Elk Hunters Face Off With Grizzly in Montana

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Saturday marked the opening day of the big game hunt season in Lewis and Clark National Forest. Anthony Willits and Greg Louden of Kalispell, Montana had successfully shot an elk around 11:30 that morning. They were starting to transport the meat, trip by trip. They had taken one load of meat to the trailhead, about 4-5 miles from where the elk carcass was. They returned and continued working on the elk, for about 10 minutes. Then they heard snorting and grunting - a grizzly sow challenged the two hunters for the elk carcass. The men backed away, and the grizzly claimed the elk for herself, putting her front two limbs on top of the elk. Then she charged the hunters.

As the bear was about to reach the men Willits shot his rifle at the grizzly. It is uncertain whether he hit her or not. The grizzly grabbed his leg and Louden was able to get ahold of the rifle and reload. It was in such close proximity he was worried he would hit Willits. He shot, the bear let go of Willits leg. Louden shot a couple more times, one hitting the sow in the head.

Remains of the elk carcass, along with the grizzly carcass are still there. This will probably keep the 1-2 year old cubs in the area, along with attracting more bears. Trail 137 will be closed from its junction with Trail 134 in the north to its junction with Trail 136 on the south, Wendy Maples, acting district ranger of the Rocky Mountain Ranger District said, in order to prevent further run-ins between grizzlies and hunters.

Neither of the hunters were carrying pepper spray. Also a Montana FWP officer said that if carrying out the meat in multiple trips there is a good possibility the carcass will be taken over by a bear. A hunter should move the meat away from the gut pile.

Willits is recovering after undergoing surgery. From GreatFallsTribune.com.


hunter25's picture

A scary situation added to

A scary situation added to the list of many that have happened this year. Fortunately these guys were able to keep it together and come out of the situation alive. I'ts very good to see the man had  enough presence of mind to be very sure he didn't shoot his partner by accident as apparently hapened in another case this year. 

It's good reading the comments about the pepper spray use. I don't own any pepper spray but always believed it was probably the best option. Maybe a combination of options and most of all being aware at all times is the key. Of course you can't really prepare for this sort of thing and hopefully will never have to experience it.

Tndeerhunter's picture

Pepper spray instead of a rifle? You're kidding me!

I cannat say that I agree with the pepper spray thing, when legally hunting with an adequate firearm. The reason is because there's a lot more to "just pepper spraying a bear" then simply pushing the button/trigger. Consider this for a moment; the bear pops out at 10' and you whip out that trusty pepper spray immediately and give him a burst. But wait, you fired that pepper spray into the wind and now you, yourself are immobilized, and unable to use your rifle.

Sound far-fetched? Well, there's a member here who killed a very large bear, after chasing off another with pepper spray, also getting it blown into his eyes and rendering him half blind. Lucky for him, he was in a tree stand and when bear #2 showed up he was safe from any problems and able to harvest bear #2.

Pepper spray is not a good alternative, in my opinion, and certainly would not ever be an alternative if I had a rifle in my hands. Simply one man's opinion, of course.



swisheroutdoors's picture

Some intense moments

This is the second bear story I have read today that included an attack.  The other story was during a bear hunt in the Okefenokee while using dogs.  It also got me thinking about when it’s ok for a Hunter shoot another animal in the event the hunter or another person’s life is endangered.  A fellow hunter asked me about a moose if it charged can I shoot it.  I told him NO.  I actually told him "you had better be hurt".  His argument was why should I wait till I'm mauled before discharging my firearm to protect myself.  Any Wildlife law enforcement officers on this website please chime in.  What do you do in the event your fearing for your life and whatever is attacking is out of season or you don't have a tag etc.  I'm been chased by a black bear and jumped the barb wire fence post out to the railroad tracks while that bear slammed into the wire.  (I never saw it but my two friends looking back did)  I was charged three times by a black bear and I just kept backing away until the both of us were out of sight.  I've been face to chest of a 1000 pound moose.  I had my head down walking through a cedar and popped out and there he was 5ft away.  That was an intense moment with him swaying his head back and forth.  I seriously considered shooting him in the antlers.  Didn't but I thought about it.  I've been startled by a pack of coyotes and never fired a shot but felt the urge to protect myself.  Maybe this better suited for a forum.  I would love to hear what others think and really find out what the laws state in this matter.  Assuming of course it differs from state to state.

Retired2hunt's picture

Another WHOA Moment!


I would think if hunting within Grizzly territory would require the need to have bear pepper spray on hand.  Why doesn't Montana require it?  With all of the bear issues we have seen I would think more hunters would get educated and then have the pepper spray on hand in the case of its need.

I have not hunted Grizzly area but can tell you from all of the articles read this past summer and fall that I will have my bear pepper spray deterrant on hand - schedulled shopping at Sportsman's Warehouse tomorrow!

Unfortunately for both hunters they lost all of the remaining meat from their harvested elk.  And because of their failure to control the area where their elk carcass was found, now the entire area is closed off to other hunters and hikers.

I guess I could second guess this situation but if in a grizzly area those hunters must go the extra preparedness to ensure they are able to safely and securely retrieve their meat.  The Grizzly provides an extra "situational" experience to the hunting plan but if they are in the area then they must be planned for.


numbnutz's picture

Holy cow!! That would be a

Holy cow!! That would be a scary situation. I'm not sure why hunter that hunt in Grizzly country don't have bear sray that just blows my mind. It has been proven to be more effective then a gun. Thats a bummer the hunters lost the rest of the meat from their elk. I'm so happy I don't live or hunt in Grizzly counrty. Hunters need to take care of the meat like boning it out and move the meat away from the gut pile and hang it in a tree while packing out a load. I hunt in Black bear territory and i know once that gut shot rings out the ears know it's a dinner bell. I have shot deer ans within 20 minutes had bears come in to look. I'm glad neither were hurt very bad and they were able to make it home. Others this year have not been so lucky when it comes to running into a Grizzly.