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Camping while hunting, Are Tents Still Safe?

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Alaska444, Sep 22, 2012.


Are Tents Safe in Bear Country?

Poll closed Oct 22, 2012.
  1. Yes, bears are afraid of people

    53 vote(s)
  2. No, bears are no longer afraid of man

    28 vote(s)
  1. Alaska444

    Alaska444 member

    An interesting bear attack happened in Montana this week in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area. The man was attacked at 7:30 am in his tent. The bear, a young black bear jumped on his tent and then ripped it open.

    He was able to abort the attack temporarily with bear spray, but the bear returned after his bear spray was gone. Fortunately, a man came by and scared the bear away. Later, the bear was shot and killed only a short distance from the tent.


    With the bear attacks last year near Yellowstone, is bear behavior changing where they are no longer fearful of the scent of man or their campsites? This attack is now considered a predatory black bear attack. Is it safe to use tents when hunting in bear country any longer especially if alone or with only one partner?
  2. Robert

    Robert Moderator

    I camp in a tent, hunting or not, all the time in bear coutry. There is little country in CO that does not have bears. I have even been awakened by one sniffing around and scared him off. But I will not lose any sleep worrying about it. It is really a non issue for me.
  3. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

    Bears have never been afraid of people, so the dichotomy is overly simplified and unrealistic. Bears tend to avoid trouble, but that does not equate with being afraid of people. The notion that the animal kingdom recognizes humans as the scariest animal on earth is a feel good notion we tell ourselves to make us feel safe from the scary animals of the forest and dale.

    The problem is that the humans fail to be wary of the animals, not the other way around. If you are going to keep food items in your camp, then you should not be surprised when a bear comes into your camp for dinner.

    Are tents no longer safe? Only in the sense that between the 1800s and 2013, tents have generally gone from 8-16 lb fairly heavy canvas to super thin and lightweight polymers and heavy wooden and steel tent supports to lightweight aluminum poles, metal spring bands, and polymer struts for supports.

    The bears in the woods haven't changed, but we put more people into the woods every year, people who haven't a clue as to what they are doing. Heck, in the last few years there have even been attacks in areas where people were WARNED about aggressive bear(s) in the area and they blew off the warnings and proceeded into the areas anyway, either alone, unarmed, or underarmed. You can't fix stupid. The Bob Marshall incident is a clear example.
  4. jmr40

    jmr40 Active Member

    There are still more killed by agressive deer than bear.
  5. Sav .250

    Sav .250 Active Member

    A concern? Sure. Safe....yes.
  6. j1

    j1 New Member

    What do you mean by the question? Tents are no different than they were years ago. Do they give protection from bears is a different question and the answer is obvious.

    My wife understood why there was to be no food in our tent, ever. Drop just one little piece of chocolate on the tent floor and it will be ground in and smell forever. Never eat in a tent which you sleep in.
  7. hogshead

    hogshead New Member

    Didnt vote. I dont think tents were ever safe in bear country . If by safe you mean bear proof.
  8. outboard

    outboard New Member

    You likely have a greater exposure to risk on your drive to your chosen camping destination than you do in the forest, if you use a little common sense. Unfortunately LOTS of people forgo the use of (un)common sense and display an absolute disrespect for the outdoors, wildlife and other people by leaving campsites littered with trash while they are there and when they leave. I live 15 minutes from both a National Forest and a State Forest. I'm usually up there once a week looking for grouse to put in the pot, and rarely leave without filling a large bag with other peoples garbage:fire:. Once bears begin associating humans with food they are no longer wild, becoming increasingly problematic and over time dangerous. The slobs continue to increase the risk of bear attack for the rest of us. The more distance between you and heavy use areas (read: other people) the less likely you are to encounter a dangerous black bear.
    Select your camp site well, keep a clean camp (familiarize yourself with rules for camping in bear country), bring your dog and a .357 if you feel the need. Also, please help out by cleaning up after the <insert expletive here> people who are unable to see the obvious consequences for trashing our public lands.
  9. kgpcr

    kgpcr New Member

    I grew up and lived in bear country all my life. I have zero fear of them but do respect them. The odds are about the same as winning the lottery as getting attacked in a tent. Now in Alaska i sleep with my .454 close by but again not a huge fear.
  10. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Active Member

    Same here. As a kid my folks and us 7 kids regularly camped in a large tent in bear country. Many times in was in the National Forests of Northern Wisconsin. Back then they had no "bear proof" dumpsters, just a garbage can strapped to a post by your campsite. We along with most others at those campsites lived on the fish we caught there. Bears rummaging thru the campground and the garbage cans lookin for fish guts and other goodies was a nitely ritual. If you woke up in the middle of the night and had to use the outhouse, you best make some noise on the way there. I remember the night we had grilled chicken for supper and gave the left over bones to our family dog under the picnic table. We spent the majority of that night watching two bears finishing them off under the picnic table....not 20 feet away. Been bow huntin' since I was 13. 45 years of walkin' in and outta bear woods, in the dark. I have yet to feel the need for a sidearm, altho all the bear threads in hunting forums say they are a necessity. I got a few years left, they might still get me.
  11. X-Rap

    X-Rap Active Member

    I have been known to sleep out in the woods without even a tent at times so I'm sure that they are as safe as ever. I can't agree with all DNS put in his response, I do believe that bears have become more acclimated to humans and as the management options for controlling large predators has decreased so have their numbers and the boldness of their actions. We human are ever encroaching but when hunting with dogs and other methods were used the bears had a stronger reaction to the sent and presence of humans whereas now in Colorado for instance our state wildlife agency kills dozens if not hundreds of bears a year that have lived their whole lives without the pressure of hunting dogs and liberal baiting regulations. Instead they have been raised to think of people as a source of food and frequently move into valley communities. The pervasive anti hunting sentiment coupled with Bambi, Poo Bear syndrome and the idea that the state is "handling" the problem doesn't help either.
    I prefer to camp with a dog around and belive that one trained properly will put up enough growl and bark but not chase to keep both 2&4 legged prowlers away from camp. I have since lost my dog but when he was alive it was not uncommon for him to sit or lie next to my bag and he seemed awake and alert when ever I woke during the night. I never felt the least vulnerable at night with him in camp.
  12. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd New Member

    I'd assume he's another yahoo breaking one of the cardinal rules of operating in any bear country and in this case, my guess would be food control.
  13. grubbylabs

    grubbylabs New Member

    I do hunt and camp in bear country. I have never had a run in with a bear however, I do keep a clean camp.

