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Thread: a recent study indicates that guns are (statistically) irrelevant in bear protection

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    Default a recent study indicates that guns are (statistically) irrelevant in bear protection

    http://www.adn.com/2012/03/08/235963...policy-in.html
    and
    http://www.adn.com/2012/03/07/235680...atistical.html

    The study was of bear attacks in Alaska, covering over a hundred years. It concluded:
    "It really isn't about the kind of gun you carry. It's about how you carry yourself," said Tom Smith, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

    So is it time to erase 8,000 threads on this site covering "what is the best caliber for bear protection?"

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    My study says he is wrong
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Ive never had a bad Bear encounter, ever. Had one in the cache before, one looked in my tent too, while we were gone, but you can establish territory, let em know your comming and stay Bear proof while camping. Of course getting hit by lightening, a tidal surge, or a mean Bear can Just happen, no doubt, but 99% of the time, Bears avoid people like the plauge.
    And yet, my Bear pistol is My Rifle Good for that too........
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    I guess I can see where "statistically irrelevant" might be applicable. All I have to do is revisit the story of the guy who was walking his dog, and dropped a brownie with the .454 he was carrying...just as the bear arrived on destination. I'd say this guy would've been a "statistic" without his sidearm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    The study was of bear attacks in Alaska, covering over a hundred years. It concluded:
    "It really isn't about the kind of gun you carry. It's about how you carry yourself," said Tom Smith, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

    "The researchers found no statistical difference in the outcome (no injury, injury or fatality) when they compared those who used their gun in an aggressive encounter (229 instances) to those who had firearms but did not use them (40 instances). Ok, does this mean that they have equated the success of bear spray to carrying nothing at all?

    From the link, "In a 2008 study, Smith found that bear spray effectively halted aggressive bear encounters in 92 percent of the cases." Who wants to let it go that far? Who wants to be part of the percent?

    I can understand the validity of their research if one defines success at the point that someone is actually mauled; at that point it seems as though we are merely philosophizing whether that someone will become a bear turd.

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    Member Smokey's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure bears don't read many statistic reports????
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    Member RainGull's Avatar
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    Been molested by Tom Smith's statistics here before. In a personal email he told me that he carries both, doubt his own report will change his mind and that should tell you everything his fallacious conclusions wont! His study concludes that firearms and bear seasoning are ineffective for ordinary people who should all become bear whisperers like Treadwell. Seriously read the study that's his conclusion! Perhaps we should ask him what he did to become extra-ordinary, so the fickle firearm and can-o-seasoning would work for him?
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

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    Member ninefoot's Avatar
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    well....i guess i'm a good example of why statistics arent bear-proof...

    while dealing with previously shot bears is not an average occurance for most people that encounter bears, a totally unprovoked attack from a healthy black bear that woke me one early morning near yakutat not only completely assured me of a need for a gun, it completely assured me that with some bears "how you carry yourself" dont mean ****...

    i'm a firm beleiver in reading body language, and i feel i can talk myself out of close situations....most of them. the above mentioned bear absolutely would have had a chance to decide whether he was gonna kill me or just beat me up had i not had a gun and known how to use it. but i did.

    we're hunters here...not hikers. in the course of my job i routinely put myself in situations that break every rule in most "safety in bear country" manuals...so i'll just keep my gun, thanks.

    with wounded bears...well, theres two options when you find one thats still alive, he'll fight, or he'll run. we're hunters, so the chances of encountering wounded bears is obviously out there due to the nature of hunting, and human error. so then the question is whether or not your gun, and you, can deal with the situation if he fights.

    theres are a good number of professionals in this state who routinely hunt bears for years, or even whole careers with zero unprovoked problems with bears...but i promise, it only takes one to make a guy a beleiver in the right gun, and the ability to use it accurately and fast.

    in other words i dont give a **** what tom smith or any statistics say. my gun has saved my life more than once. hopefully no one has to experience such things cause it aint no fun...but the alternative sux for sure.

