Monday, March 17, 2014

Pack Carry in Bear Country‏

Hi Ferfal,
You've published some of my emails in the past.  Thanks for doing that: I
hope it helps someone to be safer and more prepared.
Just read a posting from last month about someone going into bear country.
I was a guide in Montana and have spent a good deal of time in bear
country, even seen a few around camp.  One was following our outfit from
site to site and digging up our excrement- that's a sign of a problem
bear!  We were out for 3 week trips with groups in the field every day of
the year except for Christmas.
Our outfit was not allowed firearms so each of us had a sizable can of

bearspray (FerFAL edit: Ross tells me they used Counter Assault Bear Spray)
attached to the waist belt at all times.  We were required to
practice shooting the spray without removing it from the holster.  The
protocol was to empty the entire can to create a "wall" of pepper fog
between us and the bear in the event of imminent attack.

Studies seemed to indicate that this is a more effective deterrent than
shooting a bear which may only anger it more.

All that being said, the majority of professionals we saw who carried
firearms into the woods on a regular basis carried lever action carbines.
My guess was that they were 30-30 or .44 magnum calibers.  Don't recall
them looking like .45-70's.  Most of these guys were on horseback and
carried the carbine at hand in a scabbard for quick access. Carrying a gun
in a pack is not so useful when needed.

For pistols, they often had 1911's or large caliber wheelguns, generally
.44 magnums and open carry was the norm.

I've seen Ted Nugent do some wonderful things with a 10mm but let's face
it: pistol calibers of any kind are underpowered when compared to even the
lowly 30-30 carbine.  If you expect at all that you may have to shoot a
bear, you want a rifle round in a platform that is easy to shoot
accurately and simple to handle under stress.  We had to get our can of
bear spray fired off in just a few seconds.  This would blanket the area
and offer some protection.  Drawing a pistol and getting a stopping shot
(basically to the face) on something that is bounding towards you at 30+
mph is almost impossible.

However, one of our guides did regularly carry the Glock 20 with handloads
when not on official duty.  I would prefer the lever action or an AK.
Whatever one chooses, it should be absolutely reliable, handy and loaded
with softpoints for smaller carbines.  If using a bigger gun like the
.45-70, solids designed for big game are preferred.

See Chuck Hawks site regarding all matters concerning dangerous game and
bullet selection matters for some of the best information I have found.

And just on a side note, though bear may seem more scary, I've had several
dangerous run ins with moose unexpectedly on the trail and once a bison
halfway up a mountain trail of all places!  Those animals are bigger than
a bear and very unpredictable when angry.  The bears tend to take off when
we come around making noise...

Same goes for those types up to no good- they usually take off.  But,
unfortunately I have still had direct contact with a few scary people out
there.  I've also found myself in situations where I stumbled across a
person's illegal activities- I literally felt chills knowing I was
probably being watched.  Best bet when you sense a scenario that might be
dangerous is to just go right back the way you came and don't look
alarmed.  I just pat my pockets and make it look as if I forgot something
and walk away like nothing's wrong.  The woods are different than the city
in this regard in that distance is a huge factor.  Some encounters will be
very up close as in two people chatting face to face when things turn
ugly, but there is always a likelihood that there will be a significant
amount of distance.  A person may be watching you with binoculars or
through a rifle scope unseen from your position.  Not the time to be
looking around, trying to find them with your pistol.  If you see
something illegal, report it once you're out of there.  Don't investigate
or hang around at all, no matter how well armed you think you are.  People
committing crimes in the wilderness are likely able to kill you at a
distance and just leave or hide your body.  Even if you think you have
"the drop" on someone doing something illegal, they may not be alone.
Their friend(s) could be watching your interaction from a hidden point a
ways off.

We often get the sense that because we are armed we are somehow safer from
attack and may then even ignore our internal alarm bells going off.  But
the truth is that our bodies are just as vulnerable to an unexpected
attack from an animal or a person.  The firearm we carry offers very
little defense, only the possibility of putting out a little offense in
hopes of stopping whatever is coming our way.  For either scenario (animal
or human attack) the best defense is to be part of a group.  This will
also help reduce the risks of being injured and far from medical attention
with little or no assistance.

Feel free to post this or forward it on to the gentleman moving up to our
great northwest!  I truly hope he enjoys all the wilderness has to offer
as much as I have.




Anonymous said...

What a great post. Info like this from an experienced outdoorsman is very valuable.

highdesertlivin said...

I would concur w/ most said. However at 20 yd's and closer, a 12 gauge w/ slugs is the best. As far as common firearms go. Enjoyed reading you'r post, thanks.

AK907 Mountainman said...

Lifelong Alaskan here:

First of all, the idea that pepper spray is more effective, and guns anger the bear............has been debunked more time than I can remember. It was research done by anti-gun, pro-animal activists.

Anyhow, minimum sidearm is .44cal with hardcast 300 grain bullets. I carry a 454 Casull. 460 S&W are also fairly common.

12 gauge shotguns with slugs are what you carry for serious bear defense.

Rifles are carried for hunting more than protection up here, but the Lever 45-70 is a popular "Guide Gun".

Anonymous said...

I'll be pithy, 20 Gauge shotgun with slugs, easy to shoot and carry. Even a kid can shoot it!.