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Thread: Dealing with Bears

  1. #1
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Dealing with Bears

    Hi folks,

    Vince wrote in with an idea of a thread on bears. We have talked a lot about bears here in the forums, so maybe a new thread with a new twist? I'm thinking of the sort of issues non-locals need to know about bears. Keep in mind that many of our guests have been around black bears, but not brown / grizzly bears. Here are some discussion points; feel free to add your own.

    BTW, I'm not looking for something you may have read, but what you actually DO in the field...

    1. What myths do Alaska hunters seem to perpetuate about our bears, and why do you think they are myths?
    2. What "advice" about bears should be taken with a grain of salt, and why? (this is sort of like the first question)
    3. How far away from your sleeping area do you usually put your cooking / food storage area?
    4. How do you store your food in the field?
    5. How far do you hang your game meat from camp?
    6. What other precautions (if any) do you take to keep bears out of camp?
    7. What do you do if a bear comes into camp anyway?
    8. What (if anything) do you do differently when hunting in bear country, to prevent having problems with bears?
    9. How do you determine the difference between a bluff charge and an actual attack?
    10. What is your preferred method of breaking off an apparent attack, and why?
    11. Do you prefer a rifle, shotgun, or handgun for lethal bear protection, and why?
    12. Do you hunt with the same caliber that you recommend for bear protection?
    13. If you could tell non-local hunters one thing about bears, what would it be?

    Feel free to add your own questions / answers. Hopefully we'll turn up something we haven't beaten to death yet!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    If you could tell non-local hunters one thing about bears, what would it be?
    Imagine how many people are traipsing around in rattlesnake country and how
    few of those people have been bitten by a rattlesnake.

    Be smart and be aware and the odds of not having a bear encounter are in your favor.


  3. #3
    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Default myths

    I'll tackle number one, myths.......

    Bears "want" to get you. I believe thats a strong myth. I think bears have such a keen sense of their environment that a strong sense of curiosity is also natural. They don't "want" to get you they are just in command of their forest world. I follow a consitent approach to dealing with Brown Bears.....They need to satisfy their curiosity when they are discovered or your discovered. They need to know: What you are? Where you are? and What your intentions are? Once those things are established your likely going to be looking at a bear intent on leaving the scene.

    I think understanding bear body language is very important to decipher if a bear wants to attack......I don't know much about it really but I do know that a bear will let you know really quick if he/she is intent on establishing some kind of dominance. Vocalizing, Posturing, and Advancing in a very agressive manner. When that happens it's time for plan B, quick. My experience comes from reading and at least a dozen brown bear encounters in SE Alaska. Only once I've been charged. I've also been snuck up on. The rest of the times the situation was diffused peacefully.

  4. #4
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Great thread and I will start off by saying areas of Alaska are different so needs are different except for the one to be alert.I lived in Haines Ak and that town for being so small has had more than its share of folks attacked by bear. Some of these folks with scars were my friends and the one truth among all was I never saw it comming. In much of the S.E. you have black and brown bears and I believe the blacks are worst as far as people food is concerned.You can hang your food and they can climb and get it. Put it high on a small limb and they will climb high and break off the limb. A heavy sealed ammo box hung well is what works for me but not always.That bears are more affraid of you than you them I believe is false,I don't believe they are affraid of anything but can be startled where it looks like they may be affraid.If bears are affraid of you they should be even more affraid if you hit them with a bullet but no they want to kick your butt if they can. I hunt everything with the same gun,if it works for protection it will work for takeing game. The 12ga. protection gun works good for hunting birds and rabbits and with slugs will take dear or moose. The bear protection rifle will take goats moose dear etc. If I were to hunt with a handgun I would want it to be able to hunt just like my rifle.
    There are other parts of Alaska much like the S.E. and nothing like the interior.The bears are smaller on average but can be just as mean.
    The one thing I would tell visiters is be alert and they come fast but for the beauty you are about to see its worth it.

  5. #5
    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    Default #13

    The most "predictable " thing you can say about Brown Bear is that they are "unpredictable"

  6. #6
    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    I think hand guns are for instances where long guns are impractical to carry. I must admit I usually carry my 44 mag, but that is because I am usually fishing. While hunting large game I carry a 7 mm mag. I bring the 44 mag along as well but that is primarily because I can keep it on me at all times.

