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Bear medicine/ Alaska/ Hunting or SD

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by wwace, Apr 22, 2012.

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  1. wwace

    wwace Member

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    Ok, I have read a bunch of threads with quite a bit of lousy information about bears, Alaska hunting or self defense including calibers, firearms and bullets. The following is my opinion based on personal knowledge and first person related experience.

    A bear can be very easy or hard to kill, it all depends on bullet placement and the state of adrenaline of the bear. A very determined bear who is not broken down or CNS hit is literally not going to stop until it is dead. There are tales of kids killing Brownies with .22 long rifle and I have seen a grizzly shot a dozen times with .338 & 30-06, they are always unpredictable.

    Hunting:

    Rifles: Any modern 7mm or larger caliber with a properly constructed bullet of 160grains or larger is fine for hunting in Alaska unless you are specifically after a coastal Brownie or Kodiak. If you are after the larger bears take at least a 30-06 if you cannot handle a .338 win mag. You do not need anything larger but if you like them calibers up to .416 are ok. Your guide will most likely look at you funny if you show up with a 458 as they are brutal. Do not bring a rifle you cannot shoot well and trust with your life and the lives of your party.

    SuperUltraDuperListicMagnums: The short answer is they are not needed for Alaskan game, you are much more likely to be unable to shoot one of these portable cannons consistently.

    Action: A good reliable bolt action is the best without any doubt, CRF is adviseable and I highly recommend it. Most hunters here do not use doubles but if I was guiding you I would not be unhappy if you showed up with a single shot Ruger #1. Semi auto, pump and lever actions all have too many moving parts to be considered in my opinion. None of these actions are 100% reliable in Alaskan conditions in rifle calibers.

    Sights/Scopes: If you are hunting bears specifically then a low power scope such as a 1.5x5 is usually best. This is what I have used for over 20 years. I would also recommend that your rifle be equipped with iron sights and you have quick detach scope mounts. If you are hunting moose or caribou etc then a 3x9 or 4x12 or something similar is all you need. Spend some money and get quality glass , same with binoculars. You do not need $1000 + optics though they are nice if you can afford them. Personally I use Leupold, Nikon and Burris.

    Ammunition: Modern bonded bullets with controlled expansion and high bullet weight retention will work best. Bullets that do not penetrate well will not kill anything here well, bears especially so. My favorites are TBBC, Swift A frames and Accubonds. I do not like Barnes TSX type bullets as I have witnessed very poor performance from them and I do not allow them in my camp.
    Solids: You want penetration but this is one case where a solid may not have very good results. If you hit a bear with one and it does not hit the vitals or bone it may have little or no effect on the bear.

    Shot Placement: This is the key factor with bears. If you do not hit CNS, vital organs or major bones you just piss off the bear more. Study how bears are built and learn proper placement. Viewed from the side divide him in half and hit him dead center of front half, front leg forward if possible you should shoot halfway up just at rear of leg. High or low shots will have poor results unless you spine him. If you are being charged and the range is close you basically aim at the nose. This is a tough shot, most people are going to have trouble hitting a bear doing 25mph or more and bouncing around until it is close. Ten yards is about your last chance of avoiding getting chewed on.

    Self Defense: Each year many bears are shot in defense of life and property here in Alaska. And many more are killed that go unreported for various reasons I will not get into. Do not make the mistake of thinking a Black Bear cannot be dangerous. I had a friend killed and partially eaten by one that weighed about 150lbs. Any bear can be dangerous. I recommend that you always carry bear spray at minimum, even if you are hiking or biking on the edge of town. If you are out in the boonies I highly suggest a firearm as well.
    Always have proper training and follow instructions and common sense with pepper spray and firearms. The following are my opinions as to what I would use:

    1 12 gauge pump with slugs or slugs/00 buckshot. I have seen several thread where 12ga slugs were disregarded for bear protection because of poor penetration. This is ridiculous. A decent 12 gauge slug will penetrate a bear nearly end to end and is the single best round for close in bear stopping. For smaller bears buckshot also works well doing lots of damage but for the big guys you basically want slugs.

    2 Large caliber rifle with quality bullets, expansion must be controlled or you will not get adequate penetration. I still prefer a bolt action for self defense for the same reasons I hunt with one, they work. If all you have is a lever action please use hard cast bullets or they will do little in the way of penetration.

    3 Any other rifle, any rifle will do in a pinch, many bears have been killed by the Eskimo people with nothing more than a 222 Remington, but then again they knew what they were doing.

