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Thread: My first "gun drawn" bear encounter

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Default My first "gun drawn" bear encounter

    Yesterday I was doing some scouting for my DS141 sheep permit above Eklutna Lake. I had been checking out some areas away from the established trails so had been busting brush for a better part of the day. It was around 7pm and I was heading back to my bike and had about a half mile to go. I'm not worried about bears when I'm out there, but I had been going through some thick stuff for a while and was giving out an occasional "hey bear!" shout. But I was also hot and tired and zoning out a bit.

    As I was going through some broken scrub brush - dwarf birch and salmonberry and what not - a bear started woofing about 20 yards in front of me. By about the fourth "woof" I had realized what it was and had snapped to attention. I reached to my hip and drew my Redhawk 44 as I ducked down a bit to see around a bush and look for the bear. I saw enough of the bear to be relieved it was a blackie - but was not relieved to see him bolt into a run undeniably in my direction. I remember thinking "**** - I might have to kill this bear" as I snapped up my 44 and cocked the hammer back. The bear came around a couple of birch trees into the open roughly 9 or 10 yards from me. By now I was yelling something creative like "STOP BEAR!" and the bear did just that. He stopped about 8 yards away and we just stood there facing each other. Looking back, this all happened in a manner of 3 or 4 seconds.

    The bear and I stood there for quite a while, me still yelling and him occasionally woofing at me. It was a pretty big boar - I'm about 190 pounds sopping wet and I have no doubt he had the weight advantage on me. I kept my 44 level on the bear, thinking if he made any move whatsoever in my direction I was touching off 340 grains of hard cast lead. I'm not going to claim to be an expert shot with a pistol, but I practice regularly and am confident that at less than 10 yards I could have put a round where needed to pile him up. At one point I thought "I kind of wish I had some bear spray right now." After the bear stopped I was pretty sure that we were both going to walk away from this one scratch free. But this was also the first black bear I had encountered that didn't clear out pretty quick once it'd realized I was a human. And I didn't want to shoot the bear, but I could see where some bear spray could be handy to turn him away.

    Eventually, the bear backed up a step or two and then started circling around to my left. Despite the fact I was still yelling pretty much non stop, I think he still hadn't really figured out what I was. As he circled to my left, he stood up a couple of times to get a better look over the brush, and he would nose the air occasionally. (I noticed he had a big white V on his chest when he stood up - a pretty bear.) The bear was moving towards some thicker brush, and I contemplated firing a warning shot - the bear was bold enough I didn't like the idea of losing track of him in the brush. But at that point the bear stopped and turned around and began circling back to my right. I kept yelling and the bear eventually walked back down to where he first started woofing at me when I walked up on him. By now I was figuring he had something good to eat there that he was guarding, and I was just ready to back out of there. The bear was still woofing and nosing the air, and for a minute it looked like he might keep circling below me into the direction I wanted to go. But the bear stayed there and I slowly backed out, yelling as I went, until I felt I was far enough gone to continue on my way.

    All in all, it was pretty intense for a few seconds. I remember I was pleasantly surprised how steady I was holding my gun on the bear. But I also remember when I stepped to the side to get a better view that my right leg was shaking pretty good. Looking back, I don't think I'd have done anything different, and obviously didn't need to as nothing came of it. He was just doing what bears do. I do kind of wish I'd have had some bear spray, just to have seen how it worked in our little stand off, but between the two I think I'll still just keep to carrying my 44.
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

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    Glad that close encounter worked out in your favor; some mighty cheeky bears out there !
    I share the idea of favoring lead over pepper spray but I did purchase my first pepper spray just last week for encounters such as yours - closest encounter for me was maybe 20 yards, a curious black bear on the resurrection trail.
    Staying calm and focused certainly helped, good job -
    Hunt safe and stay safe and prepared for all situations -
    mtbikeguy

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    Thanks for sharing your story, glad all ended well. Spend a bit of time with Stephen Herrero, Bear Attacks, Their Causes and Avoidance, and it may help you stay out of similar situations in the future.

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    d a m n Rich that sucks! From the sounds of it you missed out on a great opp. to get some sweet pics of a bear. Next time have your camera in your hand instead of that silly pistol.

    -Ernesto

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    Member shphtr's Avatar
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    Initial thoughts include: as described "big black bear" = dominate, i.e. means used to having confrontations where other usually runs and not used to being the first to back down. Large black bears will stand their ground and challenge an equally sized griz. The bear's lack of immediate turn and run response may represent this vs. not sure what he was confronting - despite the fact that you were yelling. Bears tend to confirm what their eyes tell them with their noses - hence his circling response, poss'ly to get your wind. Sounds like you did everything right with an optimal outcome. Bet next you hear a "woof" it will only take one to make you pay attention!
    "Actions speak louder than words - 'nough said"

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Rich, that was a really well-written post, made me feel like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing the experience.

    Sounds like the bear could have had something down and was protecting it. Also sounds like the wind wasn't in the bear's favor to get a good sniff of what you really were.

    Glad it worked out. Good luck on the upcoming sheep hunt.



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    Good account........Well played. Now what about the hog sheep.........?

