Most bowhunters have a whitetail state of mind so it makes sense that new archery bear hunters are approaching their hunt with the same equipment. Considering you've found this article, you are already ahead of most.
When it comes to selecting the right broadhead for archery hunting bears, you first need to understand bear anatomy. What you are shooting through should heavily influence your broadhead choice. With that in mind, maybe your previous setup will work, maybe it won't. Let's take a dive into this article and find out.
For new archery bear hunters, bears seem to be large animals and new hunters have the tendency of relating the size of bears to an animal that is tough to send an arrow through. While bears do have some bone structure and hide a little tougher than a whitetail, it's not all that hard to zip a well placed arrow through them. However, the vital area and scapula structure of bear is much different than a whitetail.
The scapula or shoulder blade of a bear is much thicker and more dense than a scapula of a whitetail. A bear scapula also has two ridges vs one ridge on a whitetail scapula. There are some great visuals of this in the video below. Getting straight to the point, you need to avoid a shoulder hit at all costs. Hitting a bear in the scapula, regardless of broadhead choice, is not going to result well.
Many bear hunters have a whitetail anatomy ingrained into their minds when selecting their shot. Even though a bear appears to be longer than a whitetail, a bear's lungs are only marginally larger and sit relatively the same distance from the front shoulder. To make matters worse, bears will often contort themselves into weird shapes and positions shifting their internal organs.
Also, keep in mind, a spring bear is going to have less fat on it's body when compared to a fall bear. That thick layer of fat and hair on a bear's belly translates to a false silhouette, fooling bowhunters into misplaced shots. Also, the added layer of fat will impact the penetration and blood trail you see from your arrow.
Now that you have a better understanding of bear anatomy, we can move into shot placement. Again, get that whitetail mentality and shot placement out of your brain. More often than not low and tight is not going to end well. However, similar to a whitetail bowhunters should be striving for double lung, pass through shots while staying patient for broadside shots. Take that a step further and really strive for a broadside shot with the bear's front leg forward. This allows for a shot at less protected vitals and ultimately gives the bowhunter more room for error.
Understanding bowhunters need to completely avoid a bear's shoulder and low hits, your entry point on a bear should be center mass and back from the shoulder roughly 5 inches. Remember, when hunting from elevated positions bowhunters need to be aiming for the "exit". The goal is two holes and two lungs.
A big challenge with shot placement on most bears is picking the spot. Longer hair and loose hides do not allow hunters to clearly see the bear's skeletal structure where bowhunters can easily define where leg and shoulder bones are. Bears are typically dark in color and shot opportunities often come at low light which all lead to a big blob when then moment of truth comes. Find middle mass and move forward just a bit. Not to be negative but if a bowhunter misses, he/she better miss back. A bowhunter has much higher odds of recovering a gut shot bear over a shoulder shot bear. The vast majority of leg, shoulder, and/or one lung hits will not kill the bear.
FIXED OR MECHANICAL
Understanding what hunters are up against when out on a archery bear hunt, it's easy to recommend a tough, sharp, cut on contact fixed blade broadhead. Yes, mechanicals, hybrid broadheads, and expandable broadheads can do the job but fixed blade broadheads give you an advantage busting through those ribs that are stacked together closely. Fixed blade broadheads also give bowhunters the most margin of error in terms of shot placement hitting dense bone. In addition to shot placement advantages, if the bowhunter does not get a pass through, a fixed blade broadhead has a higher percentage of odds that it will continue to inflict trauma inside the bear's vitals.
We previously mentioned bear fat. If you plan to hunt fall bears you need to keep this top of mind when choosing your broadheads. Bear fat has a tendency to clog entry and exit holes, which leads to more difficult recoveries. Fixed blade broadheads that are designed to leave large wound channels tend to leave better blood trails.
If you are in the market for new broadheads for your next bear hunt prioritize these items
- Good penetration characteristics
- Sharp cut on contact blades
- Blade thickness and materials
- Designs that provide a "coring" affect