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I am an avid and marginally successful bow hunter who wins the Wyoming non-resident elk archery lottery about once every 3 years or so. My preferred hunting area is in Northwest Wyoming and is adjacent to the Yellowstone park...think prime grizzly bear country. I vacilate between carrying bear spray and/or a sidearm. I have, to date, personally only had close encounters with black bears and those situations were not really "close"...like in your face close.

Do Forum members have for real experience with either spary or side arm use with bears and, if you had to do it over again, which defensive tool would you use.
 

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Brad, get ready for a looonnngg thread. This is a question asked very frequently and let me tell you there is no shortage of opinions. That's why I like this place. ;). I would suggest anything you can get a deal on with calibers ranging from a 44 mag to 50 SW and everything in between. There are some here that will mention a 45acp, a round I love, but not one I would choose as a bear back up. IMO. Good luck and get ready.
 

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Well, having NO experience, I'd recommend a .44 Mag as the very LEAST I would carry, but I'd prefer a seasoned guide with a .458 Weatherby and icewater in his veins...:)

Ya also might wanna think about the Standard Front Sight Mod. :eek:
 

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Bear spray is supposed to work quite well...I have no experience with it but do have experience with the equivalent on people (retired law enforcement) and it worked. If you carry a handgun, first make sure its legal to do so. Then, pick one that is reasonably light and easy to carry holstered, because you will carry it up and down mountains a lot and probably never have to use it. The ideal would be to carry both spray and a handgun. Killing a bear is a last resort and could put you in legal jeopardy if the situation is at all unclear to the investigating officers.

If you ever do need to use a handgun, penetration is what is needed. It is also a good thing if the handgun can be drawn and fired rapidly. My choice would be a 4" barreled double action revolver in .357, .41, .44 or .45 caliber. The .454's, .475's, .460's and .500's are very heavy and kick too much for rapid fire. Single actions are slow and awkward for most people to use in an emergency.

In .357, I would use a 160 to 180 gr. WFN hard cast bullet. In a .44 or .45 it would be the same type in 250 to 300 gr. weight. I would want a velocity of at least 1200 fps. Penetration would be adequate with any of them. If you place the bullet properly, they work; if you don't, they don't.
 

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Piney Woods Moderator
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I once heard a guide's answer to what to carry while bow hunting in grizzly territory...lots of life insurance.;)
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Hunt with slow friends!!!!!!! :D
 

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Brad, I can't offer any advice on this yet, but I just dropped my uncle an email, he's been a fishing and hunting guide out in Teton County WY for years. I'll let you know what he'd reccomend.
 

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I've read that Grizzlies can charge you at 35 MPH. I'd advise getting in shape to run a really fast 36 MPH.:D

As fas as handguns go, wildhobby bobbie has the best advise as far as handguns (double action revolvers with a 4" barrel) and calibers. The only thing I can add to that is get a quality revolver they will be worth the money when and if your life depends on them. I own and use Smith and Wesson, Ruger and Colt revolvers and can attest to their quality. One thing for you to know is that you will only be able to get the Colt Anaconda or Python on the used market.
 

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Bear spray is supposed to work quite well...I have no experience with it but do have experience with the equivalent on people (retired law enforcement) and it worked. If you carry a handgun, first make sure its legal to do so. Then, pick one that is reasonably light and easy to carry holstered, because you will carry it up and down mountains a lot and probably never have to use it. The ideal would be to carry both spray and a handgun. Killing a bear is a last resort and could put you in legal jeopardy if the situation is at all unclear to the investigating officers.

If you ever do need to use a handgun, penetration is what is needed. It is also a good thing if the handgun can be drawn and fired rapidly. My choice would be a 4" barreled double action revolver in .357, .41, .44 or .45 caliber. The .475's, .460's and .500's are very heavy and kick too much for rapid fire. Single actions are slow and awkward for most people to use in an emergency.

In .357, I would use a 160 to 180 gr. WFN hard cast bullet. In a .44 or .45 it would be the same type in 250 to 300 gr. weight. I would want a velocity of at least 1200 fps. Penetration would be adequate with any of them. If you place the bullet properly, they work; if you don't, they don't.
Yup, I agree for the most part except.....caliber - stick with the .44 mag and hard cast, deep penetrating (Keith-style) bullets. Not too much recoil especially with .44 special practice rounds. Carry full power loads in the field and practice with them a few times. Three important things to do after you get the weapon. 1) Practice; 2) practice; 3) practice.

