I was a kid and it definitely didn't taste good then but I'm it it was those are spring bears and I wasn't wasn't wild about it but there's also it's it's tough because bear meat you've got to cook well done and you know they carry trichognosis at a really high rate that's bad news nothing you ever want to get and any meat that you have to cook well done just isn't going to be that good so you either have to braise it for a really long period of time roast it turned it into some kind of you know secondary meat product like sausage but I prefer to be able to eat rare meat and if you do that with a bear then there's a good chance you're gonna end up really really sick

Brad: so I i just cooked my first beer recently my business partner john got a bear and he gave me some sausage and I was looking this up and I always heard that it's well done but the the temperature I found is like 165 right and so which is definitely like 30 degrees higher than than like James said it's not rare medium rare backstrap right like that's my favorite like borderline rare is how I like my my venison but the temp was lower and I it kind of made me think and I feel like a lot of people are probably overcooking their bear too I mean it is 165 right is that the temperature you guys are cooking to

Cody: yeah is it 165 or 161 somewhere in there but like this is exactly to your point is that people are like oh I'll just overcook it a little bit to be excellent which is probably safeguard against trick so yes it's probably like a lot of people just overcook it and then it's like oh this is kind of dry not so delicious meat anyway yeah it turned it turns to a gray like any meat is just going to dry out and turn to like a nasty gray and I think anything at that 185 to 200 range unless you're cooking like you know you cook a big pork butt or something 203 is like the magic number it starts to break down but that's a totally different type of cook than like a bear steak nobody should be eating bear steaks at 200 degrees like it's just going to be bad no matter what I just have a theory that a lot of people that and I'm not saying this is you James because you obviously like a very specific type of bear not spring bear I think a lot of people that have told me that they didn't like bear after I kind of learn a little bit I feel like there's probably a lot of people overcooking it all right I want to talk to you guys a little bit about the sidearms so you know if you're new to bear hunting every bear hunter I've met for the most part is carrying a sidearm and I i wanted to talk to you guys about what you're doing to stay safe in bear country and I think this is a really important thing for somebody who's going to go out and chase their first bears they need to to really think through this right so we'll start with Cody talking through sidearm and really just if you don't know if it's bear spray or whatever else it is how do you stay safe when you're in bear country

Cody: yeah it's a good question and something to consider you know I spend a lot of time looking for black bears in grizzly bear country and and a lot of times grizzly bears don't like black bears so they try to kill them they also don't like humans that interfere with that situation so you know even if you're archery hunting or rifle hunting my rifle setup tends to be really really good at 500 to 500 to 600 yards also not so good at five to six yards so I think it's important to have a sidearm I've known a lot of people that just carry you know their long-range rifle and then get into a situation where they're trying to defend their life at five yards or sub five yards with a long-range weapon that's not designed to do so the other thing to consider is that whether it's a wounded bear or a bear that's after the bear that you wounded so last year I had a good friend of mine he killed a black bear got over it to it and there was a bear standing there and his first reaction was like man I thought I just dropped that bear well it turns out it was actually a grizzly bear that had been chewing on his black bear and trying to kill it essentially it was already dead and once that bears in that mindset there wasn't a lot to convince that bear otherwise to not kill him and so whether it's the bear you shot I've heard this story a lot you know you shoot a bear you get over there and and things kind of go sideways bearspray is probably not the best option because at that point I don't think the bear cares if it hurts a little or stings in his mouth you know like bear spray has its purposes James will probably argue this but I tend to rely on my sidearm in those type of situations and I think it's really important you know if I'm going to go in the brush looking for a bear that bear doesn't care much you know he's going to kill me if you can and so having a sidearm is really important to me personally I carry a glock in 10 mil I shoot a 220 grain hard cast lead bullet it's going very very fast and hopefully it'll go through something or anything

Brad: yeah I think that's what lynne hoffman who's the guy to guide buddy of mine up in alaska I think that's what he said he carries as well James I'll kick it over to you you know what's your sidearm or choice and your opinion on bear spray

