Bear Defense Thoughts


April 18, 2003, 09:37 AM
The more I read on Bear vs Man senerios, the more questions I have. Obviously the more powerful the cartridge, the more damage to the bear. As been said many times before, shot placement would be the key in over stopping power. Therefore, let me ask the following:

1) Knowledge of animal, in this case, bear behavior be the most important element of self defense. I believe a charging bear is totally different from a stalking bear. The former is dangerous if you crossed a mother and her cubs and differs from intruding on a bear's territory, which displays its anger with feign charges. The latter, a stalking bear, is typically more methodical in pursuing its prey and doesn't display anger.

2) If the above is correct, then defending against a stalking bear, even a grizzly, would make a 9mm/.40 cal may be the better weapon than a .44 magnum. Better control and earier to fire multiple shots at close range into a vital spot such as the eye or ear.

3) Conversely, if a companion is attacked... An ear shot would be best, but nearly impossible against a thrashing target and a lung/heart shot would be suicidal against a bear in close unless possibly a .44 Magnum.

Your thoughts/opinions?

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April 18, 2003, 10:16 AM
Bears aren't usually man "stalkers" in the traditional sense of the word. Some reports of Polar bears doing it that I'm aware of, and maybe blackies. Less reports of that for griz/brown. Encounters with curious bears erroneously believed/reported to be stalkers is another matter. Trust me, if a bear is stalking you with intent to kill, you 'll never know it til you've been attacked. They are amazingly quiet animals. Amazingly quiet. I once had a black bear appear abt 10 ft from me while resting with my back against a tree. I never heard it - he just stood up all of a sudden, sniffing and it was in pretty thick brush that you'd think would give him away.

Moreover, you can NEVER count on placing shots into a tiny area like the eyes or ear. Ever. Try shooting marbles at very close range. Once you figure out that POI and POA are two different things up close, you can probably do it. Then, swing the marble around erratically on a string and try and do it. Then attach it to several hundred pound of toothed, furry meat with big claws trying to kill you or your companions. Like you said, nigh on impossible. Assuming one is a good enough shot to put one into an eye or ear at some distance into a still or slowly moving bear that you've somehow determined to be stalking you with intent to kill you, then be prepared to explain that it was honest self defense to the Fish and Game folks. If you have kill a bear in self defense, it will almost certainly be up close, moving fast and really mad.

And more "power", however defined, is always better. Even a .44 is puny aganst a big bear, but far better than a 9 or .40. Maybe if wondernine takes up Sir Galahad's challenge offered in the other thread, you can get him to try it with a 9 mm once he takes one out with a .223. Eye shots, of course.

April 18, 2003, 10:31 AM
I grew up in Montana and have backpacked just about all over that area. With the exception of Glacier Natl Park, I have always had a gun with me. The biggest thing I can draw from my experiences and my friends is that a gun can be useful to prevent an attack, not necessarily in stopping an attack once it has commenced (including a charging bear). Bear (and lion) behavior is based on appearences. With the exception of a sow defending cubs, they will not attack if they believe it will hurt them. That is why the best bear defense (if they are not charging at you) is to stand your ground, make yourself look big (raise arms, puff out a jacket, whatever) and make a lot of noise. The last part is where I have found guns to be most usefull. If a bear is in close proximity to you and appears to be sizing you up, letting loose a couple of rounds into the ground while advancing toward the bear will usually get him running in the opposite direction. This is why if you talk to many guides in that part of the world, they will tell you that they sometimes carry a 22 mag revolver because of the intense noise factor (actually the highest up to like a 454 I think). Once a bear is attacking, then really your only hope is to put whatever amount of lethal force on it you can muster and hope it gets a different idea in its mind before your dogfood. I personally carry a .44 mag in the Montana area, or a 1911 6" in 45 super (big proponent here) when I'm hiking in other places like upstate CA. I do get very annoyed by people who think if they see a bear walking across the path in front of them, that they should begin shooting at it to "protect" themselves. I always try to have someone bring bear spray for those bears that may be curious but not harmful. That way I can employ the "continiuom of force" principle. You don't always need to draw your sidearm, sometimes just a little squirt of spray against a curious young bear casually walking toward you is all it takes.

Bottom line from all this babble, guns are the best noisemakers and effective on non-threat bears. I personally think mountain lions are more dangerous in the wild and have seen more being curious of me and my fellow homo-sapiens. Be loud, be safe, and when the time calls for it, pull the trigger fast and aim well, then pray.

