By Montana Grant

Posted: September 12, 2019

Bears can kill you! So can speed, alcohol, and many other things. If you hunt in Montana, bears are a risk. If you don’t know this, you will be the next victim.

Recently, the Forest Service closed the Lobo Mesa area, in the Gravelly Range, to hunting. Apparently, a woman leading a group of horseback riders saw a grizzly bear. When she pulled out her “hog leg”, and shot over its head, 8 more grizzly heads popped up.

Many archery hunters enjoy this area. Now they can’t. 9 cow carcasses were in the area and wolves and bears are enjoying the buffet.

My potential hunting partner informed me a few days ago that he was not going to bow hunt with me this season due to the risk of a bear encounter. Oh well. Every bow hunter in Montana could encounter a bear. We all carry sidearms or bear spray. The hunter death toll is small, but it exists.

So, what do you do if you encounter a bear? First, know your bears. Is the bear a “Grizz” or Black? This will help determine your response. All bears should be given the right of way. Black bears seldom attack people but… My closest bear threat came from a huge black bear. The boar bluff charged and snarled at us along a road. The truck was parked, and we were glassing for elk. The bear did not approve.

Most bad outcome bear encounters come from sow/ cub encounters. Carrying an accessible sidearm is important. Bear threats happen fast. If you prefer bear spray, have it on your hip and know how to use it. Buy a cannister and allow every hunter in camp to shoot/spray some, for practice. I am surprised how few hunters have sprayed this product.

Other bear encounters happen during the calling process. Know that bears will answer the game calls like a dinner bell. Be alert and back off if the critter is not what you want. I once was calling bulls and had several cows and spikes cross the game trail, at 20 yards. The next critter to step out was a HUGE Grizzly. He slapped dirt and stood up when he saw me. I stepped onto a log and held my bow out with one hand and my pistol out with the other. He dropped and walked away. I was surprised how close he was to relatively calm elk.

When blood and guts become an issue, hunters need to be aware. Do your work quickly and stay alert. Blood can be smelled for miles. Hungry bears are on the way. Separate your quartered meat from the gut pile. If you can’t get them out of the field quickly. Hang them in a tree. Separate the bags into different trees. If you have to eave the meat in the open, cut some pine bowels or sage to cover your meat. Crack a glow stick or two and hang nearby. Have the hunters pee around the meat area. Leave some sweaty human garments nearby such as t-shirts.

If you return, and the bear is there first, they win.

Montana Grant

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