5 Tips for Positioning Bear Kicks (2023)

Por Clay Newcomb

5 Tips for Positioning Bear Kicks (1)

After all the work of getting up close and personal with a big bear this spring, you'll need to be confident in your ability to take a great photo. Bears are large, tough animals that are unforgiving when hit hard. Many new bear hunters carry with them shot placement and strategies derived from deer hunting experience. It is similar, but different. Bear anatomy is a bit different, but more importantly, the structure of a bear's body allows for some odd angles and considerations that the bear hunter needs to understand. Here are five keys to taking a great photo this spring.

Go for a double lung punch (Heartshots are overrated)

Bears always seem to be on the move, especially when you bait them. Maybe it's a predatory instinct in humans, but seeing our prey move makes us feel like we have to act fast. The impulsiveness of rushing the shot is probably the biggest mistake a bear hunter can make. My favorite shot is a side or slightly side shot with the side front shoulder forward or down. A side shot provides the greatest margin for error and the greatest opportunity for the deadliest blow of all:a double lung shot. In my opinion, the "shot to the heart" is overrated. A double lung generally kills an animal faster, it is a larger target, and the organs are further away from large bones that prevent penetration.

A bear has the body structure to get into all sorts of weird shapes. It may be sitting on its rear like a dog, or it may be "dimple" shaped with its head and rear closer to you than to the torso. He could have been lying face down. He could stand on two legs. All these positions are very different from those of a deer. During the magical moment when a bear is on the shooting range, more often than not it will be in a bad shooting position than a favorable one. You will have to be disciplined and wait for a side shot:especially the archers.

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Gun hunting for bear is more forgiving. A high shoulder strike will take down a bear, but I would still suggest a double thrust strike. If you have a large caliber weapon, a square frontal shot to the sternum is deadly, but requires precision. If you have the time, my advice is to wait for archery and a sidearm.

Prioritize getting two holes

Bears are notoriously difficult to track blood. Long hair and fat seem to absorb blood that would normally be on the ground and used for drag. Additionally, they often inhabit thick, dense brush, making tracking conditions difficult. Whether you're shooting a rifle or a bow, prioritize entry and exit wounds. With a rifle, fire a bullet that maximizes penetration over expansion (see sidebar on bullets). When hunting with a bow and arrow, use a broad point that maximizes penetration. I personally don't suggest wide, expandable bear heads. However, the biggest problem will be the location and angle of the shot.

The best opportunity to get a passing shot will be when the bear is on its side. If it's at a steep cutting angle, you won't be able to pass and you'll be behind a bear with only one entry wound. If you are hunting in the woods, it will be a high wound and it will bleed very little. The bear will die quickly, but without a trail of blood it can be hard to find! I barely got back the biggest skull bear I've ever killed, even though it was less than 150 yards from where I shot it. A sharp angle, dismemberment shot from a tree left me alone with an entry wound and no blood. Fortunately, we found the bear the next morning. If he had waited for a side shot, he probably would have gotten the bear back within thirty minutes of the shot.

5 Tips for Positioning Bear Kicks (2)

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Middle of the middle?

We published an article a few years ago entitled “The middle of the middle”. Many Canadian vendors have had excellent results instructing their clients with this descriptive phrase for photo placement. I can't say I don't agree, but I'd like to make a little adjustment:"the middle of the middle and then back to the shoulder a few inches."If you take the original sentence literally, you are shooting at the back of the lungs and directly at the liver. I like to aim a little closer to the shoulder without being too tight. The reason this is popular has to do with the larger margin of error. Also, it seems that a bear shot in the front of the "guts" usually dies quickly. I'm not suggesting an inside shot, but it's better than a shoulder shot with archery equipment. With a rifle, your margin for error is greater, but it's still a good choice as a weapon.

I have personally performed a necropsy on a bear and found that the lungs extend to the next to last rib. The elongated frame of a bear translates to lungs slightly (and I do mean a little) further back than a deer. Many bear hunters have been indoctrinated by whitetail shot placement, and it doesn't fully translate to bear. It is important to aim for the average mass (from an up and down perspective) of the body cavity. In short, I like to shoot about 4-5 inches from the shoulder on a wide bear. Bears have smooth skin and the ribs are quite light. The biggest threat to penetration is the front shoulder:stay away from it.

5 Tips for Positioning Bear Kicks (3)

5 Tips for Positioning Bear Kicks (4)

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Consider hair and fat - don't shoot too low

"Low and tight" at the shoulder is a great shot on a deer. Hunters often aim low when hunting deer because deer fall to the ground at the sound of a shot. A bear doesn't have the same "flight" response as a deer, so aiming too low isn't necessary and may even be bad. Bears can usually have a thick layer of abdominal fat and also have long hair. The lower silhouette of a bear is deceptive. You'll have to aim high above it to get into the chest cavity! I witnessed several bears get injured because the hunter tried to “shoot them through the heart” like a whitetail. A deer has short hair and little fat. A bear really isn't as big as it seems because of the hair and fat. Again, this brings us back to aiming for the middle mass, not the periphery of the animal.

A bear with a few hits usually bleeds quite well for a period of time, then the blood starts to run thin and eventually disappears. It's easy to go on "autopilot" when a bear approaches. I once heard the phrase:You will not rise to the occasion, but you will follow your standard training..” You have to intentionally train where to aim a bear.

Don't "turn off"

The Boone and Crockett-class black bear took the bait with confidence. I was only 11 meters away when I pulled the bow and looked through the spy. I could see the shiny pin just fine, but my viewing window was full of black fur! I had no idea where he was pointing. More than once, while hunting bears at close range using scopes and bow and arrow sights, I have had this harrowing experience. The black color absorbs shadows making it difficult to distinguish lines and parts of the body. Through the window, he didn't know where he was aiming. The lighter coat of other game animals helps bring out the body with sharp shadows.not so in a bruin.

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What should you do? Be patient. Remove the observation eye or take a look and look at the bear with the naked eye, then look back through the observation apparatus. After you have done this a few times, you will orient yourself. Every time that happens, I'm tempted to pull the trigger before I'm 100% sure where I'm aiming. It's so close that it seems hard to miss. The only advice I have is to be patient and wait 10 more seconds before shooting.


Bears are not difficult animals to kill with a gun or bow. A well-hit bear doesn't last very long, however they are extremely unforgiving when hit marginally. In short, just hit side shots, make it a priority to hit two holes, aim four to five inches back from the shoulder on a wide bear, and don't shoot too low. Finally, that bear is not as big as it seems. It has a beautiful coat of fat and fur that can measure from 7 to 10 centimeters long.

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