California black bear

Bear Hunting in California

Bear hunting in California may be the most popular big game species in the golden state. Every year, thousands of hunters take to the woods in hopes of bagging a big one. While the opportunity to harvest a bear is great, there are a few things that all hunters should know before heading out.

There are only one species of bear found in California, the black bear. Black bears are found throughout the state and in large numbers. Although many of the bears you will see in Califonia are black, many are brown or even cinnamon in color.

Bear season in most of the state runs concurrently with dear hunting season. Before heading out on your bear hunting adventure, be sure to check all of the regulations. These can be found on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website. By following all of the rules and regulations, you will ensure a safe and successful hunt.

About the California Black Bear

California’s black bear population has grown in recent years. The statewide figure was estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 bears in 1982. The statewide population is presently thought to be between 30,000 and 40,000 animals.


Black bears have large, broad heads and tiny ears. Black bears can vary in color from cinnamon to black. Some black bears have small white chest patches. Adult females (sows) weigh 100-200 pounds on average. Adult males (boars) generally weigh 150-400 pounds, with some weighing up to 500 lbs. Both male and female black bears are strong climbers capable of swiftly scaling a tree to avoid unpleasant confrontations with other animals or people.

Bear Hunting in California
Bear Hunting in California


Black bears in California can be found in a variety of habitats, including coniferous and mixed coniferous forests, chaparral, and oak woodlands. They are also known to inhabit wetlands and riparian areas. They are most commonly found in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the North Coast Ranges, but can also be found in other areas of the state, such as the Klamath Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains.


Black bears are opportunistic eaters, and their diet can vary seasonally. In the spring and early summer, they primarily eat grasses, herbs, soft mast (fruits), and insects. As fall approaches, black bears consume large quantities of acorns and another hard mast (nuts) in preparation for winter hibernation. During the winter months, black bears do not eat, drink, or defecate. They live off of their stored body fat until spring arrives.

When bears learn to associate human-populated areas with food, they begin to seek out food from sources such as garbage cans, dumpsters, and compost piles. This behavior is called “problem bear” behavior and it can be dangerous for both the bears and the people living in the area. To prevent this behavior, local governments and homeowners are encouraged to properly store and secure trash, and to avoid leaving food scraps or other attractants outside. This can include using bear-proof trash cans, keeping dumpsters in secure areas, and cleaning grills and outdoor eating areas after use.


Black bears mate in late May or early June. Sows give birth to two cubs in January or February after a seven-month gestation period. Cubs stay with their mothers for about 18 months before striking out independently.

California Bear Hunting Season & Regulations

In order to hunt black bears in California, you will need a hunting license. Hunters with a valid hunting license may obtain one bear tag per year. The fee for such a tag is listed below.

Resident Bear Tag$51.02Resident and nonresident licensed hunters 12 years or older at the time of application may purchase one bear tag per license year. Tags are nonrefundable and nontransferable.
Nonresident Bear Tag$325.40
CA Bear Tag Fees as of 2022

Except for taking the bear to the nearest CDFW employee authorized to validate the tag, a bear must be tagged and validated by a CDFW employee before being transported. If CDFW offices are closed, the validation of the tag must take place within one business day of moving the bear from its origin. Within ten days after capturing a bear, it must be presented to CDDW in person.

Other Important Regulations

GENERAL: General bear season opens concurrently with general deer seasons in deer zones A, B, C, D, X8, X9A, X9B, X10, and X12. Please see 2022 California Mammal Hunting Regulations for opening dates. For those portions of zones X1, X2, X3a, X4, X6a, X6b, X7a, and X7b open to bear hunting, the general bear season opens on October 8. Bear season will close on December 25, 2022 or EARLIER if the Department determines that 1,700 bears have been reported taken. This includes bears harvested during the archery season.

State of California – Natural Resources Agency – DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Read the Full Summary of the 2022 Bear Hunting Regulations.

Methods of Taking Balck Bear in California

When black bear hunting in California, firearms, and archery, including muzzleloaders and crossbones, are the only legal methods of taking a bear. The majority of hunters use rifles as their weapon of choice. Approximately 80 percent of bears taken in California were done with rifles. Almost 20 percent of tags were filled with archery equipment. The remaining .5% of tags were filled with shotguns, crossbows, or pistols.

Best Rounds for Hunting Black bear

These are some of the best and most common rounds to hunt bears with. Paired with a decent scope, there won’t be many bears that escape you.

  • 30-30 Winchester
  • .35 Remington
  • .44 Rem Mag
  • 6.5 Creedmore
  • 300 Win Mag

Can you Use Dogs to Hunt Bears?

Since 2013, with the passing of SB 1221, hounds are no longer allowed in the taking of bear in California. This has taken a drastic effect on the tags filled each year. October is by far the most successful month for bear hunting across the state, with more than double the number of tags filled compared to the second most successful month of September.

The best places to hunt bears in California

Black bears can be found throughout California. Some good areas to hunt bears include the Sierra Nevada mountains, the coastal mountain ranges, and the Trinity Alps. Many hunters in California obtain a bear tag and carry it with them while blacktail deer hunting. This provides the best odds of a successful hunt.

When hunting bears, it is important to remember that they are large and potentially dangerous animals. Always use caution when approaching or handling a bear. Be sure to follow all regulations and always hunt safely. With a little preparation, you can have a safe and successful hunt.

According to the harvest data collected by CDFW, Northern California has far more successful bear hunts than Southern California. All the top harvest counties are in the northern part of the state.

Counties with the most tags reported include Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity, Tuolumne, Plumas, El Dorado, Kern, Placer, Mendocino, and Humbolt.

2020 Black Bear Harvest Data by County in California

It’s important to note that over 50% of bears taken were done on average within 2-7 hunting days. Simply put, with minimal effort and a sprinkle of luck, you can find a black bear in California with ease. The real work begins after the kill as bears are one of the hardest animals to dress and pack out in California.

Bear Hinting in California

While it is legal to hunt black bears in California, you must understand the regulations and restrictions involved before planning a hunt. Familiarize yourself with the hunting zones, seasons, and bag limits for black bears in California so you can plan your trip accordingly. Make sure you have all the necessary tas and licenses and be aware of the laws and regulations that apply to black bear hunting in California.

1. Check all regulations before heading out on your hunt. This will ensure a safe and successful hunt.

2. Black bears can be found in various habitats throughout California. Some good areas to hunt bears include the Sierra Nevada mountains, the coastal mountain ranges, and the Trinity Alps.

3. When hunting bear, it is important to remember that they are large and potentially dangerous animal. Always use caution when approaching or handling a bear.

4. Bear hunting can be a fun and exciting experience. With a little preparation, you can have a safe and successful hunt.

Bear hunting in California is needed now more than ever. The population of bear in the state is increasing at a rapid pace. Black bears, if harvested and butchered correctly, can make great table fare. The amount of meat on a bear is tremendous.