  7. #7
    Member tccak71's Avatar
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    #4, 5, 6 I found myself getting complacent since I've moose hunted the same area for so long. Its been a long time since I've seen a legal bear there and I haven't seen any bears the last 5 years, but I know they're in there.

    When my new partner started hunting with me he was very "bear aware" and insisted I didn't move the food pack far enough from camp and he was borderline nervous about bears. We try to keep the food about 75 yards from camp (in a food pack-coolers are too heavy for a float hunt, imo) and keep a clean camp. We also have a fire (to notify mr. grizz we're there (as well as other two-legged predators ).

    This past year I actually left the moose ON THE RAFTS and realized my mistake in the morning! That could have turned out ugly.

    #7 We haven't been fortunate enough to have a legal bear in camp, if we did he'd be on the wall!

    Tim

  8. #8
    Mark
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    1) Always have a bear tag in your possession along with your hunting license if a tag is necessary in the unit you're in. If you have to shoot it, you may as well be able to keep it instead of donating it (including your labor) to the Fur Rondy Auction.

    2) If it comes into an active camp, or especially if it returns after one successful "shoo" away, shoot it. It has lost it's fear of man, and it will end up shot eventually, anyway (at best, or at worse, it will hurt somebody or destroy something).

  9. #9
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bighorse View Post
    I'll tackle number one, myths.......

    Bears "want" to get you. I believe thats a strong myth. I think bears have such a keen sense of their environment that a strong sense of curiosity is also natural. They don't "want" to get you they are just in command of their forest world. I follow a consitent approach to dealing with Brown Bears.....They need to satisfy their curiosity when they are discovered or your discovered. They need to know: What you are? Where you are? and What your intentions are? Once those things are established your likely going to be looking at a bear intent on leaving the scene.

    I think understanding bear body language is very important to decipher if a bear wants to attack......I don't know much about it really but I do know that a bear will let you know really quick if he/she is intent on establishing some kind of dominance. Vocalizing, Posturing, and Advancing in a very agressive manner. When that happens it's time for plan B, quick. My experience comes from reading and at least a dozen brown bear encounters in SE Alaska. Only once I've been charged. I've also been snuck up on. The rest of the times the situation was diffused peacefully.
    I am going to Plus one on this, I feels bears are more curious then aggressive Unless you surprise them every year i deal with Grizz in the bait stand... take a good look at the photo i know it is a night shot. but there is a sow with 2 cubs.... she took over the stand for the last three weeks of the season.. I never had an issue with her..

    ONE big mistake people make around kills and bait is trying to hide your there... the bear Knows you put stuff there. they are a hell of a lot smarter then most give them credit for. I would run the 4 wheeler to the bait. and sit about 100 yards away and rev the motor for about two minutes and let her time to leave. in all i have over 400 photos of her and the cubs. mostly at night but she made beds there and lived with in 200 yards of the stand, during her stay...
    Last edited by Vince; 06-28-2009 at 18:46.
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  10. #10

    Default Walk softly

    Walk softly and carry a big bang stick. I've been charged 16 times, twice by black bears, and once had a black bear try to get into a camper with me. The bear attempting to gain entry to the camper was very persistent and repeatedly attempted to come through the window. Both black bear charges were by bears actively hunting us, we caught one actually belly crawling a stalk before it charged when we made eye contact.

    14 brown bear charges, only one had to be shot (10-6 boar in Kodiak), but I've been treed twice (no tag in Kodiak).

    Several camp robbing episodes by both types, mostly blackies, though.

    My two cents - Brown/grizz encounters tend to be curiosity/turf protection, black bears may see you as a meal. That said, the two bears that treed me and the one I shot were all really large boars. One was probably a 12 footer on Raspberry Island in the eighties - I'm not sure that they weren't looking for a meal.

    A friend of mine was stalked for miles and killed by a large boar on the Funny River horse trail about ten years ago.

    Yes, walk softly and carry a big bang stick.

