Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to Hunters: Bear Spray Über Alles

Grizzly attack (courtesy dailymail.co.uk)

“Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds hunters that bears are very active this time of year, searching out food from late summer berry crops,” the State agency warns [via ammoland.com]. “FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel, said that he has received a lot of reports from archery hunters in recent weeks that have seen grizzly and black bear scat and tracks at all elevations throughout western Montana. ‘It seems to be a very active fall for bears around western Montana, based on the number of reports of bear sightings and sign I’ve been getting lately,’ Jonkel said [ominously]. Bears are moving between river bottoms and mountain tops this time of year and can be distracted as they feed on berries, Jonkel said, which can sometimes prompt a surprise encounter. Hunters should think ahead about what they would do in an encounter and carry and know how to use bear spray.” And carry a large caliber firearm of some sort as a backup, yes? Well . . .

“When traveling through dense brush, look for bear scat and signs such as bent over limbs on berry bushes, do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence, and have your bear spray in hand when you are in an area with lots of fresh sign,” Jonkel said.

Although grizzlies are more commonly found in the Blackfoot Valley and areas to the north and west of there, it is possible to encounter a grizzly bear anywhere in western Montana. Black bear hunters should be prepared to see a grizzly and know how to identify their target.

Jonkel offers a few important safety tips for hunting and hiking in bear country:

– Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
– If going alone, let someone know your plans, and expected return time.
– Watch for fresh bear sign.
– For hunters that harvest an animal, remove the carcass from the area as quickly as possible.
– When field dressing an animal, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
– Use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including placing the carcass where you can observe it from a distance when you return.
– Never attempt to frighten away or haze a bear from an animal.

Good advice but . . . does political correctness prevent FWP from advising hunters to carry a large caliber firearm? Or is bear spray really all you need to deal with one of the world’s most fearsome predators? [Click here for a list and description of fatal bear attacks.] We report, you carry a big gun. And bear spray. And if you’re really concerned . . .

Hunters wanting more information on bear activity and safety tips can contact Jonkel at 406-542-5508 or view the Deer, Elk and Antelope Hunting regulations available online and at FWP offices, or FWP’s Living with Wildlife web page.

comments

  1. avatar Chadwick P says:

    I’ll take a 44 mag over a charged can of spray. How can you test a can of spray without spraying it? How can you test a gun? No brainer for me. A gun that I know shoots will be there for me over a spray that who knows might work.

    1. avatar John Doe says:

      I second the .44 Magnum 🙂 but seriously, how do people think that their lives could be saved by a can of some spray over a gun? And, if nothing else, it makes people feel safer than they would be walking around with an aerosol can.

    2. avatar Bear The Grizzly says:

      Bears have extremely sensitive olfactory senses. Can you really hit a charging bear in the kill zone in enough time before he’s on top of you while you’re slammed to ground? A can of bear spray will cover the area out to at least 30ft. Bears consistently shrug off bullets, but proper bear spray destroys their senses sending them into immediate flight mode. A gun was designed for two legged critters. Bear spray was made specifically for bear. It’s a no brainer.

      1. avatar Anon in CT says:

        No offense Mr. Grizzly, but I think you may have a conflict of interest in this matter.

        1. avatar Gyufygy says:

          You, sir, win at the intarwebs.

        2. avatar JR_in_NC says:

          Indeed. Winning comment.

        3. avatar Jeff says:

          “Orso” you say…

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Is it gonna be OK if I go to the bear cage at the zoo and test out the assorted bear sprays to discover which might be “proper”?

        1. avatar Bear The Grizzly says:

          By “proper” I mean spray that was designed only for bear and not regular pepper spray scared women buy to use on their ex boyfriends.

      3. avatar Simon says:

        There are several situations where bear spray is not the best option:
        -What if it’s windy, and the wind is blowing towards you. Spraying bear spray would end up blowing it back into your own eyes/nose/mouth, immobilizing you.

        -What if you’re in a tent while attacked? How will spray help you then?

        Of course, in these situations, since the spray would end up dousing you, the pepper might make things tastier for the bear.

        1. avatar Bear The Grizzly says:

          The wind will not dramatically effect the spray that much. I would rather be blinded by my spray than have my face ripped off. Your argument is really reaching. If you want to ignore the countless examples of why handguns are inefficient compared to spray then be my guest.

        2. avatar NevadaSmith says:

          Bears call that ‘cajun style’ dinner

      4. avatar Jim says:

        600lb Bear charging at 35mph (51 feet per second), bear spray has an effective range of 30′ (10 yards). Bear spray isn’t going to stop a charging grizzly. He has less than a second to stop and turn around before he runs you over.

        HK .45 loaded with 13 rounds of 45 super (similar ballistics to 10mm) and a red dot sight. Effective range 40 yards (120′ = a little over two seconds to respond). I’ll take the handgun any day.

      5. avatar Grindstone says:

        So what you’re saying is to take a rifle.

  2. avatar Vhyrus says:

    Bear spray reportedly works better than firearms. That being said, I will carry both in that situation.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      I suspect those “reports” are from Prius drivers with “COEXIST” bumper stickers who also firmly believe in catastrophic climate change. Hard pass. I’ll take a .460 Smith, .45-70 +P, .50 Beowulf, or a barrage 12 gauge slugs.

      1. avatar Gyufygy says:

        Remember that talk about needing a solid CNS hit to take down a drugged up, Hulked out bad guy? Now turn that bad guy into 400-800lbs of Nature’s Raw Fury with a CNS surrounded by the most fat, meat, and bone you’ll find outside of a whale. Hell, even if you have a round that penetrate straight through a grizzly lengthwise, you still need to get that CNS hit. It’s not about hugging trees, it’s about knowing the practical limitations of your tools and choosing the right one for the job.

        1. avatar BlueBronco says:

          Bears don’t like anything on his list!

