2022 spring bear hunting forecast
Spring bear is the first big game hunt of the year and a chance to dust off the boots and spend a spring day in the woods. Here’s the outlook for the 2022 season.
In this Article
The timing of bear emergence will vary in parts of the state depending on winter snowpack and spring conditions. In areas that saw lighter snowpack and a milder winter, such as the coastal units, bears already may be active and feeding in lower elevations.
In some units in the NW and SW areas green up is already underway. Once green up begins, bears won’t be too far behind. Other locations, especially at higher elevations, won’t be accessible until May.
Hunters should always be prepared for snow and limited access, especially early in the season. Also, keep vehicles off wet and muddy roads to avoid damaging roads and fish and wildlife habitat.
The deadline to buy spring bear tags in March 31.
Tips for new hunters
Wildlife biologists offer the following tips for new spring bear hunters:
- Use the early season to scout for bears. Look for open areas where bears will be moving through or foraging, including clear-cuts, meadows and open slopes that have cleared of snow.
- Look for green up to signal the start of the season. While the calendar says April 1, hunters will start to see bears in the landscape once grasses and forbs begin to green up. These are important food sources early in the season.
- Coastal bear hunters should check riparian areas located in between slopes early in the season.
- Earlier in the season, focus on south-facing slopes with rapid spring growth and on open canyon slopes, where bears can be seen feeding on grass and digging roots. A good strategy this time of year is to sit somewhere with a good view of open canyon sides and use binoculars or a spotting scope to find bears. The animals will feed off and on during all daylight hours, so good optics and patience are important.
- Use predator calls later in the season when elk begin calving. Use calls in forested areas near open meadows.
- Consider walking or biking on smaller side roads. Bears are very wary of vehicle noise and tend to move away from well-traveled roads.
- Know your target—remember it is unlawful to take cubs less than one year old or sows with cubs less than one year old.
You’ll find more spring bear hunting tips in 9 tips to be a better bear hunter.
Regulations: Check-in and reporting required
Remember successful bear hunters must check-in their bear’s skull at an ODFW office within 10 days of the harvest so biologists can collect a tooth and other biological information.
(Beginning March 19, 2022, successful bear hunters must appear in-person at an ODFW office to check in their bear's skull.)
Please call your local ODFW office in advance to make sure a field biologist is available or to make an appointment.
Bear skulls must be unfrozen when presented for check-in; it is very difficult to collect data from a frozen skull. ODFW also recommends that hunters prop the bear’s mouth open with a stick after it is harvested, again to make data collection a quick and easy process. When hunters present their bear skull for check-in, they must provide date of harvest, wildlife management unit where harvested, and their complete hunter information found on the tag (including tag number).
It is also helpful to submit the reproductive tract of any female bear taken. The reproductive tract provides valuable information on the number and frequency of cubs born annually in Oregon and is a critical part of ODFW’s black bear population monitoring.
Report your hunt
All hunters who purchase a 2021 spring bear tag are required to report their hunt results ODFW license agent no later than Jan. 31, 2022. Reporting is required even for those who did not hunt or were unsuccessful. ODFW uses this information to determine harvest and effort, and set future hunting regulations. or at an
See the district reports below for more information about local conditions and check the for periodic updates.
Northwest/Willamette area -- Hunt 710A
The north Coast and north Cascade hunts have been combined into one hunt area now called 710A – NW Oregon. This hunt is made up WMUs 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 19.
Saddle Mtn – Scappoose units
Damage information indicates that bears are distributed throughout Saddle Mt Unit, but in higher densities in the western half of the unit. There are very few bear damage complaints and very few bears harvested in the Scappoose Unit. To find bears, hunters need to concentrate their scouting and hunting efforts early in the season near food sources like skunk cabbage (typically found along riparian zones and wet bottomlands) and grass patches on south and southwest facing slopes. Bear activity should improve as weather patterns move away from freezing snaps and become more stable.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. In the Saddle Mtn. unit, road access is available in the Clatsop State Forest. Non-motorized access to many private industrial forestlands is available, but check with the landowner before you enter their lands. Expect Hampton Affiliates land in Clatsop County to be closed to entry. The Scappoose Unit has very little public land available to hunt, and bears will be found primarily on private industrial forestlands. Contact private industrial forestland managers or go on-line to determine access policies. Hunters are reminded to read and follow all rules posted near entry gates to private industrial forestland.
