Hunting black bear can be a very rewarding experience. Some of my fondest memories have been from spot and stalking black bear out west. Black bear numbers are steady to increasing in all the western states. I myself like to kick off my spring with a spot and stalk bear hunt. There is way less competition in the spring and bear that are just out of hibernation are easier to find. My spring bear hunts start in the middle of April and will run until the 31st of May in most areas.
I start the season out looking over both clear cuts and natural clearing that offer a southern exposure. Bear will only be able to eat tender grasses when they first emerge from the den until their system adjusts to more solid type food. Find fresh green grass and oftentimes there will be bear in the area.
During this type of hunt binoculars and a good spotting scope will be your best friends and help you locate bear. I myself use Minox brand of optics. I find them to be of the highest quality and their weight is also pretty light. I use a 15x56 pair for long range work and a 10x52 or 10x43 pair for the closer stuff. For extreme distances I use a Minox ED 62 spotting scope which features ED glass, that rivals anything in its class and is still lightweight enough to pack with you. I like a spotting scope that is of a variable type. Anything that goes from 20X up to 40x will work fine and up to 60x if you donít have to sacrifice too much in the way of weight. You will know when you are using great optics because your eyes do not tire as easily. Your eyes will thank you for buying quality glass.
Along with good glass you must invest in a quality tripod.
You should also really carry a good rangefinder, not only to range your bear, but also to help with where you want to get to for a shot. I have used all of them and you get what you pay for. Swarovski and Leica lead the way in the under $1000 price range followed by Zeiss, Bushnell and Nikon. Of course there are others, but these are the best of what is currently available. I would buy the best one you can afford.
Oftentimes I will range a place I would like to shoot from and then try and figure out how long it would take to get there and set up. I will give myself enough time to get there and set up and get relaxed. The last thing you want to do is get over to your chosen spot breathing hard and then try a shot. Give yourself time to calm down and make a good shot.
I will try to find an area that has quite a few clear cuts and climb as high as I can on an opposite hillside to look them over. The last 2.5 hours of light is the most productive time, so keep this in mind when you find a bear to stalk. Give yourself plenty of time to get over to where the bear is. Often I will spot a bear late in the evening and just watch him to see where he feeds. I will then plan on being there the next day within shooting distance of where I saw the bear come out to feed. This technique has netted me some monsters over the years.
Bear will generally stay close to water and the grass they eat at this time of year. If you find southern exposure in the spring with nice green grass, most likely a bear will be working it. They tend to be a little lazy, so if they find grass to their liking, they will camp out on it. Bear tend to like the freshest shoots of grass and will often be found following the snow line up as it recedes.
I have a favorite spot in northern Idaho that I like to hunt that has everything big bear want. We have taken a number of bear that will go over 21 inches in the area, and it seems to always produce good bear for us. We will get to our area and walk any logging roads that are gated and start looking for fresh sign. If you find green scat you are in the right area. Once in an area that has sign it will work better if you have 2-4 people to help watch clear cuts and openings. Once set up, stay until dark. Some of the big boys will not come out of the dark timber until right before dark This is when my Minox shines. If you can see where a big bear has come out, go back the next day and set up on a good shot location. Most likely he will be there again the next day.