For an international hunter – of the kind that used to be called a ‘globetrotter’ – spring used to be the time of brown bear hunting in Kamchatka, red stag roar in Argentina and New Zealand, roebuck calling and stalking in Europe, and many other exciting opportunities. At present, unfortunately, as we all know too well, those are closed because of the travel bans. But that doesn’t mean no hunting this spring. An American hunter should, perhaps, reconsider the opportunities that the Land of the Free offers. Let us go through those again.
1. Black Bear
The species endemic to North America is not a trophy to look down on. The biggest black bears are bigger than the smaller of European brown bears, and, according to many, offer some of the best eating out there. Spring/early summer black bear seasons across North America are generous and varied. And even if you think that you’ve been there and done that, may we cautiously recommend you have a second look at black bear hunting opportunities out there.
If you’ve only been hunting the bruins in the East, where they are mostly shot over bait, follow the setting sun with your eyes and consider the West. Many Western states are perfect for hunting the black bear in the spring by spot-and-stalk, as the bruins search open mountain slopes for food. You can glass them from afar, plan an approach, and stalk in range, like an ibex or another mountain game animal.
Another interesting way to harvest a black bear that many Western states provide is hunting behind a pack of hounds. It is not quite as easy as it sounds, and following the baying pack to the crescendo of a bruin in the tree or in some cases bayed up on the ground or in a cave can be the ultimate in excitement. Also, treeing gives the hunter the ability to judge the bear for size, sex and even color phase. For extra challenge, join the thousands of black bear hunters who chose archery gear over a rifle.
With turkey hunting, our suggestion is to take a similar approach to the black bear hunts. Think about where and how you typically turkey hunt, then go and try a whole different subspecies in a new location. Turkey hunting is varied across the bird’s range. In some places it’s almost like spot-and-stalk, in others the emphasis is on calling, and somewhere all depends on scouting in the evening. There are six subspecies of the all-American game bird on the continent, and if you’ve always wanted to collect a slam, now may be just the time to do it. You may further diversify your experience by taking a new kind of weapon: an over/under, a classic shotgun, or bow and arrows.
3. Light Geese Conservation Order
These days, most hunters in America only focus on big game, granting a patronizing exception only to the turkey. With the herds of white-tailed, mule and black-tailed deer, elk, and other big game animals that roam North America these days, the big-game focus can be justified. But should we forget about bird hunting – especially the kind that is one of the best wingshooting experiences in the world?
In a way, the spring waterfowl seasons are North America’s equivalent of Argentina dove and pigeon shoots: generous limits and “anything goes!” approach. With a good guide, who knows the flight paths of the birds, is skilled at calling and setting realistic decoy spreads, this hunt is anything but boring, and you will forget the temporary cold and lack of comfort of the blind as soon as you feel the wind raised by hundreds of birds over your head seem to lift you from the ground. Just don’t forget where the safety is!
4. Feral and Exotic
Wild boar hunting in Europe is an old tradition, strictly regulated by both laws and ancient rituals. But in the USA wild pigs, or Russian boars, or razorbacks, or simply hogs, are considered invasive species and hunting them is allowed year around in many states. Participating in such a hunt is not only a great way to diversify your hunting experience in the spring season, but also an option to fill the freezer with meat that is leaner and healthier than commercially produced pork.
Texas is the first state that comes to mind when hog hunting is mentioned. But it is not the only one that has hogs on the menu. Neither is the hog the only big-game animal to be hunted in spring in Texas. There are numerous introduced animals, including the nilgai, the blackbuck, and some ranches offer a nearly complete selection of the most popular African species, but our focus today is on the axis deer.
This is because there’s not only a ranch population, but also a free-ranging population of axis. Then, unlike other deer, the axis don’t have a set mating period, so at any given time of the year you may find a stag in velvet, in full hardened antlers, and see some rut activity. Once a highlight of Indian “shikar”, nowaday the axis deer is a good option for someone who is missing the red deer roar in the Southern Hemisphere.
5. International Travel
It is hard to recommend international travel these days, when any country can experience a surge in the numbers of new infections and/or deaths, or a new strain of the virus, and impose a travel ban within a few weeks, if not days. However, some countries remain open for travel.
Bolivia is one country where you can enter, subject to a negative COVID-test approved by Bolivian consulate in the visitor’s home country, and it leaves nothing to Argentina in terms of dove hunting. The season starts on the 1st of April, and it’s no April Fools! South Africa is experiencing a strict lockdown, but other countries of the continent, who have less dense populations and are more dependent on tourism, remain open. This include Namibia, a country that rivals South Africa for the title of Africa‘s best and most affordable hunting destination; the season opens on February 1.
Things may have changed by the time the post reached your eyes. But look around: some opportunities may remain open, and outfitters are willing to safeguard their clients by offering penalty-free cancellation or rescheduling options. Keep both eyes open: successes in vaccination may mean that travel opportunities could open as quickly as they’ve been closing. Early bird may yet get the worm on traditional spring hunts! Follow BookYourHunt on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and create a Smart Subscription to learn about new hunting opportunities as soon as they appear!