Wilson & Trask units
Spring green-up seems to be a couple weeks behind where it was this time last year, with blooms only beginning to break on many plants in the coast range and valley. Skunk cabbage has started to pop on the western side of the coast range and hunters can expect the valley to be a little behind in the timing. Spring bears will target these blooming areas as well as grassy slopes (usually south facing).
Black bear concentrations tend to be highest in the western portion of the units, especially in the southwestern corner of the Trask Unit.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. State and federal lands in these units include the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests, Siuslaw National Forest and scattered BLM parcels. Some private industrial forestland owners allow spring bear hunting as well, usually on a walk-in or mountain bike-in basis. Hunters are reminded to contact private industrial forestland managers or go on-line to determine access policies before hunting. Small private forest and agriculture lands dominate the eastern side of the Trask Unit; access is typically by permission only. A reminder that most Weyerhaeuser lands are likely to be managed under a fee access policy.
Santiam and McKenzie units
Bear densities remain good in the north and central Cascades. Fire closures in many areas have been lifted, but hunters will need to check with Mt. Hood, Santiam, and Willamette National Forests about ongoing forest closures.
The snow water equivalent in the Willamette Basin is 91 percent of normal, so some lower elevation hunting sites may become accessible earlier than last year. Hunters will likely have some difficulty accessing higher elevation habitats until early to mid-May, especially on north facing roads and slopes. Hunters should check road conditions and access before heading out, especially early in the season. The NRCS/USDA Oregon Snow Survey is a great resource for information on snowpack. Fortunately, hunters typically experience the highest success in the last 2-3 weeks of the season.
If you want to get out early, start along riparian corridors at lower elevations and focus on south and southwest facing slopes. The key to early success is to target days with some sun and mild weather. As green up starts to occur later in the season bears can be found feeding in clear cuts and grassy meadows. Obviously finding freshly torn up stumps and scat indicate a bear is in the area. Bears will often feed in the same area for multiple days at a time, so these areas are good spots to target.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. Beginning last year, the boundary changed to include all of the McKenzie and Santiam units. However, many private timber companies still do not allow access. Make sure you check on access before you go hunting.
Hunters can also find good concentrations of bears in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness Area. The Forest Service has been doing meadow restoration projects that, once free of snow, often have good grass growth the bears will key in on. These can be located by looking at Google Earth. In the McKenzie, hunting is best late in the season in some of the old, brushy clear-cuts in the North Fork of the Middle Fork Willamette River and South Fork McKenzie drainages.
Alsea & Stott Mt. units
Black bear hunting this spring should start well as green up is occurring in the valley bottoms and spring weather patterns are developing. Bear emergence timing from winter dormancy should be normal. Typically, May is the better month to hunt as bears will be on the move and vegetation growth becomes more prevalent with warmer temperatures. Timberland clear-cuts are still in winter dormancy for the most part, but creek bottoms and meadows are beginning to grow grass and skunk cabbage is beginning to leaf.
Bear population is abundant particularly in areas with mixed forest habitat (i.e., clear-cuts, second growth, older growth, meadows). Bear densities are higher in the west half of the units. Hunters should look for bears at lower elevations along streams or open areas with a south or southeast aspect early in April. These are typically areas with more vegetative growth and the grass that bears are looking for in spring. As the season progresses and warmer weather arrives, bear activity will increase in managed timberlands (clear-cuts) and openings.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. Access is good on mainline forest roads but expect some roads to be impassible in April due to winter landslides, and storm fallen trees. Always check with private timber landowners (e.g., Weyerhaeuser, Manulife -- formerly Hancock, Starker forests) for recreational access questions and permits. Also pay attention to the travel management restriction signs in the Stott/N Alsea TMA area. Siuslaw National Forest lands have many spur roads that are bermed, which provide good walk-in hunting opportunities. There is a fair amount of timber harvest this spring, so hunters should expect some access roads to be closed and log truck traffic on open forest roads.
Southwest Area -- Hunt 722A
This hunt includes all the southwest Oregon wildlife management units (20-30), except within one mile of the Rogue River between Grave and Lobster creeks, and the BLM North Bank Habitat Management Area in Roseburg. These areas are closed.
