Big Bad Bears

From an account of lassoing a polar bear to really bad poetry, you won't believe the stuff about bruins we've run over the last 105 years.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

If there was ever any doubt, let us set the record straight-no animal has fascinated the readers and editors of Outdoor Life more than the bear. Since the magazine's debut in 1898, stories about bears have appeared in nearly every issue. But the true measure of our interest in these animals isn't in the volume of the articles alone (after all, we've dedicated more pages over the years to deer and deer hunting), but in the variety of bear features we've run.

Yes, much of what we've printed has focused on how and where to hunt them, and our adventure stories about incredible (and often deadly) encounters with irate bruins are well-known to any regular OL reader. But we've also run many articles that are, well, different from the usual wildlife fare. Like the 27 bear poems we've published, for instance. Or the time we asked a doctor to dissect a grizzly's brain to tell us what we could learn about it.

Why do bears intrigue us so? There are as many answers to that question as there are types of bear stories. OL founding editor J.A. McGuire put it simply: "They're the noblest, the most picturesque and splendid animal in America."

>>2002 Cub Killer
Hunters often see a side of nature that few others do. Even so, a group of veteran Alaska hunters were not prepared for the drama that unfolded in front of them during a spring bear hunt on Kodiak Island, as related in an article by Christopher Batin. After one of their party witnessed the killing of a young cub by a mature boar, they watched as the bear's mother defended her lone remaining cub from the male's onslaught. They vowed to try to kill the bear and save the other cub if possible.

I zoomed in with my spotting scope. Was it the cub killer? The next image in our spotting scopes-at once alarming yet impossible to look away from-gave us our answer.

The boar nosed the perimeter of the left ridgeline. We observed a sow and cub huddled on a rock ledge the size of a door, about 12 feet below the bruin. The ledge was atop a sheer rock face of several hundred feet. The cub bobbed its head up and down, exhibiting a youthful urge to play with the approaching boar. The boar's head hung heavy off his long neck, swaying back and forth like a pendulum. Watching him slog through the snow, I envisioned the boar's mouth dripping saliva and the nose flared to capture the scent of his next victim. The cub fidgeted, torn between play and caution. The sow stood fully upright, her head nudging the cub back down onto the shelf. She remained standing, looking at the boar. Despite her smaller size, the sow had the advantage. The bears faced each other for nearly five minutes. The only way to the cub was a frontal attack. For the boar, there could be no flanking maneuver or side ambush. He would have to kill her in order to reach the cub. The boar reacted with the savvy of a seasoned predator. He backed off and bedded down. Cold, instinctive patience. For the remainder of the day, few camp chores were accomplished, as all available spotting scopes and binoculars were focused on the unfolding alpine drama. The standoff was still going strong when the curtain of night left the final act unfinished. We ate dinner and emboldened ourselves for the next day's strategy.... The party went on to kill the boar before it could get to the cub. But the anger the hunters felt toward the bear, which was trying to bring the sow into heat by killing her offspring, gave way to a measure of sympathy as they recognized that it was only acting on instinct and was a truly magnificent animal in its own right.

[pagebreak] and Bear Rifles"] >>1947****O'Connor on Bears and Bear Rifles
What makes for a good bear rifle? Long-time Gun Editor Jack O'Connor, never one to suffer needlessly at the hands of hard-kicking calibers, fancied cartridges of .30-caliber and under that drove bullets at higspeeds (including his beloved .270 Winchester shooting 130-grain bullets). O'Connor allowed that the .375 H&H; is a good grizzly round-provided the shooter can cope with the recoil.

Usually the black bear is no harder to kill than a whitetail deer and doesn't have much more fight than a rabbit. In Wyoming a couple of years ago, a man was attacked by a female black bear with cubs. He clubbed her to death.

Any good deer cartridge is also a good black bear cartridge. With a well-placed shot a .30/30, a .30 Remington, or a .250/3000 will kill a black very neatly.... But a grizzly is something else again. He is much larger than a black bear, and he can carry a lot of lead, particularly if he is enraged....

Many shots at grizzlies are at fairly long range. Actually, they should be, since a grizzly is an unpredictable and potentially dangerous animal. A bear knocked over at 200 or 250 yards is far less likely to cause trouble (or to give the hunter the shakes) than one shot at 50 yards. I have shot two grizzlies at fairly long range-one at about 200 yards and one at about 400-another at about 150, two at less than 100 yards. I must confess that I am an enthusiastic believer in having at least 150 yards between the hunter and the grizzly before operations start.... The .270 with the controlled-expansion 130-gr. bullet is perfectly all right. The .348 W.C.F., particularly with the 250-gr. Silvertip, should be excellent, and the .30/40 Krag and the .300 Savage will also do the business with well-placed shots. The .300 Magnum with the strong 220-gr. bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,610 fps should be ideal, and if anyone feels better about grizzly hunting armed with the .375, and is not bothered by the hefty recoil, he should by all means use it.

[pagebreak] >> 1904 Old Mose
The most famous bear to appear in Outdoor Life was a notorious grizzly from Colorado dubbed Old Mose. It's hard to believe that one bear could have been responsible for the myriad depredations he was accused of, but Old Mose, known by his distinctive footprint (he was missing two toes), clearly bedeviled ranchers and hunters around south-central Colorado for many years.

When this wily grizzly was finally brought down, OL ran many stories related to the event. We published features about the hunter who killed him, penned editorials on the bear's life and even had a doctor examine his brain to see what insight might be gained into his character.

"Old Mose," the most dreaded grizzly bear in the entire United States, met a death befitting his long life of murder and outrage at 4 o'clock Saturday evening, April 30th. His last stand was made in a quaking asp draw within the confines of his home among the broken rocks at the northwest corner of Black Mountain, near Canon City, Colo. He died befitting his rank and lay down in his last sleep with imposing grandeur.

