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Thread: How useful are bellyguns while hunting up there?

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    Member NDTerminator's Avatar
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    Default How useful are bellyguns while hunting up there?

    This one has had me curious for awhile. How actually useful are bellyguns for hunting & critter defense in AK?

    I should start this with my usual disclaimer that I share Metthew Quigley's view on handguns. Carry one professionally for 30 years and a person develops an opinion what they are good for and what they aren't. For work & personal defense I carry a Kimber custom shop 3" 45ACP, but given any opportunity, when the chips are down I would far rather have an 870 full of 4 Buck or a Remington 700 in my hands.

    I do currently own one 44 Mag (SS Ruger Bisely Hunter) purely for the hell of it. A few years ago age related near vision issues raised their unwelcome head, and open sights all are situated right at the distance where everrything is most fuzzy. If I clamp a red dot or scope on the Bisely it is flat out deadly out to 100 yards, but is then a PITA to lug around. The trituim three dot sights on my Kimber are a big help for 2 legged defensive work.

    from over the years I have quit a bit of experience shooting/hunting deer with the 44 Mag and from that experience my guess is it's pretty marginal (but better than nothing) to stop a POed bear. Of course with the bigger stuff like the 460 & 500 there is a lot more thump, but there is till the PITA factor of having to lug it around, and a person still has to hit what he's shooting at under severe duress.

    A couple years ago our Leg. passed a law to make it legal to carry a bellygun when bowhunting. This was in response to an exploding cat population, patricularly out in the western part of the state, and some uncomfortably close encounters that happened to bowhunters out there as a result. There is no question cats have gotten more than a toe-hold here in ND, but in all the years I've bowhunted the Breaks, I myself have never seen so much as a track. I'm thinking I would be better off to arrow it rather then try to bellgun it, myself. In fact, every time I think about taking one of my recurves and the Foxpro up into the Pembina Gorge (about 70 minutes north of my place, right on the Canadian border) to try to call in a kitty long about Feb or early March, the idea sounds better & better...

    But I digress... So who of you AK res-dudes carries a pistol when hunting, and have you used it (presuming you couldn't get at a rifle or shotgun) in defense of life against some critter?

    Or, is the weight better taken up with a couple pounds of food or other gear in the pack?

  2. #2

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    I hunted with them almost exclusively for more than 20 years and took everything up to moose, but didn't bother with bears. Over and above that, twice now I've had bears arrive and try to drive me off moose or elk I was dressing. The rifle was always on the "wrong" side of the carcass and I was up to my shoulders in gore. Kinda dandy having that handgun on my belt.

    But I have to agree on one angle of what you're inferring. If a guy doesn't shoot the handgun enough to get REALLY good with it, he might as well carry extra food or even a double handful of rocks instead. A bum shot with a handgun is a liability.

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    Member f0zzy2's Avatar
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    Depends how your hunting. If I'm bow hunting out of a stand I carry my sawed off 12 gauge. I only bow hunt while baiting black bears and have been rattled by bears on the trail while I'm walking in and have had them climb in to my stand with me. They love tearing up my stand. I did have to shoot a small bear that refused to leave my tree but I arrowed him on his third bluff. While rifle hunting i'm leaving the shot gun in camp. I did carried a 44 mag when I first moved here but it grew to heavy. I always have the shot gun in my boat or tent at night. I think most back pack hunters carry only rifles. But thats just me.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    My 10mm goes with me at least to base camp. Base camp is the only place I really have any food or will be storing any meat that would attract a bears attention. Out hiking or in spike camp I have my rifle and sense of adventure. <grin>

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    I keep a .44 revolver for sleeping in the tent but if I'm hunting with a rifle I don't bother lugging it around. More and more I even take a rifle hiking when in remote areas. I realize the handgun is more placebo for my mind than real effective defense and their real world use is dubious at best, at least in my hands.

    I don't see the point of carrying 4lbs of "marginal" when I can take 7lbs of "effective". The newer lightweight rifles have taken on more of a defensive role- I don't bowhunt, so having hands free to work a bow isn't really a consideration for me.

