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Ruger Alaskan, two-legged mammal, four-legged mammal (courtesy

“With big game rifle season to open Saturday, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) reminds hunters that bears are still out and active throughout the fall.” And so FWP offer the following advice for hunters who may encounter Grizzly bear-shaped predators.:

– Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
– If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your plans.
– Watch for fresh bear sign.
– After making a kill, get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.
– When field dressing the carcass, 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.
– Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass.

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  1. 1. Keep the bear spray on your person, at all times.

    2. Keep your head on a swivel. Do not become so engrossed in what you’re doing that you do not notice a bear in your area.

    • Word. I have this bizarre inclination that a Marlin .45-70 XLR stuffed with Buffalo Bore +P 350 grain JSPs has a whole lot more stopping power than an aerosol can.

      • Both.

        The studies done thus far suggest bear spray is just as effective as firearms in stopping attacks and may be more effective in preventing them (the visual effect of the cloud when spray is in use is surprising and startling to bears).

        Much like some EDC’ers carry a firearm and pepper spray, it’s smart to have options. Furthermore, not all bear encounters are attacks. If a bear is getting too “curious”, the spray may teach it the good habit of avoiding humans in the future.

        • Makes sense. I guess I didn’t like the percieved anti-gun overtones of the “all you need is bear spray” camp. This could be somewhat ironic since I’m a cop who has pepper sprayed quite a few dogs instead of shooting them. On the flip side, I’ve used “normal” pepper spray on two legged and four legged aggressors, so I respect the limitations of the spray. I know that bear spray is different, but it still has wind, temperature and range limitations. That could be very bad if a bear attacked under “less than ideal” conditions.

      • As mentioned, bear spray has a better track record of resolving bear attacks in favor on the human than firearms. Part of it is that aim matters so little, the bear will get some of the spray, and they are highly sensitive to it.

        I too am reluctant to admit the above since a large bore gun seems so much more definitive, but it turns out that between the bears relative difficulty to hit and extremely robust structure and survivability, driving them off with spray works better than trying to shoot them.

        • I would chose a large cal. gun over bear spray every time if I was in bear country. I wouldn’t feel comfortable relying on a can spray to save me from an angry bear that wants to have me for dinner (or a snack since I’m small).

      • the pepper spray is because the bears their human meat to be extra spicy! if you are really polite you will bring some ranch or bleu cheese for handy dipping.

    • Well, if you’re packing a rifle for deer/elk/moose season in the northern Rockies, you already have an appropriate weapon at hand, and one that is better than any handgun.

    • Bear spray works. Plain and simple. I’m pretty sure there is still no documented case of bear spray being deployed and the holder being harmed. It has a better record than any other defense. Facts trump macho factor for me. Farago, you are just uneducated on this one, should have consulted TTAG West.

  2. It makes me sad to see a wonderful creature like this killed….I hope he wasn’t just shooting this thing for a trophy!!!

    • If he shot it with the gun in the picture, and on the path in the picture, I think the logical inference is that the creature intended to do something less than wonderful to the shooter. I still agree it’s sad (much of the food chain is) but it doesn’t look like a trophy hunt to me.

    • Call me old fashioned but, I tend to think that we human beings are the “wonderful creatures” and anything else is just a big dumb fur ball that missed a rung or two on it’s way up the evolutionary ladder. I know….crazy talk. Good thing he had a really big piece on him or he would’ve been a tasty bear snack.

      • Ron White had a good joke about a guy had been eaten by a bear:

        “I just hope his father told him what my father used to tell me . . . ”

        “Son, you’ll never be shit!”

        • Gawd damn, that was funny. My favorite Ron White is, “At that time I had the right to remain silent. However, I lacked the ability.”

    • If I remember correctly, that bear what shot in self-defense by that gentleman who was out walking. I believe upon examination they found the worn out molars and teeth to be packed with grass, a sure sign that this old feller was nearing the end of his life and looking for some easy, human-calories to try and prep for winter.

    • If you’re shooting a bear in self-defense you’ve already made a series of easily preventable mistakes.

      • This is not at all true. I was born and raised here in Alaska; I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters and experiences with bears. For the most part, bears are non-aggressive towards humans. However, there are exceptions to that rule…

        For example, where I grew up, we had animals. Chickens, geese, and pheasants. After awhile, that started to attract other, less desirable animals; lynx, weasels, and, yes, bears. It got to the point where we had one bear sniffing around the property pretty much every day, and eventually found his way into our shed where we had all of our feed and garbage secured (we didn’t leave it out, thus no mistake was made in “attracting” the bear with our garbage). But he ended up breaking into the shed, and dragging all of the barrels all over the property.

