I would like to break off and hunt separately some, just to cover more ground and increase opportunity, but with the odd number that means I would be going it alone.
Any advice or suggestions from experienced guys? My main concern right now is finding enough sack to walk up the trail in the dark by myself.
If this is foolish, someone chime in and tell me so. Wil be day hunting, in and out. Not packing in and sleeping in the backcountry.
Id rather not mention specifics, even the state, because the internet blows spots up so fast, but the bears are thick. That's why we lost our fourth.
Comments and suggestions welcome
Personally I’d start up the trail a little before light because of the fact that I was close to human activity but I wouldn’t cover a ton of distance to be in prime hunting areas before light.
I also wouldn’t be trying to shoot an elk once it was only 2-3 hours before dark. Waiting an hour after a shot before looking for a dead elk that close to dark isn’t something Id suggest doing.
The fact that you say they are thick means taking ALL precautions. I know an outfitter who hunts the Gros Ventre in Wyoming and they do not hunt in the evening at all. They go out but just to locate elk and come up with a plan for the next morning.
I can’t help but think of the scenario last year where Mark Uptain was killed. With that in mind hunting is one thing but focusing on quartering an elk alone is a dicey proposition at any time of day. I’d have a partner for sure to do that and he’d be a level headed well armed one.
If you do shoot an elk solo get it butchered up and away from the caracas.
Ron Niziolek and Jason Stafford have done it for years and haven't been mauled.
I've got a 10mm, and an inreach and will have that and bear spray with me at all times.
I'm leaning towards mornings solo and meet up with the other guys in the afternoon.
Joe, if I shot one I would call the others for help. Worst case scenario I break it down myself move meat away from guts and carcass, take what I can. Come back with armed help for the rest.
I'm referencing the trip to the unit not hiking or hunting. I think we're all a little uneasy while in big bear territory. Probably why we go those places. Still, the drive in is more likely to kill you.
Depending on where you're going, the kill could be a problem. Perhaps, consider hunting alone but recovering corporately.
Have to look into it a little more,but hoping to bring ATV and use it on the forest service roads so we all aren't relying on the one vehicle, and can get to different trailheads. Will take 2 trucks if absolutely necessary, but that is a last resort. Want to save on fuel and share driving.
No stats for rate of grizzly attacks for someone cutting up an elk in the back country but I'm guessing they would be higher than ordinary hikers. And of course not all griz attacks are fatalities.
Is the drive more likely to kill you? Maybe. The fatality rate in the US is 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/state-by-state
I've hunted in a grizzly area once while in college in the early 70's. My college roommate was a local and we were on horses. Mine was Tony. We came upon some fresh grizzly tracks in a willow thicket and I asked my roommate if there was anything special I needed to know. He replied: "Just hold on because if a bear is close Tony will get out of there before you ever see it but if you fall off Tony's not coming back"
Lost Arra.... there are definitely some bigger bulls in the grizzly areas of Wyoming than there are further south and east. Less hunters too. 1 less every year! Lol
I teasingly tell all of my students at the beginning of each year that I’m an elkaholic. There’s probably even some truth to the statement as my favorite time of the year involves archery hunting elk in September. Unfortunately, over the years it has become more and more difficult to draw tags in my local region of the Bighorns, so when unsuccessful with both my first and second choices in the 2016 drawings, I was left with the miserable option of attempting to hunt unit 37 the last 2 weeks of September, or looking elsewhere in the state. Once the leftover tags were released, I poured over my options and settled on units 67-69 near Dubois and then spent 4 days in the area during early August exploring some potential spots. While I never saw any bears while scouting, muddy paw prints and large piles of scat warned of their lurking presence.
Scouting complete, plans set, and packing done, I left for Dubois immediately after school on Friday, September 2nd. Saturday morning just at dawn, first light (I waited until I could see to walk just because of the bears) found me stealthily slipping through the timber in search of one of the 5 bull elk loudly serenading the morning. I headed after the closest of the bulls only to be surprised by a rather spooky encounter.
As I tip-toed down a major game trail, I heard a crash to my left and looked over just in time to see two black legs through the deadfall. I immediately knew it was a bear, but with no other context besides two black legs, I thought it was a black bear. I still unholstered my bear spray and stopped and waited. Moments later, at somewhere between 35 and 40 yards, a large, boar grizzly emerged from the other side of the deadfall headed directly towards me on the same trail. Time slowed down.
I have bear identification certification from both the states of Wyoming and Montana and I’ve spent considerable time training with Wyoming Game and Fish personnel over the years to the point that I’ve actually trained quite a number of youths in proper bear safety. Additionally, I have extensive experience camping, hiking, and backpacking in grizzly country. In fact, I’ve spent many nights in tents in the heart of some of Wyoming’s most bear-dense landscapes. Few times have I ever had close encounters and all of my previous encounters resolved naturally without even so much as a second thought.
