Bowhunters, Avoid Becoming the Hunted

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Bowhunters are sneaky, smelly, and camouflaged to look like a bush. While that’s what it takes to get close enough for a good shot with a bow and arrow, that same hunter is making it hard for a bear to notice him.

The quiet stalking, smelling like an elk and making skilled elk calls can scramble a bear’s usual early warning systems of sight, sound and smell. The result could be an accidental, surprise encounter with a bear.

In recent years grizzly bear populations have expanded and are re-colonizing historic ranges. Grizzly bears are found throughout western Montana, not just the Rocky Mountain Front, Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Yellowstone ecosystem, and black bears range widely across the state.

With Montana's bow hunting season underway, it's is a good time to review the basics of hunting safely in bear country. Antelope archery season is Sept. 6- Oct. 11 and the deer and elk archery season is Sept. 6-Oct. 19.

Here are some guidelines on hunting in bear country.

  • Be prepared to see a bear. Mentally rehearse handling different scenarios with bears so you are better prepared.
  • Hunt with a partner. If you hunt alone, let someone know your detailed plans and have a way to periodically check in.
  • Always carry and know how to use bear pepper spray.
  • Bow hunters who harvest a deer or elk need to plan to quickly get the carcass out of the woods.
  • Carcasses left in the woods require special precautions. Carry a colored, lightweight tarp or space blanket. Put the guts on the tarp and drag them as far away from the carcass as possible. Then use the tarp to cover the carcass. This will reduce the scent trail from the guts to the carcass.
  • When you return, study the site from a safe distance for any movement or changes. When you finally approach, yell and make noises.
  • Do not attempt to frighten or haze a bear away from a carcass.
  • If, in spite of these precautions, a bear is at the site eating the carcass, or a bear has covered the carcass with debris and it is not salvageable, report the incident to FWP.

Hunters who have taken precautions and still have legitimately lost an animal to a bear should contact a local warden or the nearest FWP regional office immediately to provide a detailed description of the location and situation, so local FWP officials can follow up.