        And then, one day was his last. I was 11 years old, playing with my mom and two younger siblings outside; my dad was working on the North Slope. The bear came ambling through the woods, near our shed. My dad had told my mom and I before his departure that I was to shoot the bear if it came around again; it was, at this point, a safety hazard, as all of us kids spent all our time outside. So when I saw it, I alerted my mom, who told me to go get my dad’s shotgun. By the time I got back outside, he was trying to climb through the recently boarded up window to the shed; one 20ga slug and 10 yards later, and no more bear problem.

        No mistake was made on our part in that scenario; we were simply living. There are also an untold number of documented accounts of bears charging unprovoked. I’ve read the stories, and talked to the hunters. The stories you find on TV aren’t the ones to look for, though. You have to find the *real* stories.

        • I follow you. I’m guessing that Alaska has quite a few more bears and savvy enough locals to identify and deal with problem bears appropriately. My perspective is more about how to keep morons from blowing the hell away all the bears in the national parks instead of using proper bear prevention techniques.

          I once saw a couple meat heads day hike Half Dome on a 90 degree day with nothing more than a 16 ounce gatorade each. The got to Little Yosemite Valley hours later and asked where the running water was so they could refill. Arming someone this ignorant in the back country and you soon won’t have any bears left, especially in places like California where the bears are smart and aggressive but have no interest in people, only the food they are carrying.

        • Adam this is in response to your response to this message. While I agree with you about the idiots being armed, food you know that bear spray and ANY form of pepper spray are prohibited from even being brought into Yosemite?

      • Ah, yes, that is a very different scenario. Alaska is interesting in that sense though…

        The locals who have actually lived here for some time generally have a sense of what’s going on. Unfortunately, Alaska also attracts lots of men (term used loosely) who feel as though they have something to prove. I see it every year, people moving up here with the “you think y’all are tough living up here in Alaska, well I can do it too!” mentality, and it pisses people off. Me especially. Thankfully, most of them can’t handle it; Alaska has a fairly high turnover rate as far as people moving up here, and then moving back within a year or two. Something like 60% I think, of people who move up here move away within two years.

        Alaska’s fishing opportunities also attract THOUSANDS of tourists every summer. And invariably, NONE of them have a clue what they’re doing. Well, okay, maybe 5% (generous estimate) aren’t totally oblivious. But both of these groups present the same problem…

        Every year, invariably, there’s some asshole out fishing who sees a bear downstream and blows them away and then cries “He was charging me!” Those people invoke such thoughts from me that I’d be banned for repeating them here. But you’re correct; there is no shortage of ignorant pricks with guns, *especially* up here in Alaska. However, the silver lining is that most of them don’t stick around long.

  3. I carry .45 caliber bear spray, but we only have black bear up here. Not sure if that will be effective for the beast pictured.

    • If I had to guess, a .45 will probably be effective-ish against an average black bear, but for brownies, I believe I’d want something with some more balls. Call mine a .44 Mag at minimum.

      • Speaking simply on terms of caliber preference, you’d be correct. a .44 Magnum is much preferable to .45 ACP or even 10mm. But the reality is, the choice demands more thought than just caliber preference. Would you rather have 13+1 rounds of .45 ACP or 10mm, or 6 of .44 Mag? Not to mention shooting a Glock (or any other semi-auto handgun) is typically much faster than shooting something like a Ruger Redhawk, on a shot-for-shot basis.

      • Cost effective, yes. But ineffective as a defensive carry weapon, except in particular circumstances. Around here anyway, maybe people do things differently in Montana.

        • In Montana more PPL carry a PG 12 GA as bear medicine than expensive handguns which weigh around the same as the (empty) 12 GA.
          Pistol rounds are NOT the optimal choice, 12 GA solid copper sabots are far better

        • I was never debating that fact. Shotgun rounds are definitely preferable to handgun rounds for protection against bears. However, shotguns are by and large not preferable to handguns in the sense that you have to carry them; it’s indisputably easier to carry a handgun while you’re hiking or fishing than it is to carry a shotgun.

          But like I said, maybe people do things differently in Montana. Up here, many more people carry handguns than shotguns, simply because it’s far easier to participate in whatever activity they’re doing with a handgun on your hip than with a shotgun over your shoulder. A shotgun slug or two will definitely be effective in stopping a bear, but nobody who understands ballistics and can shoot a handgun effectively would say that a 10mm (or even 45ACP) Glock is an ineffective firearm for protection against bears.

  4. Good advice. I remain convinced that the best way to deal with brown bears is stay away from them. I saw a grizzly skull at the Smithsonian Natural History museum. Relatively narrow brain cavity, with lots and lots of good solid bone. Formidable critters.