      2. avatar ORGunner says:

        Because it doesn’t agree with your vast experience with bears it makes them “Prius drivers with “COEXIST” bumper stickers?” Lame boilerplate response by someone who obviously has little experience with bears. I have a lot of experience with (black) bears but don’t rely on my opinions, here’s the studies:

        This study looking at bear attacks in Alaska gun vs. no gun and showed the rate and level of injury was the same. Interesting to note handguns were more effective than long guns: http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/sites/default/files/efficacy_of_firearms_for_bear_deterrence_in_alaska_2014_01_29_15_23_07_utc.pdf Other studies of the same data show that in 40% of maulings involving a gun, the bear is shot before or durning the mauling with no effect. In other words, they just got mad about it. Granted, some few attacks weren’t included as the bear was killed before it got close but as a person who’s had dozens of interactions with bear I can tell you first hand that you often get no more than a second of warning as it pops out of the bushes right in front of you.

        This study showed spray works about 90% of the time. Note, nobody deploying pepperspray was killed though several mauled. Watch that video below, probably would have saved that guy’s life if the spray was deployed sooner instead of hitting it with a stick. Study size is smaller though: http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/bear/files/JWM_BearSprayAlaska.pdf

        This is a pretty good article overall and, while not directly a gun vs. pepperspray study references what is the latest research and references Dr. Stephen Herrero’s work into the topic: http://www.adn.com/article/are-guns-more-effective-pepper-spray-alaska-bear-attack

        Me? Choose the right tool for the job: Pepperspray for the bears and a 9mm to protect from the 2 legged predators.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          shhhhh you’re ruining the idea that a gun, like a security blankey, can do anything…

        2. avatar TheBear says:

          Especially among all the folks on here who never actually go outside.

        3. avatar whatever says:

          @Hannibal That assumption is in *your* head. Self-defense and martial arts centers around having the right tool for the job and having it available when you need it and where you need it.

          As a note, you can’t buy a handgun in Britain, and you can’t buy pepper spray or a working knife there either. If you run into a feral or rabid animal in that part of the world, your chances of going up the creek without a paddle go way up.

      3. avatar Sian says:

        Mythbusters did some tests. just some cayenne pepper on the lunch cooler made their trained test bear want to run for the hills.

        A bear’s nose is super-sensitive. The spray works.

        1. avatar twency says:

          For those who haven’t seen that episode the words “just some cayenne pepper on the lunch cooler ” may give the wrong impression. It wasn’t just a few sprinkles from a shaker on the cooler. It was an entire commercial food service size container of cayenne pepper dumped all around and on the cooler.

          I have no idea how that correlates in terms of Scoville units to a good hit from a can of bear spray.

      4. avatar Peter Dvornik says:

        500 Smith and Wesson anyone??

  3. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    I carry a bottle of Poo Pourri Trap A Crap Toilet Spray myself.

    1. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

      Do I spy a fellow glove and boots fan?

    2. avatar Mark says:

      Poo Pourri:

      1. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

        I was speaking of this. The other videos are funnier. (evolution of hipster/ worst gameshow ever)

        1. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

          Crap, managed to link to the wrong video, I meant this
          http://youtu.be/JWJ571hB19s?list=UU1qC39KQoTG6LqgL_YnjSSQ

  4. avatar Chris says:

    When in doubt, 10mm.

    Not to mention the fact that spraying a bear could just piss him off…

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      Spray advocates would say you are skipping the well-researched point, that while you may think a bullet or two has more effect (on average) than pepper spray, experience shows that a big tough bear that can take a few bullets and keep on coming…. totally freaks and runs once pepper gets in his nose. Odd, but true. Perhaps you recall the dead bear hunter in Montana a few years back: Two friends had come north to hunt, and both had heavy rifles, .30-06’s or such. One gave the bear a shot, but the bear kept on coming and killed him. His hunting pal tried to kill the bear with rifle shots, but the first shooter was dead before the bullets succeeded: Part of the story is that when bears are moving fast bullets still require aim, difficult, but pepper is an area weapon. As for blow back, I’d rather be sitting there crying, but without a bear on top of me.

      As for the greater survival rate with pistols: In Alaska and Western Montana, having a pistol means having a really large-caliber pistol, and means the hiker or fisherman is thinking “look out for bears.” (It ain’t about Elk defense.) The hunters with rifles are often thinking of and looking for elk and deer….and get blind-sided. Perhaps.

      1. avatar whatever says:

        Perhaps accessibility is a factor as well? A pistol is usually loaded, charged and holstered to draw and aim quickly. A rifle might have to be un-slung, chambered, safety off and aimed before pulling the trigger, and the poor sod has to do all this while a truckload of spite and hunger is charging them at full throttle.

      2. avatar Sian says:

        Carrying a pistol in bear country is more for your own peace of mind than bear.

        I just can’t recall many instances where someone was saved from a bear attack by having a magnum handgun on them.

      1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

        Oh please, Yankee Martial is a self absorb narcissistic prick with about the worst case of debilitating fud syndrome I have ever seen. He would argue that a wheel gun should replace the GAU 8 on the A10 warthog if given the opportunity. What a completely delusional loser, did you really link to a video by him to prove your point?

        Re 10mm vs 44mag he makes some valid points from a purely static numbers only perspective, but completely ignores the fact that the majority of shooters can’t keep a factory loaded 44 mag on target worth anything much less a juiced up hand loaded one. Also he ignores the question of, is such over performance worth it? I bet a 10mm with 220grain hard casts will do a bear just a dead as some roided up 44 mag will. Meanwhile a glock 20 will give you 2.5x the number of chances to hit that charging grizzly. Which is particularly relevant as this thread is specifically talking about 8-900 pounds of pissed off apex predator running at 30+mph.

        1. avatar whatever says:

          ” Yankee Martial is a self absorb narcissistic prick with about the worst case of debilitating fud syndrome I have ever seen.”

          That string of adjectives is a mix of ad hominen attackes and “poisoning the well” that has absolutely no bearing on his analysis, and calling him a fudd is downright libelous.

          AFAIR Yankee Marshal recommends a .44 Mag SBR against bear, so recoil isn’t nearly as much of a problem on that platform.

