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  1. #1

    Default Camping around Bozeman for spring bear hunting?

    I thought I had everything figured out for my first Mt bear hunt. Well my lodging fell through. I promised my 11 year old son a trip out west so we will be going may 1-5.
    I have a cabelas tent with a Wood stove and I have done some elk hunting in Colorado so I have the camping part handled.

    I guess my question is, can I camp in the national forests off the road?
    Is there places I can't?
    Where can I find the info.
    It seems like there are plenty of public pay campsites but I really like camping away from other people, and I really don't want to stay in a hotel, but I will because I promised the boy we are bear hunting.

    Are grizzly bears an issue camping?
    I feel silly even asking about the grizzly but I have no experience with them

    Thanks for any help
    Adam J

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Almost North Dakota, not quite Canada
    Posts
    613

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    You can camp in the National Forest but how easy that will be will probably depend on snow conditions. Check the Gallatin National Forest website for regulations and conditions. First week of May can still be really hard to get around. Depends on what falls between now and then.

    There are a few griz around, depending on where you go. My husband ran into one a few years ago while spring bear hunting within sight of Bozeman. Keep a clean camp and follow food storage regulations and you should be fine.

  3. #3

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    I heard there was a ton of snow this year. That's concern I have been having. I could also go may 21 for 5 days instead.
    Thanks for the info on camping

    Adam j

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    That time of year a lot of the pay campsites on Forest Service grounds might not be charging yet. I don't know how it is around Bozeman, but in the northwest we rarely run into many other campers that early. If there are to many other campers and you really don't want to sit on a cold concrete toilet, you can camp just about anywhere on Forest Service land. As was mentioned for grizzlies, keep a clean camp and your food in a lockable cooler and you should be fine.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for the Info on the national forests and camping. When I hunted Colorado the last 2 years for elk near ski areas; its legal to camp just about anywhere but there are ordinances about parking that are just frustrating as hell, like you cannot park on the side of a national forest road without getting towed in certain areas.
    I just love camping out compared to staying in a hotel. I cook better than most restaurants. I sleep better in a tent than even the best hotels, damn there is just something special about sitting in a tent with a woodstove.

  6. #6

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    Many usfs roads will be snowed in still first of may, but not all. You could also rent a usfs cabin, there are some pretty cool ones around. If you look at the Snotel map, Bozeman got missed by many of the bigger snow storms.

  7. #7

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    Here's the LINKIE to the Gallatin National Forest concerning dispersed camping.

    IIRC, at one time there was a rule against camping at actual trailheads but I don't think that would be an issue in May. I know of some forest roads that don't even open the gates until June. Where I go in the north Bridgers you can sometimes have an issue even getting to the forest boundary depending on the snow pack but that's usually not an issue south of town along the Gallatin.

    May 5 or May 21? That's just kind of a crapshoot depending on the weather. I personally like to go earlier rather than later. If it gets warm, the bears can start shedding and rubbing and look pretty raggedy towards the end of May.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Bozeman, MT
    Posts
    3,806

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    There is a huge variety of camping opportunities around Bozeman. Some are snow-free now, some will be snowed in in June. I'd just call the Bozeman office before you come out and ask about the areas you are interested in.

  9. #9

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    Thanks for the help. Looks like I might be able to split the Dates and come out on the 7th of May. That's when I originally planned it but another guy at work messed it up for a while. Problem fixed. If I was not coming out with my 11Yo son on his first out west trip it would be a lot easier to just wing it. I just NEED him to love it! At 11 I would have given my left arm to go to Montana hunting. Kids are more occupied nowadays I guess. I was originally worried about how much snow was out there and thought I might need to go later. I have been reading that there was a ton of snow all over the west this year.
    Adam J

    How is the snow Pack as of Late March? big sky ski areas claim something like 80 inches!

  10. Default

    Some snow is a good thing because it concentrates the areas where bears are feeding. You just need it to have been warm enough for grass to be growing somewhere, even if the tops are still buried in snow. Personally, I would rather hunt closer to the beginning of optimal time over later in the season when bears are more dispersed. I would stick with the dates you picked for early May.

  11. #11

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    I disagree with Gerald on the dates, I have hunted around Bozeman the past 4 years and although I have seen some bears the first couple of weeks I harvested all of my bears the last weekend of the season, last year I saw 7 bears the second to last day of the season and 1 bear repeatedly for the first 3 weeks where I was hunting. Also bears tend to rut in June and move around more, because of this so you are likely to see more bears the later you can go. Further, Bozeman has recieved a ton of snow this spring and I think it behooves you to go as late as possible, even going may 21st you are still going to run into issues with snow on a lot of roads.

  12. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wllm1313 View Post
    I disagree with Gerald on the dates, I have hunted around Bozeman the past 4 years and although I have seen some bears the first couple of weeks I harvested all of my bears the last weekend of the season, last year I saw 7 bears the second to last day of the season and 1 bear repeatedly for the first 3 weeks where I was hunting. Also bears tend to rut in June and move around more, because of this so you are likely to see more bears the later you can go. Further, Bozeman has recieved a ton of snow this spring and I think it behooves you to go as late as possible, even going may 21st you are still going to run into issues with snow on a lot of roads.
    In this case it might be wise to heed local knowledge. I live 5 hours from Bozeman and am basing my advice on experiences I have had in my local area. Thanks for the correction, wllm1313.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Bozeman...Seeley when I can be there.
    Posts
    184

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    It's rained a lot around here lately. I don't know how much snow will still be around. Hiked the M in the pouring rain yesterday and then drove up to Bridger. It was raining hard up there at the base. It's trying to spit snow in Bozeman today, but in 40 days by the time you get here....

