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Old September 18, 2000, 11:23 AM   #1
Keith Rogan
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From the Anchorage Daily News http://adn.com/nation/story/0,2360,195842,00.html

WYOMING MAN ON MEND AFTER LOSING FIGHT WITH GRIZZLY


By Craig Medred
Daily News Outdoors Editor

(Published September 18, 2000)
Over the weekend in Jackson, Wyo., doctors were still trying to put together 55-year-old Gregg Fischer, a veteran big game hunter who saw his Alaska vacation come to a bloody end along the Noatak River northeast of Kotzebue when he was attacked by a grizzly bear Sept. 6.

The bear's jaws snapped Fischer's leg in two just above the ankle. The animal tore a large chunk of flesh out of the Wyoming outfitter's thigh. And then -- luckily, Fischer said -- it left.

From a bed in St. John's Hospital, Fischer said by telephone over the weekend that he still isn't sure what exactly triggered the attack.

He was hunting with 65-year-old Wyoming friend Don Cribbins out of the long-established Arctic hunting camp of Alaska big game guide Jake Jacobsen of Kodiak. Jacobsen said Fischer is an old friend who was invited north to go hunting when a paying client canceled and left space.

Only small bands of caribou from the Western Arctic herd have been moving through the Noatak area so far this year, and the men planned to hike and enjoy the country as much as hunt.

"We had a birthday party for him on the fifth," Jacobsen said. "He turned 55 on the fifth."

On Sept. 6, the dozen or so people in camp -- Jacobsen; Fischer; Cribbins; Jacobsen's sister, Pat Jacobsen, also an Alaska big game guide; several clients and camp help -- awoke to the first day without rain in a week. Better still, caribou were sighted only about four miles away.

Fischer and Cribbins set off to look for them, while Jake Jacobsen headed out with a hunter from Hawaii in search of grizzly bears.

Jacobsen said he was sitting on a knoll with the Hawaiian, searching for sight of bears with his binoculars when he saw Fischer and Cribbins head into a willow thicket almost three miles away. A few minutes later, he said, a grizzly bear sow and a cub "just came barreling out of there. They ran from 1,300 feet to the top of a 4,400-foot summit without ever slowing down."

Jacobsen felt a sense of unease, but passed it off.

Fischer said the guide need not have worried about a grizzly bear sow or cub, because he and Cribbins never saw those two light-colored bears.

What they saw was a big, dark, almost black grizzly. Fischer spotted it first, standing on its hind legs on the edge of the willow thicket only about 10 feet behind Cribbins.

"We'd gone into fairly thick willows," he said, "but not really thick."

They were headed toward a band of 13 caribou they'd seen on the other side of the hill the willows covered. Cribbins was about 25 or 30 yards above Fischer as they eased through the willows in a traverse around the side of the hill toward the caribou.

The men were moving out of the willows onto the edge of tundra when the bear stood up, Fischer said. The willows were short enough and thin enough that he could clearly see the animal.

"We're both just getting ready to break out of the willows," he said. "You're breaking out of them; they're getting pretty thin.

"I could see all of the bear. I couldn't see his feet at all, but I could see the rest of him.

"I could see he wasn't even looking at me."

What the bear was doing was staring at the back of Cribbins' head.

"I had to warn the guy," Fischer said. "The bear was not 10 feet from him. I yelled to warn him.

"I yelled: 'Don, there's a bear right behind you! Look out!"'

At the sound of Fischer's voice, the bear dropped to all fours, whirled into the willow thicket and disappeared from view for a split second.

"When I yelled, that's all it took," Fischer said. "(The bear) came right for me. He came out of the willows at full bore. He was maybe 10 yards away from me."

Fischer was carrying a .30-06-caliber rifle loaded with relatively lightweight 180-grain bullets designed to kill caribou. The bullets are big enough to kill a bear if properly aimed, but Fischer never got a chance. There wasn't even time for him to bring the rifle to his shoulder.

"I fired two quick shots from the hip," he said.

He believes at least one of the shots hit the bear, but Jacobsen said people have been back several times to look and haven't found any evidence that was the case.

What happened after Fischer fired proceeded so fast and in such a blur he still can't reconstruct it for sure.

"I don't know if I fell down or he knocked me down," Fischer said. "I know I screamed."

He's not sure whether the bear got him first by the thigh or by the lower leg. He remembers hearing Cribbins yell his name, and then the bear took off.

"After a couple seconds," Fisher said, "I grabbed my gun and went to put a shell in (the chamber) and stood up. That's when the leg collapsed."

With both bones broken, the only thing holding Fisher's foot to his leg was skin, muscle and tendons.