        2. avatar Tex300BLK says:

          You’re joking right? Every single video YM posts on youtube follows the formula of:

          – identify product/group of people/topic that he disagrees with
          – construct arguments only using facts that suport his narrative, pointless and irrelevant comparisons, and heavy helping of personal opinion punctuated by gratuitous use of hyperbole to run down whatever object/group of people/topic he disagrees with.
          – Warm it up in the microwave and serve with a pair of daisy dukes and seasoned with penis/fart jokes.

          He most defintiely is the FUDDiest FUDD on youtube. He is the Nutnfancy of FUDD.

  5. avatar Harry G says:

    I’ve been backpacking for over a decade now. Bear spray is the best option. It’s a helluva lot lighter and easier to use. Sorry, but most pistols will just piss a grizz off. Unless you’re willing to carry a big ass rifle around and you’re very good with it (shot placement is extremely important with bears) then you’re better off with spray. You can pretend you’re a tough guy, armchair it and say “bear spray is for pussies” but the truth is it’s your best defensive option. The stuff works.

    1. avatar Joe Grine says:

      ^ This. +1

      1. avatar TheBear says:

        +2

        Everyone saying DAT GRIZZLY BE DEAD ‘GAINST MY 10MM! Probably don’t go outside very often and don’t hunt.

        Shoot, I don’t either but this subject fascinates me and I’ve been studying bears and bear attacks as a hobby for 10 years.

        Bear spray works, folks. It doesn’t mean you’re not virile to use something other than a fire arm for self defense. If it’s the best weapon for the job, it means you’re not an idiot.

        From everything I’ve heard and every study or first hand account I’ve seen, you don’t want anything less than a 12 gauge loaded with slugs to deal with a charging Grizzly.

        You can’t just kill it – you need to shatter enough bones and organs to /stop/ it and that is not easy.

        1. avatar whatever says:

          “From everything I’ve heard and every study or first hand account I’ve seen, you don’t want anything less than a 12 gauge loaded with slugs to deal with a charging Grizzly.”

          Do you think a 12ga short barrel with slugs be reasonably effective in this situation? It sounds like it would be a good choice. What do you think?

          And I’m down with 2hotel9. Carry a firearm and spray, with the firearm as the backup. 🙂

        2. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          The 12ga sounds cool, I would rather have something with more thump. Thats why I carry 180gr SPBT Prvi or Remington in my SMLE when hunting bear. That is what I killed my bear with back in 1997. For the hunters, no, I did not see him first. Smelled him. Was in a heavily overgrown creek bottom, pushing for 2 guys up on the ridge, he starting climbing the ravine, put 1 rd behind his right leg and took out heart, 2nd hit high in rib cage center of body, he kept climbing for about 3 minutes. THEN came the fun part, getting him out of there. Guys gave me hell for not letting him get higher. 😉

          I have a UDAP on my hunting gear, and wife carries one when walking dogs. Here in Butler/Armstrong/Clarion county area we have a couple of bears.

    2. avatar int19h says:

      Carry a bear spray for the bears (and other wildlife). Carry a handgun for two-legged predators.

    3. avatar Tim says:

      I’d love to hunt in Montana, but I live in Indiana. I’ve not hunted in Grizzly areas, but if I did, I’d take a shotgun with slugs. I’ve seen them work and they’ll down about anything.. Or, I’d take a big rifle.. 30.30 lever gun or somethi9ng at the least, and much bigger at the best.. 🙂 Just my two cents.. which isn’t worth much.. 🙂 I love the 10mm too! Had a buddy that had one in a Colt Delta Elite and he carried it on his security job, but he worked as a private body guard for a guy at his house in the boonies on the edge of a major city where this guy he worked for was very wealthy, had a big house and huge amount of acreage, jewish and hated for his views.

  6. avatar Toby in KS says:

    Speaking as an arktophobe…

    ***MINIMUM FIREPOWER***
    357 magnum with nothing shorter than a four inch barrel!

    I bought one of these just so I could go elk hunting. It’s for bears, not elk!

    1. avatar Toby in KS says:

      Bear spray Sounds like a pleasant thought, if the wind is working in your favor.

      The wind, however, will NOT blow a bullet back in your face, giving you a pleasant, spicy flavor.

      1. avatar TheBear says:

        Wind would suck so, so bad…

        At least mama Grizzly wouldn’t like how I tasted after that, right?

    2. avatar Joe Grine says:

      Realistically, the “minimum” is a .500 S&W or a .454 Casull.  A .357 Magnum isn’t going to do anything to a big Griz except piss him off – unless you get extremely lucky with shot placement. Hell, I’ve shot big razerbacks that have taken multiple hits from a .357 Mag and kept on charging.

  7. avatar Jon says:

    I’ve always wondered… people seem to really like spicy food. I can’t help but wonder if bear spray is sriracha to the bears…. and fear their bacon bits.

    1. avatar Sian says:

      Humans are pretty much the only animal who willingly subjects themselves to hot peppers and other spicy foods. (not counting birds who are entirely unaffected by capsicum)

      It’s the same as the pain box in Dune. An animal will instinctively avoid a source of pain, A human can choose to endure it.

  8. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’ve read several accounts of bear attacks with spray vs. firearms, with great interest because when I’m hunting in the mountains of Wyoming, bears are not an academic issue, as they are for most here on TTAG.

    I’ll take real bear spray over anything under a 12ga with a Brennke slug or a .338 WM.

    Guns are a good second alternative, but real bear spray appears to have superior results, where the desired result is making the bear break off the attack.

    1. avatar Abunai says:

      Absolutely correct.

      Bear spray will turn the bear quicker than a bullet. Bears are pretty hard to kill. Even after a kill shot, they can keep going for up to 40 yards.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Even if that’s true, the firearm is ultimately the superior weapon because it also offers better defense against human predators. Anyone here CCW bear spray?

        So my new strategy is to get bear spray for the Mrs. while I pack heavy heat. She can douse us both if need be. I’d rather be hit by bear spray than mauled.

