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Our man Weingarten recently posted on the recent Grizzly kill in northern Idaho (not far from Ruby Ridge, FWIW). Reader RA wrote-in with his .02.

My family has a cabin in Island Park, Idaho just outside of Yellowstone Park. While there are lots of bears in the area (according to Idaho Fish and Game 800-1200) my wife has only seen 1 bear in the 40 years she has been travelling up there. In the 11 years we have been married I have never seen a bear in by the cabin, however we do hear stories of them being in the general area. Last fall while hunting in the area I was able shoot a big grizzly with my trail camera [above]. Hearing about bears in the area is one thing . . .

seeing them is another. Last week we had the grizzly eat a man in Yellowstone and a few days later grizzly started to show up in the area near our cabin. The bear has been making nightly visits for about a week now and I would argue definitely has the potential to pose a threat to people in the area. Camille and I went to the cabin with our 5 kids (ages 1-9) over the weekend and we didn’t venture anywhere beyond the cabin where we were not armed with either a gun or bear spray.

Upon arriving home last night I read the story of Mrs. Casey and her bear encounter up in Northern Idaho. I can’t fault Mrs. Casey for shooting the bear to protect her family, however I do think we can learn a few valuable lessons from the story. Sorry for some of the cliches.

1) Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Better yet don’t bring a .22 to a bear fight. I know, “any gun is better then no gun,” however, any gun against a human may be better than no gun, but against a pissed grizzly? I’m not so sure.

2) Train, train and train some more. I have no problem with with Mrs. Casey shooting the Grizzly with the .22 if that had been all she had. However she had a .45. Unfortunately it jammed at the most inopportune time. Malfunctions cost valuable time and can cost a life if not handled quickly. Luckily Mrs. Casey is fortunate she was able to grab another rifle and chase the bear off.

3) Backup weapons are truly valuable when you need them. A backup to your backup is even better if you have it when you need it.

4) Maintain situational awareness regardless of where you may be. Whether on the streets of Chicago or the backwoods of Idaho, know where you are going, whats around you and have a basic plan of what you’ll do if you encounter a problem. When seconds count (especially with a charging grizzly) being mentally prepared is just as important as everything else.

5) It is time to remove the Grizzly from the endangered species list and let hunters start helping to control the population. However, until that happens I would urge people to join PDAADG (Parents Demand Action Against Dangerous Grizzlies), stage non violent protests, and write your legislators until our voice is heard.

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  1. I’ve been uncomfortably close to Grizzlies three time in Yellowstone and Glacier Parks. Oddly enough, each time, they ignored me completely choosing to flip rocks over while hunting bugs instead of humans.

    • That is the problem with bears — especially grizzly bears — they are unpredictable. Sure, most of the time they behave as we expect them to behave and respond favorably to well defined methods to prevent an attack. What about the times when those methods fail?

      When attack prevention methods fail — and they do fail at times — that is when you really want to have the most potent bear spray available AND a potent firearm for the largest bear that you are likely to encounter. From what I hear, potent bear spray is apparently 100% effective at stopping charging bears immediately. Of course nothing is ever really 100% and a potent firearm is a fantastic backup. Plus, potent bear spray is basically a one-time-use item. If you deploy your bear spray early in your hike, you are screwed if another bear attacks. And that is where a firearm really shines: it is exceedingly easy/convenient to carry several rounds of ammunition — enough ammunition to ward off multiple bear attacks on one hike.

      That is why I like both methods. Use your bear spray first and you are almost guaranteed to stop the charging bear — and you prevent any permanent hearing damage. If the bear spray fails (or runs out), then start slinging lead at the charging bear until it ceases hostilities. What’s not to like?

      • Granted bear spray isn’t pepper spray, but all sprays have serious limitations. Cold weather, wind, rain, and limited range limit all sprays. I highly suspect the spray studies exaggerate effectiveness due to their Eco-friendly chick “we don’t need guns crowd” bias.

        Even if the bear spray effectiveness studies are spot on, a .45-70 +P from a lever gun or 12 gauge stoked with Breneke slugs are virtually unaffected by wind, rain and temperature. Ditto for .460 and .500 Smith Revolvers, although they’ll cause hearing damage if used without protection. All firearms have effective ranges much further out than sprays.

        I’ve seen multilple black bears, but zero Grizzlies. I was happy to be armed during the encounters, and I’ll eventually add bear spray to my stock of weapons. My bears turned tail and fled. Not everyone is so lucky.

