A Land of Giants

If I have learned anything in my thirty years as a bear hunter, it is this: a great many outfitters across North America routinely advertise and brag about the presence and high possibility of tagging large or “trophy” bears within their hunting territories, all with the intent and hope of attracting hunters. While truly large bears are possible throughout their range, the general public, including most hunters, typically misjudge the weight of bears on the plus side and are rather surprised when they discover the average male across the continent tips the scales around 200 pounds, and the average female around 150 pounds. With everything said and done, it takes a lot of black bear to tip the scales above 300 or 400 pounds or more, and few places consistently produce bears that do so. One place that does is Newfoundland and Labrador.

Having hunted the island of Newfoundland several times over the years, there are many reasons to hunt there, including one of the highest bear densities on the continent and some of the highest camp success rates anywhere. Newfoundland has a long spring season, and a fall season that coincides with hunting seasons on moose and caribou. Plus there are affordable and competitively priced hunting packages, good food, and warm hospitality from some of the nicest folks I have ever met. However, the high possibility of pulling the trigger or releasing an arrow on a bona fide trophy black bear is the most exciting and biggest incentive of them all, and the primary reason why I keep making the trip as often as possible.

The largest Newfoundland black bear officially weighed in at 687 pounds (311.6 kg). That is a real giant! And while admittedly not all island bears will reach such a massive size, the island’s bears, in general, have a historic and genetic predisposition to larger sizes. It is safe to say Newfoundland produces as many 350- to 400-pound (158.75-kg to 181.44-kg) bears as any state or province across the continent. Despite what is often written and publicized about, such specimens are not common in the vast majority of places across North America. In fact, it could be such bears are exceptional on a consistent basis in most areas where black bears are hunted. And while other jurisdictions may boast about such weights, and may produce a handful from time to time, Newfoundland is one of those rare places where the odds of taking a trophy bear can be considered high, and even one of the more uncommon places that consistently backs up its reputation as one of North America’s premier bear hunting destinations.

On the mainland portion – Labrador – the bear hunting is equally as good. The bears tend to run a tad smaller there based on my personal experience, but the trophy potential is certainly there when you consider there are fewer outfitters catering to bear hunters, and the fact that compared to insular Newfoundland, the mainland has yet to be discovered as a black bear hunting hotspot, which means hunting pressure is far less. Add in the fact that bear densities in most areas and success rates are just as high as on the island, and that two bears may be taken per licence, Labrador is tough to beat in its own right, and combined, Newfoundland and Labrador are tough to beat anywhere.