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jim boyd's picture
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Dangerous Bears

I read a post tonight about bear attacks out west and I got to wondering... what do you folks do out west when you are hunting deer, elk, etc... about fending off bears that might attack?

Do you carry a sidearm?

Rely on your rifle?

Use bear repellent?

In the article I read, the guy was in danger of being charged with killing the bear and he really was frightened for being charged as a criminal - when he contended - and later proved, the beast charged him.

I want to go out west in 2012 but those darn bears are worrying me!



Critter's picture
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Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
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I have never worried about a

I have never worried about a black bear while hunting here in Colorado or Utah, and I have been in some of the best black bear country that either state offers. That even includes just sleeping outside on a tarp with only my sleeping bag to protect me. But then I can run faster than my hunting partner. I have see a few camps that have their tent ringed with beer cans on a string to give them fair warning when they had one coming into camp. You have to figure that if you are out hunting you'll have a rifle in your hands and if you keep your camp clean you shouldn't have any problems with them. But if it would make you feel better then some good bear spray along with a bear tag as a just in case you see a nice one while you are hunting.

jim boyd's picture
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Critter, I am not so


I am not so interested in shooting one as a harvest - I am worried about one of them getting me though!

I have not done any research - the article I read was about a grizzly - are they not prominent where you are hunting???

Are blacks less volatile than grizzlies?

expatriate's picture
Location: Arizona
Joined: 10/26/2002
Posts: 3206
I just spent 5 years in

I just spent 5 years in Alaska and have had plenty of experiences with grizzlies.  I've been charged, have surprised a sow and cub within 10 yards, had them come into camp, run into them on the trail, etc.  I've also had to chase off black bears trying to interrupt my skinning activities.

But to tell you the truth, I've been more afraid of my safety walking down city streets than I was in bear country.  Bears are generally solitary and want to go about their business unmolested.  They have just one thing on their mind...eating.  I've looked both species in the eye at close range, and there's nothing there...just hungry indifference.

And that's Alaska -- bears in the Lower 48 are more sparse.  Your main thing is to avoid attracting them and use some common sense.  If you're in bear country, keep the food strung up away from camp, don't sleep in the clothes you wore while cooking bacon and eggs, etc.  Chances are if you encounter a bear at close range, it'll be by surprise.  Most bear attacks are because the bear felt it was trying to protect itself.  If they know you're coming, they'll generally leave.  But if you do find yourself face to face, all is not lost...don't run and act like prey.  Let 'em know who you are and let them make the decision to leave.  It's a lot like dealing with a barking dog...respect, but not fear.  Your most dangerous situation is being between a sow and her cub.  Another dangerous situation is if you surprise a bear at a prize food source he wants to protect...like a gut pile or berry patch (raise your guard if you find yourself surrounded by berry bushes in bear country).

As far as defense, bear spray has been found to be 90 percent effective at stopping bear attacks.  Firearms are down around 67 percent.  One big reason is that the spray puts out a fog so you don't have to be as accurate.  It also shuts down the bear's vision and sense of smell, which puts it immediately on the defensive.  He can't fight what he can't see or smell, so he generally runs.  You also don't have to explain a dead bear to anybody.  Personally, if I was able I carried both so my chances exceeded 150 percent.  Be wary of the handgun argument...if you've ever studied a bear's skull you'd see how difficult it is to hit the brain case from the front, and handguns are short on energy.

If you're really worried and want security around camp, there's also a company that makes a compact electric fence kit that runs on D batteries, so you can put a perimeter around your tent.  Bears coming into camp are curious, not aggressive, and the fence works because it spooks them.

WesternHunter's picture
Joined: 05/05/2006
Posts: 2374
black bear

I've never have had a problem with black bear while hunting or in hunting camp.  Typically they can be more troublesome during the spring and summer camping.  Also are more trouble to most semi-rural areas or rural developments throughout October when they are scavanging for food.  Unless they've already been condition fed or are very hungry and willing to compete for food, they typically don't stalk or charge people.  In fact they are long gone before you ever see them if you get close enough to one. 

As far as grizzlys go.  Well I believe that even if we still have any left here in my state they are such a very small number in a limited area as not to be a concern. We typically hear of a credible sighting about once every 25 years since they were last believe to be extinct here in the 1950's.  Always use caution and vigilance when outdoors.  But I doubt you'll come across a grizzly here.  I'm always way more concerened with mountain lions than I ever am anything else.

Ca_Vermonster's picture
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Location: San Diego, CA
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Hey Jim, kinda like expat

Hey Jim, kinda like expat said, you have to worry more about walking down the street than you do getting attacked by a bear.

I hunt in an area that is supposedly "loaded" with mountain lions.  I have seen photos of prints, trail cam photos, etc., but you know the one thing I have not seen yet?  An actualy mountain lion. 

They are there, but if you think about the amount of man hours spent in the woods by hunters, compared to the actual # of lion or bear attacks, the odds are incomprehensible.

It never hurts to be prepared.  A good size can of bear pepper spray, or a sidearm if it is alowed is a good thing.  We are not allowed to carry a sidearm while archery hunting out here, even in lion country.

Come out west, have a great time, and worry more about how you're going to get that 800 lb bull elk the 5 miles back to your truck..... lol

Tndeerhunter's picture
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Location: Tennessee
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the truth


Quote: Come out west, have a great time, and worry more about how you're going to get that 800 lb bull elk the 5 miles back to your truck..... lol

Ain't that the truth!  Big smile

jim boyd's picture
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Joined: 07/06/2010
Posts: 889
I will gladly accept the

I will gladly accept the challenge of a giant elk and getting it back to the truck - but I am bringing some bear repellent with me!

I already priced it!


Jim (scared in SC)

jaybe's picture
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Location: S.E. Michigan
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I have never seen a bear in the woods where I hunt in Michigan, but there are plenty of them around (they say).

I recently saw something on TV that talked about this very issue, and recommended the pepper spray way over carrying a handgun for that purpose.

The argument was that if a bear does charge you, it takes an almost perfect hit to stop it in its tracks. As was stated by a previous poster, the brain is a very small target. When you couple that with a charging bear and an excited hunter (to put it mildly), AND the fact that a first or even second shot may not stop the bear, the handgun becomes a very marginal weapon.

However, one good shot of the pepper spray (a much wider pattern than a single bullet) makes the bear change its mind about wanting you anymore. It has now become a painful experience, and it will usually turn and run off, leaving the hunter to cope with whatever aftereffects he may have (use your imagination). Big smile


groovy mike's picture
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hoping for bear

Unless I am muzzle loading or archery hunting, I'm HOPING to see bear.  Generally bear season is open anywhere that I hunt whitetail deer, so I wouldn't mind seing a bear at all.  My idea of a just about ideal hunt would be the Newfoundland grand-slam with moose, woodland caribou, and black bear bagged on the same trip. 

That would be very cool indeed!

Flint J's picture
Joined: 07/14/2010
Posts: 7
Don't worry

I've seen a few bears through the years. They all ran as soon as they realized there was a person nearby. Spend your efforts worrying about getting in great shape. The toughest part about hunting out West is climbing mountains and hauling out animals. You are much more likely to die of a heart attack.

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