        My other concern is the pro-bear spray camp can give momentum to the anti gun movement. I’m backwards enough that I’d rather have the freedom of choice in my SD weapons, as would most of the readers here.

        1. avatar Bear The Grizzly says:

          You are so out of touch with the subject it hurts. We’re talking about what is best for bear defense. People are still attacked after shooting bears with high powered rifles. Bear spray was purpose built to immediately turn a charging bear. Sorry it doesn’t fit your “guns solve every problem” narrative. Not to mention how you can link the suggestion to use bear spray over a gun to gun control is beyond me.

        2. avatar Accur81 says:

          Yep, totally out of touch. I’ve seen bears in the wild, spent more than 1,000 nights sleeping under the stars and in the wilderness, and taught wilderness survival. My pain isn’t really so bad after all. I’m still a gun guy.

          I was talking about getting spray for the Mrs. and you’re still trying to school me. Good luck with that.

        3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          I really don’t care about the political aspects of this. I’m in situations here in Wyoming where I’m concerned with what gets me the most distance between my tasty, pasty ass and a bear’s breath. The federal government and their acolytes in the environmental movement have been lying through their teeth about the spread of both grizzlies and wolves in Wyoming and the west.

          Unless I’m packing one of my heavier rifles, (eg .338 WM, a 9.3×62 or similar), or a 12ga slug gun, it is pure intellectual onanism to be packing a handgun against a bear that I want dead “right there, right now.” So I pack bear spray, and yes, they come holsters and slings for rapid deployment.

        4. avatar Accur81 says:

          I do care about politics. And wind. My luck isn’t stellar, and I just might be the guy stuck with an epic headwind. Murphy happens. So I’ll add bear spray to my arsenal when I go to Alaska next summer. To that, a Mossberg 930 with Brenneke barrier penetrating slugs. Should be the best of both worlds.

          I might also add, if it wasn’t already assumed, that things that can “replace” firearms make me uneasy. That, and a bear that gets shot to death isn’t ever going to be able to maul anyone else.

        5. avatar Geoff PR says:

          ” Anyone here CCW bear spray?”

          Actually, I’m planning to pick some up. I cycle around 100 miles a week, and dog attack is my primary concern, as it has happened to me before. I’m not confident in my marksmanship while twisting around backwards while riding trying to hit an American Staffordshire Terrier that has a name like “Sweetie” snarling and lunging at me.

          I like the idea of being able to engage the dog while its 30 feet from me. The spray isn’t instead of the gun, I really don’t want to shoot unless there is no other option.

          And quite frankly, if the bear spray could stop the two-legged attacking vermin, good.

          Even if it is a justified shoot, it will be very expensive.

          Can anyone offer any recommendations on what is good-vs-bad bear spray?

          “Woof”

        6. avatar Sian says:

          Bear spray is not necessarily more effective against a person than purpose-built pepper spray. I would not recommend it for EDC over proven police-formula pepper spray.

  9. avatar bobmcd says:

    Disclaimer: the following is not real advice.

    Black bears eat fish and berries, and generally avoid humans, so hanging bells on your clothes tells the bears to go elsewhere. Pepper spray need only be used as a last resort.

    Grizzly bears are another story entirely, so it’s important to know which type of bear is around.

    Black bear scat smells like fish and has berries in it. Grizzly bear scat smells like pepper and has bells in it.

    1. avatar notguiltfree says:

      I don’t think I want to get my nose, or fingers, that close to figure out which is which. ;P

    2. avatar Mark says:

      OMG….I can’t stop laughing.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        The real fun part is that this text is actually paraphrased from a real world warning sign that’s in British Columbia.

        http://www.outdooroddities.com/2008/07/23/grizzly-bear-warning-sign/

  10. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Don’t forget if you shoot a bear and either kill or worse , wound it, you will be talking to Law Enforcement at some point. Would like to NOT spend time in jail over it. Be nice if the Mas Ayoob of Game Wardens would prep us for the interrogation. Do the DGU insurance plans cover this kind of shoot? Maybe RF can russle up a game warden or lawyer to address?

    1. avatar Bear The Grizzly says:

      Generally speaking it is highly unlikely you would be charged as long as you could prove the bear was threatening you. If it turns out it was a perfect broad side shot it would be suspicios, but anything shot in the front would be ok. They won’t let you keep the bear so if you were attempting to get away with poaching it wouldn’t make any sense to tell a game warden. The only time I’ve heard of that they get extra suspicious is if it’s a polar bear. Legal matters would be the absolute last thing going through my mind if I was threatened by a bear.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      If you ever shoot a bear in righteous self-defense and also exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself, how would you be talking to law enforcement or spend time in jail over it? Unless a witness saw you shoot the bear, I don’t see how anyone would link you to it. And even if a witness did see you shoot the bear, now you have a witness that corroborates your self-defense narrative.

      1. avatar ChuckN says:

        On the other hand the bear can still provide a lot of useful data
        if you report it. I would think that most agencies would call for a
        battery of tests including rabies, brain rot etc, especially if there
        was an attack.

  11. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    Too bad a lot of areas place restrictions on carrying a firearm depending on the type of hunting you are participating in.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      I find gun bans more scary than a few bears in the woods.

  12. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

    Dual wield the spray and gun: Problem solved. (kidding)

    question: for a handgun I am leaning towards a 1911 for ccw and all, but in the extremely unlikely chance I run into a bear would I be better of with a .357 and if so which one? (prefferably still ccw)

    Naturally the answer is to by both, but right now, well monies.

    1. avatar Lurker_Of_Lurkiness says:

      Oops, meant buy. Also I don’t hope to start a flamewar….

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Actually, it’s affectionately called the caliber wars around these parts. Now duck!

    2. avatar Nagurski says:

      If you have a full size 1911, you can use a .460 Rowland conversion kit on it when you go out into the woods. That’s 8+1 rounds of a bullet that has the ballistics of a lower end .44 magnum round but with way less recoil.

      http://www.clarkcustomguns.com/rowland.htm

    3. avatar int19h says:

      IMO, if you want to carry concealed, you want something with a barrel no shorter than 3″ or so in a revolver. So that means snubbie. Snubbies in .357 are harsh recoiling, and you will have trouble keeping it on target for fast repeat shots (which you _will_ need in case of a bear attack). So you might want to look into Chiappa Rhino.

