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And this is why I carry a gun when backpacking...


Thanks for sharing the video.  I now carry a Ruger LCR in .357 mag for backpacking.  Having worked in Alaska and seen bears every day I have a few observations- 

Those guys were imperiled by not wearing lifejackets in cold water a long way from help.

As soon as they saw the cubs they should have been yelling to alert the sow of their presence, and paddling like hell.

They were lucky to stop the sow with a warning shot, but she was probably making a bluff charge or it would not have worked.

I am all for bear spray, but there is nothing like a big firearm especially in country with bears with humps.




Man oh man, I'll bet ya that dude was in need of some club soda after that.

It didn't look like a bluff charge to me, but she sure was stunned at that muzzle blast. Good thing those cubs were older & her hormones have settled down some.

Glad that guy had a gun and more glad he used it appropriately.  Everyone got away clean, except for maybe a few more grey hairs later on.

It could have gone either way. They got lucky that day.

That video was hot!

A .22 lr is a fine thing to have in bear country.  Just one of those little slugs placed in the knee area of your buddy should slow him down enough for you to safely escape anything chasing you.

I'm telling ya'll, man sized bear canisters - climb in and seal behind you.  But if the weight penalty for that piece of gear is too much, consider the JMT tree hang for humans.  They can't attack you if you are out of reach.

Or if you have a buddy the counter balanced method human tree hang (note buddies must be of approximately equal weight).

One other bright idea is using the pepper spray on one’s self.   You can’t miss (can you?) and if bears really dislike the stuff why would they bother with you afterward?

Yea, another night of brilliant inspiration.


I always figured that's why people took dogs into the backcountry. When the bear charges, just toss the dog at it.

But, yeah. If you don't have a dog, just knock your buddy down.

that'll make your hole pucker...

Humor can be used as a form of tension release.  I suspect that is what is at work here. 

Being around bears at close range is no laughing matter, especially humped bears and worse yet white bears.

I saw a film of some scientists in the Arctic.  They had some polar bear problems that would not go away.  The Americans used firecrackers, alarm systems, and other noises but the bears always returned.  The Russian and Polish scientists sat on the porch, waited for the bears and killed them.


WOW! That will wake ya up. Quik thinking on their part. Glad to see they handled it the way they did, using a warning shot.

Sorry,  but I cant say I agree with the Polish and Russian scientists method of dealing with issue.

Polar bears are different than blacks or grizzlies. Black bears rarely think of people as food to be hunted, and grizzly attacks usually seem to be more territorial in nature. Both may charge (real or bluff) if they feel threatened or are startled.

Polar bears think of everything as a food source, including people. In the high arctic there usually aren't a lot of trees, so you have a pretty good chance of seeing one coming as long as you're paying attention. That allows time to unlimber a rifle in case it decides it wants you as breakfast.

Effective measures for keeping them away from a camp permanently might include rubber bullets, if you don't want to injure them. And while the U of Alaska study only looked at a few polar bear encounters, it showed similar results for the effectiveness of bear spray.

Actually, black bears are more likely to stalk humans than brown bears. And, black bears are much more resistant to bear spray than brown bears. 

So, if you are attacked by a black bear, fight back; if you curl up in the foetal position you are simply making yourself snackable. : )

overmywaders said:


I can wait for the opportunity to weave this adjective into a camp fire yarn. I awoke to a brown bear finding my ankle very snackable.  I asked him if he'd like some spray on chili powder to give his repast some kick...


"Warning shot" ?  Who fires a warning shot at something attacking just 8 feet away?  What happens next if the aggressor doesn't take the warning?

 I think he simply missed. He was lucky the bear reacted to the noise.  

The video actually highlights one of the the problems with relying on a firearm for protection against bears - missing the target.  the other is not having enough stopping power even if one hits the target.

Bear spray has a much better chance of hitting the target, especially at that distance.  But bear spray is less macho.  And doesn't go as well with full camo.

I hike with a firearm for protection against critters that might have a firearm.  For all the rest of the critters I pack bear spray.

Never carried a firearm backpacking.  I own several and every one of them is just too heavy.  I do not hike in the wild and wooly frontier of grizzly country either though. 

For me, if I feel that a firearm is a necessity on my backpacking trips in the South, then I will probably take up another endeavor. 


Bears bluff charge a lot.  That round was in the river on purpose.  Bear spray is a great idea, unless the wind is blowing, or worse yet it is blowing in your face, or the propellant runs out.  Everyone makes their own decisions about what to carry.  Until you travel in country with large bears, it is best not to rule out firearms.  It has nothing to do with macho.

ppine said:

Bears bluff charge a lot.  

 That they do.

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

ppine said:

Bears bluff charge a lot.  

 That they do.

Look for the 'heads up' approach when the bear advances. If they're looking at you right in the face like you're food, you've got a problem.

If the head is down and you're getting a sideways kind of look and a side-to-side movement of the head, it's more likely a bluff charge.

You WILL recognize the difference when you see it!

overmywaders said:

black bears are much more resistant to bear spray than brown bears. 

Can you provide a legitimate source for that? According to the manufacturers, and to Parks staff, bear spray works equally well on both.

I ran into two people in the last few weeks with different bits of misinformation. One was a lady from Switzerland who had read in a pamphlet that bear spray doesn't work at all on grizzlies. The second was a tourist from India who believed that bears were vegetarians.



Field Use of Capsicum Spray as a Bear Deterrent
Author(s): Stephen Herrero and Andrew Higgins

[Regarding Brown Bears] In 88% (14 of 16) of the cases the bear left the area after being sprayed. These included incidents where the bear con- tinued to act aggressively after the first spraying and did not leave until after the second or third spraying. In 12% (2 of 16) of the cases the bear remained and the person left the area...

[Regarding Black Bears] In all of the 4 incidents the spray apparently changed the behavior of the bear; however, in no cases did the bear leave the area after being sprayed. In 1 case the bear was shot and killed after being sprayed. In another case the bear left after a shotgun was fired. In the other 2 cases the person left. In 1 the bear didn't follow, but in the other the bear followed and the person was finally able to make it to camp, but only after firing a bear banger. No people were injured.

Also, you should read 

Attraction of Brown Bears to Red Pepper Spray Deterrent: Caveats for Use Author(s): Tom S. Smith which doesn't deal with black bears but brings up the point that some bears like spice. :)


Herrero is as dependable a source as there currently is.  The black bear incidents all sound like they were predatory.  They involved the unusual circumstance where the bear perceives humans as a food source.  They can be very difficult to persuade under those conditons.  It happened to a friend of mine last May up at Lake Tahoe.  He was building a house on Cal-Neva Point a remote part of the lake with a few large estates.  He routinely watched 8 different bears each week come through the job site.  One day a new, under-weight blonde colored bear showed up.  It wandered around and watched the workers for about an hour.  Then he put his head down and charged.  My friend made it to his truck with about 30 feet to spare.  There was no woofing or snapping of jaws, no warning.  It was probably an example of the 1-4 % of black bears that are really dangerous, because they can be predatory on humans.


I don't like Herrero's work for two reasons:

  1. Seemingly, Herrero is more concerned with the bears than the humans
  2. Herrero uses lots of incidents of bears wandering in a campground and people spraying the bears with pepper spray to drive them away. These are not valid acts of defense since there was no charge or stalking. However, Herrero uses these anecdotes to inflate the numbers in favor of spray.

If you look at the four incidents described above with black bears; clearly, the bears were intent on the hikers as an entree. Did the bear spray work? No, not at all. One had to be killed with a gun to stop it, another only stopped when a shotgun was fired, a third stopped after a bear banger was exploded, and the fourth case was human, not bear, flight. Despite this recorded by Herrero, he recommends bear spray.

peter1955, if you read the study cited above, you will see

The spray appeared to be less effective [against black bears] than when used in aggressive incidents with brown bears. All black bears stopped what they were doing when sprayed, but none left the area immediately.

Is that sufficient as a legitimate source? Certainly, it is better than the self-interested dealer in pepper spray.


Whose opinion do you prefer?

overmywaders said:

"I don't like Herrero's work for two reasons:

  1. Seemingly, Herrero is more concerned with the bears than the humans"

Well, with 7 billion humans crowding out bear habitat I'd say let's worry more about the bears and less about the humans.

