“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.