View Full Version : Bear Maulings; what is the real risk?

January 8, 2005, 10:53 PM
Did anyone read that sad little article in Field and Stream about bear maulings among elk hunters?

My brother in law has been trying to get me to come up north to hunt elk, but after reading about this I don't know that I'd want to risk going there with a.270 as I'm too slow and deliberate working a bolt and settling back into a stance. I have never, ever been able to do a bolt action follow up shot in less than half a minute.

So, people who have hunted in the northwest, what is the real risk of coming up on a grizzley? Consider in your answer that I'm pretty slow and clumsy and have never been quiet enough to walk up on a black bear in many decades in the deep south even though I've been hunting, fishing and berry picking hundreds of times.

January 8, 2005, 11:00 PM
The perfect partner in bear territory is someone who can't run as fast as you can. Maybe that's why your brother-in-law wants you to go with him.... :D

My guess is that the odds are very low. If you were really worried you could take a semi-auto instead of a bolt gun. Either that or use your one good shot on your brother-in-law! ;)

January 9, 2005, 06:13 PM
I don't know about that. He's about 15 years older than me, which makes him 20 years older than dirt. :D

One of the guys in the article looked young, skinny and healthy, able to run pretty fast, but the bear just jumped out and waylayed him. I hear a bear can run faster than a horse.

Long Path
January 9, 2005, 06:49 PM
If by "Northwest," you mean Alaska, there's actually been some pretty good study done on this: http://www.absc.usgs.gov/research/brownbears/attacks/bear-human_conflicts.htm

Have attacks gone up lately? Yes, they have. But note that the opportunity for bear-human interaction has increased strongly, as well.

Our own Keith Rogan has some insight on this, having been mauled by a Kodiak brown bear on Kodiak Island while deer hunting. He used to have an interesting page on it, but I see it's not listed anymore.


As for me, I find a certain amount of adventure in the prospect of going where there are still wild things that fully believe themselves to be higher on the food chain. I happen to believe that they're wrong.

Paul B.
January 10, 2005, 06:33 PM
Meekandmild. Long before the U.S. Army went to the semi-auto Garand, they had a training excercise for rapid fire with the bolt action. basically, in a nutshell, they tied the trigger back, (tape will work) and placed the butt against the shoulder. Then they reached up and worked the bolt back and forth as fast as they could, then reached for the tied back trigger as if shooting then worked the bolt again always trying to keep the sights on target. The recruits were told to start out slow and work up to speed.
I tried it and it does work. The trick is to keep that rifle's butt up against your shoulder. The reason for tieing the trigger back is so it won't be slamming foreward in a dry fire when you pull the trigger.
Try it and see if it doesn't help you out.
Paul B.

Double Naught Spy
January 10, 2005, 07:02 PM
As noted by the Forest Service ranger guy, they have some quarter of a million hunters come through each year and only a few bear attacks. That doesn't sound like much but when it is you, then it is 100% (his words, not mine).

You probably have greater chances of being mugged and stabbed in New York than attacked by a bear, but if you are in New York, you are a lot closer to medical facilities than out in the wilds and knife wounds tend to be a lot less ragged than bear attack wounds.

January 11, 2005, 03:17 AM
ive been out several times and have never had bear problems out here in alaska. i can barely find a bear when im hunting for them. I carry a 338 and my suggestion is you take a good side arm...i recently picked up a 454 casull as a back up in close incounters which may be the answer to your worries. hope that helps and sorry if it doesnt but all in all i dont think you would have a problem any ways

January 11, 2005, 08:25 AM
"They" claim that the bears are getting to where they hear a shot go off and they are on their way to you. A shot to them means fresh meat (either you or the game you just killed) I would most assuredly NOT hunt alone. Have your pal stand guard while you work on the game and keep your rifle CLOSE.

January 11, 2005, 07:46 PM
That's pretty scary. Who are 'they'? I do like the idea of hunting with a sidearm or with a buddy.

Wil try that taped trigger routine later this year when there is more leisure time to experiment.

January 13, 2005, 07:49 PM
i dont know how many people get attacked by bears but my friend has an uncle who bowhunts them and carries a sawed off shotgun with a pistol grip full of 00buckshot just in case.

P.S. i think that if you were going to be attacked by a bear you might get fast with that bolt real quick

January 15, 2005, 10:30 PM
I tried tied up trigger practice a few minutes to see what would happen and it looks like I'll need lots more practice.