    4 Large caliber revolver, 44mag or up loaded with hard cast lead works with the right placement, be practiced with your gun.

    5 Any other handgun, 357 mag, 10mm best but any gun is better than nothing. You may not want hollowpoints here.

    Remember in any case that if you are being charged and you kill a bear your story will be investigated. Many bears bluff charge to 6 or 7 yards, you need to analyze the situation quickly and correctly and make the proper decisions under great duress. An aggressive bear at close range will test you and your undies.

    So in summary for Alaska and anywhere else for that matter it is best to use what works and has always worked. The widely used .338 winmag is the most popular rifle in Alaska. Stay with reasonable velocities and quality ammunition. You do not need some boutique AR caliber to shoot a bear with. Most people here would laugh at you if you showed up with one. Same goes for lever and pump actions, we tend to look at these as deer rifles and not use them here. I have one friend who has always used a BAR 338 even though it has had problems several times. Not me, I will stay with a Mauser type action for hunting and the 12 ga for specific defense work.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2012
  2. hardluk1

    hardluk1 member

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    Since this covers Defence against browns Wheres the bear spray. Hunting around the grizzly line in general. 338 or larger caliber and a backup with maybe something heavier in someones hands. If sight seeing and fishing 45/70 with hardcast of 405 gr +in a lever rifle or short barrel 12ga slugs. I will leave the pistol home. Probably dupo solids in the slug gun.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  3. SimplyChad

    SimplyChad Member

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    How bad of a choice is a 45-70 throwing a 400 gr pill when it comes to bears?
     
  4. wwace

    wwace Member

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    Read under Self Defense where I ALWAYS recommend you carry bear spray, then again I always have a firearm if possible.

    If you are determined to use a 45/70 please use hard cast lead that will penetrate. You also want more than 2000 fps.
     
  5. hogshead

    hogshead Member

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    Confused first you say pumps are not reliable or tough enough for Alaska hunting then you recommend a pump shotgun for defense. Then you recommend a 30-06 but no lever guns. Give me a lever action 444,45-70 or 450. You obviously have never hunted with any of these inferior cartridges and seen what they will do.
     
  6. wwace

    wwace Member

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    I recommend a pump shotgun because they do not make a 6 or 7 barrel shotgun. If I thought 2 shots were enough for self defense from bears I would have recommended a double barrel. A pump is the only way to get a sufficient amount of ammo for a possible encounter. As a matter of fact I would use a semi auto shotgun with 4 or 5 shots before I used a lever action or any rifle type in defense of life or property. I do own several very reliable semi autos.

    As I said, if you own an appropriate caliber lever action with quality bullets go for it. I just think there are better options. Most people who venture out into the sticks are not the Rifleman. These guns kick like mules amped up on Red Bull. Try and hit a charging dinner plate at 30mph sometime repeatedly. This doesn't even take into account the very complicated action. Tubular magazines are easy to jam, say a little water seeps in and freezes, you now have a single shot. The loading gate can get stuck or break. The lifting block can jam on a twig (we have tough twigs). You cannot exert the same amount of energy on a lever action as you can on a pump to overcome minor stickiness. A simple CRF bolt action rifle is better, always has been, always will be.

    I have only seen a couple of animals shot with lever action rifles, several deer in AZ and one caribou by the Canadian border in November 1991. The deer were pretty much wasted (30-30's). The caribou was shot with a 444. I was watching two nice bulls when a guy rides up on his Skidoo and drops off his buddy with his levergun. This guy started shooting at one of the bulls and it was the grossest thing I have ever witnessed hunting. First shot hit a foreleg low breaking it, second missed, third hit it right in the right rear ham, blood showered for at least 40 feet. The next shot missed, the fifth shot hit right rear ankle, by this time I was screaming at the guy. He finally managed to kill it somehow. To this day I kick myself for not shooting that poor animal and putting it out of its misery. He was using soft nose that just splattered when they hit. Oh yeah, the range was maybe 90 yards at a standing animal. He was fighting the action between shots but it was a little cold, only -35.
     
  7. hardluk1

    hardluk1 member

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    It simple pays to know your firearm and use a lube to a minimum that does not freeze . You can't say a lever rifle is not good if a hunter has used one for many years and has the bullet and cartidge for the job. Freezing and icey weather does not fly any better with a pump shot gun than a lever or bolt rifle if not prep'd for cold weather.

    Let a hunter go to way northern canada for deer season when its 10 below for a week of snow then some what warm camp at night and with the wrong lube and lack of prep to your firearms or a bolt rifle a lever ora pump shotgun can become a single shot. The typical grizzly season in alaska is somewaht nice weather that deer season in many states or in canada. Fishing season too.