"The foot wasn't attached," he said.

Fischer told Cribbins to go get help. The older man made Fischer as comfortable as he could, made sure he had his rifle and plenty of shells, and took off. Fischer was sure the bear was going to come back.

"I sat there with the rifle loaded, waiting and thinking it would come back," he said. "It was a long and painful four hours."

That's how long it took Cribbins to get back to Jacobsen's camp and return with help. Jacobsen was there waiting when he came in. He'd smelled trouble when he saw only one hunter emerge from the willow thicket he had seen two enter about 4 p.m.

"I told the client I was with, 'I've got a morbid feeling about this,"' Jacobsen said. "I thought the old guy (Cribbins) had had a heart attack."

He didn't find out until he met Cribbins at camp that it was his buddy Fischer who was in trouble. Jacobsen rounded up everyone in camp at the time, grabbed the first aid kit, some tools, some tarps and a carpenter's miter box to use to splint Fisher's leg.

"It was the only thing I could find handy that looked like it would work," Jacobsen said.

It took the group a couple hours to cover the four miles back to Fischer. It took them all night to get the injured man back to camp.

"We made a drag out of a tarp with a willow across the top," Jacobsen said.

Fischer said he tried to walk, but even with someone holding him under each arm it was more painful than being dragged, as hellish as that was.

"They dragged me over tussocks. They dragged me right through the water, right through the mud," he said.

"We had several creeks to cross," Jacobsen said, "and the river was flooding. We got him back to the camp at 7 in the morning."

By then, Fischer was not only in shock, he was seriously hypothermic.

The camp crew bundled him up and started getting him warm. By nightfall, he was ready to be moved.

"Luckily, that was the first night we didn't have a miserable driving rain up here," Jacobsen said.

He pulled the seats out of the back of his Supercub, stretched Fischer out in the rear and headed for Kotzebue. A doctor there sewed up Fischer's wounds, splinted his legs and called for a medical flight to Anchorage.

Jacobsen told the doctor to wait on that at least until Fischer woke up from anesthesia.

"He doesn't have any medical insurance," Jacobsen said.

Sure enough, when Fischer woke up, he said to forget the costly medical flight. He simply made a reservation on Alaska Airlines to fly immediately back to Wyoming.

"They were nice enough to upgrade him to first class all the way," Jacobsen said. "I'll tell you, he's got a lot of resolve. After the attack, we found when we went back where he had dragged himself part way out of there (the willows) with a knife."

Fischer said he did that after Cribbins left. He wanted to be somewhere he could see better in case the bear came back.

Fischer thinks Cribbins might have surprised a resting boar.

"I think the bear might have been sleeping in there," he said. 'I don't know that it even knew what Don was."

He theorizes the bear woke up surprised and was trying to sort out who or what had invaded its territory when Fischer yelled, triggering a flight-or-fight response. In this case, unfortunately for Fischer, it turned out to be fight.

So far, Fischer has endured three surgeries to try to repair his leg.

"I hope the last operation was yesterday," he said Saturday. "They put a metal rod right down through the leg. It hasn't been fun."

Still, he feels lucky to be alive. Jacobsen, too, is thankful.

"I was lucky to have people in camp with the strength and ability to help us," he said.

He doesn't like to think what the outcome might have been if not for that.


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Old September 18, 2000, 01:38 PM   #2
BadMedicine
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Keith, Did you read the story in the anchorage daily news about the griz shot down by Sitka, I think? A young guy was hunting deer with his 30-06, when a grizzly rushed him in the brush. He shot it, and it slid to a halt like 10' from him. The guy got out of the woods and was really shook up. He reported it and the game wardens wanted him to go and show him where the attack was. He said "I'll tell you how to get there, but I ain't never going in the woods again."
He was shook up pretty bad. I went to the ADN web site to try and post the whole story but couldn't find it, it was in the paper thursday or friday I think.
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Old September 18, 2000, 03:18 PM   #3
Keith Rogan
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No, I missed that one. I think we're in for a pretty good year as far as bears go. At least in my area the berries are fantastic and the rivers are so low the salmon are thicker than hell. No hungry, grouchy bears this year.
I chased up a browny just a few weeks ago deer hunting with my 9 year old. He just looked at us and walked away - fattest bear I've ever seen.