  11. #11

    Smile Bears!

    Bears are the most fascinating animal in North America. I treat them with respect. If they had the mind set of a man eating lion, leopard or tiger we would all get in trouble sooner or later. When I set up a wall tent with a couple of friends the bears know I am there. I cook and hang the meat close to camp. I drink coffee and snack in the tent. I also leave a LED lantern burning all night like a yard light and I leave a candel or LED lantern on in the tent at night so I can see. If a bear comes in he knows we are there and we will expect him to leave right away. If he comes into the tent or gets in the food we will hear him. My 12'x17' wall tent does not have a floor in it. If I was sleeping in a small tent on a back pack hunt I would take more precautions. If possible I would camp away from what I considered a high bear traffic area. I would not want any food with in 50 yards. If I am in the tent and a bear comes into camp I don't plan on giving any warning shots. I hunt with a customized Mod. 70 that holds 5 of those big 250 grain .338 bullets because I believe that is a good bear load. I usually have a 20 inch barreled Marlin 45-70 loaded with 6 of the big 400 grain Kodiak bullets by my cot. In 43 years no bear has bothered our camps. We try to use good bear sense but sometimes things will happen. I think bears are very unpredictable but I do think they will give you a wide berth most of the time. The exception is the bear that has lost it's fear of humans or is just one of those predatory bears that make headlines. I have not spent enough time with them to be an expert in bear behavior. The Brown/Grizzly bears of Alaska are what makes this the Last Frontier.

  12. #12

    Default lions and tigers and bears oh my!

    I think lower 48ers think there is a bear behind every tree, there really isnt and your odds of a bad encounter are slim, however, if you go trotting through the woods like your in disney land, your odds of a bad encounter multiply ten fold. My experience is 99 percent of bears will give you a wide berth when gived the choice. I hunt pretty much all big game including bears with a 300 weatherby but my camp gun is a marlin 45/70 loaded w/ buffalo bore hammer heads. It's a faster shooting up close and personal gun. I always carry a large calliber hand gun when in the field. Point being no matter what I have it on me and never sit it down. Pistol is usually a 44 or 460 smith.
    I usually pack in so tent is small. I never allow food in my hunting tent. I have tossed some or turned them into beach potti tent when someone broke this rule. I like to hang all food high in trees about 50 yards from camp, depends on area. Now the cookstove this is where I differ. I cook about 30 yards from tent down wind, one reason I have to have my coffee in the morning and dont want to tramp all over to get it going in the am. The other is if a bear gets into the cook stove gear I want to hear them , especially if they mess with my coffee pot.
    If a black bear comes into camp I sound like a mad man and get aggressive, often walk towards a bear in my camp while pointing a big bang stick. depends on the bear. If it's a black bear I chase his butt out aggressively. Not a great idea to act too aggressive with a sow with cubs. Many times I just have to let them know I'm home and they wonder off. I think being confident is sensed by the bears and they can tell there aint no free lunch in in my camp. keep the camp clean.
    I guess my main advise is, be aware, be confident, look big, and carry a cannon you shoot well without thinking.

  13. #13
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    both are great
    i own both a 300 and a 7mm both work exceptionaly but the 7 has been a better sure stopper for me. Ihave lost bears across rivers un crossable for miles with both. the bullet choice has made the differance. the 7 with the nosler billistic tip 175 grain has dropped 10 large bears within 20 yards, wile the 300 is a great gun after the second bear it has been semi retired. It all seems to come down to personal preferance.

    This coment is from the 7mag for bear thread on Ak shooting forum and this is part of the bear problem.It you can say oh sure some get away after being shot you need to get out of the hunting field.One time yes it can happen but shouldn't. In the town I was from if someone lost a bear they came to town and reported it. We would then get a grounp together and do our damest to bring the bear in and the guy loseing the bear got his butt chewed.You don't do it twice or you ain't hunting bears again or at least don't let anyone catch you.I guess thats why I feel takeing game over a hundred yards away is shooting and not hunting.To me this man shows zero respect for bears and the hunters that follow him into the field. Maybe I get pissed to easy

  14. #14
    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    Myth - bears have bad eye sight.