What Tipi said! 

Bear spray, bear bangers. Give me a .357 any day of the week! Or even better a 30-06!


If you are going to contemplate deadly force, make sure your caliber is adequate.  A .44 mag is marginal for U. arctos.  A rifle is a better bet.

Why would you want to shoot a bear?

I almost always hike in bear country (like last weekend in densely populated grizzly territory) and I NEVER see anything more than the back end of a bear because I holler every so often. I see a lot more bears beside the highway grazing on dandelions than I've ever run into in the mountains.

I don't understand why people are so afraid of an animal that is, for 99% of the time, nothing more than a 'large ambling herbivore'.

I think people as a whole are more geared towards "condemning" others for their short comings in life as opposed to "commending" individuals for their accomplishments. 

To me this logic carries over to many other things throughout life.

Bears being one of those things. 

So many horror stories about bear attacks. Ever notice ya hardly hear a "good bear encounter" being highlighted on the news?

I myself have been bluff charged by a blackie.

Not fun but I held my ground and both I as well as the animal walked away unscathed. 

One has to keep in mind that we are travelling through their home. 

If one respects them(distances, etc) makes it common practice to adhere to a regiment of avoidance(ie make noise on trail in dense areas with sparse visibility,) and does what commons sense tells one to do(use a vault in areas where it is recommended, hang a bear bag, no food or wrappers left in your tent, etc.) I think the possibility of having a life threatening encounter is fairly low. 

In the 30+yrs I have been playing around in the woods I have yet to encounter what I would consider a real threat from a bear. 

Mind you, I was also an avid hunter for many years(now an observer.)

I am currently carrying a small air horn with me on trail where I think a blackie encounter is a possibility. I would much rather rely on this than a whistle due to the pitch of the sound omitted(tone of whistle compared to air horn.) 

The sound omitted from a whistle could quite possibly be mistaken by a bear as an injured animal in distress(high pitch, injured critter=easy meal.) The air horn on the other hand is a much deeper imposing it makes for great fun in the middle of the night. Just sneak up to your buddies tent at around 3am and let er loose.

You will see a tent do all kinds of interesting things. ;)

I would much rather use spray(although effectiveness is limited by wind direction) or the air horn method while on trail than have to go to a firearm.

These are just my experiences and what works(and has worked) for me. 

In regards to the video, I highly doubt that the sidearm the gentleman used in the video was the only firearm present. Many bowhunters carry sidearms to dispatch larger game when hunting(I did.)

An arrow does not always kill when it hits its target and a wounded animal is a dangerous animal. 

The bear in the video was doing what a bear does, being a bear protecting it's offspring. 

If you think about it a bear is not much different from humans in this regard. If you see a potential threat around your children you may not necessarily take off on all 4s, snarling, growling and bearing your teeth towards the threat(I do, I find chicken wings to be a threat regularly and that is just my reaction based solely on automated impulsive response,) but you will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your child/children. 

No different with bears or other animals for that matter. 

As with any animal they command some level(okay a great level) of respect. 

As I have said earlier I am a guest in their land. 

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

I think the possibility of having a life threatening encounter is fairly low. In the 45+yrs I have been playing around in the woods I have yet to encounter what I would consider a real threat from a bear. 


You're more likely to be killed by a bison than a bear (and WAY more likely to be killed by a dog or a mosquito) but you don't see people carrying 'bison' spray or a .357 magnum in case of bison attack. I've been charged twice at full tilt by bison, but I've only ever had a face-to-face 'encounter' with a bear once. And that was more a minor disagreement over who got to walk down a narrow trail than a real confrontation.

As I have said earlier I am a guest in their land.

Also +1.

They live there. They're necessary to keep the forests the way they are. We're just visitors.

As I have said earlier I am a guest in their land. 

Well, you may be a guest, but I have yet to receive an invitation. 

Humans have transformed the contiguous United States over the past few centuries. In most cases, this has been to the detriment of the wildlife. However, in the case of highly adaptable species - coyotes, foxes, raccoons, black bears - it has opened new areas for them to inhabit. Destruction of the eastern forest canopy and opening of farmland has given these species (and others such as whitetail deer) a far greater range.

I live on the edge of a small town in NH. Last week we had a fair-sized black bear walk through our backyard, within twenty feet of the house. In the past few weeks we have had a flock of seventeen wild turkeys, six whitetail deer, and one porcupine in our yard. The coyotes we hear but do not see. This would not have been true 200 years ago. 

Even were black bears endangered, I am not a guest on their land, nor just a visitor. The other animals and I each have a niche in the complex ecosystem; one is not more necessary than another. I am at the top of the food chain... until a bear (or an amoeba) proves otherwise. 

I don't mean to rain on your wild animal attack parade but White-tailed deer are FAR more dangerous and kill many times more people in vehicle crashes than all the boogiemen animals (bears, cougars, goats, snkes, etc) put together.  Cows and horses are also more dangerous. 

I don't want the gun and bear spray industry reps getting mad at me but I think hikers make too much of these things.  Predator animal attack stories make news only because they are VERY RARE.  You don't hear stories of people killed by horses and cows because they are VERY COMMON by comparison.  If you want an animal to be afraid of be afraid of bees, cows and deer. 

Does it matter that a predator might eat you after it kills you and a cow will just mess up your hair with their crazy rough tongues?  Dead is dead.  Its time to rethink what we are worried about and be more realistic.  Your death by cow might not be that dramatic but you'll still be just as dead. 

The source nerds will wonder where I get this info so here is one of about a dozen or more sources which will corroborte this:

Throw bites from dogs in there too, the cdc says 31,000 people got reconstructive surgery in 2006 as a result of a dog bite.

Here, if you need to see it yourself:

Now lets get back to posting cool trip reports, better yet, lets argue global warming!

FromSagetoSnow said:

...better yet, lets argue global warming!

 Oh, good lord, please lets not...



I hope that we can all agree that the most important weapon for avoiding bears and other wild and domestic animals is the brain.   Making noise cannot be over emphasized, especially in areas of low visibility or background noise like a river.  Food storage is important and well understood.

For many backcountry types it is hard to fathom what traveling in Alaska, BC, or Alberta can be like.  While working in SE AK we saw bears everyday, sometimes in groups, and sometimes at 30 yards or less.  From a psychological point of view, it is difficult to go out there everyday and go to work feeling totally defenseless and vulnerable.  Firearms are very comforting even if mostly psycological.  I like bear spray, but it wasn't invented during most of my hazardous duty in Alaska.  Air horns are a great idea and should be used more.

Few people want to shoot a bear.

The population of black and brown bears is expanding in the lower 48, and wilderness areas are expanding in the western US.  Population pressure on bear habitat is not a pressing problem.  During droughts like this year in Nevada bears will show up in people's yards, the airport and other places they don't belong because of human food sources.

The future for bears in the US looks bright, so we had better learn to live with them.  I am now in the market for a bear can for the first time.  I was reluctant at first but realize the utility of using them and in reducing human-bear conflicts.




Where did you purchase your air horn from?  I have heard people speaking of these small air horns, but I haven't seen them available for purchase yet. 

I've been taught that, for wild animals, the most terrifying sound is metal hitting metal. I don't know if its equally true for people-habituated animals, but out in the woods that clang is something they've likely never heard before. So as an unarmed solo hiker I always have a couple of metal things in easy reach -- a steel water bottle in a side pocket and a steel camera on a shoulder strap, for example. At night my titanium kettle and steel mug are at arm's length. So far I've only had to make bull moose and squirrels go away, but boy, did they.

I'm a small person walking quietly in black bear country, so as I hike I watch for sign, which includes things like flipped rocks and shredded stumps. If I see it, I start talking to them: "Hello, bears! Nice day for a walk! Just passing through, don't mind me!" And so far they haven't, the odd rump disappearing is all I see. But ours are truly wild bears, fortunately.

Metal-on-metal will work just fine. The 'clang' is a sharp, hard sound that doesn't sound like it could be dinner, and it will carry pretty well. I just holler whenever I'm hiking in the mountains and I NEVER meet a bear (except to see its back end receding rapidly over some hill). It's got more to do with making a loud, identifiable human noise than anything else, I think. Unless there was some pressing need to stay, if I was a bear I'd leave if I knew some unpleasant human was headed my way. Seems to work pretty well.