Interestingly, all of that experience rushed into play as I stood alone facing a large boar grizzly with nothing more than my bow and 3 cans of bear spray (1 remained holstered and the 3rd resided in the depths of my pack) and I felt amazingly calm. Despite the adrenaline coursing through my body, I could hear the training in a well-rehearsed script: Make yourself as large as possible, talk loudly in a strong and calm voice, do not make eye-contact, minimize your appearance as a threat, if needed, spray when bear is within 30 feet (preferably 20 or less) and aim low so spray rolls across ground and right up into its nostrils.
As the boar walked purposefully toward me, I raised my bow over my head, and while waving it back and forth, began forcefully proclaiming, “Hey bear. Hey bear. I’m right here. Hey bear,” all while picking a red line that if he crossed, I would be forced to deploy my spray. At my first movement and vocalizations, he stopped and stood up on his hind legs, standing easily 7+’ tall, an amazing specimen of golden power as muscles rippled beneath his skin. He surveyed me for a moment as I continued waving my bow and repeating my, “Hey bears,” before he dropped to all fours and nearly instantly closed the distance to 20 yards. He did so quickly and effortlessly, and all I had the time to think was, “This is really happening!”
At 20 yards, he stood once again on his hind legs. As a photographer, I’ll admit, I had some of those crazy thoughts where I wished I had my camera instead of my bow or even the spray. He was stunningly beautiful standing in a small patch of sunlight filtering through the forest canopy. What an image I have etched into my memory! He dropped to all fours once again and made no movement, studying me intently as I continued talking and waving. He then lifted his front right paw, making one more forward movement. He wanted to come my direction. He wanted to use the same trail upon which I stood, and I was an inconvenience to his plans. I could see the indecision and reluctance to change course in his body language, but I had nowhere to go. I had no plausible retreat as I had just stepped over some deadfall and could never navigate it going backwards, so I just stood my ground.
Finally, he turned, and while looking over his shoulder watching me, he headed away from me on the same trail, stopping again about 45 yards away to stand and look once more. Moments later, he dropped to all fours and turned right, disappearing into the timber. I watched for at least 5 minutes to be sure he was gone, listening to the same bull elk bugle repeatedly from less than 120 yards away, completely unfazed by my interaction with the bear. It was during that 5 minutes that my right leg beat a nervous rhythm as adrenaline wore off and the reality of such a close call set in. Little did I know that the morning was far from over.
I played with that bull for the next 20 minutes, pulling off a perfect stalk and closing the distance to just 30 yards. I could hear him coming through the timber and was so close I could hear him breathing. All the parts seemed to be coming together. I had a clear shooting lane, the wind was in my favor, and the bull’s line of travel would take him by my position at less than 30 yards. Suddenly he was gone. With no sound at all, that bull simply disappeared. I am convinced the grizzly ruined the stalk as I have no other explanation for what happened. As I pondered the turn of events, ever vigilant to where the grizz might be, another bull bugled up the hill above me. Game on.
Intent upon new prey, I headed uphill. The bull responded each time I bugled, but I did so sparingly so as not to allow him to pinpoint my position. I wanted to be the pursuer, to surprise him in his own living room. Game trails crisscrossed the hillside and I found a large thoroughfare and worked to quickly close the gap between myself and the bull. I’m guessing I was now 300 yards from where I left the last bull when I heard a crash to my right. Praise the Lord for that crash. I’m still thanking Him for that warning and intervention, because as I instantly stopped and looked to my right through a thick clump of brush, I found myself looking once again at the distinct dish-faced outline of a grizzly bear just 20 yards away. I fumbled with my bear spray and managed to get it out, all while watching intently, wondering if this was somehow the same bear, grateful that the light breeze blew steadily from the bear to me. The bear looked into the distance chewing something as I watched and pondered my next move. Suddenly, much to my horror, a smaller head popped up right next to its mother’s front right shoulder and I stepped into my worst nightmare. I was 20 yards from a sow grizzly with at least 1 cub. Now I was in real trouble.
Did I dare move? I certainly couldn’t just stand there as one small stray breeze would carry my scent to her in a moment. Could I slip away unnoticed? Did she have multiple cubs. Would I make it 5 yards before she was on me? I’ve watched videos where sow grizz have confronted perceived threats even when over 100 yards away from their cubs and done so while running 35+ mph. Here I was just 20 yards away.