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Old September 20, 2000, 12:04 AM   #4
mhannah1
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Hey Keith, The wife and I are tossing around the idea of moving to Alaska, and I was wondering, what do you think of a 44 mag revolver for stopping a Griz in a "gotta think fast the bear's almost upon me" situation?
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Old September 20, 2000, 05:26 AM   #5
Field-dressed
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mhannah1 - Since I'm up later that Keith I get to respond first. As an Alaskan, I do NOT recommend a .44 mag for defence against brown bears. A .44 should be considered a last-ditch, the-shotgun's-empty-OMG-defense only. Last year, I turned away a bear attack with a .44 mag at 12 feet. I had picked that day to leave the 12 ga. in camp, and felt absolutely ridiculous aiming a teeny little pistol at a ****** off brown bear. Followed up the bear the next day - despite hitting it at least twice with the .44 it had headed for high country and never stopped. If I had been shooting the best hard cast bullets made for the .44, I might have killed or anchored it, because I'm fairly certain that I hit it in the spine it as it was running away after the first shot - saw the blood between the shoulder blades and knocked it momentarily to the ground. That's almost always what happens when a pistol is used for defense against a bear attack - the bear runs off wounded into the brush, and reinforcements are called in to follow up the wounded bear, which is usually never found. I've seen it happen many times. Much as I like brown bears, its far better to dump the offending brute in its tracks than have it run off to an unknown fate. Having never been fond of shooting 12 ga. slugs, my latest firearm for working and hunting along the North Gulf Coast is the Marlin Guide Gun in 45-70. I will not go into bear country again armed just with my .44 S&W, although I am rarely found in bear country without it!(He's my buddy)
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Old September 20, 2000, 10:23 AM   #6
Keith Rogan
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Yeah, what field-dressed said!

I don't think people appreciate the scale of these things till they run into one out in the boonies. A male brownie standing on his hind legs (as they often do to get a look at you) stands about 12 feet tall - look at your ceiling and then add 4 feet to that. Even a middling bear will weigh 1000 pounds, a big one may go 1500... A pistol of any kind feels awful puny against an animal like that.
I'd put it in the same category as carrying a .22 as a personal defense weapon against two legged predators - under perfect circumstances it just might work...

I carry a .45/70



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Old September 20, 2000, 11:15 AM   #7
dZ
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heres the other bear story:
HUNTER IN SOUTHEAST KILLS CHARGING BEAR


The Associated Press

(Published September 15, 2000)

Juneau -- A Hoonah man fatally shot a brown bear as it attacked him while he was deer hunting.

Matt St. Clair, 21, escaped serious injury but was very shaken by the Tuesday incident, said Fish and Wildlife
Protection trooper Lt. Gary Folger.

"He hiked up a mountain about 21/2 hours and spotted a buck," Folger said. "Then he heard a branch pop
behind him. The bear knocked him down. He used a 30.06 to shoot it four feet away from him."

Folger said St. Clair refused to escort officers to the carcass.

"He stated he is never going into the woods again," Folger said.

Troopers don't plan to take any action because the shooting was a clear case of self-defense.

St. Clair was treated at the Hoonah Medical Center for scratches on both arms, officers said.
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Old September 20, 2000, 11:59 AM   #8
BadMedicine
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Kieth, the story above is the one I was talking about. DZ, do you live in Alaska? We carry a .44 mag, and a .357 mag. Whenever were in the woods up here. No, it's not grizzmedicine, but they're our biggest two pistols, so they'll have to do. We're ussually hunting and have our big rifles with us. I may not kill the bear before he gets me, but I'll do my best to make the sorry ba&%#d hurt
mhannah1, if a .44 is all you have, yes, carry it, but if you're thinking about buying one for "just" bear protection, I'd buy a pump 12, with a pistol grip on it.
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Old September 20, 2000, 02:39 PM   #9
Keith Rogan
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Bad,

I live in Kodiak and see bears all the time. I've been mauled by a bear. I know bears.
To put this gently, I really don't think people living in Anchorage and hunting around the crowded road system see enough bears or are even around enough bears to judge this. I mean, theres like 1 Brown/Griz per 100 square miles there. We have 1 bear PER SQUARE MILE here on the island. You see them and deal with them every single time you go out. If you ever have a big 1400 pound male pop out of the alders 5 yards away and "woof" at you, you'll never consider a handgun as brown bear proetction again.
I have to ask - if you have a rifle, what's the pistol for?