Black bears are the biggest threat - most predatory attacks are by young males who haven't learned to hunt on their own yet and who see people as easy prey. Since they manage to co-exist with people in many areas, black bears are doing just fine.

You are unlikely to see a grizzly anywhere in the US south of the border. They have only rarely been seen in recent years, and then mostly in states near the Canadian Rockies like Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. When's the last time a Californian saw a bear like the one on the state flag?

In North America, grizzly bears previously ranged from Alaska to Mexico and as far east as the western shores of Hudson Bay. The extirpation includes their removal from about 90% of their original territory. Far from 'expanding', the population of brown bears is rapidly diminishing, and in may areas they are now considered to be an 'endangered' species.

Rick, sporting goods stores carry the horns. People use them at sporting events and such. A small one is 8 dollars.

Dicks sporting goods has a display right by the front door with several sizes of air horn. They are priced frim six dollars up to about twenty.

Air horns are easy to find in a boat or marine store.  Metal clanging works with wild bears in my experience, but habituated bears are a different story.  It is good to have several options in your arsenal. 

For those that have been out there for decades with no close bear encounters,  you have been fortunate.  May your good luck continue.  The rest of us will probably continue to carry firearms.

.45 long colt cowboy style revolver, bear spray and an air horn. I carry all three of these if im in an area where im worried about bears. Ive been in nh 11 yrs, and I have seen five bears. One several times as it was coming into my yard pretty regularly. I have seen a bear that didnt run but came towards three four wheelers. Those are the bears im worried about not the ones that run away. People talk about never seeing a bear, you wear your seat belt, you have insurance on your car and house I carry a gun for the same reasons. You never know when that slim chance of attack will happen.


My brother lives in SW Oregon near the Nat For boundary.  This time of the year wild plums, blackberries, and apples are hanging on the trees and the bears come to visit nearly every night.  There are tracks and scat within 20 feet of the hot tub.  It is best not to spend a lot of time out there in the fall, and always carry a flashlight when you go outside after dark.

On every single trip I have taken up in the Trinity Alps I have seen multiple bears.  I've also seen them on every trip but one up in the Sierra.  I'll continue to pack a gun and pepper spray, thank you very much!  It isn't just the bears I'm worried about, btw.

I have seen more than 5 bears in one day.

Grizzly bears are about to come off the endangered species list in the "Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem" which includes parts of three states.  Kids at recess near Cody, WY have an adult on bear watch.   They show up in town, in people's back yards, and kill livestock.  It is a challenge to live with humped bears.

With all due respect to certain sentiments here is the reality of relying on a conventional handgun as your primary let alone only bear deterrent in Grizzly Country:

When a Grizzly drops to all fours and charges you at +/- 30 MPH you really have just two vulnerable targets the size of dimes that are bobbing up and down and side to side. Of course anyone that knows of Grizzlies knows shooting a Grizzly in the head without the certainty of going right through the eye is crazy since their skulls are often 6" thick.

AK F&G did what as far as I know is the largest study comparing the use of firearms to bearspray. Bearspray is FAR more effective. Yes, it might be a windy day but I'll take my chances since we know the odds of downing a charging Grizzly with a conventional handgun are VERY long.

A handgun with shotgun shells is not a bad idea, but regular ammo is crazy. Whatever the case one has to wait for extremely close proximity for a conventional handgun to have even a chance of effectiveness.

I see a lot of non-habituated Grizzlies. I holster both spray and an airhorn. I have heard certain experts suggest the use of a horn is not a good choice but it has worked effectively for me in many encounters. In 13 years of carrying Bearspary I have used it "involuntarily" once, this past July 4th. A large boar grizzly charged to within 12' of me after I began spraying at about 23'. The bear wheeled up and ground its face into the ground and turned and ran away as fast as it could. A firearm would have beyond any doubt been useless in that situation since I'm not a marksman in a controlled situation trying to hit those tiny bobbing eyes closing at incredible speed.

I don't know what your experience is PPine, but misrepresenting the efficacy of Bearspray could get someone killed. I REALLY encourage you to think about your ken on this. I'll spary inside a tent, I'll spray into the Wind, I will not pretend I can ever let alone consitently hit two bobbing eyes charging me at the speed of a good quarter horse if not thoroughbred.





The concept of needing to hit the eyes is not accurate, as long as you have something at least as powerful as a .44 mag.  My son-in-law is from Haines, AK, and they live with grizzlies in their yard and in the woods.  Standard practice for his family when going out berry picking was to have one person with either a .44 mag or a short-barreled lever gun chambered in .45-70 standing on watch while the others picked.  12 ga with slugs is also quite effective.  Eye shots not required.  His father worked for fish & game and hunted for all of their meat, and he knew just what it took to bring down a bear.  Grizzlies may be tough, but iron man they aren't.

That being said, I always prefer the non-lethal method whenever possible, so bear spray, properly used, isn't a bad idea.

There is no substitute for bear spray...

I still carry around my 12 gauge pump with 3" slugs though.. and bear spray, and bear bangers.

How come everybody is so afraid of bears?

More people get killed by vending machines.

John, The warning shot with a firearm is what saved the guys in this video, that froze and did everything else wrong.

A friend of mine is a biologist and has collected a skull of each species of mammal in North America.  We examined his grizzly skull one day.  I can assure your that the skull is not "six inches thick."  More like 1/2 an inch which is a lot.  I suggest large bore rifles not handguns.  I often carry bear spray.  It had not been invented when I was working around bears every day back in the late 70s and early 80s.

I used to work with a wildlife biologist from Montans St.  His head professor had the skull of a grizzly on his desk that he killed in self-defense ......with a .22.  Many of the largest bears on record have been killed with .30-30s because that is what a lot of Native Alaskan and Canadian bush people carry.  They have about 1800 foot-pounds of energy.  A .45-70 has more like 3000 foot-pounds or more.  A .44 mag has about 1200, and a .357 mag only about 800.  A .45 LC has about the same.

There are many right answers in the outdoors.  You do what makes you comfortable.



great video, I have no idea why the guy continued to film when the bear charged though, I would have thrown that camera down immediately.

I think it was a pro camera man, werent they filming a show. Those guys are insane, they know if they get something great they make big money. Even if its gory they get paid, just a diff market for them.

You give the people in the video too much credit.  They were frozen during the whole video and did not react at all until the warning shot and were very fortunate.  They sould have made a lot more noise and reacted to the presence of the bear on shore.

I think both of the above comments may be relevant. Probably a combination of both. 

LOL. Funny Dude!

I think I crapped my pants for the guy. I don't live in big bear country. But, I have been in areas with big browns. Plus, I've read alot on the subject. I'm not saying I know what I'm talking about, but most everything I've read points to the need for bear spray. And even though I've never had much experience with browns, I do know that a sow with cubs never pulls a bluff charge. I'm sure many of you guys read the massive bear article in the last Backpacker magazine. To sum it up, the experts say this: "Out of 133 encounters involving bear spray, only 3 people suffered minor injuries. But 269 incidences of gun defenses- 17 people dead and hundreds of dead bears". That to me seems to be eye opening numbers.

I myself always carry a sidearm. I learned quick growing up in New Orleans, it's better to have it and not need it... than to need it and not have it. Some people think its stupid to carry, but its my ass not theirs right? Though we have just a few predators down here in MS. Most are long gone before you get to even see a glance of them. I was tripped out to find that a 300lb blackie was caught about a mile from one of our camps in the bush down on the Tuxachanie.

My main reason for the sidearm is poachers, meth heads, and other shady figures. I know it sounds odd, but it seems to be a big problem here. There are even people here trying to pull that 'Breaking Bad' thing in an RV. By rolling down old fire roads in search of secluded spots to cook. I know of at least 2 shootings due to guys poaching, one death was a Ranger.  And a buddy and I even came across what looked like a portable dog fighting ring thown together with some chicken wire and posts. I did call it in to the Ranger Station, but needless to say... we high tailed it the hell out of there. So I feel much safer with my gun at hand. I got kids and a wife waiting on me to make it home.

With that said... had it been me in the video, I wouldn't have had the nerve to see if a warning shot could call off the charge. I would have unloaded the Glock17 before I even thought about it. Just being honest.