      Get the spray too, though. It really is better for the bears, and it’s not all that expensive, compared to a good gun. If you can afford the gun, you can also afford the spray. Furthermore, if you get the spray, then your choice of gun will be much more flexible, since you only need to concern yourself with self-defense against humans (e.g. you could just get a 9mm subcompact, load it with +P HST or Gold Dots, and call it good.).

  13. avatar Ryan says:

    I’ve yet to see one hunting here, but there is one in my back 40, he’s left scat all over. That being said; when hiking or hunting my bear spray is my first go to and I have a Glock 20 to back it up.

  14. avatar Clay says:

    I’ll carry BOTH

  15. avatar Gyufygy says:

    Here’s a story an Alaskan outdoors guide told a relative years and years ago:

    So, a dude comes up from the lower 48, all ready and raring to go. He pulls out a .357 revolver and says how he’s got bear protection. Guides look at it and nods sagely, then suggests the tourist files down the front sight. “What?! Why?!”

    “So it’ll go in smoother when the bear shoves that thing up your ass.”

    Also, note that bear spray is not your run-of-the-mill pepper spray, so the can of pepper spray you’ve got hanging from your key ring is a baaaaad comparison.

  16. avatar Adam says:

    I have a feeling that a lot of the comments here advocating a handgun over bear spray are not from experienced woodsmen and hunters.

    Bears, especially grizzlies, are a tough animal to put down quickly even with high power rifles. Most bears when hit by a hunter scamper off a good bit before going down and those bears are not expecting the shock so they retreat. A bear in attack mode had its adrenaline pumping and it’s not going to scare of from pain as easily.

    Now when you hit them with spray and send their sight and smell into overdrive it will scare them off. And if it doesn’t then you should have a sidearm as a last resort because your chances of hitting a kill zone with it on a charging bear are small. Most hunting shots are broadside or quartering shots. Head on shots as a bear is charging you at 30mph does not provide very good chances.

    It’s easy as an armchair quarterback to say spray is dumb use a gun. But the reality is spray works and is easier to use.

    I don’t think this had anything to do with pro or anti 2nd viewpoints.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      That’s my perspective as well.

      Just last week, I was trying to fill a cow elk tag. Everywhere I hiked in my unit, I was seeing mountain lion spoor and black bear tracks. This sort of thing isn’t an academic issue for me, this is my backyard hunting ground, and I’m packing bear spray – UDAP to be specific. You can buy it in any sporting goods store here in Wyoming.

    2. avatar Kirk says:

      Exactly. Some people here are really displaying their ignorance. We rightly give anti-gun crazies a hard time for their total firearms ignorance. And yet here we have gun people doing the same thing, spouting off on topics they are ignorant of. Makes me sad. This is a non-story, it’s Montana FWP doing it’s job well, and TTAG tries to drum up some imaginary anti-gun or PC stuff that doesn’t exist. I though TTAG was better then this kind of stuff.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Well, I live in CA, so I’m more sensitive than most about additional threats to gun rights. Plus I’ve had a really shitty weekend, very little sleep, and I’m gonna take a massive loss on my condo if I do manage to sell it. Maybe my judgement isn’t where it should be.

        I also train a fair amount with my guns and I’m aware of their capabilities. My police grade pepper spray peters out at 15 feet. Tops. A whole lot less in a headwind. I’ve had wasp spray that was rated at 25 feet not make the second story of my house. So until I see bear spray actually saturate a target in a serious headwind at 7 yards or so in cold weather I’m just not inclined to trust it as much as everyone else here. That range is a chip shot for a rifle or shotgun.

        So yes, my ignorance shows despite having pepper sprayed dogs. So I’ll get a can of UDAP or Counter Assault and try it out myself. There. Converted…more or less.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Your LEO OC spray isn’t the same as bear spray, in both Scoville units and distance of the spray. You also don’t carry anywhere near as much as a bear product in fluid ounces.

          UDAP’s bear spray is 3.3 million Scovilles and reaches out to 30+ feet.

    3. avatar BlueBronco says:

      What if the pepper spray doesn’t work properly or just pissed it off? Its still a wounded bear after the pepper spray.

  17. avatar MattC says:

    FWIW, this NBC report is about bears and it shows a fatal attack (at the 4:30 mark). Other people who were there during the attack sprayed the bear to get him off the victim.

    Counter Assault Bear Pepper Spray SAVES LIVES

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Boy, that was so stupid as to be criminal. You guys are correct, the attack stopped instantly once the bear was sprayed, why did it take so long to spray him? That guy did not have to die.

    2. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      That scream his cousin lets out when the bear really sinks his teeth in (right about the time bear gets hit by the stick the third or fourth time) is utterly bone chilling. That will be hard to un-hear.

      1. avatar TheBear says:

        My thoughts exactly. :/

        I really like bears and respect them (as my handle would declare too – it’s not a gay thing), and part of that respect comes from how immensely powerful and unpredictable they are.

        I would NOT want to be in that guy’s position. He had to know he was done. That scream was not just of pain, it was realizing he only had a few seconds left to live.

        Chilling stuff.

  18. avatar jwm says:

    “Do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence.” Kinda conflicts with a hunters agenda.

  19. avatar Shawn says:

    Given that studies have indicated bear spray works very well for its intended purpose (spraying at a bear that’s aggressive and/or too close for comfort) I would heed the folks that have actual experience with this sort of thing.

    I would certainly agree that one should carry a backup (such as a large caliber sidearm or other firearm), but that should be a backup and not the first go to item.

