Personal Defense Tip: Don’t Leave Your Gun in Your Truck When You’re in Bear Country

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This May 18, 2021, photo, provided by Allen Minish shows lacerations on Minish’s head as he recuperates at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, following a mauling by a brown bear. The bear charged Minish after a chance encounter in a wooded area near Gulkana, Alaska, and he estimated the encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. (Courtesy of Allen Minish via AP)

By Mark Thiessen, AP

Allen Minish was alone and surveying land for a real estate agent in a wooded, remote part of Alaska, putting some numbers into his GPS unit when he looked up and saw a large brown bear walking about 30 feet (9 meters) away.

“I saw him and he saw me at the same time, and it’s scary,” Minish said by phone Wednesday from his hospital bed in Anchorage, a day after being mauled by the bear in a chance encounter.

The mauling left Minish with a crushed jaw, a puncture wound in his scalp so deep that the doctor said he could see bone, lacerations and many stitches after a 4½-hour surgery. He also is wearing a patch over his right eye and says the doctors are worried about it.

All that happened during an encounter he estimates lasted less than 10 seconds after Minish startled the bear Tuesday morning just off the Richardson Highway, near the small community of Gulkana, about 190 miles (306 kilometers) northeast of Anchorage.

Alaskan brown bear stalked hunter
Alaskan brown bear (courtesy

The bear, which Minish said was larger than 300-pound (136-kilogram) black bears he has seen before, charged and closed the ground between them in a few seconds.

Minish tried to dodge behind small spruce trees. That didn’t stop the bear. He went through them.

As the bear neared, Minish held up the pointed end of his surveying pole and pushed it toward the bear to keep it away from him.

The bear simply knocked it to the side and the force of the blow knocked Minish to the ground.

“As he lunged up on top of me, I grabbed his lower jaw to pull him away,” he said, saying that’s how he got a puncture wound in his hand. “But he tossed me aside there, grabbed a quarter of my face.”

“He took a small bite and then he took a second bite, and the second bite is the one that broke the bones … and crushed my right cheek basically,” he said.

When the bear let go, Minish turned his face to the ground and put his hands over his head.

And then the bear just walked away.

He surmises the bear left because he no longer perceived Minish as a threat. The bear’s exit — Alaska State Troopers said later they did not locate the bear — gave him time assess damage.

“I realized I was in pretty bad shape because I had all this blood everywhere,” he said.

He called 911 on his cellphone. While he was talking to a dispatcher, he pulled off his surveyor’s vest and his T-shirt and wrapped them around his head in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Then he waited 59 minutes for help to arrive. He knows that’s how long it took because he later checked his cellphone record for the length of the time he was told to stay on the line with the dispatcher until rescue arrived.

At one point, Minish managed to give the dispatcher his exact coordinates from his GPS unit, but even that was a struggle.

“It took awhile to give them that because I had so much blood flowing into my eyes and on to the GPS, I kept having to wipe it all off,” he said.

He said one of the rescuers called him a hero after seeing how much blood was on the ground.

Rescuers tried to carry him through the woods to a road that parallels the nearby trans-Alaska pipeline to meet an ambulance. That didn’t work, and he said they had to help walk him a quarter mile (0.4 kilometers) through swamps, brush and trees. From there, he was taken to a nearby airport and flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage by a medical helicopter. He is listed in good condition.

Before help arrived, Minish said he worried about the bear returning to finish him off.

“I kept hearing stuff,” he said.

But every time Minish tried to lean up to look around, he got dizzy from his blood loss.

“He didn’t come back, and so I just lay there and worried about it,” he said.

Minish, 61, has had his share of bear encounters over the 40 years he’s lived in Alaska, but nothing like this. He owns his own surveying and engineering business, which takes him into the wild often.

“That’s the one lesson learned,” he said. “I should have had somebody with me.”

He had left his gun in the vehicle on this job but said it wouldn’t have mattered because the bear moved on him too fast for it to have been any use.

Minish can now add his name to the list of six people he knows who have been mauled by bears in Alaska.

“I guess I feel lucky,” Minish said, adding that someone told him he’s better off hurt than dead.

“In all honesty, it wouldn’t have mattered either way. You know, if it killed me, it killed me. I had a good life; I’m moving on. It didn’t kill me, so now let’s move on to the other direction of trying to stay alive,” he said.

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  1. “Sometimes, you hunt bear. Other times, bear hunt *you*.


    If I ever make plans to visit bear country, I will either have a G-20 in 10mm, or a .44 mag revolver, probably made by Ruger on me, preferably in a chest rig.