Bear numbers in the southwest are stable and relatively high. However, the bear population density is highest closer to the coast in the Coast Range. Bear numbers are also high in much of the Klamath Siskiyou, including the Applegate WMU, and stable in the Cascades.
Black bear hunting this spring should start off good due to our mild winter, low snowpack, and the warm sunny weather we’ve been experiencing. The green up bears rely on this time of the year is already happening so there is cause for them to emerge from their dens and begin feeding.
While snowpack in the Coast Range will not be an issue for hunters wanting to gain access to higher elevation areas to hunt, downed trees from winter storms likely will. Hunters should be prepared to deal with downed trees or have a backup plan for hunting locations in the event they can’t get to their preferred hunting areas. Hunters may encounter more snow in parts of the Cascades or Siskiyou mountains. Typically, May is the better month to hunt as bears will be moving around more prior to the June rut, and vegetation growth accelerates with warmer temperatures. Also, by May most roads have been cleared of downed trees.
Typically boars emerge from their dens earlier than sows and cubs. Remember that it’s illegal to harvest a sow with cubs. In general, it’s good to start off the season glassing open hillsides during sunny mornings and evenings. Bears will most likely be out at this time feeding on grasses and anything else that can fill their bellies.
The southwest Cascade Range is below average for precipitation and snow water equivalent this year, but conditions vary greatly across the southwest region. Hunters should check the NRCS/USDA Snowtel web map for specific information.
The Coast Range has very little residual snow accumulation from this winter’s storms. Green-up is strong there due to the mild sunny conditions in January and February, which accelerated green-up.
Hunters are encouraged to keep checking the website for updates as the hunting season approaches and throughout the duration of the season. In general, lower elevations tend to green up first so hunters should focus their efforts there during the early part of the season, and then move up in elevation as the snow melts. Early in the season, focus on bear foraging evidence and tracks. After a couple weeks, bear digestive tracts will become more active and scat will serve as another indicator of bear activity.
Increased bear activity will most likely occur on decommissioned untraveled skid roads with high grass production. When bears are active, they will be looking to feed in these grassy openings or similar meadow-type ranges. Coastal wetlands, mid-elevation meadows, mountain prairies and riparian areas are other good places to look for bears. Hunters with access to private timberlands will find bears in clear-cuts, either feeding on green grass or tearing apart stumps looking for insects. Focus on south-facing hillsides in the early mornings and evenings, typically bears will be more active during these times.
Please be mindful of road access conditions. Even this winter’s mild snowfall has the potential to create impassable snowdrifts, especially on north-facing slopes. Hunters may want to drive roads they intend to hunt ahead of time to make sure that the roads are passable.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. Hunters have access to plenty of public land including national forestland (Siuslaw, Rogue-Siskiyou, and Umpqua), BLM land and state-managed property like Elliott State Forest. Hunters should do their homework and call private timberland companies as some offer access. Local landowners include Weyerhaeuser, Rayonier, Financial Investment Associates (FIA), Roseburg Forest Products, and Lone Rock Timber Co.
Hunters can access public land and some private timberland through the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area (JACTMA). JACTMA restricts use of certain roads through April 30; for a map contact an ODFW office or download a free geo-referenced pdf. Remember lands within one mile of the Rogue River between Grave and Lobster creeks are closed. The eastern portion of the Applegate unit has open timber draws and south-facing meadows that provide good glassing opportunities to locate feeding bears.
There’s good hunting access in the Coos Mountain Access Area located in the Tioga Unit. Beginning this year those interested in hunting this area may drive on any ungated roads within the access area, regardless of whether it has a green dot on it or not. The rules within this access area were changed so that vehicle access restrictions are only in place during the fall (Aug. 1 through Dec. 31). During other months this rule does not apply. All other access area rules, however, are in place year-round. See the 2022 Big Game Regulations Page 78 and information kiosks located at major access routes for more information. Be advised public and private landowners within Coos Mountain Access Area may close individual roads to protect logging operations or other land management projects.