If you had followed your instincts you would have been in serious trouble.  A Glock 17 even with Cor-bons only has a muzzle energy around 400 foot pounds.  A minimum handgun caliber for bears is a .44 mag around 1400 foot pounds.  At close range only a warning shot, bear spray, a shotgun or something big like a loaded up .45-70 at over 3000 foot pounds would give you a good chance.  We should all learn from this video to react way before a charge at close range.

It doesn't matter that you have lots of rounds in a Glock.  Big bears have a lot of fur, hide, bone and muscle.  They are strong and don't give up.  Wounding one is much worse than not shooting one.


A big black I saw killed in nc had three inches of fur, three inches of skin and eleven inches of subcutaneus fat. That glock would just make her mad, then she would kill you. My.45 lc would do the job, the specs listed in an earlier post are for a standard old school colt. I can get much better knock down power and velocity with a modern weapon and handloaded rounds. Factory rounds are weaker to be able to fire them in the old guns. Not much powder to compensate for the more modern, faster burning powders we use today. The old smokeless powder they used burned much slower, for a smaller bang per grain.

As I said in my post guys, I don't really carry for protection of local predators. We really don't have any other than wild dogs, pigs and smaller members of the cat families. Bruins are a real rarity down here. My main reason behind why I carry on trail, is the predators of our own species. As I said above, I've seen a little too much evidence of 'bad guys' being out and about in our state land.

I know we can get into a long drawn out debate over sidearm caliber. It happens all the time on other sites. My military veiw, and the view of very well respected individuals. (Spec Ops Medic & Instrutor) Is... "a handgun does nothing more than poke holes in shit". Most handgun deaths happen because the projectile hit a vital organ or artery. Very seldom does a caliber like these even have an exit wound. Thats why so many people when hit with these rounds don't even realize it till they have lost enough blood for it to effect their thought process or motor skills. Hence, thats why you have so many gang bangers today with multiple gunshot wounds, still hanging out on the street. For an accurate take down with a sidearm, it does need to be a well placed shot. A handgun is great for protection until you can make it to your rifle.

I know a 9mm will not take out a charging bear. But, just so you know hotdog, a .45 isn't gonna do any better. Its a bigger projectile sure, but it travels at a much slower rate. My choice in caliber is based on comfort, weight, ammo abundance, and the fact that 9mm is about 32 cents around. Most others are close to 48 cents a rnd, including 45. The only penetration on a bruin one might put a little faith in would have to be a 44 or 454. And I believe thats still a chance I wouldn't want to take. To me all the stats on protection from such beautiful creatures such as bear (brown or black) is a good bear spray period. I only said about unloading on it, because it would have scared the hell out of me. And the fact that a sow with cubs... never pulls a bluff charge. I posted on here because it said 'and this is why I carry a gun backpacking'. I simply stated my reasons behind why I do. I hope no one takes this post as being cocky, I was only trying to clarify a few things.

No stress man, a .45 lc is not a .45 acp. Its a lot more powerful than a regular .45, not the same at all. Not even in the same neighborhood as your nine. Most of the bad guys that you mention are usually pretty close to civilization, not in the backwoods where I like to be. Anyway, google .45 long colt that should clarify what I mean.

Hotdog is right about .45 Colts in the new modern guns.  Buffalo Bore and Garrett make some really powerful loads.  Just make sure you know which guns they are designed for or you can blow them up.


Relax.  Maybe you are trying to hard.  Bluff charges happen all the time.

Be cafeful how you talk about firearms.


I have an antique colt that wont handle those loads, but I also have two modern versions. The newer guns just need wheels to be small cannons. I like to shoot the better than my .44 mag, they have less recoil. My fav wheel gun is my .41 but its not quite hot enough for bear defense. I do carry bear spray, my first line of defense, but I feel better with my gun. I have an ancestor who killed a bear with his bowie knife and camp axe, while clearing the land for brattleboro vermont. I dont wanna be in that situation, people arent as tough these days.

This video just reinforces my notion that as much as I'd like to experience the places that happen to have grizzlies, I probably won't. Since I go backpacking solo it sounds like it probably wouldn't be smart to go there.

I'd love to experience wild places like Glacier NP and the true wilderness of Alaska though.

No problem hotdog. I blew right passed and didn't even see the lc you had there. LOL. Your right about the longs though. Ammo is high dollar though.

Be Cool

Yea, I dont target shoot much with it. I carry a sig .40 as my edc, not the cheapest round either. I have a walthar .22 that I target shoot the most. I also reload my own except for the .22s.

Hell yeah man. I love the P22. It's a great target gun. Louder than my Glock though man. And it is a lil' ticky with ammo. FTE, & FTL whenever I use that cheap bulk stuff. The CCI is flawless though. Alot of guys down here swear by SIG, most use the .40 as well. It's an up and coming load for the country. That happy medium between 9 & 45. I went with the Glock for price, warranty, and durability. I've heard alot of good things about SIG. They just got a big price on em'.


The "walk softly and carry a big stick" philosophy is not a bad one when it comes to defence against predators, especially bears. Many people have died when a gun would have saved them. Attacks by bears are relatively rare but, if you camp in grizzly country, they can happen. In over fifty years of hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting, my only uncomfortable encounters with a wild animal were a black bear and, on two occasions, cow moose. I've not found it necessary to shoot an animal in defence, though one of the cow moose was one step away from crossing the line when she veered off. I am cautious in grizzly country but so far, we've gotten along OK.

Any handgun, while not ideal, is better than nothing at all. While not that great on a charging bear, most will work OK if you put it in his ear while he chews on your other arm. By this point, there is no question that lethal force is apropriate. I know of one fellow who killed a grizzly with a kife with a 3 1/2 inch blade. I'm pretty sure he would have been happy to have any sort of pistol on his belt. It might have saved him a lot of trauma.

By the way, the six inch thick skulls are not to be found on grizzly bars but big teeth and long claws are!   GD

You could always just go with a Nitro Express big bore:

The recoil of the side arm will take you out before the bear does. ;)

Happy hiking.

Maybe some people should just carry the old style Alaskan life insurance.  Carry a .38 and if you run into a big bear at close range just shoot yourself.

I am sure this discussion seems like a bunch of macho BS to most people.  But running into bears at close range has a way of changiing your thinking.

I hiked in Alaska and found that rocks work just about as well as ammo/guns. I have actually hunted with rocks via slingshots for grouse and squirrels. A rock being hurled from a slingshot goes very fast and hits hard! I use round smooth ones from river beds and erosion area's.

I hiked in Denali Park, the Brooks Range (actually I bicycled thru the range on the Dalton Highway in 2006), hiked in the Gates of the Arctic and down in southern central Anchorage to Homer Spit. I have encountered big bears and have had little trouble repelling them with slingshot rocks.

Also with Grizz and black bears in Yosemite,Glacier,the Tetons, Teton Wilderness (head of the Yellowstone), Yellowstone and in the Gila Wilderness.

In the Lower 48 its less likely to encounter bad bears exception being in Glacier MT.

greydog said:


 In over fifty years of hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting, my only uncomfortable encounters with a wild animal were a black bear and, on two occasions, cow moose. I've not found it necessary to shoot an animal in defence, though one of the cow moose was one step away from crossing the line when she veered off. I am cautious in grizzly country but so far, we've gotten along OK.

Watching the 'Alaska State Troopers' TV show the other day and heard the comment that 20 people per year are killed in Alaska by moose. I've been chased by bison and moose, but never by a bear. Any idea how many people are killed by bear in Alaska? 

I have been chased by moose in Alaska. A cow with calves standing on either side of the trail I was on chased me a 1/2 mile across the tundra. I had to run through shallow ponds and finally eluded  her under a short Sitka Spruce by crawling under and hugging the tree's base with its branches keeping her away. She later after about 30 minutes of staring at me went away, but as soon as I thought the coast was clear and crawled out she spotted me again and gave further chase. I ran to the park road and cars honked at her and she went back to her calves.

Moose are very tall creatures and eve tho I am tall their legs are still almost as long as I am tall. I could imagine myself being kicked by this moose defending her calves from a dangerous backpacker!