    For your reading pleasure:

    http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/bear/files/JWM_BearSprayAlaska.pdf

  20. avatar tdiinva says:

    It’s not just Montana. I was out in a Virginia conservation area this past Monday doing a little conditioning for deer season. Nominally i was coyote hunting but since it was during daylight I didn’t expect to find any. Here I was walking down a forest trail and lo and behold I stumble on to fresh bear scat. And there I was with a 243 with a 58 grain varmint round in the chamber. I did have a 10mm on my hip but I left the bear spray at home.. Fortunately, for me I didn’t see any bear. Next time I am out I will be packing my 30-06 and bear spray just in case.

    1. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

      I would take the 243 any day of the week vs a 10mm. Even with varmint loads. A rifle is a killling machine, something that alot of people here (to enamored with handguns) forget. You have hundreds of yards of reach. The 10mm is a good back though in case he got close. I have Coyote called for years in the west with a 220 swift and never felt under gunned against basically anything. It’s about shot placement, even against big animals.

  21. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    I’d stick with my S&W 500 with 500,600 or 700 grain bullets. My buddy can use the spray to distract the bear, but I’m not betting that some spray will beat out my 500. Better yet I’ll let my buddy carry one of my extra 500’s and leave the silly spray at home. There’s not a bear on earth that can stand up to two (or one) 500’s.

  22. avatar Don1974 says:

    I believe here in Michigan’s U.P. where we have a good deal of Black Bears it is unlawful to carry a centerfire gun into the field during archery season. So to stay legal, I think you have to carry the spray.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      It is the same in Virginia but there is exception for CCW permit holders. That is one the major reasons why rural Virginians get a permit. They live in an open carry friendly environment but cannot go into the field to hunt deer or bear with any kind of modern firearm during archery and muzzle-loader season without one. Virginia has mixed seasons. Small game hunting starts first on public lands so you can be out looking for squirrels, coyotes, groundhogs etc during big game archery and muzzle-loader season with a modern firearm.

    2. avatar Madcap_Magician says:

      Randomly, in Minnesota it’s the opposite. DNR regulations usually trump CCW law while hunting, but there is a specific exception allowing for carrying firearms while bow hunting for bear.

  23. avatar JohnF says:

    If you don’t know how to avoid/deter/instantly kill bears/mountain lions/whatever else is out there, IMHO, you shouldn’t be going out in country where they are likely to be present. I would not depend on any government entity to warn me. It’s like going into “the ‘hood.” If you don’t know how to deal with the beasties there, you’ve got no business saying,” Oh, nobody warned me!” or “The city should have given me instructions on what do if I am attacked!”

  24. avatar Kirk says:

    I’m usually strictly a reader of TTAG, and don’t get into the comments. But this story has prompted me to say my piece.

    You know how as gun people we often shake our heads in disbelief at the willfully ignorant statements that gun “control” and gun “safety” proponents spout off? Things like “30 caliber magazine clips” and “shoulder thing that goes up”. Well be careful because on this topic of wildlife behavior and biology, and human-wildlife encounters, some of you are sounding just as ignorant about it, as Kevin De Leon is about AR-15s.

    The reason that Montana FWP suggests carrying bear spray is simple. It is the best option for turning a charging bear that exists today. (though the best thing is to not get into that situation to begin with) This has been shown several times, a 50 degree cone extending 30-40ft of highly concentrated capsaicin is more effective at turning away large bears then a few hundred grains of hot lead. I know against human attackers the opposite is true, but guess what, bears ain’t human, a large grizzly is 4 times as heavy and 10 times as strong as the average human male, but their olfactory organs also happen to be many, many times more sensitive.

    To suggest that Montana FWP has some kind of anti-gun agenda based off this story is absurd. I lived in MT for 6 years, and it is one of the most gun friendly states there is, especially in rural areas. Not to mention in this instance they are speaking to hunters… I’m pretty sure they know most of them will have firearms. Sorry, but this story is just chasing at ghosts that aren’t there. There are enough REAL threats to our 2nd amendment guaranteed rights, that we do a huge disservice to our cause and look like idiots by making up ones that don’t exist.

    Bottom line: We rightly chide the anti-gun crowd all the time for their ignorance on the object that they speak of. Let’s not fall into the same role ourselves, I would rather see no new stories on the front page here, then ignorant ones like this.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Ditto.

      People here mostly read about hunting in the west. They’ve not been in MT, WY, ID and other places in the Rockies where there are grizz/wolves/cats in abundance.

      I find it ironic that on TTAG there is all manner of talk about how ineffective handguns are at stopping human attackers, how packing a .45 isn’t a magic talisman against attackers, etc… and yet, there are people thinking that absurdly large/expensive/hard-recoiling handguns are going to stop a bear in their tracks. In real bear country, the weapon of choice is a 12ga slug gun with Brennke slugs.

    2. avatar mountocean says:

      Thank you, Kirk. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  25. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    As many of you know, I was just in prime bear country in at Hebgen Lake, Montana. That’s near the northwest corner of Yellowstone. I was pleasure camping and neither hunting or fishing. I had my for dogs with me also.
    While being bear conscious, I didn’t even consider bear spray. I had with me at all times my P229 .40 and close at hand my SAM7R Arsenal Ak47. I figured at any hint of bear, the dogs would go ballistic and that would give me time to pop off some rounds in a safe direction. Loud noise and commotion, barking dogs, loud gunshots and most bears are going to leave. Being a native Montanan, where the men are men and the sheep are scared, I pretty much know how to not be a bear victim, but that exercise has not included bear spray.
    As others pointed out, I’d hate to find out bear spray is worthless the hard way.

  26. avatar Southern Cross says:

    A note to animal lovers and other Bambiists, you DON’T use Bear Repellent in the same way as Insect Repellent.

    1. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

      Really? Golly gee whiz, and here I thought you just sprayed it on your clothes and I would be invincible and smart and I could walk around bears with a stupid grin on my face and ignore every other bear avoidance procedure.
      So glad you cleared that up!

  27. avatar mike oregon says:

    I’ve always wondered about the pepper spray thing, I mean the bear’s hungry and wants to eat me, so I bring seasoning? I counted more on my .375 H&H than pepper.

  28. avatar John Bergmann says:

    I grew up in Montana, you should have both. The spray is pretty good stuff though.