    When you go past Bridger Bowl from Bozeman, on your right hand side when you get up to the top of the "pass" will be a campground called Battle Ridge. There is no fee to camp there. Your only issue will be IF there is snow, you may have to hike over to the campground. It's maybe 1/8 mile off the road. If you get on google earth you can see where I'm talking. The road you are on is Bridger Canyon, or so I call it. Coming from Bozeman towards this campground you will have a trailhead on your right, say about 6 miles out of Bozeman?. I don't recall the name, but a person could hike up there(with hikers), but get off the trail at some point and hunt. Big piece of Block Managment up in those mountains(the Bangtails). Further down Bridger Canyon, there will be a road to your right called Olson Creek. It will be gated if before May 16. You can hike up it to Block Management, but I'd guess its at least 5 miles before you can hunt. Further up Bridger Canyon, you will see a paved road going to your right. Going down this road maybe 50 yards there will be a trailhead on your right. There will be far less hikers here. On Bridger Canyon, opposite from this new paved road(Brackett Creek Road) will be two FS roads, both gated. You can walk in either road. From this point on Bridger Canyon road, you will start to climb up the "mountain" towards Battle Ridge. After a few miles will be a FS cabin on your left, almost to the top(where the campground is) is a trailhead on your left. This is used by ATV's and some hikers, and snowmobiliers if there is still snow. Once you pass the Battle ridge Campground, you will start going down hill. Pay attention because the next corner is a sharp one to the left! You don't want to slide off here. After maybe a mile or so will be the road to Fairy Lake on your left. You can drive up this a few miles to a gate. If there is snow, you will find snowmobilers parked here. You can hike all over the place from here, depending on snow level. You won't be able to get to Fairy lake. Too much snow that high. And you probably have like 9 miles past the gate till the lake. And you won't be able to drive to the lake until that gate opens up in either June or July. Otherwise, that would be a sweet place to take your son, and I think free camping. If there isn't snow at the lower gate, you could camp there. You could camp there with snow, but you'd be in with people coming in to snowmobile. Further down Bridger Canyon will be a road to your left that goes to Flathead Pass. I don't think that has a gate on it so you could drive it as far as you could get till you hit snow. And probably camp down that road too. So if you were to camp at Battle Ridge, you have options to go hunting.

    On 191, the road from Bozeman to Big Sky and West Yellowstone, in the Gallatin Canyon (before Big Sky) you can camp on two campgrounds that are right next to the highway and probably won't be pay yet, but who wants to camp right next to the highway. But they are on the river. Once you are passed Big Sky, you will see a campground on your left(Red somthing) and it will be closed, I think, so skip it. Further up, there will be a road on your right that goes up the Taylor's Fork of the Gallatin. I know this is open because there is a dude ranch quite a ways up there. It gets plowed as far as that dude ranch. You won't see much traffic up this road because the Dude Ranch is the ONLY thing up there, at least if there is not enough snow to snowmobile there won't be anyone else up there. There will be a sign across the road right after the dude ranch that says you can't drive past it(its instead of a gate, but will eventually open up), and will probably have no snow there so noone will be snowmobiling around this area as there won't be snow at the trailheads. A little ways before you get to the dude ranch will be maybe 6 campsites on your right, all along Taylor's fork and they aren't on top of each other. They are back in the trees. Not a campground, but free campsites. This would be my choice of places to camp and hunt out of. Know that there is a food storage rule in effect(I talked to a girl last spring up there that got a ticket for having a case of beer outside her tent. Know also, that Taylor's fork is grizzly country. When I first heard people talk about it, I assumed it was dense thick forested area. Its actually a big open valley which is why I know it will be lacking in snow by that point.

    Called the FS just now and she said the lower gates open May 16. Here's the website. Scroll all the way down and look at the vehicle use maps. https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/custergallatin/maps-pubs

    Also, if you didn't know, at 11, your son is able to hunt in MT as an apprentice hunter with you. I think he can hunt bear, but don't quote me on it.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Bozeman...Seeley when I can be there.
    Posts
    184

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    As an apprentice hunter he can hunt two years without having to take hunter's safety.

  15. Default

    Yes he can hunt bears. Apprentice hunters can hunt deer, turkeys, bears and small game.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Danbury, Wisconsin
    Posts
    219

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    Taylor Fork Rd. could be a nice place to camp. I've camped there a few summers now. I have no idea how many black bears are in the area. Talked to a guy working on the forest service cabin who said there are a ton of grizzly bears in the area. Claimed it had the highest grizz density in the state. I'm not sure if the rivers are even fishable in May? But if they are bring some fishing gear along.

    From August view from one of the campsites:

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  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Bozeman, MT
    Posts
    3,806

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    Don't sweat this too much. The bears aren't going to be in the deep snow. There will be places to camp, worse case along the rivers at traditional campgrounds. Snowpack around here is normal or below normal.

  18. #18

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    Thanks,
    Such great information!
    Never expected so much great detail.

  19. #19

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    Don't forget to do the online bear test!

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