By Montana Grant

Posted: September 18, 2019

The Gravelly Range is becoming more “un Bearable” again this season. The initial closing of the Lobo Mesa area started things off.

A horsewoman, leading horses through the area saw a grizzly. She used her pistol to “shoot over its head!” * more grizzly heads poked up. Apparently free-range cattle had eaten “sorrel”, which killed them. Now it was a Bear Buffet. The area was closed to hunting.

This past Monday more hunters stumbled upon a single bear that charged them. I was also hunting the area on Monday and found 2 piles of Black Bear scat. We covered over a dozen miles and had some good morning Bull action. Later in the day, the wind came up, which made it near impossible to see movement or hear. The later bear attack happened under these conditions.

The Black Butte area of the Gravellies gets a lot of hunting pressure. Often, the campsites along the roads are full. Several large outfitters also work this area. Bears are abundant in this area.

Every year there seems to be several encounters. I have called in grizzlies using my elk call. Several have been within 20 yards. We are both surprised to encounter something we did not expect. My handgun gets pulled, I stand on top of a rock or log with my bow extended in the other hand. Making yourself big is important. I never make eye contact but talk calmly and slowly. Gradually, I ease away from the situation. The bears do the same.

My most aggressive encounters have come from Black Bears. They seem more unpredictable. In either case, do not run! Look for a tree to climb, arm yourself with the bear spray or gun. Anticipate the charge and focus on the one or maybe 2 shots you might get off. Bear spray is also an option, but bears can blow right through it.

When we enter the bears living room, we could become what’s for dinner. Any gut piles, camps, or food sources become covered dishes.

Hunting in bear country is special. The risk and danger of hunting in an area where wolves, bears lions and critters are hunting you adds to the hunt. The excitement and risk require hunters to be alert, prepared, and educated to the risks. Never discount the danger.

One concern that has been talked about are the displacement of “Problem Bears”! Many folks have mentioned that these local nuisance bears are often trapped, and released into the Gravellies, or areas where hunters practice their sport. That’s like stocking rattlesnakes.

Could these attacks be a result of this management practice? Free range cattle are also walking food for the wild critters. Losing cattle to plant poisoning and predators surely does not help the ranchers. When areas are closed to hunting, it seems like the hunters become the victims. Maybe the FWP needs to re-evaluate the management in these areas. Free range cattle may need to re-locate or… Maybe some Grizzly Bear tags need to be issued in these areas, so hunters can help make the situation more Bearable.

Like it or not, things change.

Montana Grant

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