    Maybe a good thing you did not help finish that caribou. That hunter might have gotten all bent out of shape over that.
     
  8. Freedom_fighter_in_IL

    Freedom_fighter_in_IL Member

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    As far as your story with the guy using the .444 on the Caribou, that was in no way the rifles fault. That was all the fault of the shooter and his piss poor marksmanship. I've dropped Elk at 150 yards with a .30/30 and the same with a .444. Leverguns have been used in Alaska and Canada since they where invented. Don't know where you hunt in Alaska but everywhere I have hunted the grand state I have hunted with an old levergun of some sort just about every time. Never been laughed at or anything of the sort for packing in with a light, maneuverable, easy to shoulder, and most of all dependable firearm. Never had one lock up on me but I have enough common sense to protect my firearm when packing through the thick stuff. Most people do.

    As far as your Bear defense, pretty much spot on correct.
     
  9. DM~

    DM~ Member

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    I'm just wondering, are you a guide? Just how much big bear experience do you have? Or are just a guy that likes to hunt and have some opinions??

    DM
     
  10. Freedom_fighter_in_IL

    Freedom_fighter_in_IL Member

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    Forgot one thing, your theory about a Mauser type action being "the best" choice is absurd. Why do you think the Canadian Rangers chose the Enfield action over Mauser? Because of freezeup. The Mauser action, while my favorite of all bolt actions, is subject to freezing up quite a bit more than an Enfield action. Many bolt handles have been broken off Mauser actions trying to slam them open because they were frozen solid.
     
  11. wwace

    wwace Member

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    I'm not a guide, but our hunting camp makes it seem as if I am. I have hunted in Ak for over 40 years. I do have friends who used to guide though, one of whom guided over 100 Brown bear hunts. Hunting bears or running into one when hunting other game tends to be quite different than running into one in your front yard or when fishing etc. and that is some of what I was trying to point out along with the self defense basics.

    My outline of recommendations is just my opinions, nothing more. Experience with your personal weapons is far more important than what the weapon actually is. If you only use lever actions and yours is very reliable, fine, it is just not what I would use. Your marksmanship and field craft are what count when you are alone, if you are on a guided hunt these factors are not as important as your guide will make up for your lack of either. (hopefully)

    Also let me say this, my position on bears today is 100% non confrontational, I try to leave them alone and hope for the same in return. I do not hunt them specifically any more. It just so happens that every once in a while you have to deal with a problem. Experience is hard to come by first hand with bears, the more you share knowledge the better informed we all are in the end.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  12. wwace

    wwace Member

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    The last Enfield I picked up had a sticky action, this can happen to any rifle. I am not saying the Enfield isn't a great rifle, it is, it's just that most modern rifles are either Mauser derived or push feeds like Remington. As far as my choice being absurd I don't think so. CRF actions are recommended more for dangerous game unless you use a double, which are rare here.

    I used a push fed Sako 338 for 20 years, great rifle, just not as safe as CRF. That and they have a horrible safety, you shouldn't carry that gun with a round chambered. Last year I got a new Model 70, now that is a nice rifle. I was really impressed with it, great trigger and very accurate. 375 H&H FTW.
     
  13. wwace

    wwace Member

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    I know the shooter was at fault in the caribou event, and we have better ammunition now too. And if you are hunting in the cold I suggest you run your gun dry if it will do so. Synthetics are pretty good if not.

    And yes, most guides will expect you to show up with a scoped bolt action rifle, my laughed at comment was tongue in cheek. I knew of some natives down by Lake Clark who used to shoot bears with a 30-30, it is what they had and their personal experience trumps weapon choice.
     
  14. Flintknapper

    Flintknapper Member

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    DM wrote:
    WWACE replied:
    WWACE previously wrote:
    To not be a guide (nothing wrong with that), you have amazing control over the camp…I must say. ;) :D

    Can you please elaborate on the “poor performance” of the Barnes TSX. I am not disputing it….just very surprised and wondering what kind of sample number we are talking about.

    Thanks,

    Flint.
     
  15. DM~

    DM~ Member

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    I'm glad you said that, because my extensive hunting experience in Alaska, much of it for brown bear, has left me with many different opinions from your first post.

    DM
     
  16. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Simply put levers are the most complex, heaviest and least reliable of all repeaters. A bolt rifle is the least complex, lightest and most reliable of all repeaters. If you think you can get off aimed repeat shots faster with a lever action chambered in these rounds you are sadly mistaken.

