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  • Bearphobia

    Finalizing my lists for this years trip to Alaska, I have added firearms. My wife and daughter (mother of the grandson that will accompany me) have insisted we arm ourselves. I have several float trips planned and will no doubt be in "bear territory". This is probably a good idea, if nothing else it will make them sleep better! While I have no death wish of any sort I, to this point, have not contracted "bearphobia". It is of interest to read the books and countless articles on this subject, it is also worth mentioning the perils of my home state, Florida, and its "bears" or should I say alligators and sharks. As I sat at my fly tying desk last night I was sort of half listening to the local news. It seems LAST WEEK there were three seperate incidents of gators attacking and killing people. The details were sketchey at best with most of the broadcast time given to a represenative of the Dept. of Fish and Game explaining to the audience that gators don't really eat people and these incidents were rare and there was no need for public alarm...same sort of report when some surfer gets his leg gnawed on by a shark. I understand the principal of "damage control" in a tourist oriented economy, but was somewhat appalled by the statement from the f&g rep. Instead of proclaiming the rarity of such incidents it would seem to me that it would be far more appropriate to remind the public of the "common sense" rules of behavior be applied when one places themselves in known habitat of potetially dangerous animals. Don't swim with feeding sharks; don't sunbathe with the gators; and try not to pitch your tent on a bear following and practicing "bear avoidance" rules we will no doubt lessen the probability of a dangerous encounter, but after reading the accounts of the well documented incidents that involved people following all the "rules" and still were involved in "attacks" it starts to make one wonder ...when its your time, there is not much your can do about it!

  • #2
    Unlike alligators, bears usualy don't consider humans as just a protein source. I'm not sure why anyone would say alligatorss gators don't eat people. Their cousin, the Nile Croc is the number one maneater in Africa. Respect the bears and give them their space. Most of us up here have seen countless bears and are still here to talk about it. Pay attention to what your doing and if they want your fish, let them. Probably the best weapon to have up here is a shotgun full of slugs. Good luck on your fishing trip up here!


    • #3
      The best weapon you will have will be the space between your ears! Use common sense when pitching your camp and keep it clean. Like Bill said, if a bear wants your fish, let him have it as you can always catch more. A fish is not worth losing your's or someone elses life over. Chances are the bears will be fishing right along side of you or on the same stretch of water, just give them their space and you will be fine. Good luck on your trip!!


      • #4
        Use your head

        I agree with the other posts. The best weapon you have in bear country is your head. Be smart and careful. Have situational awareness to what is going on around you and don't get in a situation where you force you or the bear to make a bad decision. A gun or bear spray both have their place and can be helpful. Better to have and not need than need and not have. If you have them, though, don't expect to use them in place of good decision making. They should be your last resort. I say that not because you shouldn't use them or that killing a bear is wrong. If you have to use them, then your interaction with the bear has gone horribly wrong at some point, either due to something the bear did or something you did. Try to eliminate as many of the mistakes you can make and your chances of a good and memorable interaction go up. Give bears their space and your respect.


        • #5
          Bare facts...

          A gun (handgun or other) is your entitlement. Make sure you call your airline carrier for the requirements in bringing it. Then make sure you familarize youself with state law as you carry it.

          I understand your family's point of view. Though I don't arm myself when I'm in AK, I have been known to borrow a piece when I bring my wife along just to placate her fears. I was subjected to some rude comments from "know it all" anglers when they saw a handgun as part of my river attire, but I just let it go.

          Key-word search "ADF&G bear facts", and you'll find plenty of data compiled by the experts. And now here's a tidbit that you'll find interesting. More persons die in AK each year from attacks by dogs (their own pets or the neighbors) than by bears!

          Alaska sadly at times can be unforgiving, but those who reach the end of the line usually are taken out by drownings, auto accidents, plane crashes, and other misfortunes while participating in adventure.

          Adventure is right. There is so much of it up there it can distract you if you fail to comprehend the big picture you've stepped into.

          Best advice?
          Be informed, stay alert, and practice common sense...

          "Two decades researching and defining fishing opportunities in the Last Frontier!"