        • Accur81,

          I imagine that standard .45-70 Government cartridges shooting 400+ grain hardcast lead bullets are virtually guaranteed to anchor any bear — even grizzlies — with anything remotely approaching good shot placement. I don’t think you would need to use +P loaded cartridges, especially at close range during a bear charge.

          There is another drawback to bear spray: you cannot use it inside a tent if a bear attacks you inside your tent … unless you want to at best suffer excruciating pain and agony and at worst die from inhaling concentrated oleoresin capsicum vapor into your lungs.

      • What is not to like? Maybe that bears can run faster than we can, and they can cross the distance between where you can deploy your bear spray and they can get you in mere seconds. Still, that is the program I usually employ – I carry the bear spray in my hand, and a holstered handgun (or rifle). At least around here in NW MT, within a short drive of confirmed grizzly bear sightings and deaths. One reason that a gun is advantageous over just carrying bear spray is that a lot of people question how effective it is, esp. with grizzlies. I think that it was in Glacier *(could have been Denali) when a ranger told us that he had seen grizzlies just lick the bear spray off their faces, and then keep coming.

        • Bruce,

          I like the idea of carrying potent bear spray in hand which means you can spray almost instantly if a bear charges … and no one can accuse you of “brandishing” because you don’t have a handgun in hand as you hike. The other advantage of potent bear spray is that it creates a fairly wide (four feet or so?) pillar of vapor that is capable of stopping nearly all bears. Obviously it is much easier to hit a target when your “projectile” is four feet in diameter versus projectiles that are only .429 (.44 Magnum), .45, or .50 inch diameter (bullets of course).

          Nevertheless, the other limitations of potent bear spray still exist and a really large revolver is a nice backup plan.

        • To avoid bears I limit my walks to going from the living room to the kitchen and back. I don’t carry any bear spray.

  2. If people spent as much time trying to stop texting while driving as they do worrying about bears/bear attacks/and what gun should I carry for bears, we would all be a lot safer. Buckle-up, carry a gun, it’s dangerous out there.

    • The only reason why we have seat belt laws is so states can get Federal funding for the states’ DOT. Government needs to mind it’s own business.

      • Screw the law, I am wearing the seat belt, been in one wreck when I didn’t have one on, once was enough. Which is pretty much how I feel about having a gun on my hip, fortunately the law allows me to utilize the most effective self defense tools in my home state (and the ones I am willing to travel to).

        • Being in a bad car wreck even with airbags and seatbelts is a real bitch. I was surprised the passenger cage of the car held up as well as it did.

  3. I live in a semi-rural area of northeast PA and I’ve seen 4 black bears within 5 miles of my house in the last 10 years during daylight hours. I also have a neighbor down the road a couple of miles that had a caged bear that killed his wife. He still has the lion and tiger. Now a 200 pound black bear is no comparison to a grizzly bear, but I want a pretty good size gun in either case.

    • I hear that a .44 Magnum shooting .240 grain semi-jacketed soft points out of a 6 inch barrel are pretty darned reliable at stopping all but the most ginormous* of black bears.

      I also hear that a .44 Magnum isn’t quite enough gun to reliably stop grizzlies … people seem to like .454 Casull at a minimum and .460 S&W Magnum seems to be better.

      *I consider any black bear over 500 pounds to be a ginormous black bear.

      • Let me suggest just the opposite, that you use hard cast bullets instead of soft. Here is a FAQ 9. “Stopping” bears with handgun or rifle cartridges from Buffalo Bore. As I understand the problem, it is that it is hard to kill a grizzly through soft tissue damage, which means that with a handgun, the most effective way to kill one is via a head shot. But, soft bullets, JHP, etc. don’t tend to penetrate their skulls enough, and, esp. with lower caliber handguns, often won’t kill the bears. But, the author has apparently killed grizzlies with handguns as light as 9 mm with their hard cast bullets.

  4. There are only about 1,500 grizzlies in the Lower 48, which is why seeing a griz is an event, not a common occurrence. Culling some males may actually help re-population of the big bears, but killing the sows has proven to be detrimental to maintaining the species.

    In the few cases where griz-to-human confrontations have resulted in dead humans (as opposed to dead bears), it’s often the sows that are aggressive. Still, a person is much more likely to be killed by lightning, bees or dogs than by bears.