  29. avatar Kirk says:

    Also I think it’s fair to point out that bears get a bad rap from the media and general public. Too many people seem to buy the Hollywood hype that bears are out in the woods just walking around looking for a tasty human to eat. (kind of how Hollywood portrays guns as well huh…) Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality moose are more aggressive, and statistically more deadly then bears.

    My personal experience backs this up. I’ve had many bear encounters, both Black and Grizzly, and many moose encounters. I’ve been charged my Moose twice, and never had any problems with bears at all, in all my encounters the bear either a) ran away at the sight/smell of me, or b)didn’t seem to care at all that I was there and went about their business while ignoring me. While I’ve had two moose, one bull, one cow seemingly randomly snap and go all psycho on me for no apparent reason other then they’re crazy.

    1. avatar MikeP says:

      Took a trip to SW CO, in the San Juans, a couple months back – we were doing nomadic 4wd SUV camping (drive while “ooh” and “ah”ing at the scenery in the backcountry, then when the sun started to dip find a camping spot). One of the spots we found was gorgeous, remote, and … frequented by black bear and mountain lion. Knowing this was likely before the trip, I came prepared with two things. 1) common sense (no snacks, fruity drinks, etc in the tent, and no food or food bits left behind in the camp site) and 2) backup 12g 870 with 00 buckshot in the tube -1 and clear chamber, and slugs on the side saddle. Note I put the 870 at #2 in regards to personal defense. Common sense should always be #1 in bear (or mountain lion) country. Because trust me, whether it’s a spray,.40SW, .44mag, a .45acp, 12g or pointWhateverWhatever, if you’re whipping that thing out and fumbling with it, you probably only have seconds to live if you get it in any way wrong. And yes, on the second morning we awoke to a bull moose in our primitive camp. No worries – dogs didn’t charge/chase and everyone stayed calm, and we got to see a magnificent if dangerous animal stride along his way (antlers still covered in felt, thank goodness, ’cause they can be even more cantankerous in rutting season). 12g at the ready, but only just-in-case. I wound up making the best tasting coffee and breakfast tacos a person could taste within the hour. 🙂 And walked away with video of a bull moose in our camp.

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      How does bear spray work on enraged Moose?

      1. avatar Kirk says:

        It works on moose, although probably not as effective as it is against bears, since bears have more sensitive olfactories then moose. Still it is very potent stuff, it would work to varying degrees against lots of critters, I witnessed firsthand a Boy Scout who set off a can in his tent and got a point blank spray in the face. In addition to the severe eye, nose and throat pain, it caused some nasty blistering of the skin on his face. He got to spend the night in the hospital. I don’t know the exact scoville numbers, but I know it is a lot more potent than the stuff that cops use, or the little keychain bottles.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          I bet the Boy Scout who shot himself in the face was really glad it wasn’t a .500 S&W or whatever. 4 rules rule.

  30. avatar JimD says:

    I have spent quite a bit of time in grizzly country around Yellowstone. Despite the many ridiculous statements on here made by those who just want to shoot stuff, bear spray is more effective against bears than guns BY FAR. Bear spray cans are designed to put a big cloud of pain between you and a bear up to 30 ft away. I sincere doubt that the park rangers up there would walk around Yellowstone each day with just bear spray if a gun were more effective.

  31. avatar David PA/NJ says:

    Obviously the solution: rail mounted bear spray

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Someone beat you to it…

      F4 Tactical Rail-Mounted Pepper Spray

      http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/03/04/f4-tactical-rail-mounted-pepper-spray/

  32. avatar Independent George says:

    It actually makes perfect sense to me that bear spray would be more effective than anything short of a 12-gauge. The object here is to drive the bear away, not necessarily to kill it; anything less than a shot directly into a major artery or spinal column will likely just piss it off. Something like bear spray, on the other hand, overloads the animal’s senses and inflicts a lot of pain.

  33. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Well, I spent another day in the woods. Hunting bear.
    I carried my .375 H&H as primary and had the .44 mag pistol for backup.
    Struck out again. Lots of sign.
    I won’t be carrying bear spray, because I’m trying to kill one, not scare it away.

  34. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    The two most common complaints of professional Alaska guides are hunters who are not in good physical condition and hunters who cannot accurately shoot their rifles. If you fall into either or both categories, then you’re probably toast in a bear attack, anyway.

    That said, you’re not going to do well with shot placement with a great big ol’ magnum rifle cartridge. The recoil is going to throw off your follow up shot, if it doesn’t knock you on your butt outright, and the report is going to deafen and disorient you. You’re very unlikely to have significant experience firing such weapons, at all, let alone under emergency conditions from awkward positions. Want to wear plugs and muffs in advance? You’ll be even more surprised by the stealthy bear you wouldn’t have heard anyway.

    Best bet, as far as I can tell, would be at least two fit, alert people with bear spray and nice caliber rifles (30.06 neighborhood), avoiding bear country when they’re most active, and maybe distracting him with your picnic basket while you run.

    1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      Never mind the task of bringing a 45″ plus rifle, that weighs close to 10lbs and has a magnified optic sitting on it, to bear (haha) on a charging bear. I think that’s where most people go wrong, having the wrong tool or not enough practice or both. Hopefully your guide has a ~16″ levergun (or honestly I would prefer something stupid simple like an over under) in something toasty like 45-70 gubbmint. If tacticool floats your boat and you like government paperwork an SBR in 50Beo or 458 Socom with a good flat point solid would give you more chances and plenty of “motivation” for the bear.

      Realistically you aren’t going to get more than 1 maybe 2 shots at a charging bear so carry something stupid simple to get on target and shoot as fast as possible that is lights out powerful if you choose ballistic protection. Personally, I would carry bear spray, but have a big gun ready to finish the job if the bear decides to renew its charge.

