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 .