OTOH, I found a good ballistics table for the 45-70 and I think that it would be practical for elk sized targets out to 150 or even 200 yards, so it will be a reasonable goal to learn to shoot it at longer ranges. I can already work a lever faster than a bolt.

January 18, 2005, 12:54 PM
I will suggest that you get a copy of the book "Bear Attcks", new volumne by Stephen Herrero. Lot of good solid data there - Herrero is a bear researcher in Canada.

Your exposure to bears increases any time you go out and wander around being quiet. Herrero's book will give you some things & places to look for so there are no surprises for you or the bear.


January 18, 2005, 08:29 PM
Mato, thanks. Got it on order. $5.99 on sale.

cma g21
January 19, 2005, 09:17 AM
"Got it on order. $5.99 on sale."

Where did you find it on sale?

cma g21
January 19, 2005, 09:20 AM
Never mind, found it on Amazon...

January 19, 2005, 10:50 AM
I lived in AK for 12 years and did lots of berry picking, fishing, hunting or just hiking to check out the views. Without binoculars, the only grizzleys I was ever able to see (besides at the dump or while driving) were the ones that would come around after a noisy day of dialing in the rifles or target practice.

January 19, 2005, 02:35 PM
Done a lot of reading about, once worked for a federal agency that was concerned with such things...

The overwhelming impressions I got were these:
A) You don't want to startle a bear. Bells on backpacks and incessant singing are both good ideas (no word on whether what you sing makes a difference - I'm kinda partial to Merle Haggard songs).
B) You will not run away from a bear (successfully).
C) Shooting a charging grizzly is probably not as good an idea as it sounds like.

Lots and lots of accounts of guys putting rounds into charging grizzlies with their rifles, then getting chewed on. The only ones that sound like they did real well were the ones who had their rifles knocked away and managed a killing shot with a BIG handgun while the bear was chewing on their head.

Also recall a story about a lucky shot w/ a 12 gauge that killed one.

Rumor has it that bear spray has a better chance of stopping a charging bear.

Me? In grizzly country, I'd wear a bell and a can of bear spray and a large pistol. Hopefully not to be used, but, if so, to be used in that order.


January 19, 2005, 08:43 PM
I always heard the way you tell the difference between grizzly sign and black bear sign was those little bells in grizzly bear droppings. :D

January 20, 2005, 02:34 AM
Everyone I've asked about bear protection in Alaska says they carry some variety of big double action revolver. Big bullets, no jamming, just keep pulling the trigger. It also seems that I've seen pictures of people hunting bears with revolvers. :eek: Some are crazier than others.

January 20, 2005, 08:59 AM
If you're worried about hunting in bear country, here's the solution. Have someone go with you to watch your back. That person should have lightning fast reflexes and sharp senses, armed with a quality 12ga shotgun loaded with 3in slugs and a handcannon loaded with premium bulllets.

January 20, 2005, 09:13 PM
Kyote nailed it! I have friends that go to canada to hunt deer. They say when you shoot a deer thats when you need to worry about bears. You won't hear this on the news but lots of people are killed by bears every year in canada. last year where my buds go there were 13 people killed by bears! Thats something to think about!

January 21, 2005, 07:01 PM
Problem with bells/singing is, that this doesn't work well if you're hunting - scares off your game. This is why hunters get attacked at a much higher rate - they're more likely to surprise the bear then most campers/hikers, etc. I'd try pepper spray or my rifle first (if carryone one when attacked) and have a bigbore DA revolver on me for backup. But what do I know?

January 30, 2005, 07:06 PM
I read a story in the magazine that come with my rod and gun club membership that a park ranger investagating griz sightings where hunters where chased off their kill. The ranger said that one of the days he was out he saw a griz up on a ridge ubove him so to test the theory he pullled out his revolvers and fired a shot into the ground and the bear promptly turned towards him and came down the hill. Morral of the story hunt with a good reliable partner. Also you are more likely to be mauled by a black bear then a griz.

February 5, 2005, 10:37 PM

I have hunted Alaska, but not elk in the northwest as you're considering. But, I also have read the stories over the past few years, it seems that the grizzlies in Montana, Wyoming, etc are starting to figure out that gunshots might equal a free meal during elk season.