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Old September 20, 2000, 03:05 PM   #10
dZ
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My heart is in Alaska, but my butt in inside the DC beltway



My dad was stationed on Kodiak Island in the late 50's

I have yet to get north of Seattle, during this wheel turn

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Old September 21, 2000, 12:57 AM   #11
BadMedicine
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Keith,
I know where you're coming from, I know you were mauled, and I know that you live on kodiak. However, kodiak isn't the only place that has bears, and I think just being an outdoorsman in AK cerifies me to give advice on the subject. Don't tell me "I really don't think people living in Anchorage and hunting around the crowded road system see enough bears or are even around enough bears to judge this." I also think it's great how you say, "yeah, what field dressed said" and then proceed to blast me, when him and I said the excact same thing "12 ga." I said if he already has a .44, that carrying it is recommended, it's better than nothing, I garuntee you that. But if he's thinking about buying "protection" he should get a pump 12.
When hunting bear, or moose, caribou, sheep, or most other "big-game" we carry our .375 H&H and .338 win mag, and wear our pistols. This is for a couple reasons.
1. Two guns are better than one.
2. 10 bullets are better than 4.
3. Some brush is sooo thick it is virtually impossible to raise a rifle.
4. If a bear has already knocked you to the ground, chances are you aren't still holding your rifle, if you are, you may not have room to raise it, if the bear is right on you. Whereas, a pistol is strapped to your hip, at your finger tips, and is VERY useful in a situation like this.
I'd also like you to consider, that no fire-arm is adiquate against *cirtain* bears in *certain* circumstances. If you've got a big boar, wound up and **** and coming at full tilt, short of completely destruying his central nervous system, you will not stop this bear. There was a case where two indians where hunting (moose maybe) with 30-30's. All that was found was two bodies so badly mauled, that they were nearly unidentifiable. They also found the bear, dead a little ways away. The post mortem showed that the bears inside were mush, his heart and lungs were all shot to hell, but still the bear had enough hate and adrenaline to tear the natives apart before dieing. I read this from the "Bear attacks" book. Considering this, I'd feel a little inadequacy pointing even my .375 H&H at a 1500lb charging brownie. He's got 1500lbs of rage and furry, equipped with bone crushing jaws, huge teeth, and razor like claws, spiked with about a gallon of adrinalin streaming through his man hating veins. Me in the other corner, weighing in at 175lbs. I have a 300gr. piece of lead (about the size of a marble) and a stream of **** running down my leg.
When you put it all in perspective, there's not alot you can do. Try to hit the skull, or break the spin. Hope the noise/pain deteres him. And pray that you gods have better magic than his
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Old September 21, 2000, 12:38 PM   #12
Keith Rogan
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Sorry Bad,

I was out of line on that one. You're right that carrying a handgun as a backup makes sense as long as you have a long gun of appropriate caliber as a primary.

I probably get tiresome on the subject. I run into people all the time here who are new to Alaska and the first thing they do is run down and buy a .44 as "bear protection". I did the same thing myself a dozen years ago when I first arrived in Kodiak. I had not yet seen a bear up close and didn't REALLY know what was up.
An ex-guide neighbor told me not to waste my money and to get a "real gun" (meaning a rifle), but I ignored this and bought a Dan Wesson .445 SuperMag (a .44 mag on steroids) and carried it around fishing and what-not. Well, it wasn't long till I had my first serious bear encounter, jumping a big male out of his bed early in deer season.
He popped up at under ten yards and began beating the ground with his paws (and I could actually FEEL the vibrations as they hit) "woofed" and did all those terrifying things bears do.
I couldn't freaking believe the size of that animal - and still don't - a mature male is just so unbelievably big that it's hard to grasp. A stuffed one doesn't relay the story, you have to see a live one and realize that those forelegs three feet in circumference are filled with rippling muscles, shoulders five feet across swinging those legs with 7" claws. It's like taking a time trip back to the pleistocene era.
Anyway, I tend to think of brown bears when somebody says "bears". I sold that .445 not long afterwards.
The only use I can see for a pistol is if a bear has already swatted your rifle aside and got you down. If you can get a pistol out and shoot him off you (doubtful considering the violence of these attacks), good. Other than that it's just extra weight on your belt.
You make a good point about how much lead an adrenalized browny can soak up. If you catch one unawares they're no more difficult to kill than any animal that size. You wound one and get him filled with adrenaline and you have to break him down like a Cape Buffalo to stop him. Any guide can tell you stories of wounded bears soaking up a dozen or more .338's and .375's before going down. An attacking bear is in the same state, all pumped on adrenaline and god knows what chemicals nature dumps in their system. You had better have something damned big if you want to walk away.

Sorry to carry on.


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Old September 21, 2000, 12:45 PM   #13
Keith Rogan
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DZ,

Inside the beltway? Now THAT is really scary - I can picture a legion of attorneys and bureaucrats overwhelming you like an army of lemmings on amphetamines...

So many bureaucrats, so few bullets...



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Old September 24, 2000, 10:02 PM   #14
dZ
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and the worst part of being inside the beltway is that you cannot be armed.

If you think a 1500 pound bear is scary,
you should try a lawyer on a cell phone driving 4000 pounds of SUV!

eeek!

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