Have fun!!


April 18, 2003, 10:54 AM
trevman 11 speaketh true; experience counts! It's good advice - bears are mostly harmless, mostly curious, and I count myself fortunate to have been around some. The last animal I killed hunting was a bear, and my regret at having done that to such a magnificant animal pretty much ended big game hunting for me. I've nothing against hunting or hunters, just not for me anymore.

April 18, 2003, 11:12 AM
With the exception of Glacier Natl Park, I have always had a gun with me.
Yeah. Doesn't that just frost your butt? :fire:

TFL Survivor

April 18, 2003, 11:15 AM
All in all, in a situation like that I'd rather have a larger caliber rifle or a shotgun loaded with slugs. More cumbersome to carry, I admit, but easier to get an accurate shot off if needed. It would definitely make a good deal of noise too.

Marlin guide gun pops into my head, fairly light and short but a .45/70. Load it with some Garret ammo, hang a Ching Sling on it and you're set.

April 18, 2003, 11:20 AM
I heard a story about a guy who was alone in Alaska (on purpose!) and he carried a large revolver for "bear protection". He did use it, and most effectively, too.

During his encounter, and when the bear was standing upright, in the 'checking you out' phase, he used the gun to scare the bear off: he tapped it on a metal pan. At the sound of this very human-caused noise, the big brown turned and fled.

RXW made an excellent point: knowledge of bear behavior is your best weapon. They are real curious, but they generally don't stalk humans. I still maintain that Grizzle-bears are about eighteen and a half feet tall at the least, and I'm happy to let them go their merry huckleberry-eating way.

April 18, 2003, 12:26 PM
Many experienced Alaska outdoorsmen carry buckshot in their shotguns for increase hit probablility when ones bowels are opening as the Bear charges. Sort of like putting up a wall of lead.

The USFWS uses 870s with slugs or 375s. USGS uses 45/70s. I carry a 9mm.


April 18, 2003, 12:47 PM
I've only heard of one incident where a 9x19 stopped a bear, when a sow charged a fisherman last year. Even then, another fisherman with a shotgun did the actual killing. The pistol shot was a fluke, since the bullet just happened to blow up in the shoulder joint. You can't count on that happening.

For bear protection, you have to figure that you're going to be dealing with the business end of a bear, not the broadside. Penetration is therefore critical, as is shattering power. Given this, why not use what hunters have long used against the business end of dangerous African game--big RN solids? They are known to be able to cripple amd kill even the largest, toughest game. If you hit a shoulder bone with one, the shoulder will shatter. They also have phenominal penetration, and can keep going clean through the animal, hitting vital organs on the way. I've been taking a Mauser loaded with 8mm 220 grain Barnes solids on hikes. Hopefully I'll never have to put my theory to the test!

Double Maduro
April 18, 2003, 02:12 PM

I agree with most of what you said.

My luck is that it would be a teenage male griz and take my puffing up to be a challenge. Nothing works in all situations, but you have given us another solution to consider if we ever encounter a bear in the wild.

April 18, 2003, 02:33 PM
Troy is at it again:

Hurtubise Builds New Suit

by Phil Novak
The Nugget

North Bay, Ontario -

Troy Hurtubise has just completed the Ursus Mark VII, and he says his new bear suit is strong enough to withstand the controlled attack by a 585-kilogram Kodiak planned for June at an undisclosed location. Hurtubise was supposed to have gone up against the same Kodiak last December wearing the Ursus Mark VI made famous in Project Grizzly.

But things turned out differently than expected. The animal's owner, concerned about the size mismatch - the bear measures three metres when upright, and weighs 450 kilograms more than the besuited Hurtubise -- would not allow the Kodiak to attack.

"He also told me he believed the Mark VI wouldn't hold up to the enormous pressure the bear would have exerted and that he would have just ripped through the chain mail," Hurtubise told The Nugget. "So I went back home to North Bay determined to build a new suit that would be Kodiak-proof."

Having succeeded Hurtubise will officially unveil the 67.5 kilogram suit Tuesday, May 7 at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, to promote The Seen, a Comedy Network television program he will guest-star in.

With an investor's backing, Hurtubise has spent the last three months building the Mark VII in his basement, using common tools, an acetylene blow torch, and one tonne of high-grade s**** metal from North Bay Salvage.