    I think they just don't give a hoot about anything they see that is not bigger than them which could be a threat to them.

    A few years ago the Archers Choice crew filmed a grizzly out west near Bethel while hunting with Brad Renfro. It was coming up a creek towards them as they were hidden down wind on a short ridge in willows. At over 200 yards the bear looked directly at the camera and then backed up and crossed the creek on a beaver dam and walked away down wind over a rise. The bear clearly saw the guide, hunter, and camera guy at over 200 yards and decided to not keep going in that direction.

    Only few times on the Russian in the canyon I have been the only fisherman on the river in view of a black bear on the bank up wind of me as I walked upstream. They have always looked at me as I came into view at about 50 yards around a rock or something along the bank. When I stop moving they keep looking and even if I keep moving they look but don't move off the bank. Once a large brown bear came out far away and the black bear scooted up the hill. It clearly saw the difference between me and the brown bear at a distance which would have required good eyesight.

    How many bear baiting videos have you watched the bear look right at the guys in the tree stands. They obviously see the hunter up there, but they just do not care since they are the top of the food chain in the woods.

    If bears have bad eyesight I would like to see the scientific paper that documents that, not just an assumption.

  15. #15
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    NOt only can they see well i think they hear rather good too this guy looked straight at the camera at 30 yards..on a moultry click.

    he was harvested by my step son (age 10)12 hours later on his first bear hunt.
    Last edited by Vince; 06-28-2009 at 18:46.
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  16. #16
    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    Bear Data:

    3. How far away from your sleeping area do you usually put your cooking / food storage area? ---- I'm bad at this I cook next to my tent, sometimes have cooked inside my tent while deep in bear country and on several bear hunts. I have never had an issue with one in camp but if you see the food that I take on a hunt you would not want to eat it either.

    4. How do you store your food in the field? ---- Again not a good example, I store food in rough totes normally 5 yards from tent, or less.

    5. How far do you hang your game meat from camp? ---- 150+ feet from tent, one year something took a bear hide my brother in law had hanging in the rafters of a forest service cabin (8 feet + off the ground), bad day for us and his $500 tag was on the hide. He did get another, 5 years later, lots of explaining at ADF&G too, but we had pictures which helped.

    9. How do you determine the difference between a bluff charge and an actual attack? ---- You live to write about your experiences with bear. Had a sow charge me once, my determing factor was it was a bluff charge is that I still had rounds in my rifle, if she would have got any closer I would not of had any rounds left. Her two cubs were not far behind her in her charge neither...lucky it worked out the way it did to say the least, and now I use the electric fence (refer to poor practices above as to why), as I gained more respect for brown fuzzy animal.

    10. What is your preferred method of breaking off an apparent attack, and why? ---- When charged I yelled at the top of my lungs "GO....GO", not sure why that worked but it was followed by a warning shot when the charge was under 15 yards.

    11. Do you prefer a rifle, shotgun, or handgun for lethal bear protection, and why? ---- Personally I would prefer my M590 Mossburg shot gun with slugs, it holds a lot and fast to get a bead on a bear and easy to fire lots of big lead at the animal. However the .338 worked in the situation described above. A pistol would be nice but a long rifle/shotgun is a much more deadly weapon in my hands and opinion.

    13. If you could tell non-local hunters one thing about bears, what would it be? ---- Give them space, respect, and always look out for them, even when you have not seen any sign.

  17. #17
    Mark
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    Default AkFishOn Inspired Me.............

    How far away from your sleeping area do you usually put your cooking / food storage area?
    Depends on the site and conditions, but I've never cooked or eaten in my sleeping tent, never will, and even when in huge camps with lots of guys, the food won't be near my tent..............

    How do you store your food in the field?
    Again, depends on the site, conditions, if it's a long term camp or overnighter-while-on-the-way, etc.

    How far do you hang your game meat from camp?
    Again, depends on the site, conditions, if it's a long term camp or overnighter-while-on-the-way, etc.

    I like the 90-90-90 triangle rule. Sleep in one spot, cook/eat in another at least 90' away, and hang food/meat in yet another 90' from both other spots.