James: man I carry a 220 10 mil this is the first year that I've got to try this romeo 2 red dot which is brand new so the red dots I've carried in the past and I think illuminated reticles and red dots are really important on bears because a lot of these things are black and your reticle is probably black and bears tend to come out at last light so in that low light condition a black reticle on a black bear is really really difficult so if you have an illuminated reticle you're better off and then with the pistols the red dots are just faster and more accurate I've had a hard time with red dots in the past because they get junk in them and then you can't see very well so this is the first one that is enclosed and it's pretty sweet so I i also love the 10 mil I shoot 200 grain semi-wad cutter hard cast lead bullets and that's just a little bit about recoil management I tend to be able to to have follow-up shots noticeably faster with 200 grain versus 220 grain and I also favor a heavier pistol for that exact reason I do not advocate for a plan that requires lots of shots but I do plan on giving myself the most latitude possible to follow up if needed because the probability is that that's required so I think people tend to fall into a pitfall of like not wanting to carry enough pistol for

bears and other predators but I i compare it to like the gear that I wear on my motorcycle like it would be really nice to wear jeans and a t-shirt and that's great like that's dressing for the ride that's like carrying a light pistol that's really convenient but I dress on my motorcycle like I'm about to invade mars because if I wreck I want protection so the reason I'm carrying a pistol when I'm bear hunting is because I might have to kill a bear that's trying to kill me back and I want to dress for the wreck I want lots of gun so that's my thoughts on it yeah

Brad: so so do you even carry bear spray at all or do you advocate what's your thoughts on that

James: man I don't even own bear spray so yeah there's definitely good science behind it and if you're not a gun guy or gal grab some bear spray you know the the training requirement for bear spray is much less there is a diminishing return with the number of times that a bear has been sprayed so if he's been sprayed before you know if it's in an area that has lots of people there's a good chance that an aggressive bear has already been sprayed once that spray does not work very well the second time it basically doesn't work at all the third time he's been sprayed and you have no control over that 200 grain hard cast semi wad cutter has basically the same effectiveness every time

Brad: yeah right I think this was on cody's podcast that I heard this was probably years ago Cody may not even remember what I'm talking about but somebody else brought up another good argument against bear spray of the wind you know it's not always in your advantage and you could end up you know if the bear is coming and the wind's blowing in your face now you're you can't see and you're trying to fight a bear so I think I pulled that from cody's show if not I will attribute it to something else but

Cody: abraham lincoln

Brad: yeah that's right that's right James you started talking about you know some of your your red dots it kind of made me think i'd like to talk to you guys a little bit about your optics and I don't know if we hit these on your rifle I can't remember I think we can maybe glassed over this pun always intended by the way but if we can come back around to talking about your spotting scopes binoculars and i'd like to hit your what you're using on your your guns again too if we can we'll start with James what's your glass setup man

James: so I use the same scope year round and it's actually a tactical scope with like a christmas tree reticle a lot of people hate those they they think that they're too busy it does require a little bit of training to understand them but whether I'm in a competition or whether I'm hunting or whether I'm just practicing I'm using the same optic every single time and it's taken me my entire life to get to this point where I realized that there's a huge benefit to that comfort and that familiarity and it's not like every gun has its own optical system so that's what I'm using right now for for my rifle I'm using stabilized binoculars for glassing this is super important because I can glass one-handed I can be huffing and puffing out of breath and my body's moving around but my image is still stable and these are a little bit smaller and lighter than you know standard optics

Brad: what are those in case somebody wants to check those out James

James: so those are the the zulu 6 image stabilized binoculars from sig they come in 10 power and 16 power I think if this spring for spring bear hunting I'm just going to bring my 16s and I'm not going to bring a spotting scope but if I was trying to if I was going to be in an area where I had to look a really long ways like I'm trying to glass bears beyond three miles then I'm gonna be pulling out you know the the giant you know 60 power spotting scope and sitting down with a good tripod I can't stress that enough like your spotting scope is as good as the tripod you put it on if you have a you know four million dollar spotting scope and you put it on a crappy tripod that's all wibbly wobbly it doesn't do anything you know it's going to shake the whole time so a good tripod good piece of glass that you can be comfortable in and another thing that I think people should look for regardless of the brand is if you're going to be hunting off your back go ahead and get a spotting scope that has an angled eyepiece and the reason is you can get away with a shorter tripod you know you can basically take six inches off your total tripod length by having that angled eyepiece and anyway anything you can do to take weight out of your pack is a thing that you should be considering doing

Brad: yeah I think that's good and did you say I know you you kind of talked a little bit about your your riflescope setup there but what what's the the brand of scope you're using on your gun

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use.