Columbia Area -- Hunt 741A
Bear densities remain fair to high, especially in forested areas. Lower elevation areas are great for spot-and-stalk hunting. Areas that have been logged or have other recent disturbance can provide good glassing opportunities, especially on the west side of Hood River valley. As you move higher into more densely forested portions of the hunt area, look for scat, turned over logs and rocks to key in on bears using the area.
The edges of the major drainages, such as White River, Badger Creek, and Tygh Creek should be good places to find bears in the eastern edge of the hunt area. The recent fire in White River canyon should provide a draw for bears this spring. Forested areas south of Mosier provide plenty of open areas in the western portion of the unit. Good optics and patience while glassing these areas should increase the opportunity to spot a bear.
Glass the open areas that you can find, but also plan to cover a lot of ground to increase your chances of running into a bear. Access in the early portion of the season will be very limited with many low elevation forest roads still snowed in. As the snow melts, focus on higher elevations in the western portion of the unit to find higher concentrations of bears
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. In this hunt area, the majority of bear habitat is on public lands. The western edge of the unit has a significant amount of county forest and private timberlands (be sure to check access requirements as they vary by landowner) that harbor good numbers of bears. Weyerhauser owns a large amount of property in Hood River county and requires a permit to access (details available on their website). Be aware that the Forest Service owned portion of the White River fire scar near Wamic remains closed to public access per forest order 06-06-01-20-15 – see map.
South Central Area -- Hunt 731A
forest portions of the hunt area. However, over the past several years there have been population increases in the Warner, Interstate and Silver Lake WMU’s as well as increased hunter success in these units.
Areas for hunters to check include the Keno Unit, western portion of the Sprague Unit, the Yamsey Mountain and Winter Rim areas of the Silver Lake Unit and the Gearhart Mountain area in the Interstate Unit. Focus on the unburned fringes around recent wildfires, though be aware that much of the Fremont-Winema National Forest remains closed to pubic access due to hazard risk after the fire season of 2021.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. Public access is restricted within the Fremont-Winema Natinoal Forest to those areas outside burn scars from 2021 including the Bootleg, Patton Meadow, and Cougar Peak fires. Hunting access is good in the southern portions of the Keno Unit, though spring precipitation can often leave many two-track roads and trails too muddy to be driven without causing damage to the road. Access should improve by later in the season. Please respect private property and avoid driving on soft or muddy roads.
Southeast Area -- Hunt 746A
The area had a mild winter this year with lower areas accessible to hunters; however, higher elevations may still be inaccessible during the start of the season. Snowpack this past winter was similar to last year. Spring green-up is already occurring on the lowest elevations and south-facing slopes, providing ideal conditions for pre-season scouting. Bear populations are stable or increasing but this hunt is still challenging due to the heavily forested terrain that makes it difficult to spot bears. Hunters can find bears widely distributed through all units but harvest in the spring has been highest in the Desolation unit.
Hunters often use this tag as an opportunity to scout new hunting areas for next fall’s deer and elk seasons, turkey hunt, or collect shed antlers. Remember it is legal to take naturally shed antlers, but not skulls with antlers attached. More information on shed hunting.
Locations: Hunters in the Heppner and Desolation units should focus on the area along the breaks of the North Fork John Day River. See the Oregon Hunting Access Map for more hunting locations. Bears are well distributed across Grizzly and Ochoco units. Focus on riparian drainages and open areas. Snow packs are relatively small this year so green up may be at higher elevations than spring hunters are used to.
Early in the season, it’s best to work the lower elevation fringes of the forest, concentrating on areas with green-up, particularly rocky outcroppings near meadows and other open areas. Northeast Area Hunts.
Northeast Area -- Hunts 762A, 764, 754A, 752A, 756, 757A, 759A, 760A
Pine Creek, Keating, Catherine Creek units -- Hunt 762A
The district experienced heavy snowfall in the mid to upper elevations. Hunters should expect access to be limited early in the season with access to high elevations by mid to late season. Look for bears in areas of early green-up. Usually south-facing slopes are the first to become snow-free and can be good places to glass for bears.
In the Keating Unit, hunters will find better access in some of the mid to low portions of the national forest. Higher elevations near Pine Creek and McGraw Overlook will have deep snow early in the season but should become accessible by mid to late season. Hunters planning on traveling the 39 Road to access the McGraw area should be aware that the road is still snow covered in higher elevations and access will be limited. For up to date road conditions please contact the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, Baker Ranger District at 541-523-6391.
