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Where is the best place to hunt color phase black bears?

Black bears can be found across North America, but some regions are better known than others for producing color phase black bears. Unlike the typical black fur of most black bears, color phase black bears exhibit lighter fur color variations like cinnamon, chocolate, blond, blue, and even white. For hunters seeking to harvest one of these unique trophies, research and planning are key to finding the best areas to target.

British Columbia, Canada

One of the most famous areas for color phase black bears is British Columbia in western Canada. Coastal British Columbia is home to the Kermode bear, also known as the spirit bear. Kermode bears have white or creamy fur due to a rare recessive gene. They are a unique subspecies of American black bear native to a small area in central coastal British Columbia. Places like Princess Royal Island and Gribbell Island within the Great Bear Rainforest are prime spots to find Kermode bears.

In addition to the famous Kermode black bear, other color phases are also found in British Columbia. Cinnamon, chocolate, and blonde color phases are present in certain parts of the province. Productive areas to target color phase black bears in BC include locations within the Cariboo Mountains region like Anahim Lake and Charlotte Lake Provincial Park.

Michigan

The Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan has long been known for its color phase black bear population. An estimated 30-40% of the UP’s black bears exhibit color phases. Common color variants include cinnamon, chocolate, blonde, brown, and even blue-gray. The blue/gray color phase is more rare, but the UP has produced some of the most famous specimens.

Good locations to find color phase black bears in Michigan’s UP include Baraga County, Marquette County, and the western counties bordering Wisconsin like Gogebic County. The more remote public land areas far from roads tend to hold higher percentages of color phase bears.

Alberta, Canada

The western provinces of Canada produce many excellent color phase black bears. Alberta is no exception. Areas to concentrate efforts in Alberta include the Swan Hills and Grande Cache regions in the northwest part of the province. primes areas include public lands around Sturgeon River, Hornbeck Creek, and Muskeg River.

Southwestern Alberta near the Continental Divide is also worth a look. Color phases are present in parts of the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary, such as Banff and Kootenay National Parks. Closer to the US border, southwestern Alberta spots like the Castle area, Bob Creek Wildland, and Waterton Lakes National Park are options.

Minnesota

Parts of northern Minnesota have good color phase black bear populations. The primary bear range in Minnesota includes the Arrowhead region and the forests north and east of there. Prime areas to find color phase black bears are counties like St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, Itasca, and Beltrami.

Within these counties, some of the top public hunting grounds include Kabetogama State Forest, Sturgeon River State Forest, Superior National Forest, Chippewa National Forest, and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Hunters should look for remote forests and swamps away from roads and human activity.

Colorado

Southwestern Colorado is one of the better spots in the western United States to harvest a color phase black bear. The bear population here exhibits a higher than average percentage of lighter color fur variations. Cinnamon and blonde/brown are the most common, but other colors can also be found.

Prime areas to find color phase black bears in Colorado include game management units like Unit 70, 71, 74, 75, 77, and 771. National forest lands like San Juan, Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and Grand Mesa are good starting points.

Newfoundland, Canada

The island of Newfoundland has a healthy and widespread bear population, including many color phase black bears. It’s estimated around 25% of the black bears here exhibit lighter fur. Colors seen include blond, cinnamon, chocolate, and reddish-brown tones.

Some of the top areas to target color phase black bears on Newfoundland include the Northern Peninsula, Gros Morne National Park, Terra Nova National Park, and the inland regions of the island. Both guided hunts and DIY public land hunts are available.

Other Notable Areas

While the above regions are some of the best for color phase black bears, they can be found in suitable habitat across North America. Additional areas to consider include:

  • Maine – Baxter State Park, North Maine Woods
  • Wyoming – Northwest part of state in national forests
  • Montana – Northwest corner near Idaho border
  • Alaska – Southeast islands like Admiralty, Chichagof, and Baranof
  • Washington – Olympic Peninsula and Cascade Mountains
  • Oregon – Northeast corner, Wallowa Mountains

Best Times to Hunt

To maximize your odds of taking a color phase black bear, timing and planning are critical. Here are some tips:

  • Aim for the spring bear season, which is after bears emerge from hibernation but before green-up.
  • Bears are hungry and actively foraging during the spring season.
  • There is less foliage for bears to hide in before late spring.
  • Young bears often wander more in the spring, improving odds of a color phase roaming through.

Provided regulations allow hunting bears over bait, a bait station can be an effective technique to draw out a color phase bear. Summer and fall hunting over bait is possible in some areas too.

Tips for Identifying Color Phase Bears

When hunting an area known for color phase black bears, keep these tips in mind to discern a color phase bear:

  • Look for lighter muzzle and legs compared to the rest of the body.
  • Watch for cinnamon or blonde coloring on the head and/or legs.
  • A blond streak along the back or sides may indicate a color phase.
  • Look for lighter claws relative to typical black claws.

Color phases can range from subtle and partially blended to completely washed out. Look closely at bears from a distance using optics to pick out any sign of lighter fur.

Conclusion

For big game hunters seeking a unique trophy, harvesting a color phase black bear is an exceptional challenge. Do your research to pick an area known for producing color phase bears. Then hunt smart, targeting key locations during optimal seasons and conditions to maximize your opportunity at one of these incredible color phase bears!

Color Phase Black Bear Distribution

Region Percentage of Color Phase Bears
British Columbia, Canada 5-30%*
Upper Peninsula, Michigan 30-40%
Alberta, Canada 10-20%
Northern Minnesota 10-15%
Southwestern Colorado 15-25%
Newfoundland, Canada 20-25%

*Higher percentage in areas with Kermode bear concentration