“That’s what hunting is all about. Yes, it’s about filling our freezers and spending time together, but it’s about witnessing nature. That’s why we’re all out there and why we do what we do.” - Jana Waller
One of the most incredible weeks of black bear hunting Jana has ever experienced, anywhere, was in her home state of Montana. Way back in the hills outside of Missoula, Montana while filming for “Skull Bound TV”, Jana says she and her team were able to film two seperate and amazing bear encounters. The first, Jana says, began as they spotted what they thought was a large color phase black bear on an old logging road. However, upon closer inspection they quickly realized it was a big grizzly boar tending a sow. Getting within 200 yards of the grizzlies at one point, Jana says they filmed the encounter as the pair mated on and off for more than seven hours. It was some of the most incredible footage they have taken while filming “Skull Bound TV”, she says, and it aired in Season 8 of the show which is available on MyOutdoorTV. In the same week, Jana says they filmed a blonde black bear sow with a cub at the top of a hill that spotted and winded a boar that was at the bottom. Instantly, Jana says, the sow bolted down the hill at top speed and chased the boar to the top of a tree and proceeded to fight with it for more than a half hour. That encounter went viral online, garnering millions of views, Jana says.
Black bear hunting opportunities abound across the country. With healthy, growing populations of black bears in many states, the importance of managing these animals is crucial. Predator hunting is often misunderstood by the public, many of which are non-hunters, Jana says. Whether you are talking about bears, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes or bobcats the reality is that populations can grow beyond healthy limits. Because predators aren’t generally animals that hunters want to take home and eat, they are hunted with less frequency than big game animals like deer or elk. It’s important to remember though, Jana says, that hunting predators plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance in the ecosystem, just as hunting other game animals does. In her home state of Montana, Jana says there are excellent black bear hunting opportunities. In the Bitterroot Valley of Montana where she lives, Jana says a sizable portion of the money spent by hunters there goes directly back into studying the predators that call that area home and determining how to manage them. The land has a carrying capacity, she says, and it has to be monitored and adjusted for. When you have too many of one predator, or more than one type of predator in an area, the balance has to be closely monitored and managed. The best way to manage those numbers effectively, Jana says, is to hunt and trap.
For most hunters, there is an effort to use as much of an animal as possible and limiting waste - eating the meat, mounting the heads, tanning the hides, and more. When it comes to bear hunting, Jana says many people think the meat is subpar or unfit for eating. However, when cooked right she says it’s fantastic. Although it can be greasy or fatty, Jana says all of that can be trimmed off to reveal really nice meat that makes great stew, sausage, burger and more. It’s all in the way you prepare it. Moving on to the hide, a lot can be done with it, Jana says. Of course you can turn it into a nice rug, but the options don’t stop there. Jana explains how she has had her bear hides turned into creative finishes like pillows and fur collars. Things like that take more time and effort, but they make the hunt that much more fun when you can showcase them to others, she says. Coyote collars, alligator purses, a bear/elk combo vest and more, Jana says that there are a lot of different ways you can use your animal hides. In addition, she notes that deer and elk hides make great leather for laptop cases, wallets and more. Unique jewelry can be made from teeth and claws, Jana says, as she talks about her bear claw necklaces, mountain lion claw necklaces, moose teeth necklaces, ivory rings, earrings and more. Jana also salvages the skulls and hand decorates them with paint and beading - yet another way to save, showcase and honor the animals that you hunt. By utilizing as much of an animal as possible, hunters not only get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but it also works as a way to educate non-hunters on the lifestyle outdoorsmen and women lead. A positive, open dialogue is necessary when it comes to promoting this way of life, Jana says. It’s important to remember that all hunters, not just TV or social media hunters, but every hunter out there is branding hunting to the non-hunting community. The way that we represent ourselves and handle ourselves is important. Right now the non-hunting community consists of 95% of the country, Jana says. Thus, it’s important to showcase the hunting lifestyle in a positive light.
Be sure to tune in as Jana Waller of “Skull Bound TV” talks bear hunting, predator management and more. Catch “Skull Bound TV”, now in its ninth season, on Sportsman Channel, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET. You can also watch previous seasons and episodes anytime on MyOutdoorTV.