What does this mean for the bear hunter? First, the location of bears is highly predictable during September. Second, where you observed black bear sign and activity in mid-summer is irrelevant. Keep in mind you are pursuing an animal that may have a resident home range of 20-200 square miles, may migrate 30 miles for fruit and can travel 15 miles during a day of rambling.
Best hunting success can be found in areas with abundant fruits and nuts. The species of fruit is not all that important and will vary around the state. Fruits of serviceberry, chokecherry, pin cherry, squawapple, mountain ash, buffaloberry and currant are all eaten by Colorado black bears. The primary nut producing trees are Gambel oak and pinon pine.
Many bears will feed at the same site but usually at different times. Intuitively one would think that a bear would find a productive site and stay there until all the fruit/nuts were eaten. However, bears rarely do this. More often they move on after filling their belly and look for new sites. They will likely return to good sites periodically. During the feeding frenzy, each bear may defecate 5-15 times daily; thus bear sign is abundant. A casual examination will guide hunters to the specific species of fruits being used and will narrow the area to be hunted. Most of the better fruit areas are at the lower elevations of bear habitat, often distant from the pine and spruce-fir forests that many hunters associate with bears. The fruit-producing areas may not be adjacent to summer habitat. For instance, in some high-elevation parks, bears may travel across several miles of sagebrush-dominated mountains to lower canyons where chokecherries are found along streams. Bears move across open sagebrush at night, but actively forage in riparian zone throughout the day. Wherever ‘oakbrush thickets’ dominate the mountains, you can count on finding black bears in September.
If you hunt an area with poor fall bear foods, you may want to look at nearby areas (up to 30 miles away) where bears could migrate to. Hunting on travel zones may be productive when bears return to their summer range. These return migrations usually occur in late September or early October. Bears are like us in many ways; they travel the paths of least resistance during long trips, so scout natural passes and game trails. Still hunting in fruit/nut sites with abundant bear sign can be productive.