View Full Version : Montana bear hunting opinions solicited.

October 26, 2007, 11:08 PM
Well after 40 years of hoping and 4 years of planning I'm only about 6 months away from my first Montana bear hunt! I'm already fretting as to which would be the best rifle and best backup rifle for the hunt of the choices given below. Note the bullet choice is one based in part upon the ones that seem to shoot and feed best in these guns.

Marlin 336 in .35 Remington with 3x9x40 Bushnell scope, shooting 200 grain Remington Core-Locts. (No I haven't gotten the new tube and follower yet for good Hornady feeding. This may change after deer season. And yes this is a good scope.)
Savage 30-06 with 3x9x40 Nikon scope, shooting Double Tap 180 grain Accubonds.
Savage .35 Whelen with 3x9x40 Burris scope shooting Double Tap 225 grain Accubonds.
Marlin 1895 45/70 with 2x7x32 Nikon scope shooting Hornady Leverevolution 325 grain polymer tips.

Conditions will be fair chase stalk hunting clear cuts and meadows below the snow line from 20 to 200 yards, mostly below 150 yards. Today my prejudice is to carry the 45-70 with the .35 Whelen as backup. I know that many folks take black bear with nothing but a 30-30 or a .270 but I'm looking to be a little bit overgunned.

October 27, 2007, 08:33 AM
That's a tough call, as they are all great choices. I voted .30-06, to give you just enough power to give you a large exit hole to make tracking easier, without being overkill. I think the 336 in .35 Rem would be my second choice. Heck, it doesn't matter at all - just whichever one (a) shoots the best for you, and (b) has the sturdiest/hardiest rings & scope, that is the least likely to get knocked out of adjustment. Those two things are far more important than the caliber.

October 27, 2007, 11:09 AM
Yes you're right. I guess its like the camo question in a way, is there any real advantage or disadvantage other than preference and style? And I agree about the glass. I've upgraded considerably since the last time I broke a scope. Three of the four guns have backup iron sights, just take off the scope and go. Interesting thing about the one on the 336. It is a really cheesy looking glossy black model with an adjustable ocular lens and looks like it should be on a phaser instead of a rifle but its the best Bushnell I've ever seen.

All these calibers have been taking bears for decades and three of them for over a hundred years. (The youngest, .35 Whelen, 85 years old, was designed in 1922! It's just a necked up 30-06, similar in performance to the old .358 Winchester as well as several of the lower power 35 magnums.)

The choice of modern bonded pointed bullets is a jump for me, as old post-WWII style Core-Lokts and Silvertips reputedly do just as well when they hit a bear. The trouble is that the current factory loaded ones of either offering are not as accurate in my guns. (Maybe its the Double Tap guys trying harder to make a consistent product?) I do like Ballistic tips for deer, but deer are a smaller and softer that bears I would suppose. Bonded bullets are reputed to hold up better if they hit a bear-sized rib.

I have wondered about some of the newer glitzier bronze bullets (sort of the bullet equivalent to hundred dollar sequined flip flops) but couldn't see myself shooting up so much money sighting them in and testing them. Plus I could imagine what would happen if a bronze bullet hit a rib and just ricocheted right out of the bear.