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Thread: Bushwhacking in Bear Country

  1. #1
    Member Tomcat's Avatar
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    Post Bushwhacking in Bear Country

    There's a popular saying among anglers in Alaska that those willing to walk a ways can find relative solitude and excellent fishing even on the most crowded rivers.

    I've found this to be true on a number of occasions and my preference is to stay along the stream bank whenever possible. However, there have been times when I've needed to leave the water's edge and blaze a trail through some rather rough terrain to reach these more secluded honey holes.

    Obviously, the potential for encountering a bear is greater in these situations, but it hasn't been an issue so far. I credit such uneventful bushwhacking treks to always making a lot of noise and letting the critters know that I'm coming so they can slip away unnoticed.

    A buddy tells me that at some point I may run across a bear that would rather charge than flee, especially if it's on a kill.

    I haven't carried bear spray or a firearm and really don't want to pack the extra weight. Yet, I'm thinking it may be wise to reconsider in case I eventually cross paths with a bruiser that wants to hold its ground.

    What's your take? Can humans and bears co-exist along Alaska's salmon streams? Should anglers always tote repellent or a gun for self-defense?

  2. #2
    Member Ripface's Avatar
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    Dude, you bet your pants I'd be packing something back there. I'd feel like an idiot if I was getting chewed on and had not been able to defend myself. A 2 lb. gun is not that much of a burden, or even a 6 oz. can of spray. There's no reason not to pack, since carrying handguns won't get you in trouble by the cops up here.
    "Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile." - Homer, Odyssey

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    Member RainGull's Avatar
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    How are your prospects in life lookin, and what's your insurance policy?

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    just put some bearspray on your belt, cheap and light a good peice of mind anyway. Sounds like you are doing all the right things. Unless you are on the russian river or somewhere where the bears are habituated (Pack creek, McNeil, Katmai, big river lakes) 999 times out of 1000 the bear will bolt.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

  5. #5
    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Default Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    Can humans and bears co-exist along Alaska's salmon streams?
    Yes, but one has to take into consideration the following:

    1. Your place on the food chain.
    2. Survival of the fittest.
    3. The bear knowing he is on the top of the food chain.

    Vietnam - June 70 - Feb. 72
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  6. #6
    Member JediMasterSalmonSlayer's Avatar
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    I would rather be mauled and crying like a baby with a smoking barrel than just crying like a baby.

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  7. #7
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I carry a heavy sixgun hoping I'll never use it in vain. Beats the heck out of wishing I had been carrying one.

    I will add the most important caveat that if you don't become proficient with the use of a handgun, it is of questionable benefit. I spend a fair bit of time at the range, and thus can judge my abilities and not others. Shoot frequently and master the handgun, or go with pepper spray.

    My other thought is, better unarmed and careful, than armed and foolish.

  8. #8
    Member JediMasterSalmonSlayer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    I carry a heavy sixgun hoping I'll never use it in vain. Beats the heck out of wishing I had been carrying one.

    I will add the most important caveat that if you don't become proficient with the use of a handgun, it is of questionable benefit. I spend a fair bit of time at the range, and thus can judge my abilities and not others. Shoot frequently and master the handgun, or go with pepper spray.

    My other thought is, better unarmed and careful, than armed and foolish.
    I Agree.

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  9. #9
    Member CanCanCase's Avatar
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    I keep a case of pepper spray on the boat. A can gets handed out to clients (along with a small shore kit in a baggy... compass, space blanket, whistle, powerbar, etc.) whenever we go ashore. They carry the small stuff, and I carry my full ditch bag (clothing, water, snacks, gps, vhf, flares, etc.) in a tightly packed....err...pack. I also tote a .45 which I'm considering replacing with a 12 ga.

    A friend of mine was mauled back in the 90's hiking from Hobart to Windham Bay despite a can of pepper spray (or was it mace at the time?). Ever since then he's continually telling me his opinion that the pepper spray makes great "seasoning" when sprayed on your belly right before the bear eats it.

    Maybe I'm a bit over-prepared (paranoid?) but I'd always rather have some carefully thought out extra gear and not need it than need it and not have it.

    Actually, the last time I used my firearm out in the field was to get some yahoo's attention when they were boarding my unattended boat. One shot in the air with the .45 and they left my swim step promptly.