  5. Do not go into the woods alone! Always travel with a friend, preferably one on crutches. Hide a peanut butter sandwich in his backpack.

    Show the bears that you’re friendly! Wear a Steiff tag on your ear instead of a bear tag on your coat.

    Carry a football! This will confuse the Bears as they have no idea what to do with one.

  6. “What’s Missing from Montana’s Ursine Advice for Hunters?”

    – Don’t shoot the bear; you might hurt it’s FEELINGS.

  7. The last time I was in Glacier nat park I had my 9 and bear spray. I believe the bear spray would be more effective. If the sound of the gunshot doesn’t scare the bear off, don’t think a little 9mm or even a 45 will stop a charging grizzly. If you think otherwise, you probably dont understand just how big these predators are.

    • I know from personal experience that a .45 in the hands of a competent shooter will in fact stop a charging grizzly.

    • These are bears, not a supernatural creature. They respond to wounding like all other mammals, shock, bleeding and mechanical injury. They are tough, very tough, but they aren’t indestructible.

      For the most part they don’t like people, or loud noises, or people who make really loud noises. They don’t like pain and injury, or people who cause pain and injury. They can be aggressive and want to fight, but they aren’t suicidal and generally don’t fight anything they think can win.

      They have heavy bones and dense muscle, a small brain and are difficult to shoot when charging. Mortally wounded they can maul a person to death. That said, they are vulnerable even to combat caliber pistol cartridges and well short of death tend to retreat when faced with multiple hits from medium powered handguns, likely to die at a later time.

      Bear spray has a better track record with large bears than handguns, but like everything else on earth, if you’re shooting it it’s dying or trying like hell to get out of the way before you kill it.

  8. Of course the first rule when hiking in the wilderness is to use the “Buddy System”. This means you NEVER hike alone, you bring a friend, companion, or family member because if something happens there is someone to go get help. I remember one time while hiking with my girlfriend in Oregon, out of nowhere came this huge Black bear charging us! We must have been near one of her cubs. Anyway, if I had not had my little Walther TPH I would not be here today. Just one shot to my girlfriends knee cap was all it took….the bear got her and I was able to escape by just walking at a brisk pace. That’s one of the best pistols in my collection.

  9. I’ve heard that bear spray is just as reliable at deterring a brown bear as a large caliber rifle, but that it is easier to use spray than shoot a charging bear because of nerves. Makes sense to me, and I hate to see the death of such awesome creatures.

  10. They forgot to note that you don’t use bear repellent in the same way you use personal insect repellent. I’ve heard it has happened 😉 .

  11. Why does the last comment about not attempting to chase a bear away from a carcass make me giggle?

  12. I possess an almost unbelievable arrogance, but in bear country I’d pack more gun that I do on the streets of Ohio.

    I am man, master of all that I survey, because I use tools. Use the wrong ones and you could easily die bear or no bear, use them poorly and you get the same results. I’ve said for years that my ‘bear rifle’ is an AK-47. I over come the speed issue and the missing issue simultaneously. I’ll just keep shooting from my 30 round mag until the bear is dead or has decided he has had enough. Sure, the 7.62X39 has nothing on 12ga slugs or .45/70 govt., but it does have the advantage of rapid follow up, high capacity and rapid reload.

    It’s hard to imagine a bear that would keep coming into deliberate fire from an AK. The rate and capacity mean that even if, as legend holds, none of them penetrate the skull, eventually you’d eat off his face. Plus, most of the deflected rounds are going to enter the shoulders, legs or chest. Nothing keeps coming into something like that. Anything that would has been weeded out by evolution a long time ago as unviable.

    • I generally carry a 12 gauge slug gun in bear country but if I carry a rifle it is my Remington 750/30-06 with a 10 round magazine. I will take 10 rounds of 30-06 over 30 rounds of 7.62 x 39.

  13. According to my bear hunter friend in Montana, bear spray is ok if the bear is not a grizzly or a wolf or a cougar, there is no wind, and bear is not charging. Better have 44 mag revolver like Ruger’s Alaskan model. Unless you have an open site on you rifle it will take too long to acquire the target of a charging bear or wolf using you scope. Especially in places like BC, Alaska, etc. where humans are rare and predators who see you as lunch aren’t

    • Not as many people carry sidearms like a Ruger Redhawk for defense against bears as you would think. While a .44 Mag, .454 Casull, or even .500 S&W is definitely the preferable caliber for such defensive purposes, the reality is that not only are revolvers slower on a shot-for-shot basis, but with something like a Glock 20 (10mm) you get 13+1 rounds that you can discharge nearly as fast as 6 rounds of .44 Mag.