I noticed that this discussion continues. One observation I have is that some posters are talking about what is most effective in deterring bears, without actually having been in that situation. I was a cinematographer for many years and had the opportunity to film two bear shows, one for the Discovery Channel, and one for National Geographic. I also regularly encounter bears on my canoe trips in the North. I have had the opportunity to observe and in some cases, be very, very close to a lot of bears. There are a lot of urban myths that circulate about bears.

Shenora said "a sow with cubs... never pulls a bluff charge". Not true.

Waders said, "And, black bears are much more resistant to bear spray than brown bears." Only if the black bears in question are wearing goggles.

The most effective deterrent to bear encounters is not to have one. I'm not being funny. Knowledge of bear behavior is number one.

I also noticed that there was very little reference to bear behavior and the differences in habitat, time of year, habituated versus non habituated.

Remember that bears are opportunistic feeders. They have to gather enough fat to survive the winter. That means they will eat or try to eat anything that might be food. Soap, spice, a foam canoe saddle, anything. They are also curious and learn well.

As was mentioned, black and brown bears do not regularly see humans as prey. Polar bears do.

Most effective deterrent south of the arctic? Bear spray and knowledge. Most effective fire arm? Forget your handguns and rifles. In your hurry to get a round off(remember this is when a bear is charging you) you may miss completely or not hit anything vital. A shotgun is what most rangers, scientists and others carry in the arctic for defense against polar bears. The Inuit may use rifles, but the latter are more useful in getting meat for the pot. The shotgun most carried is a pump, with a short barrel. 00 buckshot in the first round and slugs thereafter. I have never had to use one, and hope I never do.

The most dangerous animal in the bush? Man, and that may be yourself. Second, in areas where they live, I would put the moose. Big, dumb and the cows are very territorial. Bison are here too.

Thanks Erich for the reality check. 

Now is perhaps the best time to close this thread, lest Erich's fact based wisdom gets obscured by more Greenhorn tales.


Well now, the bear I refrenced killed in nc weighed 880 pounds and was the state record for many years. It was killed by pro bear hunters from tenn, it had been eating hogs from a farm for some time, google it. My relative was named Ira Allen, older brother of Ethan Allen, the bear attacked him in camp while he was alone. Its in the town history for bratt vermont. I have killed a bear with my .45lc, in maine, six yrs ago. A bow hunter had injured it, it looked to be down, when he poked it with his bow it jumped up. I shot it three times before it could cover fifteen feet. I had the gun in my hand, so im alive. It had nothing to do with backpacking, not a hiking situation, so I didnt mention it. I didnt wanna antagonize the anti hunting folks on here. I have a friend that is a hunting guide, I go with him a couple of times a year. Ed, pm me and ill give you his name, dont wanba mention his name without permission. I tell no tales, and the felt has been off my antlers for years. You mentioned rednecks and yuppies in another post, not everybody on here is a granola.

You'll normally find them in the boating section of sporting goods stores, or a marine supply.

hotdogman said:

..I tell no tales, and the felt has been off my antlers for years. You mentioned rednecks and yuppies in another post, not everybody on here is a granola.

Well I certainly hope no one is proud to go by the red neck label; my understanding is it is a derogatory term reserved for folks whose manners and attitudes have little to be desired; whereas good old boys, country boys or cowboys are the more mid mannered and civil rural types.  At least these are the distinctions I am told.  And yuppies – well they are urban, of course, more noted for their book smarts and preoccupation with material wealth, than necessarily known for having bad manners.  They like towing their $100K bass boats behind chromed up Escalades or full sized Hummers, wonder why the boat ramps don’t have a valet, and have read a lot of bear attack stories.  The granola guys obviously are very down to earth, and basically think we all need to eat more sprouts and stop buying so much plastic stuff.  Yet there are a lot of granola posers, like Al Gore, because they think being granola makes them cool.  Granolas are very conflicted when bears get close, not knowing if they should spray them, hug them, or shear them and weave a sweater out of their fur.

I have no idea what group you like to be associated with, HotDogMan, and I am sorry if some of my comments were offensive.  Many speak of bears, based on stories they’ve read.  A few folks have a couple of first hand experiences with bear.  Very few of us should be dispensing advice based on our experience, Erich being one, a prior member who called himself Dewey, perhaps Bill S, and a few others.  But the rest of us have very little experience, not enough to use as the basis for advising anyone else.  Most of us are primarily book smart on this topic, and as Erich might observe, some of that knowledge appears it isn’t even from a good book on the topic.  I know bears visit my camps often, while in the Sierras, but I do not consider myself an expert on this topic.  I use bear canisters because I know they work, and know how to hang stuff such that my hangs have never been pilfered in over fifty years – maybe I have yet to encounter those smart bears.  I carry M80 fire crackers and spray because I am told they work, but have never resorted to tactical confrontations.  While not an expert on this topic, I do know when folks talk about guns being handy for when being mauled by a bear on top of them, that they have no idea what they are talking about.  (Please don’t anyone take that reference personally either; it has been stated elsewhere on other threads besides this one.)  Imagine trying to squeeze off a shot without shooting yourself while being rag dolled so violently the gun is likely to fly out of your hand.  That said I did not state I doubt your story, HotDogMan; it is the advice of others based on conjecture that I find troubling.  And even though things worked out for you, it was a one time experience; perhaps the next time things play out differently and getting so close to a wounded animal with only a pistol may no longer seem like a good idea. 

Back to those labels…  I have been called every label and name in the book, and a few I have tried looking up, but to no avail.  I guess like my genetic heritage I am a little bit of everything.  Please pardon me, if I let my inner red neck show.


That made me laugh, Ed, as I didn't know what a granola was. You are better than the Urban Dictionary.

Just for the record, I multi-identify with yuppies and red necks and granolas and, mostly, hipsters - I just don't subsume myself unconsciously under a single label (for how could the cynic then be free?). We are all multi-faceted and self-deprecation is the familiar and welcome signifier here at trailspace.

But, why not just ban gun threads? They are not listed under gear reviews, I suspect anyway. If they cannot be reviewed, then do they belong on a site that reviews gear? It all ends up in willy-waving anyway! And we end up shitting where we eat as it is so tempting yet divisive. Or move any weapon-related post to Off Topic (for those who are not registered, off topic is a place where members post naked-hiking photos and such).

As long as we are talking about guns and bears, however, there is a good story in the book by Lynn Schooler, Walking Home.


My statement regarding black bears being more resistant to bear spray than brown bears is from 

Field Use of Capsicum Spray as a Bear Deterrent
Author(s): Stephen Herrero and Andrew Higgins

The spray appeared to be less effective than when used in aggressive incidents with brown bears. All black bears stopped what they were doing when sprayed, but none left the area immediately. Whether the spray would be effective against potentially predaceous black bear remains unanswered. Rogers (1984) reported clear-cut aversive responses in 5 free-ranging black bears that he sprayed with capsaicin while they were approaching food he set out in a camp- ground or garbage dump. With a significantly larger sample (n = 21), Hunt (1984) found that most bears were repelled from food baits after being sprayed, but most of them also returned a short while later...

In about half of the 26 cases we studied, the bear either did not leave or it left and returned a short time later. These results show that at least for black bears, there does not appear to be an overwhelming physiological response that might cause bears to leave after being sprayed.

[emphasis mine]

There was no mention of the bears wearing goggles in this study. If you have evidence of goggle-wearing black bears being resistant to bear spray, please present it; otherwise your assertion remains unsupported. :)


You said:

Very few of us should be dispensing advice based on our experience, Erich being one, a prior member who called himself Dewey, perhaps Bill S, and a few others.  But the rest of us have very little experience, not enough to use as the basis for advising anyone else.  Most of us are primarily book smart on this topic, and as Erich might observe, some of that knowledge appears it isn’t even from a good book on the topic.

I respectfully disagree. I don't think anyone on this forum has enough experience with the three North American species of bears to dispense advice. (Especially someone who thinks bears wear goggles.) Bears are not a simple elemental force like a river in spate or an avalanche; the cognitive power of the bear, or a bear's reaction to a toothache, means that we cannot predict the bear's actions. So, two or three encounters by one person is not as valuable as "book smarts" which can garner the results of hundreds of encounters. 