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    When I land fished in AK I carried a Sako .375 H&H carbine but it is **** hard to fly fish with a rifle slung on you back. If you put it down an walk the stream or river it is always somewhere you aren't when the bear shows up. I always had a big rifle on canoe trips but then I usually wasn't carrying it much. I bought an airplane from the widow of a fellow who didn't stop a little sow with a shotgun. Bear took 5 slugs and died shortly before the man. The only event I had when I lived in AK with a bear up close was on Kodiak and I backed off the deer and let the bear have it...just wish he had come before I gutted it. Here on the East Coast the threat is 2 legged and I use a Glock 27 or 23....much easier to fish or bow hunt with.

    Once my wife retires in 2012 we're moving to Idaho panhandle and I may change my mind, but I think I will stick with the Glock but maybe this time my G21 with the 6" conversion barrel in 10mm. For cats it should be plenty and the bears are a bit smaller there so I'll take my chances. I just put together a Tikka Lite in .338 Federal and it is right at 7 pounds with a Leupold 2-7x Compact. It will no doubt get some time outside but it presents the same problem with being there when you need it. I believe I'd rather have the 10mm on my person than a rifle leaning against the bank....IMHO.

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    I have never carried a pistol while hunting or hiking. I have never had a bad bear encounter.
    Note all bear encounters are GOOD, unless contact occurrs. Then it is BAD.
    But while hiking the Anchorage hillside, which I do a hundred+ days a year for 22 years, I have been bit by domestic dogs three times.
    Therefore, I do not carry a pistol so I will not have to defend myself in court after blowing away somebodys beloved pet pooch.
    While hiking, I'm far more concerned with undiciplined dogs than bears, even habituated bears. While hunting I rely on a .338 rather than a handgun.
    Carry if you feel you must. I know of nobody who does.
    dennis

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    I always carry a pistol from habit practice with it a lot and believe it will help if ever needed.My rifles are all single shots open sights so my pistol just feels right.
    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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    When hunting I feel the 338 is gun enough. I do keep a 44 in camp though - not sure why.
    Fishing is another story - I always have the 44 mag on a belt. Not necessarily to kill a bear, just to make me feel better when I see bear tracks on the gravel, dead, bitten fish on the bank or hear the brush rustle behind me - oh my!

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    Thanks for the replies. I'm very surprised that the 44 Mag seems to be the most predominant round. I fully expected more mention of bigger stuff like the 460 S&W, 500 S&W, and 454 Casull, 480 Ruger. Is this because 44 Mag bellyguns & ammo are easier to find up there?

    A couple months ago I was in the Cabelas in East Grand Forks, Minn (about 90 miles east of my place and just across the Red River into Minn from ND). They had a S&W 500 there with what looked like a 2.5" barrel and blaze orange Hogue grips. Just to state the obvious, the guy at the counter said it's intended use was self defense against big bear. I thought it was an oddball to have in stock as the closest brownie is in the Bismarck Zoo. Talk about a price tag on that short barrelled fire breather too!!!

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    Member Torqued's Avatar
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    I used to have one of the 500's you mentioned. I sold it before I moved to alaska as the barrel is to short to take it through Canada. I carried it in a Diamond D chest holster so it was easy to get at. I only carried it when I was not rifle hunting. Up here I have been taking my 338 rcm with me as it is short and lightweight. I want to get another 45-70 guide gun for taking with me during camping trips. I have never needed a weapon for self defense against critters or humans, but I would rather be prepared and never need it than not have it and die. I cannot emphasize enough though that just shooting at the range will not suffice. You need to rig up moving targets that charge you and practive defending yourself from the hostered or non ready position. A simple way to do this is to rig a piece of plywood with 4 wheels, or use an old lawn mower frame with a target on it. Have the rope go past you so that someone can stand back to back with you and then run away so that the target comes at you. Start slow and work your way up to where the person with the rope is running at full speed. Then stand with your eyes closed and have the person signal when to open your eyes and engage the target. Make sure to have the person vary the distance of the target in relation to you. Also fire 3 shots or more, not just one. It is likely that your first shot will not be the stopper. The largest caliber in the world means nothing if you cannot use it effectively. You have to make the commitment to train effectively and always carry. Personal protection is not just for protection against humans and it is not just in Alaska.

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    Since you said for hunting I guess you mean how useful is a hand gun as a back up to your rifle. I have never needed one in 45 years of hunting Alaska even though I have carried a .44 Mag. often. It is usually left in the wall tent unless I am traveling on the ATV. If I was on a back pack trip I would not bring one as the Mod. 70 always goes bang when I press the trigger. A light weight .22 revolver in a pack suits me fine if I know a bunch of grouse will be around. As for the bigger caliber hand guns I guess I ain't man enough. My little 4" S&W Mountain Revolver in .44 Mag. and 280 to 300 grain slugs is all I want. Still, if you like packing one then have at it, that's why we live in America!