    Glad he made it, in mostly one piece. Some people fear being burned to death, I fear being eaten alive by an apex predator like a brown bear…

  2. Sounds like he had his hands full with surveying gear. Given that only a few seconds transpired between being startled and being mauled, I sincerely doubt he could have gotten his gun out and ready in time

    • Look up “Smoke & Hope” on youtube. If you’re situational awareness is good and you’ve practiced a little, the adrenaline will help you draw and shoot faster. I wonder about people who go about bear country without being ready. It is a mystery to me. Wid animals are unpredictable. That’s the meaning of wild.

    • If he had time to poke the bear with his surveyor pole he had time to drop it and draw his handgun (had he bothered to bring it with him). Even assuming he wouldn’t have had time to draw as the bear charged he would have had time to draw and shoot the bear while it chewed on his head. Moral of the story is carry your gun in bear country.

  3. Glad he survived; prayers that he will get well and regain sight in that one eye.

    Here in PA we have cute, cuddly black bear. Still, I will not hike in bear country without a 10mm pistol loaded with thermo- nuclear blaster rounds. Those black bears may be adorable most of the time, but you never know when you’ll meet one who is having a bad hair-day.

    • “…but you never know when you’ll meet one who is having a bad hair-day.”

      A bad fur day? 🙂

  4. Given that humanity is the dominant species of our planet, it’s easy to forget just how frail we truly are as individuals. The first time I saw a grizzly (thankfully at a distance and from inside a vehicle), was a sobering and humbling experience. The realization that if myself and the bear were naked and armed only with what nature had given us, going toe to toe, that my death would have been an absolute certainty if the bear has desired it, was… unnerving, to put it mildly. I had a similar reaction to seeing a moose for the first time years later.

    For these reasons and many others I’m very glad to have grown up in the high country of Colorado. Exposure to extreme cold and 500 pound apex predators really does create a degree of modesty, and a strong respect for the raw power of nature. It may be beautiful, but beauty and innocence aren’t the same thing even if too many people conflate the two.

    Extreme nature is stunningly beautiful, but it’s also cruelly violent and brutally unforgiving

  5. “In all honesty, it wouldn’t have mattered either way. You know, if it killed me, it killed me. I had a good life; I’m moving on. It didn’t kill me, so now let’s move on to the other direction of trying to stay alive,” he said.”

    Well said.

    • I knew a guy who said that was how he would chose to die, attacked by a bear.
      I said” Gdamn I could think of a lot better ways to go besides that.”
      I guess it’d be okay if it just snuck up and bit your head off. Fighting a bear dont sound like no fun to me.

  6. Even if you don’t live in “bear” country you should never leave your weapon in the car or truck. Two-legged bears are everywhere looking for an opportunity to maul you especially if you are older, a male, and white. Just sayin’.

    • There’s photographic evidence around that many of them have a bad hair day, every day.

  7. The woods like the water (ocean, river, or lake) can be very unforgiving. You can’t let your guard down when you travel to natures world. I’m glad he made it out alive.

  8. AR pistol/SBR (or at least something with enough grunt to have a chance to stop a bear that big), two point sling, slung across your front at the low ready.

    Hands busy, no weapon is really going to be of use in that short of time, but outside of those who practice pistol drawing to the point of being world class, I personally feel this is the only way to carry when there is a threat like these.

    I know how fast I can transition from low ready to on target, I also know how fast I can try to get a pistol out of it’s holster…

    Personal opinion, YMMV, but if one doesn’t physically test out and practice various methods of weapon employment, one is just assuming that what they think, is going to work when needed. Like feeling you are in great shape, never practicing, and competing in a triathlon.

    Things need to be practiced if you are serious.

    • D Y,

      I think a rifle would be useless for two reasons:

      1) It would get in your way and you would be unable to work while afield. Thus you would stop carrying a rifle.

      2) Unless that AR-pattern rifle was chambered in a large caliber (.308 Winchester, .458 SOCOM, etc.), it would not stop a bear fast enough to prevent the bear from imparting life altering/threatening injuries.

      If you are actually working (not hunting) in bear country, a large caliber handgun is probably the only practical self-defense firearm platform. I personally like .44 Magnum with 300 grain hardcast lead bullets for large bear repellent–I believe that would be effective against all but the most giant of bears (e.g. bears about 800 pounds and under).

      • Another thought against a rifle, everything he projected the slightest bit towards the bear was batted away, I’m thinking the rifle would suffer the same fate. If I were guaranteed the EXACT same scenario, I’m afraid I would have to choose my shiny new short sword, 18″ double edged blade about 2 1/2 inches wide, spring steel. Batting that away might cost him a paw. Most scenarios, I’d take a heavy caliber revolver.

  9. A few seconds? Who hear cannot drop what is in their hands and pull and fire in a ‘few seconds’?

    And if you’re on the ground under the bear which would you rather have, fingernails or a magnum revolver?