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    Member Milo's Avatar
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    So another take on it would be that if "guns are statistically irrelevant", then the coroally would also be true - There is no down side to carrying a gun.
    Death is like an old whore in a bar--I'll buy her a drink but I won't go upstairs with her.

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    Member RainGull's Avatar
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    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

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    Stats aside, I'm sorta thinking untill a guy has his first encounter up close with a bluff charging bear, I think I'll carry a rifle instead of spray. Having once blundered into a sow grizzly and her half grown cub, I just don't go anywhere in bear country without one, yes even to the outhouse. When a freind of mine and I broke out onto a creek bank after missing the trail and fighting alders for an hour, we lumbered out on to the bears downwind with the wind blowing and a loud creek and just seeing the bears at the last second I looked up to see the sow standing and her big cub running srait at us. I don't even remember jacking a shell in but I was able bring the rifle up and luckily the bear stopped 30 yards away. I was standing as tall as my 6'5" frame would let me and realized I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Both bears turned and ran away , I sat down and for some unknown reason we both looked at eachother and started laughing out loud. I changed my shorts and we were on our way.Good luck with standing tall, no gun and bear spray. Thanks,Ron.

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    Not to be the voice of reason here, but perhaps the take home message is that for most outdoorsmen (those chasing wounded bears excluded) your focus and first defense is your behavior and attentiveness to your surroundings, with boomstick protection as backup.

    That's how I've taken it in my time in the sticks. Between fun and fieldwork in Bristol Bay, I've been within 20 yards of dozens of brown bears and within 100 yards of hundreds in the past 7 years. I carry a gun, and most definitely think people should, I just think it should not be our first line of defense. Kind of like asking for forgiveness instead of permission.

    Screw Pepperspray, if it gets that serious, I'm officially lethal.

    And as to black bears (ala Ninefoot's recent post) , I definitely keep a closer eye on those suckers than brownies anyway. In those seven years I saw 4 blackbears.....two of them within 15 feet....not cool boo boo. Curious to see what South East bears are like, folks seem awfully wary and near scairt.

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    Member RainGull's Avatar
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    The black bears around here are the scairt ones. Spent 6 months camping out and never saw a one of them. Despite them getting into stuff occasionally, they were less hassle than the ravens. They gave us a wide berth wherever we went. Saw way more of the wolves and they were plenty skittish.

    We know one family in Wrangell with lots of kids that won't hardly camp in an RV for fear of those heinous bears. Lots of ignorant folks turning every shadow into something it's not.

    You can live in Alaska for decades and never visit the state in my experience.

    As to attitude, I'm the kind of guy that every dog jumps at and wants to bite. I know how to posture and throw my weight around and make them respect me, it's just not my nature and despite having a few dogs including one that was 3/4 wolf, I still cause myself problems by getting riled by them rather than just pushing them around and calling their bluff. Our family is a dog magnet, people think we own dogs because they follow us around, but we don't even have one currently, it was the same way in our last town, it's a love hate thing I guess. Bears seem the same way to me as dogs, always vying for dominance/respect. I would feel fine 99% of the time not carrying (and didn't for those 6 months), but the few times the hair stands on the back of your neck...that's different and you can't go back and get it then if it's not already with you.

    Funny story: Had a bear getting into a cache of food that we couldn't adequately secure and we came in after it got raided. After we got everything secured and we were leaving I was in back of everyone else and knew nobody was behind me, when I heard something behind me coming up fast I wheeled around and saw a flash of black about ten feet back and coming quick. I tensed up and got ready for action (didn't have a firearm with me). That fat black lab hit the deck and cowered so quick I couldn't believe it. I don't know what my body language looked like, but he sure understood it! Talk about adrenaline! Unbeknownst to us somebody with a cabin nearby had come for a visit. Nice dog I'm sure but under the circumstances... Don't know how a bear would have responded, but I carry much more frequently now so I wouldn't have to get my mouth full of fur in the fight.
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