    -Case
    M/V CanCan - 34' SeaWolf - Bandon, OR
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  10. #10
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    I think they can definitely co exist on streams. It largely takes both participants being aware of their surroundings....not paranoid mind you, but aware. If you look up and see a bear 15 feet away....you were probably focused too much on your drift and not your "bubble of safety" just like driving and putting on your lipstick

    Chances are you will never need to unholster the spray or gun, I think we all agree on that one. I'm around bears quite a bit throughout the season and the only time I needed a gun was when a black bear decided to bumrush me from behind near Lake Clark....luckily black bears don't like the smell of human feces running down your legs (it's a fact ). At ten feet he hit the brakes but as fast as he came on I could have never drawn in time if he hadn't stopped. But, gunless, all I could do was scream at him in a freakish falsetto and then bumrush him. (thank god for adrenaline) I've got this really neat picture of a bou shed sticking out of the tundra that I was taking and retaking as this blackie was apparently making his stalk...never heard or saw him comin and that's my fault (darned lipstick).

    Now, I do believe there is a benefit to carrying either item when in bear country (although the blackie was far from any kind of salmon stream....lesson learned there!) and it's not range, it's not knockdown, it's not about your Johnson or Dirty Hairy...it's about confidence. When I have a weapon I walk taller, I am calmer, and this translates to the bear as he stares you down and assesses whether he will walk through you or around you. That little extra calm helps you to make better decisions and read the bear better than if you stand there defenseless.

    When I bushwack I put my hunting face on, if you keep keen and aware you will be just fine.
    Last edited by Catch It; 03-28-2007 at 14:02. Reason: naughty word

  11. #11

    Default Maybe it's just me....

    but with no more time in the bush than I have had it seems as though I have a tale to tell every time I go! Four separate trips to Alaska from ten days to four weeks each. I will admit to trying to find the "other trail" i.e. away from people, and I do accomplish that, I invariably wind up in some sort of compromising position with bears! I practice all the "here bear" rules (or is that "hear bear"!) but still seem to see more than what most people report. Actually I consider it a privilege just to get to see them and have really not had what I would describe as life threatening situations....but then again, you never know! This year I will be wearing my .454 Casul for that "feel good feeling"!

  12. #12

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    I think dem bares like you southern folk

  13. #13
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    They taste like chicken

  14. #14

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    I bushwack in the summer for a living. I always have either bear spray or my 480. Make lots of noise. Don't investigate stinky things. Be aware of stuff upwind becuase if it can't hear you, it doesn't know you're there. Those nice trails in the woods aren't there because of 4-wheelers (most of the time).

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    There's a popular saying among anglers in Alaska that those willing to walk a ways can find relative solitude and excellent fishing even on the most crowded rivers.

    I've found this to be true on a number of occasions and my preference is to stay along the stream bank whenever possible. However, there have been times when I've needed to leave the water's edge and blaze a trail through some rather rough terrain to reach these more secluded honey holes.

    Obviously, the potential for encountering a bear is greater in these situations, but it hasn't been an issue so far. I credit such uneventful bushwhacking treks to always making a lot of noise and letting the critters know that I'm coming so they can slip away unnoticed.

    A buddy tells me that at some point I may run across a bear that would rather charge than flee, especially if it's on a kill.

    I haven't carried bear spray or a firearm and really don't want to pack the extra weight. Yet, I'm thinking it may be wise to reconsider in case I eventually cross paths with a bruiser that wants to hold its ground.

    What's your take? Can humans and bears co-exist along Alaska's salmon streams? Should anglers always tote repellent or a gun for self-defense?
    Just my take: Gun is not useful in the situation you are describing (fishing, presumably in waders, negotiating a stream and/or thick brush on the edge of stream, or bushwhacking through even thicker stuff overland - possibly steep with lots of climbing and large logs, with a fishing rod in one hand). hard to envision where you would have the gun, or rifle, in a place where it is kept dry - and be able to respond with it in a surprise situation.

    Also, I'm not sure I would agree it would be more likely to encounter a bear in that terrain - i.e., bushwhacking away from a stream (if that's what you meant) vs. staying along a stream.

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