Hunting In Brown Bear Country: How Not to Get Mauled

In my last post I wrote about what sort of calibers are sufficient for brown bear hunting. In this post I'll give you some tips on how to avoid getting mauled while hunting among these critters. Here's the story behind my latest bear run-in, which came about last month while I was deer hunting Afognak Island.

It was the last day of Frank's hunt, and he still had one deer tag to fill. The weather had finally broken, and we headed out to a spot that guide Luke Randall had a good feeling about. We rounded the long grassy peninsula, and spotted a big buck feeding through the grass. There was a pretty big ocean surge going, so Luke put Casey, Frank, and I on the beach to make a stalk while he stayed with the boat. As we closed in on where we last saw the buck, it suddenly appeared 15 yards in front of us, walking right toward us. Frank quickly dropped the buck in his tracks with a single shot. Immediately a brown bear came tearing out of the gully behind the deer. Luckily the bear ran the other way and kept his distance, but we took no chances, and got the buck back to the boat as quickly as possible.

Hunting in Brown/Grizzly territory can be hazardous. In this area of Afognak, hunters put enough pressure on the bears to give them a healthy fear of humans, but the Kodiak area is notorious for having bears that are actually attracted to the sound of gunshots. They often steal deer from hunters and this year a hunter was nearly mauled. A bear charged in and tore up his pack, but luckily he escaped unscathed. Here are a couple of tips for hunting in the company of these apex predators.

Always keep your rifle ready
Depending on circumstances, I will often keep a round in the chamber at all times in the field. When bears come, they come fast. Often, you will NOT have time to work the action. I know of a few guys who were mauled that didn't have time to get one shot off, and one guy this year that barely had time to shoot from the hip at point blank. Fortunately he stopped the grizzly.

Don't get complacent
Often, in the excitement of harvesting an animal, we go blind to everything that's going on around us. In places like Kodiak, this is the most dangerous time. Bears can be very sneaky, and the sooner you see them, the better the chance to avoid a confrontation.

Try to keep clean
I know as well as anyone that while packing meat, blood seems to get all over everything, but the cleaner you can keep your gear and camp, the less attracted a wandering bear will be. When backpack hunting, I like to stash my meat and anything else I get bloody a good distance downwind of my camp, as most bears will approach from downwind. This will keep them from tromping through your camp at night.

To see the full story of my hunt go to: Fishing, Hunting and Trapping on Afognak Island