Spring Prospects for Northwestern Ontario Bruins

The Return of the Spring Black Bear Hunt in Nipigon / Black Sturgeon

The Nipigon and Black Sturgeon area of Northwestern Ontario is about as good as it gets for black bear hunting in Ontario. There are many reasons for this, but some of the main ones include many large lakes and river courses that provide food, water, and travel corridors; numerous cut-over areas thick with berries; and large tracts of bush perfect for hiding and building dens. Bears can get old and very large here. Adult boars into the 600-pound range are not unheard of and 250-pounders are common.

Gord Ellis with a bear harvested during the Fall of 2013 in Northern Ontario
Gord Ellis with a bear harvested during the Fall of 2013 in Northern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Ellis)

Since the spring bear hunt was canceled in 1999, the number of bears in this part of the world has grown tremendously. In recent years, you would be hard-pressed not to see a bear during a spring drive along any bush road or secondary highway in the Nipigon area. Last spring I saw 20 bears in one 15-km stretch of the Black Sturgeon Road, just west of Nipigon. The bears were feeding on newly sprouted grass, and some of the boars were huge. It was like they knew they were safe from spring bear hunters.

The late summer/fall hunt has been very popular and successful. Some hunters spot and stalk large black bears that are feeding in blueberry patches. This is a very exciting hunt, with a real possibility of a monster boar. My largest ever black bear, a 400-pound boar, was stalked in a blueberry patch.

Return of the Hunt

This spring, it will not be as safe for bears to be out wandering. Ontario has opened parts of the province to a limited spring bear hunt, and one of the areas for this pilot project is Nipigon and Black Sturgeon. There are a lot of bears here and many places to hunt. Most of the hunting will be done via tree stand, generally in an area that is being baited. Bear baits vary, but things that are sweet and filling tend to draw bruins in from a long way. Bread and stale-dated pastries can work, but bears are also fond of whole grains like oats. Many people use plain popcorn as bait, since it is cheap, light to carry, and can be flavoured with everything from molasses to cheese. Bears have surprisingly wide tastes when it comes to food.

With the return of the spring bear hunt, the Nipigon/Black Sturgeon area is a destination worth considering. It is one of Ontario's most beautiful, and prolific hunting areas.

Read: Gord's Confessions of a Bear Hunter

About Gord Ellis

Gord Ellis is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario and a full time journalist, broadcaster, professional angler and guide. He is the senior editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Canada's best read fishing and hunting magazine. Gord is a regular on CBC radio's Superior Morning and writes a monthly column on Ontario for the Northern Wilds magazine, in Minnesota. He has written over a thousand feature articles and columns for publications as diverse as Sentier Chasse Peche, in Quebec, the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail. He is a long time member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and has won better than 25 national awards for his writing and photography. In 2018, Gord was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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