    But travel/time/condition constraints may not allow such luxuries.

    What other precautions (if any) do you take to keep bears out of camp?
    Again, my precautions depend. I'm most cautious about bears when alone. If I'm in a huge camp, I'm safe from bears. I have to worry most about gunfire.

    What do you do if a bear comes into camp anyway?
    Depends on the bear's behavior, my camp, if I'm alone, and if it's a nice, legal bear.

    How do you determine the difference between a bluff charge and an actual attack?
    I don't. If it charges and I'm armed and ready, I'm shooting him/her.

    In the past, the charges were obviously bluffs/surprises that were so close/quick that I wouldn't have gotten an aimed shot off, anyway (which isn't very comforting).

    That's happened only a few times, and all were black bears that were surprised so close that it would have been hand-to-claw combat, anyway.

    What is your preferred method of breaking off an apparent attack, and why?
    My preferred method is scrambling for my weapon, and when bringing it to "bear" and it's still going on, shooting.

    Why? Cause I'm not sitting around passively while getting chewed on. Period.

    Do you prefer a rifle, shotgun, or handgun for lethal bear protection, and why?
    The best weapon used in a bear attack is the one you've got in hand at the moment.

    Actually, that philosophy works well with attacks from other species, too.

    Do you hunt with the same caliber that you recommend for bear protection?
    Yup. 30-06 or better, with a sidearm 357 mag or better.

    In winter, when the bears are sleeping, I might carry a smaller caliber rifle, but still carry a 44 mag on the handlebars of the snowmobile. I've also had real close calls with belligerant moose on trails that were so closed in by brush that I thought I'd be doing the hand-to-hoof combat.

    If you could tell non-local hunters one thing about bears, what would it be?
    Bear danger is highly overrated in Alaska as long as you're not stupid, but anything might happen at any time, so be prepared.

  18. #18
    Member akshrop's Avatar
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    I have had only one scary encounter. It was over a fishing hole, I left, bear let me leave. Full version is a little tenser, but in the end the short version is what happened. I keep a clean camp and have only had one raid on my camp, Bear didnt even make a mess, just ate 21 bratwurst and left. I think the best bear precaution is to simply have the, I am hunting them mentality. As long as I am in the hunting mode, they stay as far away as possible. This is a proven method, as I have never shot one.

  19. #19
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default You beat me to it!

    Quote Originally Posted by akshrop View Post
    ...I think the best bear precaution is to simply have the, I am hunting them mentality. As long as I am in the hunting mode, they stay as far away as possible. This is a proven method, as I have never shot one.
    I was thinking exactly the same thing; finding bears seems much more difficult when you are looking for them...

    -Mike
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  20. #20
    Member GrassLakeRon's Avatar
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    Once again, another good post. Here are a few questions: 1) I have been around black bears when hunting white tails in Michigan. My only encounter has been a good one. 60 yards was as close as it got and I never raised my gun in fear. It stared at me for what seemed to be several minutes, then left. Now from what I have read and been told, black and polar bears can see you as a food source, browns and grizzly not so much (unless you have the last name of treadwell). Is this true based upon experiences? Most animals when they feel threatened will fight or flight just like humans. 2) Really, after reading several posts, is it truly necessary to carry a cannon into the field? I love my 06', but after reading up a change to a 375 H&H seemed a better choice. US Forrest report in the 80's and countless threads here lead me to that. No joke, how many bears have come in close and how many wanted to do more then just say "Hi" and leave? %? 3) I have watched film (yes I know this is always a bad way to experience things) that after a grizzly, shot by an 06', comes right at the hunter. I have seen white tails run 100 yards after a double lung/heart shot with a everything from a 180 grain ballistic tip to a 200 grain accubond. Bears are bigger. The only deer I have taken that drop in the same spot without moving an inch and been with more then 3000 ft/lbs of energy at less then 25 yards (the last two being, 300 SP from a 375 H&H(had to see it work) and 437 grains from a 12 gauge at 10 yards). Is killing a bear just more or less luck then skill when using a smaller caliber or just good fortune that it doesn't turn and come back at you.

    As always, thanks for the comments.....

    Ron

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