      Those experienced in the matter have by and large come to the conclusion that, while you may get the benefit of caliber with a heavy revolver like the Redhawk, they’re unfortunately more of a novelty in that regard because a weapon like a Glock 20 simply outperforms them in a defensive scenario.

      And I know people will spout off with “my buddy so-n-so said this” or “my uncle’s second cousin once did this with this,” but they are exceptions, not the rule.

      On a side note, in my teenage years I went on several guided brown bear hunts in coastal Alaska (I didn’t need the guide, he was a family friend that invited me along) and he always carried a beat up old 1911 on his side and a Winchester pump action 12 gauge, and left the rifles to the men and women he was guiding.

      • Yes Alaskan Patriot my data is old. I talked to my bear hunting buddy from Montana when I was having an argument with a liberal tree/bear hugger liberal here in Seattle. Probably a few years ago 🙂 Your agrument for a Glock 10mm makes some sense. Myself I wouldn’t go hunting in bear country without a big hand gun along with my hunting rifle, I guess I would carry bear spray or have someone with me carry it. But my hand gun would be back up. I haven’t shot anything bigger than a 357 mag. It may be just fine for little bears in the Cascades.

        • Yes, if you’re hunting then any handgun you may choose to carry is definitely just a back-up to your primary firearm. However, not everybody who spends time in the woods and encounters bears is hunting.

          For example, I greatly enjoy hiking. There are literally hundreds of different trails in the Anchorage area where people are killed every year by bears. It is advised NOT to go into those woods without some sort of bear defense, and still you get hundreds if not thousands of tourists every summer scoffing at the warnings and hiking defenseless. And just about every year, somebody is killed on the trails. I get funny looks and make people nervous when they see my sidearm; on more than a few occasions I’ve been the cause of people turning back once they hear WHY I carry that sidearm.

          Point of the story is that for every person who’s out hunting bears and has a handgun as well as a rifle, there are two or three if not more who’re out in the woods NOT hunting bears but still with the potential of encountering them. For the purposes of those people, a rifle is hardly practical. Thus, a handgun is the fallback.

          Point of interest. My father used to be friends with a man whose brother was mauled by a grizzly. At the time he had been carrying a Redhawk, and when the S&R team found him, there were still two live rounds in the cylinder. That knowledge led my father to carry a Glock 20, and it served him well one day. He was jumped by a black bear sow while on a fishing trip back in the late 90’s, (still has the partially shredded sweatshirt he was wearing) and he unloaded the whole magazine into that bear, from underneath her.

          I used to work with a man who was on a guided duck hunting trip in the Alaska interior, and the guide was carrying a shotgun loaded with some sort of defensive ammo, either buckshot or slugs, I’m unsure. But he ended up running back to camp for a piece of equipment, and he was jumped by a black bear. He unloaded the whole magazine, but by the time his hunting party found him (they responded to the sound of the unexpected gunshots) he was screaming “she got me,” wedged in the crotch of a tree so tight they had to chop him out. Most of his face was laying in the trail… Needless to say he died.

          Point being, even something as powerful as a shotgun, in the hands of an experienced hunter, against a black bear (definitely the weaker of the options) is not always enough. The bears have to win some… and around here, Lord knows they do.

    • There is an old joke among folks who actually have first hand experience with and around bears. First time I heard it was from an old game warden who worked in some very serious bear country. There are several versions, but the gist remains the same, and goes something like this: “A hunter asked me what kind of handgun he should carry in bear country. I told him it didn’t matter much, as long as the first thing he did when he got it was file down the front sight nice and smooth, The hunter asked, ‘now why would I want to do that’, and I told him it was so that when he got done shooting at the bear, and the bear took that gun and shoved it up his a#%, it didn’t hurt so much”. Point is, 99.9% of folks have no idea what it is actually like to have a pissed of g-bear (or a big black bear for that matter) charging them from 30m away at 20 miles per hour. I mean this with the utmost respect, but that isn’t the shooting range folks, and you aren’t Dirty Harry. For all but the very small majority of people who would actually have the skill and also would be composed enough to handle themselves in a situation like that, bear spray is going to be a whole hell of a lot more effective than a gun (any gun). Carry a gun if you like (I do in bear country), but please don’t be so foolish (or arrogant) as to think that pepper spray is a joke, or just for those who aren’t “man enough” to carry something bigger.

  14. AR-15 in .458 socom with an under barrel picatinny mount holding a can of bear spray or a M203 grenade launcher with pepper grenades and a .45 super Glock 30. That should do it! And cover yourself in pepper jelly. 😉

    • Naw, everybody knows it’s an M230b with API, with a cut down under barrel AA-12 for when it moves into close range. Back that up with a back pack flame thrower and wear it all over a suit impregnated with OC and covered in spikes.

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