High profile bear attacks appear in headlines across Montana nearly every hunting season. The last couple attack stories (and the gruesome photos that accompanied them) pushed me to reevaluate my bear defense strategy.
I hunt almost exclusively in grizzly country and a canister of bear spray hangs from my belt every time I take to the field. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks touts bear spray as the most effective defense during a bear attack. I trust FWP biologists and the statistics that support them but an accident with a fresh can of bear mace left me more unsettled.
A couple years ago I worked late one evening during hunting season and my 60 pound Siberian Husky greeted me at the front door with an orange smile. She discovered my hunting pack while I was away and managed to open the zipper. The texture of my neoprene bear spray holster must have been appealing because she chewed through the can and the pressurized contents sprayed throughout my small home.
I couldn’t stand to be in the house for several hours while the contaminated air cleared through open windows but my pup didn’t seem to mind.
I still utilize spray as my primary bear defense but in the back of my head I question how effective it can be on a 500 pound apex predator if it can’t dampen my husky’s sunny disposition. I’ve been shopping for large caliber revolvers ever since.
This week Montana Untamed reported the hunters involved in the grizzly attack over opening weekend equipped themselves with spray and a sidearm. The man who was mauled first grabbed his bear spray but in the quickly unfolding attack he dropped the canister and pulled his pistol.
The bear swatted the man’s arm before he could get a shot off. Fortunately he was hunting with a partner who deployed his own canister of bear spray and ended the attack.
Though anecdotal stories like this keep the bear spray on my belt. However I think I’ll keep shopping for a .44 magnum or other bear worthy handguns because there’s always room for a backup and another firearm in the safe.