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    Member AlpineEarl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Milo View Post
    So another take on it would be that if "guns are statistically irrelevant", then the coroally would also be true - There is no down side to carrying a gun.
    Good point. The statistics cover everybody, not just hunters. Guys like ninefoot or others out pursuing bear and expecting to encounter them are NOT the same as the study group that may include hikers and fisherman and the like. It includes everybody. I have yet to encounter ANY person on this forum who will admit to NOT being able to hit a charging bear with a well placed shot in the vitals. Add surprise, stress, darkness, and unfavorable field conditions and I bet 100 out of 100 will still swear they can. (even if they never shot a moving target before). 90 of those people will be liars and 5 will be fools. That number will be better than 98 if we are talking about handguns.

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    i wonder how the behavior of a person with a gun or perhaps a sense of environmental control effects the potential for an attack. i think that bears have the hair on the back of their neck stand up when i step into their world. if your afraid of the dark, become something in the dark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 27 sportfisher View Post
    i wonder how the behavior of a person with a gun or perhaps a sense of environmental control effects the potential for an attack. i think that bears have the hair on the back of their neck stand up when i step into their world. if your afraid of the dark, become something in the dark.
    sure it does...ever been around horses...unsound dogs? ever witnessed the dynamics of canines in a pack situation? horses in a herd situation? bears and their pecking orders are similiar to an extent...but definitely fear is known to all predatory animals and prey animals alike, and immediately viewed as weakness. the first guy to get bit by a dog is the guy thats afraid of em...best way to get thrown from a horse is to give him control or show fear when your on him....its just nature. lol, its hard to get past the fear thing with bears until you know what theyre body is telling you though, and even then its still exciting...they can be pretty intimidating when theyre posturing. hence the gun thing...and then theres that 25th bear...the one percent bear thats out for blood. i've never met him...but as stranger pointed out, it can happen. and i'll have my rifle.

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    I'm not so sure about the effectiveness of this study...

    I'm not disagreeing with the author that the mere deployment of a firearm is effective in stopping a bear attack- in fact given the number of random clods with guns that I've encountered over the years, I'm astonished that it's as high as it is. But I do think there's a whole data set missing and it's pretty significant to my mind.

    I personally know two people who have DLP'd a bear, a couple more that I strongly speculate did but "failed to report it", and four people who had undeterred nuisance or aggressive bears in/around camp or residence that were killed and then legally tagged.

    So in my limited sphere you have a confirmed 6 (maybe actually 8 or more) aggressive/nuisance bears that were killed with a firearm- only two of which are actually listed in any statistics as an "attack". Four, for all statistical purposes, look like regular hunting harvests even though the participants didn't go afield intent on harvesting a bear and would have preferred not to.

    I firmly believe that is you counted all the bear encouters where firearms kill or deter aggressive or nuisance bears that (for purposes of this study) weren't used; then the effectiveness of firearms would be significantly higher than this study shows.

    I think spray is a pretty good idea for deterring curious bears as are electric fences around camp- but in the face of a determined attack I don't think the lethality of a firearm should be dismissed this lightly. I also don't think the type of firearm is as irrelevant as the study shows since all of the situations where bears were killed that appear as a harvest; were killed with centerfire rifles at close range. Of the DLP situations, only one involved a handgun, which would weight a high powered rifle significantly higher than the study shows.

    That's the issue with numbers....they don't lie but how they're arranged can certainly color the truth.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

  19. #19

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    Two thoughts:

    1) I might tend to think that if handguns were inferior for bear defense, there might be statistics which indicate a higher end rsult of maulings for those employing a handgun in a defensive action against a threatening bear.

    2) The responses here indicate that his study will be statistically irrelevant to those who prefer a gun...to protect themselves against a threatening bear.

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    Premium Member bmunsell's Avatar
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    I'll add that I don't think the statistics are even close to accurate because many bear encounters where guns are involved are never reported simply because the people involved were confident that they could handle the situation and the bear sensed it and moved on. Maybe a shot was fired in the air or in the dirt, but who would report that?

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