I witnessed a California Highway Patrol officer shoot a vehicle-struck mountain lion three times with a .357 using 158 grain flat point jacketed bullets. The lion ran off. The officer is a Hunter Education Instructor and a Rangemaster for the CHP. I trailed the lion for 400 yards. It was holed-up in some cat claw brush. Down but definitely not out, a 12 gauge slug ended that little fracas. I covered three .357 entry wounds with one hand. All three were roughly centered on the left shoulder. Nicely placed shots but.....

My bear experience is limited to black bears. They are tough customers. Some will retreat when fogged with pepper spray, others just get really "upset". First, it takes a long powerful jet of spray for it to work and those larger cans of spray are not made for packin' around in the woods by a hunter. I've seen backpackers carrying them but they don't like those big canisters taking up room and weight. Those small cans police carry or the purse-sized cans for women aren't for bear-sized animals.

Second, be mindful of the wind when using the spray. If you let loose with a jet of spray and the wind is in your face, that's all you've done is given the bear a little extra flavoring for his meal as the spray blankets/blinds you just prior to the bear's attack. Also understand that humidity (heavy dew, rain, fog, snow, etc.) will influence the spray's effectiveness.

IMHO, I would carry a 4" .44 magnum with heavy cast bullets and at least one speed loader loaded with same. On a charging bear your point-of-aim will be the bear's nose (an easy reference point causing a person to aim at a specific point - "aim small, miss small"). Hit high and it's a brain shot. Hit low and the top of the heart and at least one lung will be hit. Skip the bear spray. You carry the most powerful weapon ever known to man everywhere you go. Your brain. Be aware of your surroundings, look at ( and see) what's in front as well as behind you. Listen for "out-of-place" sounds (cubs playing in the leaves, "woof" as momma warns the cubs of approaching danger, the sound of "popping" jaws indicates a "nervous" bear, etc.). Boars sometimes reek, you can smell them from down wind. Tracks will let you know that bears have been in the area.

I've retired after thirty plus years as a game warden. Nature is a tough task master. Unlike our places of higher learning, Nature gives the test first, then teaches the lesson. If you live through the test, you've learned the lesson.
 

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Hey Marty, we are brothers of a sort...I was a CO in MI for 25 years. Had to kill one black bear with a .357 and it worked just fine.

I'm not saying a .357 is the ideal tool, and if I really thought I was in danger from bears I would carry a rifle. My first choice of handgun would be a .44 Magnum.

Actually, if I REALLY thought I was going to be in danger, I would stay home and assume the fetal position...I'm gettin' old and want to keep gettin' older!

But a .357 will do the job if the shooter does his, as this sequence of a bear attack caught on film shows:

http://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/gallery/hunting/2008/01/grizzly-attack-caught-camera
 

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Don't know when or in what area you plan to hunt, but there is this from the Wyoming regs:

"During special archery seasons and in archery only areas it is unlawful for an archer to have a firearm in possession while hunting."
 

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I think Smith has one of the best backup guns availible. Its in there Night Guard series. Get one in either .41 or .44 mag, 2 1/2 bbl, night sights and lightweight.

CD
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I appreciate the insights. Pisgah..I am aware of the Wyoming handgun reg. In my initial post I neglected to say that I regularly apply/hunt in the Bob Marshall area of Montana as well and MT does not have handgun restrictions. My delemia boils down to the trade off of only getting an elk permit anywhere about once in every three years or so. I have a Ruger .22 pistol which is good for demonstrating what a poor handgun shooter I am. I am weighing the trade off of the cost to acquire/seriously practice with a heavy sidearm that I will also have to shlep up and down 9-10,000 foot mountains versus staying with the spray which I religously carry, but have never used, whenever I go west.

My thought is that if I mess around out there long enough in pre-hibernation time period, dressed in camo, smelling like cow elk urine I am likely to have a confrontation with griz sometime. I certainly want to avoid a head on situation and absolutely would use either spray or handgun only in a last ditch crisis. Hope this puts my issue in context.
 

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Hey Marty, we are brothers of a sort...I was a CO in MI for 25 years. Had to kill one black bear with a .357 and it worked just fine.

I'm not saying a .357 is the ideal tool, and if I really thought I was in danger from bears I would carry a rifle. My first choice of handgun would be a .44 Magnum.

Actually, if I REALLY thought I was going to be in danger, I would stay home and assume the fetal position...I'm gettin' old and want to keep gettin' older!

