Black bears are incredibly tough creatures. They can often run long distances after being shot, especially with only one damaged lung. Wounded bears are also notorious for leaving poor blood trails if the arrow didn’t pass through, and their fat and thick hair can quickly close a wound. So it’s important to know exactly where to shoot a black bear with a bow, which will ensure a clean, ethical kill, as well as a quick recovery.
Black Bear Anatomy
A black bear’s anatomy is different than a deer’s or other ungulates. Their lungs are slightly farther back and their shoulders are a little farther forward. Many deer hunters use the near leg as a reference point to guide their sights up to the lower chest, before settling the pin on heart/lungs region. If you follow the same routine with a black bear, you will miss the lungs completely.
Canadian bear hunting guide, Rob Nye, recommended aiming for the “middle of the middle,” or exactly where the midpoint of the front and hind legs intersect with the midpoint of the belly and back. “So far this season I've guided (or helped guide) 15 bowhunters, most of them first-timers for bears,” he wrote on Bowsite.com. “Thirteen bears were shot in the middle broadside or quartering away and died within 30 - 80 yards; two were shot in the shoulder and still going. One was shot last evening: ran 30 yards, walked another 20 and tipped over on video - dead in less than 10 seconds.”
As bowhunters, we love quick recoveries. Nye’s approach also takes the front shoulder out of the equation. On a quartering away shot, follow his advice. On a broadside shot, creep just a hair to the left of the middle. This gives a little more wiggle room. If you pull the shot slightly right, it will likely still hit lungs and not liver. Remember, broadside or quartering-away are the most ethical shots on a bear. Wasp broadheads will break the ribs like toothpicks, but the front shoulder shields the vitals on a quartering-to shot and is no match for any broadhead.
We recommend a fixed-blade broadhead. If your draw weight is more than 65 pounds, a mechanical will get the job done. Either way, get a bear target and grow accustomed to aiming a little farther back before you head afield - and up your chances of success.