The Catherine Creek Unit will produce good bear numbers this year. Much of the unit’s lower elevations are on privately-owned land. The higher elevations of the Catherine Creek Unit are mostly within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and contain excellent bear habitat. Snow may limit access to the highest elevations in April but should open up by mid-season. Walking in on roads that are inaccessible by vehicle can be a productive way to find early season bears.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. The Little Catherine Creek Travel Management area just east of Union provides walk-in access to Hancock Forest Management lands; maps are available at entrance points or at ODFW’s La Grande Office.
Lookout Mt. Unit – Hunt 764
Moderate snow in high elevations will limit access in the early season. Try south-facing slopes near the timberline above Brownlee Reservoir. Private lands limit access; make sure you obtain landowner permission before hunting private land.
UMATILLA COUNTY -- Hunt 754A
Mt Emily-Walla Walla
The district experienced average snowfall at mid to upper elevations this winter. With mild temperatures expected across the county for the next few weeks, look for the onset of spring and receding snow only at lower elevations. Hunters will most likely have limited access to higher elevations until the last week of April. Due to recent floods in Umatilla County, several of the lower elevation access roads and trails have been washed out and remain closed by Forest Service order. Hunters can call the Pendleton ODFW office (541-276-2344) to obtain information on road closures and current snow conditions.
Early season bear activity is concentrated along the lower elevation fringes of national forestland. Bears follow the green-up elevation band; concentrate on timbered slopes with small openings with lush green moss, sedge or grassy areas. If the spring is wet, bears will be out on open slopes foraging on wild onions and sedges. If the day is cool, bears will be out in the open for longer periods. However, in warm weather, bear activity will be concentrated early in the morning and late in the day near sundown.
UNION COUNTY -- Hunt 752A
Bear numbers are strong in both the Starkey and Ukiah Units. Late snowfall created deep snowpack in both units, which will limit hunter access early in the season. Vehicle access will be a challenge throughout the month of April. When the snowpack begins to melt look to lower elevation access points in Union and Umatilla counties for hunting locations.
Hunters should focus efforts on south aspects for best results. Finding bears in this unit may prove challenging due to the lack of open canyon habitat common in other east side units. Walking in on closed roads is a good way to access bear habitat within this hunt area. The Elkhorn Wildlife Area in the south end of the unit is open to bear hunting and allows walk-in access.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. The Dry Beaver Ladd Canyon road closure area offers diverse habitat and provides limited motorized travel. Other areas that have good bear densities are Spring Creek, open slopes along Fly Creek and public lands surrounding Vey Meadows. It is also quite possible to encounter a cougar in these areas, so having a cougar tag could provide a bonus opportunity.
WALLOWA COUNTY -- Hunts 756, 757A, 759A, 760A
Expect vehicle access at higher elevations to be difficult until early May, due to existing snow and drifts. Access is often limited in areas such as Eden Bench and Bartlett Bench in the Wenaha Unit, spur roads in the Sled Springs and Chesnimnus Units, Hat Point Road in the Snake River Unit, and the 39 Road to Salt Creek Summit in the Imnaha Unit. Look for access points and campsites along lower elevation rivers, creeks, and drainages.
Bear activity will depend on late winter, early spring weather, with warm and wet weather resulting in more bear activity. In the early season, most bears will be found in canyon areas. Glass south-facing meadows and timbered slopes at low and mid-elevations for green up. Some lower elevation areas in the Imnaha, Snake River, and Wenaha Units are already experiencing green up. If hunting later in the season, you may focus on predator calls in open meadows with adjacent timber. Overall, harvest numbers remain consistent in past years.
Locations: See the Oregon Hunting Access Map. Be mindful of public land access and consult travel management area maps where applicable (https://www.dfw.state.or.us/maps/). The Noregaard, Whiskey Creek and Shamrock travel management areas in the Sled Springs Unit, Grouse Lick in the Imnaha Unit, and Chesnimnus travel management areas will be in effect through May 31. There is no public access from the Imnaha Highway at Big Sheep Creek, Bear Gulch, and Devil’s Gulch in the Imnaha nor access from the west into Lightning Creek and Horse Creek in Snake River.
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