REGIONAL—Bear registrations through the first 11 days of the season were down 30 percent this year, as hunters were hampered by plentiful natural bear foods and the record heat that settled in …
REGIONAL—Bear registrations through the first 11 days of the season were down 30 percent this year, as hunters were hampered by plentiful natural bear foods and the record heat that settled in over the Labor Day weekend. Hot weather typically moves most bear activity to cooler nighttime hours, after legal hunting hours.
As a result, bear registrations were down, even over last year, which saw registrations drop by a third over 2021’s numbers. Jessica Holmes, wildlife manager for the DNR’s Tower area office, said the drop in registrations was expected given the conditions and the decline in the number of permits issued in much of northeastern Minnesota.
The drop in registrations is no surprise to longtime bear guide Dennis Udovich, of Greaney. “The heat was really unreal,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t normal.” His dozen clients did manage to take seven bears, which was down from a usual success rate of about 80 percent for his clients.
Udovich said heavier cover seemed to be more productive, perhaps because the bears were sticking to shadier locations in the heat. All that cover did make shots tougher for hunters and Udovich said a couple of his clients passed on good sized bears when a clear shot never materialized.
Udovich, who is president of the Minnesota Bear Guides Association, said he expects most guides have been having a lackluster season. “I hear a lot from the guides when they’re doing well,” he said. “I’m not hearing from anyone this year.”
The latest numbers available from the DNR showed 146 bears registered in Permit Area 25 through Sept. 11, with just 107 bears registered in PA 31 and 20 registered in PA 24.
The decline in registrations in northeastern Minnesota also reflects the reduction in the number of permits issued in those three permit areas. The three permit areas encompass virtually all of St. Louis County, the southern two-thirds of Lake County, and the eastern half of Koochiching County. As recently as 2021, the DNR issued 1,075 permits in those permit areas, but that number has since been reduced to a total of 875 as black bear recovery in the region has been slower than anticipated.
Holmes said she expects the pace of harvest to pick up somewhat now that more seasonable weather has returned.
This year’s harvest is also skewing heavily toward males, with two-thirds of bears registered identified as male. That’s typical of an abundant food year, since female bears tend to be more wary around hunters’ baits, particularly when there are natural food alternatives available.
The bear season runs through Sunday, Oct. 15, although most bears are taken in the first ten days of the season.