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    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    A great story and well told. Congratulations on the best outcome possible. The only thing you left out was what happened to your muscles after the massive adrenalin rush wore off! I bet they went to rubber for a little while once you knew you were out of danger. We all think we know how we will respond in a life and death situation, but until you are in one you never really "know" for sure. Now you know, and it should make your outdoor life even better knowing that you will keep your head no matter what!
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

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    Cool,
    Ya know, That Bear yelled "Hey Human!!

    I think that Redhawk was plenty enough "Bear Spray" ~~LOL!!~~
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

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

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    That's a Great Write-up, serious times in the woods, eh?
    Sound like some Serious Cool in the Clutch, to me
    Those Black Bears are so dang unpredictable, sounds like one situation that really could have gotten wierd, actually it did get fairly wierd, right?

    here's a question, how do you think it would have turned out if you hadn't had a gun ready?
    By this experience, you seem to be probably above average levelheaded in the woods so,
    I'm genuinely curious how you figure it would have turned out if you weren't able to have "Gun Drawn"
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Nice post - well done - Like Bushrat said "we were there with you"!
    Funny how time stops when something like this occurs..."Glad it ended well - bear spray may have worked - may have provoked an already il tempered bear??? I'd stick with the 44....IMO
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    Sounds to me like you handled this encounter as well as anyone could have. Now you know how you are likely to react. Some guys would have shot the bear and others would run, screaming like a 10 year old girl. Victims would have laid down and played dead! Sure you might have avoided this bear if you had done something different, but in reality it's just like you said, a guy is a little distracted or tired or even a little complacent and there you are.

    Herero's stuff is good but the best book I know of is Bear Encounter Survival Guide by James Gary Shelton. Hard to find but worth the read.

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    I think that being armed is a huge phsycological boost for us humans as we are physically outmatched in the case of an encounter. Having an adequate gun and the training to use it gives the confidence to stand your ground and not show the same fear as if unarmed. Bears sense it just as they do with more dominant bears. In a case like Rich's where it is not an all out defensive or aggressive charge, the bear has the chance to sense your confidence. In the end that keeps the human and the bear safer. I only carry spray where I can't carry a firearm.

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    ...my reply similar to the others...
    You bumped into a bold black bear. I'm not sure you could have avoided it by doing anything different. And you handled the situation really great for both you and the bear. Many of us may have launched off a shot under similar circumstances. I often wonder how many bears I'm pushing out of the way while bush-whacking. And I also wonder how many bears get shot when they really don't need to be shot. The vast majority we never see cause they hear us, see us, or smell us coming. While in the bushes I tend to sing. And I sing very bad. Bad enough that most bears move away. But you found a bold guy, and I'm not sure that even bad singing would have moved him away. You did good.
    dennis

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    If you were scouting where we were talking about I am not surprised. Lots of bears that are used to humans close to the trail. Glad it worked out well for you and the bear.
    Bunny Boots and Bearcats: Utility Sled Mayhem

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    I believe you did all the right things. Heading downhill after a long day, its all too easy to forget about keeping your guard up. Once you had the 44 in hand, you had control of the situation. I often wonder if animals are able to "sense" the difference between someone that is certain they are in control vs someone that feel they are at the mercy of the animal. I think they can, by reading posture, tone of voice and smell (smell may not have been a factor in your encounter).
    Gary

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    Member blasterak's Avatar
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    Sounds like a good outcome, handled it smoothly, very good write up. And to think I'll be chasing brown bears in there with my bow in under a few months...should be interesting!

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    I appreciate the thoughts and feedback guys! Upon further reflection, and reading all your posts, just a few more thoughts...

    The bear certainly heard me coming towards hims. There was just no way to move silently through the brush and vegetation. Between breaking sticks and shuffling rocks (and cussing under my breath about alders and devil's club), I wasn't being real stealthy. Could I have been yelling and singing more? Probably. But I'd been busting brush for the better part of the day and I guess I can only keep that stuff up for so long. I'm just not the type of guy to wear bells.

    Most likely the bear heard something moving through the brush, and whether defending a meal or just showing his dominance, he came in a hurry to intercept the intruder. I'm sure he never saw me clearly until he came into the open at 10 yards, at which point he held up (and not a moment too soon for his own sake!)

    As a few of you commented on, he couldn't get my scent. It was just stagnant calm in there that day - the countless flies were testimony to that! It was actually pretty neat (in the safety of retrospect) to see him sniff the air and stand up and move around trying to confirm what I was. Had there been a stiff breeze at my back, maybe I'd have never known he was ever there... nonetheless, he was a bold bear, and at the time he had my full attention.

    As for the bear spray, I'll stick with my redhawk. Just out of curiosity, it would have been interesting to see how he reacted to a spray. But I'd rather carry out that experiment under different circumstances - like someone next to me spraying the bear while I stand my ground with my 44.

    All in all, I'm glad we both walked away from this one. He was a beautiful big bear, and it'd have been a shame to shoot him under a DLP. It might have been a different case if I had been somewhere where bears were open under harvest, and I could have ended up with a nice rug on the wall and freezer of sausage - keep those harvest tickets in your back pocket!
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icb12 View Post
    That's exactly what I would expect from you and Ernesto.

    And I even had my camera right there in my pocket the whole time. But that thought didn't even cross my mind once until about 15 minutes after I'd walked away. We all know what a black bear looks like - imagine a big one, in the brush, up close!
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

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