    The 444, 45-70, and 450 will work, and if you want to play John Wayne with your rifles you are certainly welcome to do so. But there have been multiple tests done that conclude that a 30-06 loaded with quality 200+ gr bullets actually outperform the big bore lever chamberings, and do it with 1/2 the recoil, and in lighter more compact rifles.
     
  17. wwace

    wwace Member

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    My control may just be my imagination as I built the place with my relatives some 40 years ago and I provide all the transport, food etc. I like to exhibit control over areas of my expertise, mostly cooking lol but I am usually the most knowledgeable about weaponry.

    I guess I can at least tell the story regarding the Barnes fiasco.

    One of my guests used them last year in Federal premium Tripleshock 338 winmag, 225gr, he was shooting a nice Weatherby with a good scope. I put him on a nice Caribou bull we were lucky enough to be in a close enough position to intercept. The bull popped up on a little ridge around 100 yds from us and a few cows soon got out of the line of fire and I gave the ok to shoot. My guest (friend of a friend) shot a couple of times with no effect, he was resting against a small tree which was affecting his shooting I guess, 3rd shot and the bull walked off the ridge out of view for the moment. I knew he had hit it I just didn't know where. Now mind you this is the same guy who the previous year put 2 bullets into a moose about an inch apart at a couple of hundred yards with the same rifle, different ammo. We ran over, crossing a gully, and got up where the bull was last seen. We found the bull standing in a draw about 30 yards away in some "nice" brush. Well he walks over a bit closer and fires at the bull hitting him in the backstrap due to the angle to reach the vitals and the caribou dropped but was still very much alive so I yelled at him to shoot again. This shot was in the neck at which the poor animal finally succumbed.

    By this time I am thoroughly pissed off, disgusted with everything, it is hot as hell, a zillion biting flies and gnats decided to join (have) us for lunch and the animal is in a hole in 8 ft tall alders. We went down and gutted him but at the time it was so miserable I didn't really pay attention to the hits. I had watched the last two strike and there was a wound low in the vitals, no exit. We walked a mile back to where we had left an ATV and retrieved the bull, took him back to camp and hung, skinned and quartered him. The shooter was thoroughly berated (not entirely in jest) for ruining the backstrap multiple times but he was happy to get a good animal as the caribou were really scarce in our vicinity.

    Well, after another week we made our way home and started butchering a couple of days later. When we got to the right front quarter of the boo one of the guys found the bullet which hit the neck and showed it to us. I was shocked. Now mind you it looked great, petals opened up well and everything. The problem was in penetrated all of 2 or maybe 2 1/2 inches. I looked at the wound and was amazed at how shallow it was. At this point i interrogated the shooter who was present on what type of ammo he was using. I personally witnessed the shot, sounded normal, range was around 10 or 12 yards, from a 338 win mag. Yep I was both shocked and in disbelief. Then and there i threw a fit and banned Barnes bullets from my camp.

    So yeah it was then I had my Edison moment and realized the the Barnes X bullets were opening prematurely. Two or at most 3 inches penetration from a 338 is shameful on a caribou neck. I am of the opinion that the other hits did not reach the vitals. I have killed quite a few caribou and they are generally simple to kill. I wish I had payed more attention during the autopsy but we usually do not pay much attention to these things. I wrote Federal and Barnes both but I guess they did not like my choice of wording.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2012
  18. wwace

    wwace Member

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    Ooh, please tell stories and add your input, I encourage everyone with bear experience to post advice or just hunting stories. Peace
     
  19. Alaska444

    Alaska444 member

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    Ahhhhrg, someone picking on the .444 again. That was not the rifle's fault the hunter didn't prep it right and could not hit anything with it with the wrong bullets. My .444 can group in an inch and a half at 100 yards with my Skinner Sight, no scope. Great, powerful and accurate rifle in the right hands. It is my choice for a woods gun up in Idaho.

    Granted, we really don't get 35 below up there in most places in Idaho, but it does get wet, cold, snowy and rainy like the panhandle region of Alaska. Lever rifles are great brush guns. If you are in northern Alaska with more open space, the bolt action high powered rifles starting with .338 magnum are the usual starting points for most guides from all I have heard and read.

    I also went with a .300 WSM Browning BLR which is another option not noted here yet. The BLR has the accuracy of the bolt actions and it gives the option of rapid followup shots in a self defense situation against a bear. The BLR is my elk rifle for Idaho.
     
