I originally wrote this in 2004 for another forum, somehow it seems appropriate again.
This is the Shooting Forum. There is a long list of acceptable subjects than can be and are discussed here and certainly some seem to get more attention than others.
One such subject that always seems to bring about a lot of input is the subject of bears. Rightfully so. Bears are majestic animals and just to see one on an outing in this great land is quite a treat. Any bear, black, white, grizzly or one of the great salmon fed monsters of the islands or the peninnsula, is an awe inspiring sight. Some folks hunt them, some don't.
Much is written, in lore and fable, fact and fiction about encounters with these great beasts. When hunters discuss the great bears, it isn't long before the subject of which caliber and what gun would be best.
The discussion then takes many paths, often to include the work of the greatest elephant hunters' use of the 6.5 Mannlicher to the matter of Ruark's "Use Enough gun". And often, everything in between.
Within these discussions on this forum here, as well as around the local coffee shop, someone will project that, based on Karamojo Bell's exploits, the use of any small caliber rifle with todays modern bullets is more than adequate. Others take the Ruark position of only a big bore will get the job done. The truth, as with many such discussions, lies somewhere in between.
A lot is in print about the ferocity and tenacity of the grizzlies and brown bears. Some is fact some is fiction. I don't intend to try to sort out which is which, that is well beyond the scope and intent of this dissertation. This is not about bear hunting technique, or bear guns or calibers. It is also not about bear bullets, ballistics or biology. I'm not going to talk about bear anatomy or physiology or any other bearolgy. This is about common sense.
I'm sure that out there some where is a story about somebody who killed a ten foot kodiak witha 30-30 or a 243. Some where there is someone who knew someone who once met a fellow who heard his neighbor tell about killing a brownie with a 22lr round. Or some other such ridiculous tale about the taking of a giant bear with what would be deemed an insane effort by anyone with even the slightest knowledge of bears and ballistic and with a modicum of common sense.
Shooting the old '06 from the sand bags into a nice nickel size group does not indicate the marksmanship of a hunter. Shooting from unsupported positions in the field after some physical exertion is quite different, and much more demanding of the marksman. This however is what is required of any hunter to make a quick, clean kill. Further skills of the hunter would include stalking ability to get within a the sure kill range of the hunters marksmanship ability. An intimate knowledge of the animal hunted, of habits and habitat, of anatomy and ability, of size and strength and of it's behavior and bravery is of utmost importance. The failure of the hunter to become familiar with the game could be costly, not just in the loss of a trophy or winters meat but, when hunting those who are often the hunter, could have less than desirable consequences. There's more here than just to emphasize the danger of hunting large predators, but respect of the animal and his ability as a hunter.
Predators are the toughest guys in their neighborhood. If they are not they don't survive. They are even much tougher than many animals that are much larger. The african leopard can carry more than twice it's weight up into a tall tree with the load clamped in it's teeth. A 400 pound grizzly can bring down 1200 pound moose and make short work of it. So when hunting these animals we must depart from the balanced animal weight versus bullet weight concept and not only use an appropriate caliber but develop and hone our skills to higher levels. Certainly a professional boxer must posess the best of speed, reflexes and power when pitted against his greatest opponent. Failure to prepare for the big bout will most assuredly result in failure.
There are good sound reasons for using the the appropriate caliber when hunting dangerous animals. Volumes have been written on this bullet or that bullet, this caliber or that and what it's expected result woud be in any situation. Without getting into the anatomy of bears or the ability of bullets, consider this. The death of the hunted animal is brought about by the destruction of vital organs and tissue. Whether this is done with arrow, bullet or spear, it is the same. Not in the way it is done but the result. It makes no sense to do this half way. It is more destructive to thrust a spear through both lungs than just one. It is more destructive to shatter a shoulder bone, penetrate the heart, and one lung then exit the bullet, than to just shoot through the heart. A double lung shot with a large entrance and exit wound is far more effective in bringing about the rapid demise of an animal than a shot from a bullet that expends all it's energy destroying one lung. Two sucking chest wounds will bring quicker death. It is likely that a heart shot bear will die but not as quickly as one shot that is heart and lung shot. It is also possible that it will live for some length of time. These animals absorb physical trauma through their life just in their quest for food. The rarely show outward signs of wear and tear.
When a hunter goes out to hunt one of these large bears with a smaller caliber rifle and applies his meager experience with blacktail deer and that caliber, he is a fool, but worse yet is his contempt and lack of respect for the animal. I think that part of this comes from the conscept of a guide and his role with a hunter. This axiom is essentially; "You wound the animal and the guide or professional hunter will kill it". This would still apply to the moron who hunts the kodiak bears with a 223 and thinks that's fine because he has a buddy who backs him up with a cannon.
A hunter, wether alone or with a guide or a back up buddy, should function as a self sustaining entity. If an individual is not capable of getting the job done through his own efforts, he will do no more than make a mess of it for some one else to sort out.
When we ask a guide about which gun, he will notoriously say. "Bring the rifle that you shoot best." He isn't going to say bring the most appropriate caliber for the job for fear of offending the client and his money. Should he say you really need a 375 for big bears and the hunter says they kick too much, the guide won't say; "Well, maybe you should just go deer hunting."
It seems many hunters only shoot the caliber that kicks the least. Many hunters will select the caliber that is best suited for their shoulder and not suited for the quarry. This is usually justified by, at least in the mind of the hunter, by relating a story of the taking of great beasts with grampa's old 30-30, or simply saying, "You just don't need those big magnums." This is a mistake. If the individual hunts large predators with inadequate calibers or skill levels, without someone standing along side to clean up the mess, sooner or later, he will truly end up in second place.
The Darwin Award is a ficticious award given to humans who haven't full evolved yet and do some incredibly stupid things. I think we should have an award for the hunter who uses smallest caliber to shoot a brown bear. I think I'll call it the Treadwell Award.