It’s no secret that many of today’s greatest hunting adventures are getting costly, almost to the point that they are out of range for many of us. I certainly don’t mean to suggest outfitters and guides are gouging anyone. It’s likely just the opposite; they are working hard to keep their businesses afloat. As their costs rise, they must pass that on to their clients. I know for a fact that when I operated my guiding business, if I added up all the hours I logged and then did the math….I wasn’t working for very much per hour. Mind you, I loved every minute of it and I met some outstanding folks along the way, many who I still keep in contact with. Back to the case in point though…unless you are hunting whitetails in your back 40, hunting has a cost associated to it. Add an out of State guided hunt in the mix and the costs skyrocket in a hurry. Lucky for us though, there is an animal that is large, intelligent, and stunning to witness in the wild that offers a high probability of success that is still in the price range of most hunters with a little planning. Throw in the simple fact that they have the potential to be dangerous (although not likely) and you have every possible prerequisite t necessary for an exhilarating first class big game hunt. That animal is ursus americanus otherwise known as the common black bear. While they have a wide population distribution in the USA and Canada with high populations, sightings of black bear are still not all that common. That’s just the nature of these secretive lumbering ghosts of the woods. I’ve often said that if they were not so widely distributed throughout North America they would demand high prices for tags and hunting opportunities. Lucky for hunters there are over the counter tags available that don’t demand high prices for nonresidents. If you do a quick search for fully outfitted bear hunting adventures you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Many great outfitted hunts can be had for the under $20000.00 dollar range. For such a noble creature that’s a steal. Another added bonus is that in some jurisdictions they offer spring hunts. What a perfect animal to hunt in the typical off season! I enjoy both fall and spring bear hunting but I do like the spring because as mentioned its off season from the more common fall seasons and that’s the black bear’s rut….when as in any season that coincides with breeding season, you just never know when an oversized trophy will appear. If you opt for a guided hunt be sure to ask all the normal questions. Such as; number of baits per hunter (if it’s a baited hunt and not spot and stalk), success rates, what’s included, and of course ask for a list of references both successful and unsuccessful. Doing it on your own is very doable as well. If it’s a spot and stalk hunt get out early and log some time in bear country. Look for tracks and signs of feeding bears. Talk to as many folks as you can who drive the back roads such as delivery drivers, rural route mail carriers and never under estimate the value of a quick visit to the nearest DNR office where you plan to hunt. Often they will have compiled a long list of nuiscence bear complaints. If it’s a baited hunt be sure to line up plenty of bait well in advance of the season and/or baiting period. This can be anything from bread stores, butchers, bakeries or farm feed stores. Think volume! A few bears will eat an astonishing amount of food once they get comfortable at a bait site. DIY or fully outfitted, if you have not hunted black bear before you are in for a treat of the wild kind when you see your first black bear in a hunting situation. I’ve witnessed hunters who have dozens of whitetails and other critters under their belts literally go to pieces when a big bruin lumbers into a bait sight a scant 15 yards away. The degree of bear fever is different for each hunter. When I was guiding I would sometimes sit with new to bear hunting clients. I’ve seen uncontrollable shaking and hyper ventilation. One hunter couldn’t draw his bow back. Another couldn’t rise off the tree stand’s seat to shoot. A normally dead on accurate archer sail an arrow 2 feet over a bears back. Bears do funny things to people when up close and personal! Of course…that’s all part of the magical rush black bear hunting offers. Besides the fact bear meat is great table fare, for many it’s that sudden jolt of adrenalin that keeps them bear hunting each year. Just about any rifle, crossbow, muzzle loader, compound or traditional bow you use for say whitetails will work on black bears. So that’s another plus in the affordable column for bear hunting; no need to purchase anything other than what you are already using. That only helps to keep the overall cost down for a truly great big game hunt. There are few things I’ve enjoyed more than being with someone who has just taken their first bear. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times those hunters have said to me “That was the most exciting hunt I’ve ever had” or words to that effect. Speaking of excitement…..this was one of my biggest black bears to date. The soft rustle of fallen autumn leaves being disturbed snapped me out of my daydream and focussed all of my senses directly behind me. I knew what I was about to see but I’ll admit the size caused my heart rate to double I’m sure. I watched in awe as a near 500lb bruin shuffled directly under my stand. He paused and tested the air with every step. With every step my pulse quickened. With every step he approached to where I would have a clear, ethical archery shot at this trophy boar. Being mere feet from such an amazingly powerful animal was instant justification for the weeks of hauling bait and reassured me I had made the right decision in passing on smaller bears earlier in the week. I anchored the bow and took careful aim. The arrow was gone in a flash and struck home with authority. I forced myself to listen as the monster boar crashed though the thick underbrush. The last noise I heard was at about 75 yards. I checked my watch and noted I had about 45 minutes of light left. I hung my bow on a limb and began the long countdown waiting for the 30 minute rule to tick by. Upon approaching the oversized bear my knees grew weak. He was a battle scared veteran of the Eastern Woods. I had taken a number of bears but at the time he was my most impressive. In fact I have only taken one bigger, but that’s another story for another time. My point is this was a long time ago but that huge bruin still gets my hunters heart stirring when I think back to that evening. A big black bear will forever be etched in your hunting memories. This hunt was a few years ago but still ranks as one of my favourites. I can close my eyes and still see that giant bear below me as if it was yesterday. Such is the power of a large trophy sized black bear. And, as mentioned they are an affordable hunting option either do it yourself or guided. Not just some high priced hunt you read about but may never be able to take part in. Black Bear hunts are doable! Dollar for hunting dollar I think black bears may be the best bargain out there in today’s often high priced hunting options. They are available close to almost every hunter no matter where he or she lives in North America. They offer a high chance at success. They offer a wow factor second to only the most dangerous of game. Black bears are within our hunting grasp. Take the black bear adventure today….you won't be disappointed!