Hurtubise's Mark VII eliminates the chain mail and is made from stainless steel, heavy-gauge aluminum, and cast titanium - as opposed to the Mark VI, 45 per cent of which is high-tech plastic. It is far more flexible too and allows lateral movement.

The Seven also features a built-in video screen, a cooling system, pressure-bearing titanium struts, advanced protective airbags, shock absorbers, fingered hands, swivel shoulders and built-in arms. Because the upper body splits open Hurtubise can put it on like a shirt, he said.

Looking like a Star Wars storm trooper/Battlestar Galactica Cylon hybrid, the Mark VII was built without blueprints, diagrams, or schematics.

"I'd look at a piece of metal and say 'there's my head, or my foot, or whatever,' and then just start shaping it," he said.

April 18, 2003, 02:57 PM
From the post above....yes, not being allowed to carry in a Natl Park does frost my butt. Especially one like Glacier or Denali (never been to the latter one though) I understand their reasons, and I think the root cause is the Lowest Common Denominator issue. That being that the law is made for those people that would abuse it. Lets all face it; we know people who are dumber than snot when it comes to responsible gun ownership. Oh well, I just hope my future kid(s) will get to see a bear in the wild some day. (Preferably a little ways away)


Joe Gunns
April 19, 2003, 12:29 AM
I concur with the good advice above about use of noise and bear spray. Unless you got a pair like king kong you aren't gonna be putting shots in earholes or up the left nostril, so should not be thinking about 9's. Note the shotgun and rifle suggestions above are ones with high energy! Energy trumps velocity on dangerous game. While I have not yet acquired or shot one, the new S&W .50 might be the ticket. According to the gun mag hype it has much higher energy than .44mag, heavier to carry than a .44 due to larger frame, but not as cumbersome as a long gun. Recoil would be a whole bunch more, but adrenalin would probably take care of that issue, if you practiced enough to be competent ahead of time. Only has five shots, but if you got a grizzly steaming full speed from a close-in tangle, one is all you're gonna have time for anyway, maybe two if you're uncommon quick.

Incidentally, the best book on bear attacks is BEAR ATTACKS by Ferraro, a biologist that has made an in-depth study of same, so it's not just a compendium of scary stories, but solid analysis. Busts a few myths. One interesting observation is that if you are downed by a griz, playing dead is usually the thing to do, while if you are attacked by a black, fighting back is better. The difference is that grizzlys generally attack to defend territory, cubs, etc., and so tend to go away after making their point, while blacks actually are looking for a meal, so keep chewing.


April 19, 2003, 12:48 AM
I've only heard of one incident where a 9x19 stopped a bear, when a sow charged a fisherman last year. Even then, another fisherman with a shotgun did the actual killing.

Hi Cosmo, if you are talking about the kenai river shooting last year, the shotgun ended up in the river and the 9mm did the killing...

Solids on bear just dont make it....better off with a good expanding bullet in an appropriate a 50 alaskan (or anything over 30 cal)

But the key is to have a gun in the first place...I am so lazy at this point that the 50 alaskan stays home, the 338 stays in the truck, the 44 hurts too much to when fishing near the road system I carry a 9mm...lots of rounds!!! Just spray and pray...

Incidently, in the bear avoidence classes up here instructors are advocating 45/70, 450 or 457 magnum Marlins (or a 50 if you have one)....

April 19, 2003, 01:47 AM
I think that it pretty much depends on the individual circumstances. I have also been within feet of bears (black bears) on several occasions. They have always just wandered off and kept doing their own thing.
The most memorable went something like this.
It was my second year hunting deer. My brother and I were standing next to the truck, watching a powerline, and my dad was off in the bushes relieving himself. As he was walking back, a large black bear crossed the road about 20 feet from me. He had his back to the bear, facing me but scanning the powerline that I was supposed to be watching.
He was complaining as he walked, giving his typical speech about how I wasn't doing what I was supposed to. I tried to get his attention, and the bear noticed and paused in the middle of the road for a few seconds, then continued. My dad also continued...continued bitching.
When Dad reached me, I told him what I had just seen. The response?
"You are crazy as hell. I would have seen a bear cross the road 15 feet from me."
But I persisted, and he retraced his steps until he crossed the bear's path. He noted the path, but no bear was in sight. He then again referred to my less that ideal mental condition, and returned. He got there just in time to see a bear crossing the little stream in front of us.

That is pretty much how all of my experiences with them have gone.

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