My recommendations:

- Practice with that bolt action. I have a .30-06 Winchester Model 70, and once it's sighted in from the bench, I spend most of my time practicing offhand at 100 yards, and sitting/kneeling at 200 and 300 yards. Then since I hunt in Alaska in bear country, I practice firing three shots as fast as I can into a 9" paper plate at 25 yards - I don't always hit the plate with all three, the idea is to get fast with your bolt action and get used to pointing and shooting instinctively at close range. I've never had to employ this in the field, and hope I never do, but I've gotten alot faster with my bolt action this way. BTW, I use the cheapest .06 ammo I can buy for this type of practice, as I typically shoot 40-50 shots per range session

- Anytime you're hunting in grizzly country, it's best to hunt with at least one other hunter, and preferably one who knows the area well. If you get an elk down, one guy can dress the elk, the other can stand watch with the rifle (this is how we dress caribou when hunting in AK)

- I wouldn't rely on bear spray for protection, I've heard of too many cases where it didn't work (pressure leak, ineffective spraying into the wind, or panicking and spraying when the bear is 25 feet away and not within spray range). Your buddy with a gun is a better bet.

Good luck!


February 6, 2005, 10:50 AM
Our town had the 2004 record for the most people mauled in the state.Two people last year about two weeks apart,both lived thru it ,one bear was killed by a guys hunting partner,the other guy didn't have time to **** himself.both hunters were in the western part of the state where 90% of the elk areas are general license.I know several people that wont hunt over there because of bears.Last year some friends had a bear walk up to their meat pole about 9 am and drag half an elk off,they didn't see it but the neighbors did.They were also watching a meadow one late afternoon and had a bear come within 50 yds before they put one in the ground,he just stood up to get a better look,took 3 rnds to get him going and they sent several more his way for good measure,these were all Griz.Welcome to Wyoming where the bears have more rights and the wolves eat better than the residence.....

February 6, 2005, 09:14 PM
I hunted caribou last year in ak. along the mulchatna river bear sign everywhere. Had them fishing at night just outside our tent, I crawled through the alders every day singing a prayer. I came upon huge tracks hourly yet only saw the monsters from the air. This was my first time up there and believe me I slept with my loaded 7mm every night. In the end I actually got fairly comfortable in their backyard. I guess I figured it would make a good story, better than a car accident anyway. I wouldn't worry about it. Just think about your food stuffs. I thought for sure some nights I was going to buy it; so I'm sure you'll pull through.

February 7, 2005, 06:20 PM

Where were you on the Mulchatna, and who did you have for a guide/outfitter?

I've been on the Nushagak the past three years - two years ago, I went for late-season moose and the guide told me upon my arrival "I just want you to know, we're gonna have bears in camp. We had one come right through camp several days ago, and the hunter who was here wouldn't come out of the tent at night, and went home three days early, afraid for his life."

Sounds like a hell of a welcome to camp, doesn't it? But I'm a consultant by trade, so I started asking questions.....seems the guide and hunter had cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast, and had left camp without cleaning the pots - gotta get out after that moose! Well, bacon to a bear is like catnip to a cat, and bears can smell bacon MILES away.....so it was no surprise that the bear stopped by! They never saw the bear while they were in camp. So we didn't leave dirty dishes around, kept food out of the tent we slept in, and never had any problems.

The first night camping in bear country is always a quick transition from civilization, though - funny to realize that ANOTHER species considers themself to be the dominant predator. I usually sleep a little lighty the first night, but sleep just fine after that.


February 10, 2005, 06:07 PM
mdhunter, we got picked up just above where you hunted. Three of us went unguided flown in by alaska west. Incredible country but had a bad hunt. Floated 70-80 miles of river and saw a total of two lonely cow caribou late one night. The air sevice picked us up a day and a half late cause they got the days screwed up. Those were one and a half days we could have been hunting but we had the raft and stuff packed and ready to go . It's 25 degrees sleeting and we're sitting on this exposed beach waiting for the stinkin' plane. I can't tell you how bummed I was. I save two years for this. I know there are no sure things but these guys are flying this area every day and they put us where there were no caribou for a hundred miles. We did see bear, moose and fantastic country but when you plan for years and don't see a shootable caribou it's a heart breaker. The owner was unphased, well sometimes it goes this way.he said. I was extremely disappointed in alaska west air. My advise is if you go, make the pilot show you the herd before you let him drop you off. Sorry to go on guys; I still am heartbroken about the hunt.

February 10, 2005, 07:08 PM
I have never been in bear country, but just the thought of possibly going sounds to me like a good excuse to purchase a big rifle (.375 H&H) and a 4 inch S&W 500. :) Just for the fun of it!