    • The danger of male bear attacks goes go up significantly in certain parts of San Francisco…

    • I’ve encountered several black bears in the wild. No grizzlies. Never fired a shot at or felt threatened by the bears.

      Twice I’ve felt that my life was at risk when encountering dogs in the wilds. Both times shots were fired. I like dogs, but I like me better.

      A couple of times I’ve encountered humans in the wilds that set off all sorts of alarm bells. No shots were fired but I was certainly glad that I had that ability if it became needed.

      • Living in the deep south your much more likely to run into a pack of wild dogs or Hogs. Either one can kill you so high mag capacity large bore handgun is a must in the woods.

        • Oddly enough I heard horror stories about packs of hogs all my life in WV and eastern KY. Never saw a single animal let alone a pack.

          It wasn’t until I had lived in CA for better than 25 years that I saw a pack of pigs running wild. And a kid on a quad trying to herd them. That was a weird day.

  5. “Camille and I went to the cabin with our 5 kids (ages 1-9)”

    Hmmmm….me thinks I know what the REAL problem is…..

    • We have fixed the kid problem. There will be no #6. Sometimes I do wonder, especially with school still out of session if a grizzly attack would be less painful than kids!

  6. Parents demand action against dangerous grizzlies. For the children™ of course.

    PETA must looove PDAADG

  7. Not sure what you are talking about. There was a fatal grizzly attack on the ID/MT border near Bonner’s Ferry (and, thus, Ruby Ridge) four years ago. And, there was an attack near Yellowstone this month. Off the top of my head, I expect that the Yellowstone attack was maybe 7 hours driving from Ruby Ridge. It is almost 6 hours from here in NW MT, and we are better than an hour from Ruby Ridge.

    The whole thing with grizzlies is a bit absurd. There were two killed 4-5 years back maybe 35 miles down river from here. One was hit by a train, and the other charged someone, and they killed it. Unfortunately, for them, the grizzly being endangered, he was tried for the crime (but not convicted).

  8. In the retail gun world, I cringe every time someone asks what would be the best gun for bear protection. They never like my answers; 12 gauge, .45-79, 454 Casull or .460. Their response is always, “That’s too heavy, I don’t to carry that.” When I’m feeling testy, I have said, “Then don’t go where bears like to hang out.”

    • SO much this! First rule of surviving ANY encounter – don’t BE there! 😉 Choices have consequences – I don’t want to risk being attacked by a bear, seriously, so I confine myself to the other 95+% of the planet where the bears AREN’T – it’s worked out quite well for me, so far…

    • SO much this! First rule of surviving ANY encounter – don’t BE there! ? Choices have consequences – I don’t want to risk being attacked by a bear, seriously, so I confine myself to the other 95+% of the planet where the bears AREN’T – it’s worked out quite well for me, so far…

      • I recall reading somewhere that a Park Ranger was once asked what the secret to survival in the wilderness was. He replied “Try not to look like food.”

  9. It’s past time to re-think the so-called “endangered species” list. The BS about reintroducing wolves is a prime example. Likewise drought stricken CA is still diverting 1.5 Million acre feet of water directly into SF bay, weekly if I remember correctly, in order to save a trash fish, the smelt. They asked the Feds last month for a waiver and it was denied.
    Species go extinct. It happens.

    • My woods gun is a G20 loaded with Underwood 220 grain hard cast, which ought to be fine for all but the largest black bears in the Southeast. Of course a slug-loaded 12 gauge is better. Everything is a compromise, though.


  10. I’ve had two close encounters with large bears in my life. Once when I was 17 while mountaineering in Alaska (Grizzly) and once when I was 31while dirt biking in Alaska (brown bear). Luckily both bears turned and ran as soon as they saw me. I was armed with a .45 for the second encounter with a means of escape, but I was on foot with nothing but a hatchet and bear spray for the first one.

  11. Yeah, but libs in Manhattan ( NY, not Manhattan, Kansas) sipping Starbucks while reading Slate and The Atlantic think bears are cute, and “one with mother nature”, so getting them off the endangered species list will be a big task.

  12. Link at top no workee- could this be it:

    I’m down with shooting a dangerous animal that repeatedly returns to your property, stalking your kids. Whether thats a coyote, cougar, bear, or chester the molester. The predator learns what works, and loses its natural caution, if the clueless humans wont defend its young.

    Its called habituation, and you dont want to let it continue.

    • I’m with you brother. I don’t see any of the liberals volunteering to be bear scat so they don’t eat my kids so its up to me to protect them.

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