    I am not sure I would feel as secure if I were camping in an area heavily populated by coastal browns.

    I think your questions are biased and serve no real purpose to find any real information. In a sense they are loaded, you either have to agree with one extreme or the other.
  14. rodinal220

    rodinal220 Active Member

    Don't know the particulars here but one thing is to keep a tidy camp and DO NOT eat in your tent or shelter. I learned a lot about bears from DR. Charles Jonkel(Griz).Most bear man encounters that go pear shaped involve black bears,just more of them and they have a wide range across the USA.
    I really do not trust OC for two or four legs and prefer PB.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  15. MCgunner

    MCgunner Active Member

    Store your food in a tree on a rope. Don't take any jerky to bed. :D
  16. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

    +1, MCgunner. That's an old-fashioned way of doing it. Otherwise make sure it's fully sealed in Ziploc bags or another fairly airtight container (or better yet, both) and locked in your vehicle. Rubbermaid totes work well for that. If you must store your food container on the ground, make sure it's well-clear of your tent. Be sure to at least tie your trash bags in a high tree at night, though.

    Another aspect to consider: bring enough tent. If you have to sleep right up against the side of your tent, you're going to be screwed in the remote chance a bear does attack. You're probably also not going to be very comfortable and will have to store much of your gear outside.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  17. Alaska444

    Alaska444 member

    +1, that is my take on the entire issue. When I was three years old, my dad took our family camping/hunting near Fairbanks AK with one of his friends. In the early morning hours, a black bear rubbed up against our tent with his paw right near my dad's head. He shouted which woke me up. I still remember the outline of a bear standing upright sideways to me.

    He got up, grabbed his .410 single shot shotgun and went outside to see where the bear was. It came back towards him and he wisely shot the shotgun in the air. That was back in 1961. The culprit was the friend who left his rabbits from that day out on the picnic table. Food control in bear country is the name of the game.

    However, my questions predispose whether bear behavior has changed and I believe that the answer is yes, because people have changed their behavior in the last 50 years. We lived at the top of O'Malley road in Anchorage and NEVER saw any griz or black bear in our area despite the fact we were in true wilderness area with only a few homes in that area and miles and miles of woods behind our house. Yet today, bear attacks within Anchorage city limits only a couple of miles from where I grew up are quite common today.

    Beside the obvious increase in human population, there is also a much different tolerance of bears than we had 50 years ago. I don't believe I am alone in the observation that bears have changed their behavior to accommodate the new human tolerance of their presence.
  18. Alaska444

    Alaska444 member

    Actually, tents are different than they were years ago. The most important difference is the self contained floor now the standard of any small "pup" tent. This makes a tent a self contained straight jacket if the bear attacks.

    The old days that I remember were tents of that size with no floor. If the tent comes down, and the bear pulls it away, you don't go with it. Folks, there is actually more to my questions than may be evident. In fact, many bear experts today advise tents with no floor in bear country.
  19. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

    Ziploc bags do not seal in smells and are NOT air tight. They are for the purposes of quick dehyration, but molecules that can be smelled are smaller than air and water molecules. As such, they do NOT prevent smells from escaping.

    Locked in your vehicle? Why lock it? The bears just push in the windows until they snap fracture and crawl inside. Or the pry the doors open.

    In short, your car is not a good substitute for bear locker/box, not unless you can hang it from a tree. http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/bears_camping.htm

    How about that Rubbermaid tote? Check out the very first image. That bear is enjoying the yummies inside that tote, huh? Plastic isn't a challenge for a bear and won't hide smells.

    Check out the videos here...
    This guy had sandwiches in ziplock bags!

    Sorry, many of your food storage suggestions are REALLY BAD.
  20. Alaska444

    Alaska444 member

    Dr. Jonkel has had an incredible career of great duration and I understand he is the only bear researcher from a generation ago still active in his research. The story I listed is an interesting one to study on bear spray with black bears. As noted in many cases, the black bear may be driven away with the bear spray initially, but they will often come back.

    Predatory black bear encounters by some accounts are becoming more common and increasing which relates to the initial question, are tents safe in bear country. With a growing black bear population that has doubled in the last couple of decades in the lower 48, rising predatory bear encounters does pose the question of whether tent camping is a safe endeavor in bear country any longer.

    We never thought of bears when we went out camping in the woods in Maine when I was a teenager. It was true that they were more afraid of us than we were of them and we never had any encounters despite camping in remote areas all the time. I am no longer certain that is a sure thing any longer.

    I was talking to a friend of mine here in Northern Idaho and he has killed dozens of black bears in his years as a rancher. He no longer will camp in a tent ever because it is his opinion that they have changed their behavior. Yet when he was a kid, that was never a concern of his. He would often camp alone in remote areas of Idaho and bear encounters were never an issue. I believe his observations are quite valid and evidenced by rising numbers of bear attacks especially in the last 10 years.

    For those that are continuing to camp in tents, bear electric fences may be a necessary component of safe tent camping.

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