Today, if you’re looking to tag a black bear, there are still plenty of these varmints roaming around the Gila. In fact, New Mexico Bear Management Zone 5, which encompasses all 2.7 million acres of the national forest, has one of the highest allotments in the state. You can hunt them with hounds, as Lilly did, but if you don’t have a pack of bear dogs and don’t want to hire a guide, consider a spot-and-stalk hunt. Bears in the Gila spend their time searching out food sources, and berries and acorns are their favorite fare. Scout open hillsides, valleys, and forests that contain food sources and plan on hunting these areas at dawn and dusk. Focus your attention on units 16A through 16E. With a Forest Service map in hand, take notes on areas where you find bear sign and look for open meadows that border forest cover. Most of these units are made up of public lands, so finding a place to hunt isn’t an issue. You can pack your gear into the Gila and camp, or rent a cabin in one of the small towns bordering the forest. The season is closed when 109 bears or 44 sows have been taken, so call the zone closure hotline (877-950-5466) to make sure that the limit has not been reached before you set out. New Mexico requires a waiting period of two days after purchasing a tag before you can begin hunting, and if you harvest a bear you must report your kill.