Charging Grizzly Killed by Handgun-Wielding Shed Hunter

Charging Grizzly Killed by Handgun-Wielding Shed Hunter

A shed hunter shot and killed a sow grizzly bear last month as the 300-pound bruin charged him in western Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) reports that the incident occurred on private land northwest of the town of Wolf Creek. The shed hunter, who has not been identified, was walking along a ridge when he saw a grizzly standing near the top of the ridge about 20 yards away.

The low trees and brush had kept him from seeing the bear, though he had seen a fresh grizzly track in a snow patch a short time earlier. But the bear was almost certainly aware of his presence. He had been walking with the wind at his back, and his two dogs were with him.

When the bear saw him, it dropped on all fours and charged. Montana FWP says the man was not carrying bear spray, but he drew his handgun and fired five shots at distances between 10 and 30 feet. Three of the shots missed, but one grazed the bear, and another killed it.

A Montana FWP spokesman said the bear was shot in the “upper chest area,” though he couldn’t share any additional information about the gun or caliber.

The hunter was not injured in the encounter.

The bear was an adult female estimated to be about 12 years old. She had a cub with her that was later captured by Montana FWP’s bear management specialists. It was taken to FWP’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Helena, and the agency is currently looking for placement for the cub at an accredited zoo.

Grizzlies are protected under the Endangered Species Act, so every time a human kills a grizzly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets involved. This case is still under investigation by that agency, and a spokesperson refused to provide any additional information when contacted by MeatEater.

FWP Bear Specialist Chad White told the Great Falls Tribune that the incident occurred one to two miles away from the nearest house. Bears have been emerging from hibernation for about two months, but females with cubs tend to be the last to emerge.

“We first started seeing lone adult males come out in March, but typically females with cubs don’t come out until later,” White said. “It’s hard to say how long that female had been out on the ground.”

Selecting an effective caliber and firearm for bear defense is a hotly debated issue among backcountry hunters and anglers. Most opt for larger calibers, but control is another important factor to keep in mind.

In this incident, the hunter squeezed off five shots as the bear traveled 20 feet, which, if the bear was running, likely only took a second or two. Only one of those shots landed in a vital area. If the firearm had been difficult to fire quickly or the hunter was unable to control recoil, this could have ended much worse for the hunter.

For recommendations on bear guns and calibers from the MeatEater crew, click here. MeatEater’s Clay Newcomb also had a chance to hone his bear defense skills using a pistol and bear spray, which you can watch here.

Of course, the best bear defense is to avoid the animals entirely. Montana FWP hosts regular classes as part of their Bear Aware program to educate recreators about how to stay safe in bear country.

If you ever meet a grizzly bear in the wild, the agency offers this advice:

  • Never run away. You cannot outrun a bear. Running may trigger a bear to chase.
  • Never approach the bear.
  • If you see a bear at a distance, the bear appears unaware of you and you can move away undetected, do so quietly when the bear is not looking toward you.
  • If you cannot avoid a bear that sees you, stand your ground and watch its behavior. Move away when it disengages.

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