>> 1957 Far-flung Bear Hunt
While most sportsmen picture the wilds of Alaska or the Canadian Rockies when they envision a bear hunt, Frank C. Hibben, author of the following story, found himself unexpectedly hunting bears during a tiger safari on the Indian subcontinent. A group of sloth bears (so named for their long claws) had killed a number of people in a rural town and the villagers asked the hunter and his guide for help.

When we returned to the group around the jeep, my guide Rao led a young man forward to meet us. "This is Daru of Gindoli," Rao said by way of introduction. "He was hurt last year." We scarcely heard what Rao said. We were staring at the man's face, or what had been his face. His cheek and ear were gone so that the naked bone of his jaw showed through a crack. One eye had been torn away. His mouth, ripped open at the corner, had healed askew, and with a horrible star-shaped scar on the side of his chin.

Rao said, "This man was attacked by the male bear. He put betal juice on the wound and did not die." We had to marvel at the stamina of a man who'd survived those awful wounds.

"There are three sloth bears near the village," Rao was saying. "There is a female, a young bear and an old male. The female and the old male have killed two men and one woman of the village. Two days ago another woman was attacked. That is when they sent for us." "Let's go shoot them," I said with enthusiasm. Rao smiled in his quiet manner. It was obvious that I had no idea how one went about shooting a sloth bear....

_After several fruitless attempts, the villagers conducted a drive that pushed the male bear fleetingly into the author's sights. A lucky shot tumbled the boar. _

[pagebreak] Polar Bear"] >>1915****Roping a Polar Bear
Bear adventures have been a part of Outdoor Life since the magazine's earliest issues. In 1899, we ran a story titled "Roping a Grizzly," which pretty much set the standard for all our bear adventures to follow. A few years later, however, we ran an even better bear-lassoing tale. The following excerpt details an expedition to the arctic ice cap to capture a live polar bear and bring him back to the New York Zoological Park.

The lasso whizzed, and the big creature was roped just after he had climbed out onto the ice. This time the rope was permitted to lie slack until he had put his forelegs thru it. Soon the launch was got going astern and gradually started to drag the animal into the water. It was a wonderful sight, it is said, to see this enormous brute with a strong rope just behind his fore-shoulders. He would rear on his hind legs, bite at the rope and jump up and down as he was surely and steadily dragged toward the edge. Finally, seeing that the inevitable was coming, with a vicious growl he plunged into the water, for he had left the ice pans forever.

>> 1919 Tolstoy's Bear
Outdoor Life has run stories by many celebrated authors over the years. Even so, it may come as a surprise that the byline of Russian master Leo Tolstoy has appeared in these pages as well. The author of War and Peace was an avid sportsman and during one hunt had a close call with a bear that left him hospitalized for a month.

The bear's rush had carried him past me, but he had turned back, and had fallen on me with the whole weight of his body. I felt something heavy weighing me down, and something warm above my face, and I realized that he was drawing my whole face into his mouth. My nose was already in it, and I felt the heat of it, and smelt his blood. He was pressing my shoulders down with his paws so that I could not move: All I could do was to draw my head down towards my chest away from his mouth, trying to free my nose and eyes, while he tried to get his teeth into them. Then I felt thaby the male bear. He put betal juice on the wound and did not die." We had to marvel at the stamina of a man who'd survived those awful wounds.

"There are three sloth bears near the village," Rao was saying. "There is a female, a young bear and an old male. The female and the old male have killed two men and one woman of the village. Two days ago another woman was attacked. That is when they sent for us." "Let's go shoot them," I said with enthusiasm. Rao smiled in his quiet manner. It was obvious that I had no idea how one went about shooting a sloth bear....

_After several fruitless attempts, the villagers conducted a drive that pushed the male bear fleetingly into the author's sights. A lucky shot tumbled the boar. _

[pagebreak] Polar Bear"] >>1915****Roping a Polar Bear
Bear adventures have been a part of Outdoor Life since the magazine's earliest issues. In 1899, we ran a story titled "Roping a Grizzly," which pretty much set the standard for all our bear adventures to follow. A few years later, however, we ran an even better bear-lassoing tale. The following excerpt details an expedition to the arctic ice cap to capture a live polar bear and bring him back to the New York Zoological Park.

The lasso whizzed, and the big creature was roped just after he had climbed out onto the ice. This time the rope was permitted to lie slack until he had put his forelegs thru it. Soon the launch was got going astern and gradually started to drag the animal into the water. It was a wonderful sight, it is said, to see this enormous brute with a strong rope just behind his fore-shoulders. He would rear on his hind legs, bite at the rope and jump up and down as he was surely and steadily dragged toward the edge. Finally, seeing that the inevitable was coming, with a vicious growl he plunged into the water, for he had left the ice pans forever.

>> 1919 Tolstoy's Bear
Outdoor Life has run stories by many celebrated authors over the years. Even so, it may come as a surprise that the byline of Russian master Leo Tolstoy has appeared in these pages as well. The author of War and Peace was an avid sportsman and during one hunt had a close call with a bear that left him hospitalized for a month.

The bear's rush had carried him past me, but he had turned back, and had fallen on me with the whole weight of his body. I felt something heavy weighing me down, and something warm above my face, and I realized that he was drawing my whole face into his mouth. My nose was already in it, and I felt the heat of it, and smelt his blood. He was pressing my shoulders down with his paws so that I could not move: All I could do was to draw my head down towards my chest away from his mouth, trying to free my nose and eyes, while he tried to get his teeth into them. Then I felt tha