For years we were told that if a bear charged and didn't stop, we should drop to the ground and assume the fetal position with our hands covering our necks. Now the popular view is that while that is correct for brown bears, in the case of black bears we should always fight back. Which of our resident experts - based solely upon experience - can offer that advice.

Ed, sometimes using reason and research is the right approach. Very seldom does experience prove better than reason; usually it supports reason.

Waders, I have read the Herrero-Higgins report and it does validate that bear spray works. However, they analyzed cases where brown bears were acting aggressively and you are making the comparison to their experience with black bears in a baited food situation. Now if their personal field work was with aggressive brown bears and aggressive black bears, the results might show a difference. But Herrero and Higgins did not do that, as I recall. Additionally,  "In 100% (4 of 4) of the encounters with aggressive and surprised, or possibly predacious black bears (Ursus americanus), the spray appeared to stop the behavior that the bear was displaying immediately prior to being sprayed. However, no bears left in response to being sprayed." I do not consider a sampling of 4 bears a great enough sampling to indicate that black bears and brown bears exhibit different responses to spray as conclusive.

As you so accurately point out, theories on bears and how to react to them have changed over the years, with greater sampling of incidents and studies. Certainly, book learning can be valuable. But as theories change, the books that were written twenty and thirty years ago become less valuable except from an historical perspective.

I doubt that few here, after reading Cal Rustrum's or Townsend Whelen's books,  would advocate using a Trapper Nelson.

I certainly cannot offer advice based on personal experience regarding being mauled by a bear. Nor can I offer advice based upon personal experience as to whether a .375 H & H is more effective with bringing down a charging bear than a 12 gauge deer slug. I have been bluffed by a black bear sow with cubs. (Shenora). I have been fortunate to observe well over 100 bears in multiple encounters. In some cases, such as Alaskan Brown Bears and Toklat Grizzlies, I have been able to thwart potentially aggressive behavior, with my own behavior. And I have been very close to Alaskan sows with cubs. In all this time, I have only been really concerned a couple of times. In many cases, I was able to avoid conflict by my own behavior, and understanding the bear's desires and needs.

Note: I do not pet bears, cuddle with them, nor whisper to them. I also believe that with any animal, attitude, body language and behavior can act to incite or deter aggressive or predatory behavior.

After observing the development of this thread, I was a little reluctant to add to it, but here I go.

I have lived, worked and traveled solo throughout the Far North for over 30 years now. Spent time in Greenland, Alaska and Siberia. In all my travels I have rarely found a need to carry a firearm, but the times that I have, I have never had to fire a shot in self defence. Now I live in a unique part of northern Canada in that it is the only place in North America, probably the world, frequented by the three bear species, that being Black, Grizzly and Polar bears. In spite of the numbers of bears in our area I still often travel out on the land (or ocean) without a rifle. But, this is contrary to the local customs.

People around here are very much afraid of bears, and I guess they have a reason to be. A couple of summers ago we had to shoot 5 Grizzly bears that came too close to town. Two adults, one mother and two cubs. Although everyone was happy with this, I was somehow saddened. The bears were a threat, not by their actions, but simply by their existence.

I have had many close encounters with bears, including Grizzly and Polar. Most were just curious and ran away as soon as they caught wind of me. A Polar bear came into my camp once to check things out and quickly ran off when I crawled out of my tent. I also had a young Grizzly bear follow me around for a couple days. Maybe curious maybe hungry. I don't know and I would never assume to be able to read a bear's mind.

As Erich had said,  

I do not pet bears, cuddle with them, nor whisper to them. I also believe that with any animal, attitude, body language and behavior can act to incite or deter aggressive or predatory behavior.

I also do not feel the need to arm myself against them. I enter the woods or the barrenlands not with a sense of impending doom, fearful that something may pounce, but with a simple understanding that we are not the dominant species on this earth. And I take great comfort in that. Others do not.

So, what would I do if I were the person in the video? I cannot honestly say. But as Stephen Jay Gould once wrote,

"Look in the mirror, and don't be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority or prospects for extended survival."

I take great comfort in this, too.

North said, " I enter the woods or the barrenlands not with a sense of impending doom, fearful that something may pounce, but with a simple understanding that we are not the dominant species on this earth."

I agree. Several years ago I was working on an article about the Spatsizi Wilderness in NW BC. It was threatened with resource development. I spent a week trying to get a few shots of the diverse and intact ecosystem there. One day, I walked a well worn game trail and looked down at the impression my boots were making. Nearby, were dug up sik sik or siffleur dens, evidence of a grizzly. Near my footprints, were grizzly prints, caribou, deer and goat tracks. The trail was worn half a foot deep from all the other animals who used it.  It was their trail, their home. I was just a visitor and not the dominant species.

Some of this is interesting.

Protection is not the only reason I carry a firearm. When I head into bear country, I am always prepared. Sure, I may never have to use a gun to protect myself, but I would rather have it than not.... Who knows if I will twist my knee out on a hike, or become lost in the thick brush (not likely, but still). 

The last grizzly I saw was not scared of me. He came closer and closer,  until I used my bear banger to scare her away. The first shot did not even phase her... the second sent her running. If you guys are familiar with bearbangers, they can be a pain to load, and next to impossible to get a second shot off if you are being charged. A shotgun on the other hand.... Fast reload if need be. 

Regardless, everyone outdoorsmen should carry what they feel comfortable with. For me, its Bear spray, bear banger, and about 50% of the time, a shotgun.

A few years ago I know of some people who bear-sprayed a grizzly in Glacier NP. They were crossing a river at the time, and you know what the bear did? It washed its face in the river, and kept coming. Multiple deterrents may make the difference of life and death if you ever run into a bad situation like that..


You said:

Waders, I have read the Herrero-Higgins report and it does validate that bear spray works.

That is your interpretation. However, in the same paragraph you felt that the study of the black bears was insufficient; hence, how can you say that the study validates the efficacy of bear spray on black bears?

The authors themselves say 

When used on aggressive black bears our data only cover a small sample (n = 4). For the remaining incidents that deal primarily with habituated and food-conditioned black bears, the sample was much larger (n = 26) but results were variable. We recommend further testing through documented field use and other means.

Further, while we have instances of people repelling bears with spray, how many incidents occurred where no spray was used? We don't know because these are never recorded. We have instances of people being incapacitated by their bear spray, but we don't have a record of anyone being in agony as a result of the sound of their own voice, or the noise of a bear-banger, or gun.

All of the bear spray studies thus far are deeply flawed, as you noted. The number of incidents are low, the incidents are highly variable in type, and the actual threat level is impossible to determine because of human subjectivity. Yet, conclusions are consistently drawn in favor of bear spray. 

Is bear spray a placebo as regards black bears? We don't know. Is the residue from bear spray an attractant for brown bears? One study says "Yes." see Attraction of Brown Bears to Red Pepper Spray Deterrent: Caveats for Use - Tom S. Smith

The following seems relevant:

We believe that bears' responses to the spray are not solely a function of the dose received. A substantial dose of spray to the face was not sufficient to deter the bear in a number of incidents. Study of the 3 incidents involving injury to the person using the spray showed that the person had delivered a substantial dose to the bear's face before being injured. In other incidents, the bear was successfully deterred even though it did not receive a sub- stantial dose of spray to the face. Aggressive encounters between bears and humans are complex events influenced by a large number of variables.

As for whether man is the dominant species - no, but that doesn't make me feel secure; because a virus, bacteria, or amoeba can kill me or wipe out an entire species. So as I stroll through the woods I don't feel like a guest, nor do I need to believe myself the dominant species; so far as the bears and I are concerned, we are all in this together... its us against the microbes. :)

Curiosity is a sonuvab1tch...I think of it like this:

I see something move in the bushes, am curious, and move toward it; once I identify it as a bear coming toward me, I potentially reconsider my course of action.

Now, while I don't often think it good to anthropomorphize animals, perhaps it is useful to zoomophize humans on occasion...

Thing is, the bear thought the same same thing: it saw something in the bushes, got curious, and moved toward it; once it identified the moving thing as a human, it potentially reconsidered it's course of action.

How do I know this? How do I know, in the "animal world," what's the quickest way to get something to rethink its actions? Well, I really don't "know," but I know what makes me reconsider mine...

