When the berries ripen in Northeast Oregon, hunters have a chance to see lots of black bear as they move down out of the mountains to put on their winter fat. Among the best places to find them is in Northeast Oregon's Snake River, Imnaha and Chesnimnus Units. This is open country with abundant edge habitat and transitions from tall timber to steep, grassy slopes. This land is home to mule deer, whitetail deer and elk the black bear's natural prey. Snake River country is made to order for the spot-and-stalk hunter and for the hunter who likes to use a predator call.
An outfitter who operates in this country is Barry Cox of Del Sol Wilderness Adventures. He says summer is the best time to hunt bears in this mid-level habitat. The spring season finds the bears feeding on biscuitroot on the high, alpine meadows. When the hawthorn berry comes into season in August, bears migrate lower, out of the timber, onto the mountain benches and into the draws to feed. Early in the morning is the best time to spot them moving around, going and coming from water. But Cox says he has taken bears in the middle of the day as well.
To find bears in late summer, Cox watches the draws, whether he is riding in the breaks of the Snake or above the Imnaha River. He focuses on the berry bushes, particularly hawthorns, which are shrubby trees that run up and down the draws, usually pretty close to water. Sometimes you will also see bears out on a bench, indicating there's a spring there or the water is close to the surface. For a couple of months, the bears eat and sleep in the hawthorns,........(continued)