    • jwm,

      It is entirely possible that the mauling victim would not have been able to produce a handgun and shoot until the bear gave up and left. As many of us have said on this website many times, a firearm is not a magic talisman.

      Having said that, it is also entirely possible that the mauling victim would have been able to produce his handgun, shoot the bear, and end the attack much earlier. And a critical element in this scenario: he might not have been able to shoot until the bear was already on top of him. As you mentioned years ago, that is a compelling reason/scenario to carry a revolver with a short barrel–to provide the maximum possible opportunity to press that into the bear and shoot.

      For the uninitiated: I carry a .44 Magnum revolver with a 6-inch barrel when I am out in the woods in bear country. While that long barrel produces an important boost in muzzle velocity and accuracy, it is also a liability if I must try and use that revolver when a bear is literally on top of me since that long barrel makes it nearly impossible to flex/bend my wrist in such a way that I can actually point it at a bear in that situation.

      Now I am thinking about looking for a .44 Magnum revolver with a 3-inch barrel as a secondary/backup when I am out in bear country–in the event that a bear (or even a mountain lion for that matter) ambushes me.

      • On pistols and long barrels.
        A person that I had had a fight with previously that night snuck into my house and jumped on top of me in my sleep and started checking me. I kept a .44 mag with a 10 inch barrel by the bed. I grabbed it and tried to stick it under his chin but the barrel was to long. I wound up clobbering him with the barrel until he’d had enough.
        In away I’m glad that happened as I didnt kill him as I surely would have.

  10. Good to hear that he survived this unfortunate event. I’ve seen many private photos and met a few individuals who’ve had similar animal encounters like Allen here. Wild and domestic. Like the 2-legged variety, 4-legged animals don’t give one $#!T about ‘rules’ or ‘laws’. Plan accordingly.

  11. Wow. Certainly glad he’s ok (ish) and hopefully has a rapid recovery. That fella is one tough hombre. Survive the attack, have the wherewithal to call in and give gps info. Wait an hour whilst hoping not to get eaten, then have to walk out to get medical attention. Absolutely amazing. I wonder how many of us could manage that….He should never pay for a drink ever again.

  12. Out in bear country, especially Alaska where the bears get to truly enormous proportions, there would be a 44mag, MINIMUM, at my side at ALL times. A man is hopelessly incapable of fending off an attack like that without some REAL firepower. Your only chance without it is that the bear just gets bored with mauling you and wanders off (like what happened here).

  13. Here’s another tip…..If you actually have to tell someone that, then just maybe the gene pool needs some cleaning????

  14. I carry the Ruger ‘Alaskan’, Super Redhawk in 44mag. Depending on whether my hands are free…I also will carry a Marlin ‘Trapper’ 45/70 or a Winchester 375 H&H, all with max bear loads…Bears will hunt you up here in Alaska, some just get pissed when you get near their food, mama bears protecting their cubs…The worst are the ones stalking you, because they are hungry. This guy was lucky because the bear was probably protecting a ‘kill’ and wasn’t interested in eating him…

  15. A question for you hunters, or anyone else, about bear spray.

    A friend of mine relayed advice from a park ranger on bear spray: he said that at close range the spray doesn’t work like pepper spray on a human; most people think it will.

    If the bear is 10 yards or more from you, you spray and it forms a cloud of the repellent which the bear runs into and then turns away. But if you are closer than that, the cloud doesn’t form and the spray itself will not stop the bear.
    Does anyone know if this is true? If not, how do you use bear spray?


    • The idea of OC spray use against bears is to make them keep their distance; The ‘cloud’ practice does that job most of the time. The stuff is very uncomfortable, and a bear not on a ‘mission’ to destroy or eat you can be dissuaded by it.
      Even up close, OC spray will affect a bear just as it does a human; There will be burning of mucous membranes, vision loss, painful breathing, burning lungs, and all of the nasty things that OC does.
      The problem, of course, with both bears and humans is ‘motivation.’ Just as a ‘motivated’ human (under the influence of drugs, adrenaline, rage, psychosis, or sheer determination) can fight through the effects of OC, a bear can do the same. If the bear is not bent upon rendering you harmless, or into a meal, OC can be effective. Otherwise, not so much.
      Interestingly, bears are actually ATTRACTED to the smell of OC spray. They will lick up the residue, and relish the little OC ‘pepperballs’ fired by paintball guns, gladly eating them. Go figure.

  16. When going into town, I carry an old 1911 to deal with possible attacks from the 2 legged animals. When out on my homestead, I wear a gunbelt with an old .45LC single action. When going out in the back country, especially bear country, I carry an S&W 500. Carry the tool appropriate for the task.
    Again, have the tools at hand to handle what may happen. Carry a 20lb fire extinguisher in my truck as well as a carbine and a full medics field kit. Hope and pray I never need any of them. Same with the side arms.

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