          • #6
            Bear gun

            I went up on a tributary of the Noatak August before last and saw 21 brown bears on a 7 day 35 mile canoe/fishing trip. All but one immediately took off in the other direction at the first sight/sound of us. That one however, was quite curious. He hung around for an hour or so. In the time that has passed, I have bought a Marlin guide gun 45-70 and a Smith & Wesson model 500 with 4" barrel as a back up. Call it what you will. I am going back up there this August for a 13 day canoe/fishing trip and feel much better about it knowing that I am prepared, if not overprepared. We had one bear walk right into camp and that left a lasting impression. You have read some good advice in the post I see before mine. Nothing can take the place of common sense and prudent camping practices. However, that will not always be enough. When the crap hits the fan, I will be making alot of noise and putting an enormous amount of smoke in the air if nothing else. I will only be in the fetal position if thats how he leaves my lifeless body. Ha Ha. Seriously, read up on things if you are preparing for a trip off the beaten path. There is a book called "Bear sense" that is full of info. Most of it helpful. I firmly believe that common sense and knowledge are essential. But at the end of the day its cold steel and Buffalo bore brand ammo that will allow me to sleep best. Get yourself a book or two and a stainless guide gun in 45-70. Enjoy your trip. This is a wonderful place. I am from NC and recently moved to Nome. I am sure the memories you make here in Alaska will stay with you forever.
            The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.


            • #7
              like they said your best weapon is your head. just have common sense. No matter what i still carry a handgun.


              • #8
                Common sense is the way to stay safe. I have spent 7 months (one each summer) on the Karluk fishing and photographing the bears and have never had a problem. Give them plenty of space, If they want your fishing spot give it to em. If you get a fish on and a bear decides to investigate it, snap your line and move back. Just don't forget to enjoy the encounter. I have also met the "I never bring a firearm" crowd (Did you see Grizzly Man?) personally I bring a cut down shotgun with slugs just in case. I also bring a "Bug Tamer" jacket since I worry about the mosquitoes, the white sox and the no-see-ems a whole lot more than the bears.


                • #9
                  19 oz. of prevention

                  that's the weight (if I remember correctly) of my S&W 44 MAG.......

                  I've hunted fished and guided up here for 27 years and have NEVER had to draw a handgun on a bear, had one approach within an unsafe distance nor even had one look cross eyed at me

                  I have freinds that have been charged though and there ARE people who have been killed or injured where a handgun could have undoubtedly without question have saved them

                  I've never had my house catch on fire either but I keep the smoke alarms current and I have fire extinguishers

                  All the words about treating the bears with respect, giving them room, using common sense blah blah blah are right on the mark...........but there's still a small chance that you'll run into a bear that is more curious or more ornery or more whatever and you'll need to deal with him.......

                  so I guess the question is ya feel lucky today?........well? ya??? (sorry I'm bored here at work)

                  now that 19 oz Scandium 44 Mag hand cannon feels like a grenade going off in my hand........ but a standard size 44 mag is pretty darn cumbersome to carry as is a firearm is going to do you ANY good unless it's RIGHT THERE ALL THE TIME..........not back in the tent or leaning up against a tree on the's got to be within arms reach ALWAYS or you might as well leave it in Florida.......

                  actually some of my associates and I have talked about the tradeoff of carrying something like a glock 9mm or 10mm...........not as much penetration of power as the 44 Mag.........but there's something to be said for 10-15 bullets coming out as fast as you can pull the trigger's not as light as the Titanium 44 Mag I'd think getting the 2nd 3rd and 4th rounds off with that will be dicey .........

                  I'd say bring a piece........keep it with you (i.e. ON you) and have a little more piece of mind........


                  • #10
                    In the back country at camp I keep a 12 gauge with a slug, buck, slug combo (cripple him, blind him, cripple him, blind him, etc.) On the river I carry a 44 S&W in a chest mounted holster that fits nicely over my chest pack. However, a day of casting with that bugger on you can seriously cramp your style, still I am young enough to bear it! A 44 is the smallest handgun I would recomend.


                    • #11
                      The only part I agree with is in the last post:

                      A gun is only useful if you have it on you and ready to use at all times.

                      Other than that, I have a hard time envisioning flyfishing with a gun ready to use in a few seconds. I've never seen anyone wading with a visible, holstered, gun ready for action, such as in the advertisements for the Ruger Alaskan. Any guns are typically in a case, on the bank, against a tree, in the tent, etc.

                      Also, people may be more likely to engage in the risky behaviors of standing ground close to a bear (or even approaching it) to protect whatever material thing (dog, cooler, tent, camp, raft, etc), when they would be better off increasing distance. Or doing some stupid thing with food or cooking that attracts bears, thinking they can fend them off with a gun.

                      I guess I'm bored at work too. Speaking of which, better get back to it.



                      • #12
                        Titanium 44 Mag

                        in a chest holster and you don't even know it's there

                        19 oz......

                        Common sense and good judgement are your first line of defense

                        The gun is for when you either screw something up or lady luck just craps on your head........


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