But a .357 will do the job if the shooter does his, as this sequence of a bear attack caught on film shows:

http://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/gallery/hunting/2008/01/grizzly-attack-caught-camera
A .357 will kill bears with good shot placement. We carried .357 handguns (Ruger Security Six, then S&W Model 66, then S&W Model 686) for awhile. I've used the .357 round to kill about 50 black bears over the years. All but 5 or so were "bad" bears that were killed inside culvert traps like the one shown in the article you posted. All of the culvert bears went down with one shot. The others were shot in "confined" space (garage/tool shed/garden shed) areas under somewhat controlled conditions. The longest shot was about 25 feet in these situations. As a precaution, two shots were used in these circumstances.

The Montana incident was "good shot placement" in that it was a contact (muzzle against the skull) shot into the brain. A necropsy showed the grizzly's skull sutures (the little squiggly lines that join the skull plates together) had actually separated due to the force of the muzzle blast entering the skull. "Eye displacement" (the eyes popped out of their sockets) was also present. For handgun backup the .357 will work but a .44 magnum leaves more "margin for error" ;).
 

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Not that we have any grizzlies here in Colorado (that we know of), but I purchased a S&W 329 PD (.44 mag) in the 4" bbl. I have also purchased an El Paso Saddlery "tanker" holster for it. Comfortable and out of the way, but close when you need it. I shoot 280 gr. BTB, just below mach. I finished off a doe that was still a little too alive for my tastes from about 30 yards. I fired two rounds through her chest and both did quite a bit of damage and passed through and off into the hillside. A grizz is quite a bit bigger, however, if the speeds were higher, and the distance closer, I could only assume that you could get a heavy hardcast to completely penetrate a grizz at any angle. LOTS of power in a package that weighs in around that of a Glock.
 

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State (Lousiana) won't allow any handgun during bow season but one: a .22 loaded with snake shot. Seems an odd part of the law, but the idea is that during bow season the only serious danger is from the snakes.

However, some folks like their bows well enough to hunt with them during "regular" hunting season (and some of us like our muzzle loaders well enough to use them year round), and when legal, tend to carry a reasonably small big bore... prefer my old Mod. 57/ 41mag. 4" from long association.
 

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A minimum of 44 cal. with a heavy, wide meplat hardcast bullet. I'm sure there's a jacketed bullet to be had that wouldn't act like most jacketed pistol bullets and fragment or mushroom badly on impact.

They say there are no Griz here (yeah right, just like there are no wolves) so I carry one of two pistols when on the woods here in NW Colorado. My 44 Redhawk loaded with 250 grain hardcast 429421's or my . . . . . . . . .

wait for it. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .. .

1911 45 ACP loaded with 230 grain fmj's. Dad used one to dispatch a problem bear in hunting camp back in the 60's. Can't see them being any tougher 50 years later.



RJ
 

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Since recoil junkie brought up autoloaders, I use my H&K USP in .40 loaded with 200 gr. BTB @ 1000 fps. They are crazy accurate and have impressive penetration and terminal ballistics, that would have to be seen to believed. I've only shot phone books and coyotes with it, but I wouldn't hesitate to shoot a black bear with it. Broad meplat hardcast bullets do posess something worth looking into, even when shot at modest velocities.
 

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Don't know when or in what area you plan to hunt, but there is this from the Wyoming regs:

"During special archery seasons and in archery only areas it is unlawful for an archer to have a firearm in possession while hunting."
I believe that law was recently changed. However, law or not, I am not without my .44 mountain gun or freedom arms .454 and a can of bear spray while bow hunting in grizz country.
 

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I am an avid and marginally successful bow hunter who wins the Wyoming non-resident elk archery lottery about once every 3 years or so. My preferred hunting area is in Northwest Wyoming and is adjacent to the Yellowstone park...think prime grizzly bear country. I vacilate between carrying bear spray and/or a sidearm. I have, to date, personally only had close encounters with black bears and those situations were not really "close"...like in your face close.

Do Forum members have for real experience with either spary or side arm use with bears and, if you had to do it over again, which defensive tool would you use.
I carry a Redhawk 4" 44 mag loaded with 265gr hornady soft points charged with 22.5 gr of h-110. Keith style bullets are even better.

These hornady bullets were on sale! :) I'd find a 5 1/2" super blackhawk or redhawk with the 4". Load 'em heavy!!
 
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