I want all you guys around my campfire next month at the backyard tent party next to a million acres of BLM land.  An excellent discussion.


Where have you been?  We are happy to hear about  some firsthand experiences with white bears.


Wow, this thing has gone way off course. We now resort to you said he said topics of conversation. All I thought we were doing was commenting on a thread titled 'and this is why I carry a gun when backpacking'. It seems now everyone is argueing over who knows more about bears than the next.

I stated that sows with cubs never pull a bluff charge, because thats how you are supposed to view that situation. And I also made the remark that a good bear spray in bear country is far better a protection than a gun. I may not have the trail time in bear country like some members on Trailspace, but I as well as most read alot about it. And I know that books are no substitute for dirt time. But, hell man. How many of us are actually experts in this field? I'm sure the average zookeeper tending to the bear exzibit, knows far more about bear behavior than we do. And before anyone jumps to the notion that 'captive bruins asr far different than wild ones'.... no shit. They are more dangerous for the fact that they have lost the fear of man. Just like the alligators of my area.

Look, I don't want to contribute anymore to the bickering than I already have. It just seems to me there are too many people on here that enjoy the argument for the sake of it. And too many people here, seem to be here for the debates. Anyone can sound cocky online. It's easy. You got time to think about what you want to say without the threat of another mopping the floor with your ass. Based on my experiences as a redkneck hippy you might say. People like that either have no friends, or very few that tolerate them. Or just have not come across the right guy that is willing to knock there dick in the dirt.

Be Cool

ppine, I'm there.

Waders, we each take what makes us comfortable. As studies are done more knowledge reveals just how little we know about the world around us and the creatures that inhabit it. And I think healthy debate around ppine's fire would improve all our knowledge. The wild card is that every bear is an individual, based upon learned behavior and instinct. Why would a Barren Ground Grizzly walk through camp, pass the food barrels, and take a bite out of a canoe saddle? Clearly the canoe saddle had, as I recall, some sunflower seed bits on it. But the food barrels had a lot more than that. A taste test, liked the sweat smell, who knows? And bears liking spice? Certainly. It could be that they like the taste, or they learn to associate the smell with humans and humans with food.

Shenora, where did you hear about a sow with cubs never bluffing or that you are supposed to think that way? If I had reacted that way in my situation, I would probably not be alive today, and the cubs would have lost their mother. As it was, she charged twice, both bluffs, because we had a cub near us working on the food pack. In the end, we all came out well except for the food pack.

All, my original posts were not meant to incite a riot. However, having worked with biologists on two bear docs, as well as had encounters with a goodly number of bears, there are a lot of urban myths about bears that have sprung up and seem to continue. And we all know of some. Fact based knowledge, rather than urban myths, contribute to saving the natural places, the creatures that live there, and keeping us safe while we are there.

I wonder how many encounters go bad purely because of human fear. Yes, the animal knows when you are afraid. Fear makes all animals unpredictable and therefore potentially dangerous. So suddenly, the bear is dealing with a potential threat. Because if you are panicked, it can't trust you. You might do anything.

Here's my bear story, rarely told for reasons that might become obvious. I was on a dayhike, and sat down near a small brook below a bushy bank. Then two little bears tumbled down out of the bushes, wrestling each other, and ended up below me. Up on the bank behind me, mommy black bear stood on her hind legs and sniffed, stared at me for a moment, and then went back to her berry bushes. The curious cubs were actually on my feet by the time she stood again, and whuffed. This called the cubs to her.

During all this, I never felt the slightest alarm. I don't even remember thinking, "Should I be scared?" Not until much, much later did it even cross my mind that it might have ended badly. I guess my unconscious thought process was, well, duh, obviously I am not a threat, and she knows that, she's not stupid. I'm just a very small woman sitting quietly, and I wouldn't hurt her babies for the world. There was no reason for anybody there to be nervous about anything. It didn't occur to me at any time she might think different. Nor did she. But if I had been frightened, she'd have known it, and you bet she would have had to deal with me.

Now obviously you big males cannot turn into small females during a wildlife encounter, so the threat an animal perceives can't be the same. And I don't know to what extent an instinctive fear can be shut down, especially if your culture helps instill the fear. But I want to suggest trying hard not to have that fear. I really do think it's the factor most likely to escalate a situation.

Islandess, exactly. Great story, BTW. That was one of my points that I tried to make earlier. That our attitude, body language can incite or deter a negative encounter. I have worked with a  horse rescue group training wild horses for adoption. Often their only experience with humans has been quite rough and negative. A horse is a prey animal, unlike a bear. But learning that each is an individual, that they have a side they instinctively turn to, watching their tail flick, or how quickly they process thought and yawn, are factors in the horse's body language.

I certainly do not advocate having bear cubs playing at your feet everyday. I had two spring Kodiak cubs come close enough that I lost focus on my camera. The biologist I was with had been observing the sow for some time. She was perhaps thirty feet away at the time. She could have taken us both out if she thought we were a threat. When the biologist thought the cubs were a bit too close, he made a motion and shooed them away. The sow hardly looked up from her eating.

@ ppine: Hear, hear! By the way, I get your name now...ponderosa pine! You're in the high country of Nevada then...

I like guns, I like hiking, I like bears, from a distance. I wouldnt hike in an area with a prob bear or heavy bear population. I have carried a gun for over twenty years, every day. I made my living with a gun for many years, protecting this country. I have seen animals and people killed by guns, more than once. I used to hunt, but now I tag along with my buddies groups, for the woods time and the extra money. Yea, I get paid to walk through the woods, be quiet, and watch bowhunters six. I dont often bring these points up espescially online, to strangers. Im also a believer of the saying " hike your own hike". I dont advocate killing bears, or untrained people carrying guns. If it makes me more comfortable to carry my licensed, fully legal sidearm, thats my business. I have never professed any special knowledge of bears, ive read a lot of conflicting reports, here and elsewhere. I do feel I would be remiss not to take every tool at my disposal, to help me return home to my kids. I may be a redneck, but if so im a college educated, world travelled redneck. I do like beansprouts, so maybe im a bit granola too, I dont know. This has wandered way off course from the awesome video at the beginning, they showed poor evasive tactics( yelling or smacking the water with the paddles could have scared them away), but pretty good reflexes. I dont think he could have stopped that bear by shooting it, at the point he fired his gun, a warning shot was the best choice. In summation, I will continue to carry my weapon, you do what you do to feel secure, but lets keep our judgements of others on a constructive level. Here in the us we are in a democracy not a monarchy, simply because back then everyone had a gun and knew how to use it.

overmywaders said:


I respectfully disagree. I don't think anyone on this forum has enough experience.. dispense advice... ...So, two or three encounters by one person is not as valuable as "book smarts" which can garner the results of hundreds of encounters... 

...Ed, sometimes using reason and research is the right approach. Very seldom does experience prove better than reason; usually it supports reason.

The problem is most folks here are not attributing their advice to specific sources, as one is taught to do when citing others' work.  For all we know the sources of this material are specious, or the poster's descriptions thereof are conveyed inappropriately out of context.  Lacking such attributions, we are left with having to trust the information on face value. The factoid you cite in another post about playing dead when a bear charges only underscores why I am skeptical of third and fourth hand information of unknown attribution or unsubstantiated premise.

The reasons I consider only a few of us as qualified to comment on this topic is:

  • They have spent many many many hours and days in a broad range of habitat occupied by these creatures.
  • They have learned working in the field, side by side with the authors of these books, and speaking with the sources the authors themselves often rely on for information.
  • These guys are out there for a living, bears are one of their workplace hazards.
  • For all of the above reasons: they probably have done as much reading as any of us on the topic.


Ed, I agree, I dont know. Thats one of the reasons my gun makes me feel better. I never claimed to be a bear expert.


I usually give cites, as you know. Here are some cites for what to do in the event of an attack:

Surrender! If a brown bear actually touches you, fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically a brown bear will break off its attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, a brown bear may return and renew its attack and you must again play dead. If you are attacked by a black bear, fight back vigorously.


Lie face down with your hands clasped behind your neck
and legs spread apart so the bear can’t turn you over. Do
not move until the bear leaves the area. If the attack is prolonged
and the brown bear begins to feed on you, fight back
vigorously! The encounter has now likely changed from a
defensive one to a predatory one.
Fight back vigorously!
attacks are predatory.


