Photo Credit: Pixabay

One of the most difficult things in bear hunting is judging size and sex. It takes years of practice to properly sex and size a bear in the field. Ground shrinkage in bears is often a grim reality to inexperienced bear hunters.  Remembering these few tips when looking bears this spring.

Looking at Head
  • Look for small ears on the side of a bears head. A bears ears grow very little from birth to adulthood.  Big bears ears look smaller in proportion to their head and body. When ears appear to be on the side of a head you are generally looking at a good bear.
  • Look for a crease in the middle of the forehead. Mature bears have developed large muscles on the skull and this crease identifies a mature adult bear.
  • The triangle method is a great way to judge a bear’s head size.  The base of the triangle being the line between the ears and the sides run from the ears to the tip of the nose.  When the sides of the triangle all look the same you better be shooting!
All Photo Credits: Joe Kondelis
Looking at Body
  • Every single bear is unique. Just like people.  No predetermined mold to go from.
  • Juvenile bears will have a similar size to a large dog
  • Large boars will have very muscular legs
  • Visible broad shoulders
  • Adult boars will have a long appearance
  • Look at the bear in relation to the environment
  • Wrist pinch
  • Large mature bears will look longer in length
  • Don’t always believe the old myth “ if you see daylight it is small”
    • Not all giant bruins are belly draggers, especially in spring
    • Sometimes cover hinders view of the belly


Bear Behavior
  • Small Bears appear to be often nervous or always on edge
  • Bigger mature bears have more deliberate movements – no indecision
  • Many big bears will step over sticks and logs – mall bears step on
  • Watch other bear behavior. Cubs & Sows don’t like being around big boars
  • Big bears appear to lumber – more of a side to side sway
  • Big mature boars have an attitude about them
  • Sometimes just the look is enough!


Front Paw Measurement Technique

Measure Front Pad of Track – add 1 for an estimate of bear square footage


Boar or Sow? What to look for
  • Most Obvious indicator is the presence of Cubs
  • Sows have leaner longer looking snouts
  • Boars have rounder heads with stub snouts
  • Often times male reproductive organs can be seen from behind
  • Boars have wider front shoulders-hold blocky shape
  • Sows tend to have narrow front shoulders – pear-shaped body
  • Males will have a more pronounced brow on the forehead

It is our responsibility as sportsmen to take the adequate time needed to ensure that no cubs are present prior to harvesting a bear.  Take your time and observe the bear in its natural habitat to ensure cubs are not present.

  • Slender nose on all 3 bears
  • Narrow front shoulders
  • Skinny front legs
  • Presence of cubs
  • Flat forehead – lack of brow


For more info on the subject check out the Western Bear Foundation Facebook Page.

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