Bears Triangles

“The Dude abides.”

-The Dude, The Big Lebowski

Some ambitious readers have torn through Team Bad Decision: An Evolutionary Tale In Backcountry Hunting in the few days it’s been out. 

My inner artist is humbled, and appreciative.

But there was one lingering question that has cropped up from a few readers, and then was asked during a podcast we recorded this weekend with the illustrious Joseph von Benedikt who hosts the Backcountry Hunting Podcast.

The question was: What the heck is a bear triangle?

With spring bear having started across many western states, I think it’s a good time to try and add another angle in the pursuit of a spring bruin.

I’ve touched on it previously in another article, but I’m going to delve more deeply here into what we look for, and sometimes what we can’t see from google earth. 

There is a beautiful simplicity to our strategy, but it should be noted it certainly isn’t the only way to hunt them.  Bears, like elk, are where you find them.

We call them bear triangles, but I think that may be a bit misleading, as the geology of every country ends up being a bit different, and the region we hunt tends to form massive hillsides into triangular sections, hence our name.  Maybe where you hunt, they are bear rectangles…or octogans…you get the point. What can be replicated is the large open hillsides containing feed in the immediate vicinity to a confluence of creeks and thick timber. 

The timber provides cover and bedding area for the bears when they are not scavenging for food after emerging from their winter torpor.  When they wake, bears are focusing their diet on a variety of new, spring grasses, wild onions, cambium scraped from trees, bugs, fawns, and calves – basically anything they can get their paws on.  Understanding what a bear is after (food), allows for more effective targeting.

During our first spring trip, we sat high on a ridge overlooking a massive amount of country, yet consistently saw more bears (note: not all) on a triangular shaped ridge just to our north.  In this case, it didn’t account for the entire hillside, its apex ending at what one would consider a false summit, with it’s base extending down to the rushing creek below. 

The pieces of the puzzle were forming, though vague and rudimentary.  We noticed a few tributaries feeding into the primary creek bottom, thick with timber in these sub-canyons.  We watched as a mom with two cubs scrambled across the hillside, the cubs adding a moment of levity as they tumbled around after mom, maybe ten pounds soaking wet a piece.

You might be asking –OK—but can you give us an example? 

Never fear, o’ readers of mine.  The following few pictures show a prime example of what we would consider a “bear triangle.”  Names of creeks and mountains have been redacted to protect the innocent.  I’ve shown both the topographical and satellite imagery to show how they overlay.  Another thing to keep in mind is that during the spring you have non traditional “creeks” consisting of spring snow melt.  While not always the case, it tends to green up a lot of sections and provide food, cover, etc.

Triangle TOPO.JPG

Identifying these triangles has proven fruitful for us time and time again when chasing spring bears.  Considering we are talking about how to continually improve our abilities to hunt them, I want to talk about another aspect of bears that seems to correlate with increased activity. 

5 p.m.

Yup, it repeatedly ,seems that bears have a synchronized alarm clock that signals that it’s time to start popping out on the hillside.  That’s why it is absolutely essential that you are staying in your chosen vantage until dark, weather be damned.  Bring a tarp, bring food, bring enough water to last all day, drink coffee to stay warm, and bring your mental game.  Spring bear hunting isn’t for the feint of heart, but it is rewarding if you can continue to learn about these omnivorous creatures and begin to capitalize with regular efficiency.

I’ve beaten the topic of mental toughness to death, but I’m bringing out my bat for one more go-round.  Especially in the spring, where weather can change in an instance, you have to be prepared to stick your butt on the hillside and wait out the spring storms.  Darkness should be your indicator that it’s time to start your hike back, not something that should be descending as your boots thump their way into camp.  Depending on our location, our walks have been between fifteen minutes and two hours.  It doesn’t matter, you can’t kill them from your sleeping bag.

This certainly is not the only way to hunt spring bears, and plenty of people find success using other hunting methods and tactics.  This has proven successful for us, and we hope that it might help shorten your learning curve in certain instances.

May your spring be filled with bears, raging bonners, and whiskey!

Don’t forget, Team Bad Decision: An Evolutionary Tale In Backcountry Hunting is now available in paperback form from here on the website, and in eBook form at all major online distributors. I’ve included links in the menu!