If a bear actually makes contact…
In rare instances black bears perceive humans as prey – if you are attacked by a black bear fight back. Try to focus your attack on the bear’s eyes and nose. If you are attacked by a brown bear, surrender! Chances are it is only trying to neutralize a perceived threat. Fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a brown bear will break off its attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. If possible, remain motionless until the bear has left the area. If the bear sees you move or hears you, it may return and renew its attack. If the bear continues biting you long after you assume a defensive posture, fight back vigorously.


All of the above are government sources. 

One point I keep forgetting to make. I carry the .45 lc for another reason, 410 shotgun shells will fire thru it, thus giving me a small shorgun for hunting food in a survival situation. That fact makes this caliber the best choice for me.

I don't doubt that this information is useful, Waders, and thanks for citing. I will note that in one section they say that "Most black bear attacks are predatory" and in another section they say, "In rare instances black bears perceive humans as prey...". These statements are not contradictory,  and could be said as, "in the rare event that a black bear attacks, it is likely to be predatory." However, for someone reading, it could be confusing, much like our government itself.

I have been bluffed twice by a black bear. Was it an attack? No. Would others with no experience who had read the information above have considered them attacks? Perhaps. The information above could save a life. More information about bear behavior could save more lives, including the lives of bears.

This is one of the all-time best threads.  I have a lot of respect for the opinions of people that have worked in bear country.  Their accounts line up with my own near 100 encounters with bears.  Let this subject be an example of the concept that their are many right answers in the outdoors.  There is no reason to argue. 

Everything I have heard regarding blacks, is that most attacks are due to: the bear being wounded or sick (if the bear is caught they normally find that), and a predatory attack. Most of the vitctims of blacks show that the animal fed on the person. I have friends in the north east, and black confrontations are becoming more common. And it points to mostly human intrusion on thier habitat, and the fact that our trash is just an easy meal. Most the confrontations are not a problem. But anytime an animal becomes used to seeing man, and they lose that fear... it could always turn bad. (You can see it in areas within Honey Island Swamp. Until you get clear of where they do the "gator tours" (they feed em for the tourists), you can't stop your boat without the alligators coming right up to you. And in a canoe or a raft, it can make you sweat a little.)

To me though... that can be said about any type of wildlife. Anytime you have an animal that is sick or hurt, your dealing with a volitile situation. During droughts or after wildfires when food is not abundant, animals tend to be more aggressive. I've seen gators act this way during a dry spell, and thier stomping grounds have become smaller. Also after the BP oil spill in the Gulf, it seemed that bull sharks were coming in a little too close. I dont have any info stating that the food source for bulls was reduced, but i'm sure it was effected in some way. Though this past summer things seemed to be going back to normal. However with the drought we had, wild pigs in thw area also showed to be more aggressive than normal. And thats an animal that is in a bad mood to begin with.

In my opinion there seems to be more to an animal attack. And its good to see that we are asking 'what drove the animal to act this way'. Was thier food source effected in some way? Does the animal show signs of sickness or injury? Has contact with humans made the animal change its behavior to man? I mean 50 years ago, we would have just given ourselves every reason to go out and hunt that species down. Look at what happened to the wolf in Europe. At least we have progressed in our thinking somewhat. And any discussion we have to further that is a good one.

Shenora, you are right. There is a lot to understand about an animal's behavior that is a factor in encounters. I had mentioned in an earlier post, that understanding bear behavior including time of year, habitat, etc. is most important in avoiding a negative encounter. As well, your own body language the "smell of fear" that Islandess mentions is all part of it. In the Barrens and other places in the North where I travel, hanging food is not an accepted practice. In the Barrens, it just isn't practical, as there are few trees. Instead, we have our food in barrels. They are not smell proof or bear resistant. We separate the barrels, just in case, and put them in the bush, often in a willow thicket, and away from any trails. Bears commonly walk the shorelines looking for easy high fat meals, dead fish, a drowned caribou. Unless they had a reason(such as something really smelly or they learned the barrels are an easy food source) they won't usually go into a willow thicket to investigate. I won't say never, because every encounter and every bear is different. We also pitch our tents to avoid trapping a bear. They are curious. If they investigate the camp, we don't want them to feel trapped at any time, especially if someone pokes their head out of a tent door. On these trips, we are also aware that a bear has two main goals. One is to store up enough fat to survive the winter. The second is to survive to propagate the bloodline. Any encounter with another animal, or with another of the same species has to be made with the instinct for survival. An encounter with a human or other large animal, could go badly for the bear. This is not a thought process for the bear, it is instinctive. Similarly, late in the season, if the bear has not eaten enough, if the season has not been a good one, if the bear is old, or sick or injured, the bear may be apt to be more opportunistic, more aggressive. 

Did you know that if a impregnated Sow has not eaten enough fat for the production of cubs, she re-aborbs the cells making her able to mate again the following spring.

A fun story:

"Walk don't run walk don't run..." my friends Jen and Connie were hurriedly mumbling like a mantra as they half-ran backwards away from the bear. To me it was hilarious, the way they were barely controlling their obvious impulse to run like hell, but I somehow couldn't laugh. I turned my attention back to the grizzly standing seven feet in front of me and Peter. For sure, it had a quizzical look in its small black eyes as it stared at us, like it didn't quite understand the situation. But Ursus arctos horribilis has a reputation for unpredictability, and though this one was only a young adult and weighed about 300 pounds, it could easily kill us both. Things weren't funny anymore.

It was the 4th of July weekend, 2011, at Grand Targhee ski resort, in the Tetons. A group of my friends and I had converged there for two days of Widespread Panic, a jam band with thousands of devoted fans who think nothing of driving twelve hours for a show. Steve, Connie, Peter, Jen and I were hiking through stunning scenery down the Teton Valley trail back to the trailhead, two miles distant.

A couple hours earlier, as we started up the trail, Connie asked me what we should do if we were to run into a grizzly bear. We had just been warned about two bears somewhere up the valley and I for one was really excited to see a griz in the wild. I loudly told them that I hoped we could see a grizzly up close, "...and a BIG one, not a little cub," I emphasized. They replied with muted nervous laughter at this perfectly insane statement. Then, as if it happened all the time, I nonchalantly told them what to do in case we (oh please oh please) run into a bear.

In a way, it does happen all the time with me. I live in an area damn near infested with black bears, and I've come to regard them as harmless. Once, while sitting at the base of a boulder, a black bear ambled right up to me, then mosied on, neither it nor I threatened by each other. And just the day before our hike up the Teton Valley we watched, from the safety of our car, a griz casually walk down the road in Yellowstone.

oops I gotta go to work, brb.


So, although I've always respected bears I didn't really fear them.

On the way back down the trail we passed through an area of dense willows, the kind of semi-boggy place you'd likely see a moose in. Suddenly off to our left, on the uphill side of the trail, about a hundred feet away, something big started crashing through the growth, paralleling the trail. We stopped and stared in amazement. What could it be? I told my friends I thought it was a moose. It turned toward us and the 8-foot-tall willow thicket parted like the Red Sea before Moses but we still couldn't see the animal that was now plowing directly at us with astonishing speed. In seconds it was upon us... our mouths agape... we were FREAKED!

The willows thrashed right in front of us and a badger burst through the middle of our group, across the trail, and out of sight! We gasped, caught our breath, and instantly laughed at ourselves. We stood there for a moment sort of giggling. Then Steve's eyes widened with fear and he mouthed, "B-b-bear!" while he subtly pointed directly in front of him. And then Steve whirled and ran up the trail and out of sight.

The rest of us couldn't see what Steve saw -- a clump of thin willows slightly protruded into the trail between him and us -- until the bear took one more step onto the trail. Some bizarre type of slow motion chaos ensued as the two women and I collided in our attempt to back away from a bear so close we could touch it. "Walk-don't-run-walk-don't-run..."

Peter and I took a couple steps backward and now we stood right across the trail from the bear. It looked at us for about 3 seconds, blinked and then turned back into the willows and walked away.

I have learned to be leery of people that say things like "I hope we see a bear."   Willows and alders instantly cause me to sing out loud .  I now see fewer bears than a lot of people because I make more noise than they do.

September 25, 2020
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