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    I don't carry a pistol when I'm hunting with a rifle. I do carry a .44 while out and about without a rifle. Carry a hi cap 9mm in town.

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    Member highestview's Avatar
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    My work takes me into moose/bear country most days of the week. I wondered the same thing.

    My uncle has dropped a charging mama moose with his Ruger .44 Magnum before it got to his dog sled. 3 shots.

    As soon as I turned 21, I bought a .44 mag and carry it with me routinely. Obviously not as ideal as my controlled round feed dangerous game rifle, but it's tough to carry that and work at the same time. If nothing else, it makes me feel a lot better, but it is good to know, people do routinely defend their lives successfully with a .44 mag.
    Born in Alaska: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

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    Member Matt's Avatar
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    Mine stays in the tent, that's if I even bring it at all.

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    When in brown bear country while they are likely to be out, I carry a S&W 460V in a chest holster. It's comfortable all day and only gets in the away occasionally by tangling my line while fishing. Never had to use it in defense, but it sure is a hoot to practice with. I also usually swap out the hand canon for a small caliber handgun of some kind along while hunting big game with a rifle - for small game to throw in the campfire stewpot.

    The other 299,300,000 people can have it.

    Noone has a more intimate understanding of, or deeper appreciation for freedom, than a soldier who has fought for it in a country where it does not exist.

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    It's better then then any rock I ever held in my hands. And I'm talking about big rocks!
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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    There are a couple key elements to your question. Number one- pistol or ARROW for self defense. Many posters seem to have missed that point. If your shooting a compound with release, how fast can you load up and bring to bear a followup shot? (Pull an arrow from your quiver, nock it, lay it on the rest, hook up release, draw back to release point and fire) With me, its not very quick. That alone is enough reason to carry a handgun for self defense.

    Number 2: Can you shoot something behind you with a bow? Even quartering in from your rear? Will you be able to swing your bow to cover a 360* area? Also, can you shoot the cat (or bear, or dog, etc.) off of your body with your bow if he does contact you?

    Number 3: Shock and awe. Bows are silent. For whatever reasons, animals seem more often to not know they're hurt when hit by an arrow. When they hear a bang and feel a whack, they usually know something's up, and bolt. Which is what I want to happen if I'm in self defense mode. I've killed a black bear and moose with a .45; both were wounded and it was a finishing shot, but had the penetration to shatter the black bear's neck and the moose's noggin.

    I always carry a handgun with me when bowhunting. I want the ability to fire multiple shots, weird shot angles, and up close and personal shooting that a handgun affords.

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    Thanks again guys... So what it sounds like to me is that generally speaking for Alaskans a big bore handgun is a distant second to a good rifle, at least for security in the bush. I would concur, I share Matthew Quigley's view of bellyguns and will always bet on my rifles or one of my 12 gauges when it comes to preserving my hide.

    Interesting point WillPhish, I hadn't really thought of it. I primarly hunt with one of my recurves and in side by side testing can usually get off 3-5 accurate arrows at 20 yards to 1 for a compound shot with sights/release, starting with bow in hand but no arrow on the rest. I shoot with a glove and would have to at least pull the first finger stall off to free my trigger finger up and for it to fit in the trigger guard of any firearm. Will have to try that & see how it would work.

    Torqued's point about practicing on a moving target simulating a critter charging makes a ton of sense...

    BTW, yesterday I decided I needed a little more in my Christmas stocking, so ordered a set of Mepro 3 Dot Tritium sights for the Bisley. I have a set of fixed Mepro 3 Dot Trits on my Kimber 45 and shoot ragged one hole qual groups with that bellygun. I'm thinking they should help improve my ability with the Bisley Hunter as well...

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    New member fishingis4play's Avatar
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    I carry my pistol always, L.A.R. Grizzly .45 Winchester Magnum. While bow hunting moose a few years ago I ended up hunting the same moose that a Brown bear sow with cubs was. I was told by the Trooper that came to the seen of the DLP(defense of life, property) that I was lucky I had my pistol! It's not something I'd like to do again shooting a bear at full charge but I'm at least prepared if I should have to do it. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it!

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