More black bear hunters in the Interior during COVID-19 pandemic - InfoNews

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More black bear hunters in the Interior during COVID-19 pandemic

Nick Kozub, right, on a previous hunting trip with his relatives.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Nick Kozub
April 14, 2020 - 6:00 AM

Nick Kozub is an avid hunter with a freezer full of bear meat.

“I practice a lot of field to table...It’s fresh organic meat and my freezer is full. The only thing we go to the store is for basic necessities,” he said, adding that the pandemic hasn’t significantly changed his lifestyle since he grows his own vegetables and hunts for meat.

With bear hunting season already open April 1 and turkey season starting April 15, Jesse Zeman, director of fish and wildlife restoration with the BC Wildlife Federation, said more hunters are exploring the outdoors during the pandemic, and they're hunting for black bears in the Interior.

The conservation organization has seen a significant increase in hunting licenses and tags for all species, Zeman said.

B.C. hunting licence sales have nearly doubled from the previous year. There were 9,073 sales in January, February, and March in 2019 compared to 2020 where the conservation organization has seen 17,758 sales during that same time period. Black bear licence sales have more than doubled, spiking from 1,886 in 2019 to 4,803 this year.

The uptick in hunting licence sales is likely from a combination of factors: some people aren’t liking what they’re seeing in grocery stores, hunters who may have not hunted in previous years are taking it up again, and with new physical distancing measures, more people are spending time in the outdoors, Zeman said.

READ MORE: B.C. hunting licence sales nearly double during COVID-19 pandemic

Out in Lake Country near Postill Lake, Kozub, president of the Oceola Fish and Games Club, said the bears out in that area don’t have access to streams so their meat tastes better.

“The big thing to hunt bears is you’re looking for… when the mountains start to turn green. In some of the lower elevations, bears are moving around right now, but most of them are still in hibernation because of this late snow,” he said. “If you look more into what they’re eating and what their diet is, it determines how good they are to eat.”

Bear tastes similar to pork, but it also depends on how it’s prepared, he said.

“I treat it like a pig with the butcher. I have hams done up, breakfast sausages, the chops are just phenomenal,” he said. “I think it’s completely, in the province, an underutilized table fare, to tell you the truth. There are lots of bears out there.”

But if you nick the bladder while gutting it, you could sour the meat, Kozub said.

“It’s all about care,” he said.

A plate filled with bear meat, and vegetables Nick Kozub grew himself.
A plate filled with bear meat, and vegetables Nick Kozub grew himself.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Nick Kozub

Bear meat stays pink when you cook it, which may freak some people out, but as long as you thoroughly cook it “it’s good eats,” he chuckled.

READ MORE: Disabled B.C. man denied goat as 'hunting companion'

He doesn’t expect to see more new hunters in the woods as in-person firearm and hunting courses are closed during the pandemic but said there might be more new hunters out next year. Kozub believes it's  people who haven't hunted in previous years but have their licences who will be out and about and hunting bears this season.

With turkey season opening April 15, he’s also had daily requests asking for more information about turkeys.

“I do have a lot of people thing year bugging me about turkey hunting because I’m fairly successful with my turkeys,” he said. “I’m counting down the days (until the season opens).”


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