  20. Freedom_fighter_in_IL

    Freedom_fighter_in_IL Member

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    wwace, I have heard both extremes regarding the Barns X bullets. Premature opening and not opening at all. And then I have also heard some very high praises as well. ALL bullets will have faults at one time or another. Simple physics dictates that no one thing can be perfectly repeated at any time. You can come close, but the passage of time itself keeps from perfect copying. Different angles, hide thickness, hell, even just the simple will of the animal itself will make each and every shot different to one degree or another.

    Horse pucky to most all of that statement right there. My Marlins are the lightest rifles I own (except for a couple of Savage bolters with synthetic furniture but just by a few ounces) and trust me, I own a LOT of rifles. Bolts actions are a bit less complex in the works but they are no more reliable than a lever action in the hands of someone that actually knows what they are doing. And as far as follow up speed, I can bet you any day of the week I will be faster on followup with one of my .30/30's than ANY bolt action .30cal I own including my Enfields which I am extremely fast on. You sir are the one that is sadly mistaken there.
     
  21. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Comparative cycling times depend a lot on the amount of practice for operating at speed. Let's not get off to wandering around in that arena, okay?

    Me, I'd likely rank as slow, and for a very good reason. Think about it. :D
     
  22. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

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    There's always the Russian way with a scoped Mosin Nagant and a ~200 grain soft point. Brute force? Maybe. But it will get the job done. And you KNOW those rifles won't lock up in the cold.

    Regarding distrust of leverguns, semi-autos, etc., it's entirely a case-by-case situation. Some gun designs are more prone to problems than others. You have to know your weapon, and the environment. Preparing a firearm for extreme cold might include a thorough degreasing and relubricating with a more suitable oil, for example. It's really no different than preparing your car for those same conditions.
     
  23. Sav .250

    Sav .250 Member

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    Just curious, how many big bears have you killed in Alaska? If I missed it, my apologies.
     
  24. Flintknapper

    Flintknapper Member

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    Sir, if I understand you correctly…you have “banned” Barnes TSX bullets from your camp based on the performance on exactly one animal (some of the shots of which you admit you don’t know either the placement or penetration)?

    The other shot (neck shot) is reported to have penetrated no more than 3”, though the recovered bullet was said to be intact (petals opened).

    It is truly hard to imagine that a TSX fired from a .338 Win Mag at a distance of 30 feet would penetrate no farther than what could be expected of a .22 rimfire, but I will take your word for it.

    Oddly enough, I just finished watching a show on TV where a guy shot a Caribou using a .300 Win Mag and 180 gr. Accubond bullets (one your preferred bullets) from a distance of approximately 130 yds (according to narration).

    At the first shot (perfectly placed tight behind the shoulder) the animal never even flinched (no kidding). The guide and hunter both watched the Boo a few seconds and determined to shoot it again.

    The hunter shot once more…and you could clearly see the hide ripple from the impact (another perfect shot), this time the animal slowly walked off (after just standing there for a bit) and eventually toppled over.

    Now, you and I both know that the 300 Win Mag delivers plenty of power (under 400 yds) for Caribou and the Accubond is an excellent bullet.

    But if we were to use this one (odd) example to demonstrate the apparent lack of ability of the round to drop an animal, it would (at best) be intellectually dishonest of us IMO.

    The TSX is actually designed to open quickly, but generally achieves good penetration as well…..by virtue of the sharp petals “cutting” (not pushing) their way through flesh, combined with the tendency of the bullet to retain nearly all (if not all) of its weight.

    If the TSX is known for anything…its penetration.

    But, my point is this:

    Even if the occasional anomaly happens (poor bullet performance due to whatever circumstance) is it really fair to judge (and subsequently BAN) it based on such a small sampling?

    Likewise, the story about the guy shooting the Caribou (all around the edges) with the 444 lever gun!

    Presumably, they (lever guns) are banned from the camp as well? Though the cartridge and rifle action are well proven elsewhere.

    Nothing wrong with having strong opinions about what constitutes proper gear for a given task, but before dismissing any one group….perhaps a stronger argument could be made…than simply ‘I saw this happen one time’.

    I do value your experience and Thank You for relating it here…as all input is something we can compare to our own and develop opinions about.

    And I apologize for drifting so far from the theme of this thread (BEAR S/D)

    Flint
     
  25. hogshead

    hogshead Member

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    Well said flintknapper. I find it hard to believe that a 338 from 30 yds only penetrated 3 and half inches. Of course I also like lever actions and feel that they are lighter and have a faster rate of fire than a bolt gun.
     
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