      Think about it biologically, only a direct CNS hit will stop the bear in its tracks, and even then depending on how close it is you might have to deal with the momentum of 800 lbs of muscle, teeth, claws, and bone going 30+ mph. I’ll take the risk of bear spray blowback over getting steamrolled by that even if it is dead when it hits me. Second, assuming you miss the CNS, the next best bet is a direct heart shot and immediate circulatory collapse. The brain will cease to function in about 10 seconds and wild animals are way better than humans at producing anaerobic energy so they can sustain 0 oxygen muscle performance way longer than a human can, think of how much distance can be covered in that amount of time. Think of how many times you can get swiped by a paw full of 8″ claws in that amount of time.

      The whole discussion is kind of pointless though, because lets be honest, bears like that one Anthony Hopkins faced in “The Edge” don’t really exist in real life, so plan accordingly.

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        “carry something stupid simple” Like an SMLE? With one in the chamber? Like I always carry when hunting? NAW!!!!!!!! Thats not tacticool so clearly it could never kill anything.

    2. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      “…and maybe distracting him with your picnic basket while you run.”

      I missed this nugget on my first read, so I will add, hunt/hike with people you dont like and kick one of them in the knees if you hear a bear coming. 🙂

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        Don’t have to out run the bear, just out run your buddy!

  35. avatar stykusfykus says:

    If you don’t have time to train with a heavy, hard kicking handgun, then bear spray is a better option. If you’ve just spent hundreds or thousands on your hunting gear maybe you’d rather buy a $20 can of bear spray than spend hundreds or thousands more on a magnum pistol. Lastly, if you shoot and only wound a bear you will be in much worse shape than if you did nothing at all. Bear spray is proven to be effective. That being said I carry both a can of bear spray and my Ruger Super Redhawk .454 when hiking back country Alaska.

  36. avatar Kevin A. says:

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Have the correct tool for the job.

  37. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    Carry both. Duh.

  38. avatar whatever says:

    To the 500th person telling the spicy food joke: Don’t do it. It’s getting a little stale.

    1. avatar Sian says:

      So are you saying it needs a little extra something to.. kick it up?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        time for the Spice Weasel.

        1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          Bam!

        2. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          And yes, you can kiss my shiny metal a$$. Love that show.

  39. avatar Naught Forya says:

    There was a very well-written article on this subject posted here a couple of years ago:

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2012/07/david-liberman/staying-safe-on-the-trail-with-a-gun/

    Bottom line: If you’ve never pulled the trigger on a can of bear spray, you don’t know what you’re talking about. He recommends using 2 hands because it kicks. Only strong winds are a problem, or heavy rains.

    A grizzly bear can cover 30 yards in the time it takes to unholster your handgun. There’s more than 12 inches of skin, muscle and fat to penetrate to find a vital organ.

    I’ll stay with the bear spray for the griz, and a 10mm auto for last resorts.

  40. avatar juliesa says:

    I just saw on the news that a hiker in NJ was just killed by a 300 male black bear. Apparently, a group of five hikers encountered the bear, panicked, and scattered in five directions, which is not a good idea. It took hours to find the dead victim.

    1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

      Bear love trash. The denser the human population the more trash there is the more bear there are. Coyotes, too, love trash, or rather the rodents that love trash. Their numbers are exploding all through the NE regions, as are bear. And they are becoming very casual about humans. That is a bad thing.

  41. avatar Larry says:

    Well the old joke seems true then.

    I don’t have to out run the bear, just you!

  42. avatar Model 31 says:

    So does this magic canned bear juice come in a picatinny railed applicator?

  43. avatar Proverbs says:

    From my own experience with hair-raising close-ups with black bears and one grizzly in Montana: BEAR spray (not the same as “pepper spray” that the mailman carries) sends both black and brown bears running away, usually shaking their heads and torsos vigorously while fleeing.

    That being said, while hunting in Montana (Lincoln County) and any deer/elk hunting in the Rockies, I have my centerfire rifle and .44 Mag revolver on my person. While quartering elk in the Rockies, especially Montana, you must always have another round in your rifle chamber and in a handy and close location. And you and your hunting partner better keep your eyes open. Close to half the time we have packed out elk from Lincoln County, bears have visited the carcass within 24 hours.

    I carry Counter Assault. It sure ain’t cheap, but the aerosol mechanism is, in my opinion, better quality than some others. Besides being easy to use, the spray saves a lot of TIME and PAPERWORK. If you shoot a bear in self-defense, there is a lot of paperwork and questions to answer. I’ve lost entire hunt days because of this. When you spray a bear, there are no problems. Last time I sprayed a bear was this past June in the park, and the rangers didn’t give us any trouble at all. They were too busy talking to the people who had shot at another bear to “scare it away.” This happens regularly during the summer in the park (Glacier).

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Yup. That’s another thing I like to avoid: Paperwork. I have to do enough of it already.

  44. avatar BHirsh says:

    Nothing says “Not TODAY, Smokey.” like a 45-70 lever gun.

  45. avatar RT says:

    The fishing guide we were “guarded” by in Alaska carried spray, and an 870. He said spray, and then shoot if necessary, but you’re not very likely to have to shoot.

  46. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    In the Smoky Mountains, people feed the bears like they are dogs. This is a good setting for bear attacks. Most of the time, wild animals try to avoid stupid people.

  47. avatar GS650G says:

    in most states it’s illegal to carry a firearm during archery, or even with a shotgun. The Two Gun Rule may be a good idea but it runs contrary to most hunting laws. Hikers MAY be able to tool up but there are restrictions there too.

  48. avatar Grindstone says:

    Por que no los dos?

  49. avatar TJK says:

    Peppered bullets!!!

  50. avatar Dave Smith says:

    The research on Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska (2008) and Efficacy of Firearms for is a disgrace to wildlife professionals. It’s pure lunacy to compare the results of the 2 studies. About 25% of the people in the gun study did not have time to get off a shot. The bear spray study did not include data on incidents when people did not have time to use their spray. Just 9 of 72 incidents in the bear spray study involved “charging” brown bears.The majority of incidents involve non-aggressive bears. For example, there were 2 incidents involving curious polar bears that approached biologists in a pickup truck. The biologists rolled down the window and sprayed the bear. In contrast, all 269 incidents in the gun study were classified as “Bear Attacks.”

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