I consider it fortunate that where I stopped was a pretty steep sidehill. Therefore, while I could see her clearly because she was at my eye level, the only real portion of me that she might have been able to see was my head. I made my decision and slowly bent at the knees, sinking lower and lower until I could no longer see her. Then, in a crouched position, I tiptoed down the hill until I felt comfortable enough to hastily beat a retreat in the opposite direction. Shaken, dismayed, unscathed, grateful, frustrated, demoralized, wondering the wisdom of staying, I spent the next 10 minutes pondering packing up and driving home. Less than 45 minutes into my hunt and I had already encountered 3 grizzlies in very close and dangerous situations. This was NOT fun.
I walked nearly a mile with one hand holding my bow and the other my can of spray with the safety off, slowly allowing my nerves to settle. Above me, I heard a faint bugle and I knew I would stay. I was there to hunt. I was there to pursue my passion. I was an elkaholic!
Fortunately I don't seem to attract grizz! Don't worry about it, just keep a clean camp, 454 in a chest holster and I sleep better with a bear fence when in hump back country.
Drive carefully as it is probably your biggest risk.
He’s the real deal. But, his experiences this year gave him real pause.
Riveting account of that hunt and the bear encounters, I felt like I was there. Reminded me of reading Outdoor Life magazine in the 70s and early 80s growing up. They don't write 'em like that anymore.
First is that we only saw four grizzly's in over 40 days we spent in their realm. Also had one big very black bear come in as we were cutting up my elk. Pretty sure it was actually a black bear though. Encounters are actually pretty rare and I never had a close call in any way. I did go looking for a lost wind checker one morning a spooked a grizzly past my two buddies that were quite wide eyed when I came back from searching. It ran down away from me to within 20 yards of them before it turned and ran off as Ken drew his pistol. I never heard or saw a thing which leads to my second point.
Secondly, it is super easy to 'forget' in the heat of the moment where you are and what you could run into at any second. Not being from griz country I, tended to forget about the issue quite often and let my guard down. Both my pistol and my bear spray were on my the waist belt of my pack which I would often have to walk back to to grab my pistol from to do other things.
We had an electric fence around our tent at all times when we were camping. I think I spent 22 nights in a bag on the ground over the last year up in their realm and never had one bear or other critter hit it. Did have two game bags of meat get hit that we left until the next morning 300 yards from the kill site. Definitely don't want to be cutting and packing elk out in the dark in their home terrain.
In the end of the day I think I would do it again solo if I had to. Would probably spend way less time solo in the tent by my self, but still would get after it in a similar way.
Obviously ymmv depending on where you're going, but for some of us it's part of the excitement and reminds you, you're truly alive up until your not. hahahahahahaha !!!
So far it's the alive version for me and mine and wouldn't have traded it for anything on this experience !!!
I’ve only hunted a grizzly unit for elk one week so far but I was with experts in this type of elk hunting. These guys have had many encounters with grizzlies and I wouldn’t hunt there if not with them.
The Brown bears I’ve encountered in Alaska run away when they smell or see you. In Grizz units in the west they MAY run away. Different specie.
And BTW I have had black bear encounters and I find them enjoyable...except the one I had with a sow and her cubs. Luckily for me she was cautious and so was I and the whole thing turned into a case of "everyone take a step back". My heart rate and blood pressure were definitely elevated.
Some of those through hikers are out there at night. They have to be.
I hunt in griz country every year and have encounters every year. I do not fear them but have a very healthy dose of respect for them.
1. They come to calls, not just cow calls but bugles as well. Set up where you can see 360 degrees. Usually the closer they get, the faster they come.
2. With all of the hiking I've done in the dark - 0 problems. But like Mike said, your ass cheeks will be tight.
3. Once you have an animal down, it's a game changer. This is when most problems happen. If you can get help before you even take up the trail - do it. If that means your dead elk sits for a few hours, no worries. The meat will be fine. If you go it alone, I'd seriously have your gun or spray in your hand. These freaking bears find dead animals quickly. It's amazing and a huge pain in the ass. Once you find your elk, look around and familiarize yourself with how everything looks. And keep doing that every 30-60 seconds until you are done with photos and breaking it down.
4. If your weapon/spray is on your pack, change it so it's on your person. We lost an elk a few years back because three of us got lazy. Our packs were close, but that doesn't work when your pack is off and 10 feet away and a sow and cubs are at 15 yards and closing. Bears don't really care about the number of humans around a carcass. If they want it, they will do their best to take it. We may have eventually lost that elk anyway, but if we had spray/guns on our persons, we'd at last had a fighting chance.
5.One person hold legs, etc. and look around while another does the work.
6. Bears are all different. Some come rushing in huffing and slapping trees and even biting them. That's an effort to scare you out of there. It usually works. When a bear bites a 3 inch log and snaps it, it will intimidate you. Other bears will just walk in without a care in the world. And then some sneak in without a sound. 2017 - I'd shot a bull with my nephew. We watched it drop. We walked over right away and got busy with photos. After photos, we got knives and game bags out to start working on it. My nephew said look at these game bags as he took one out and shook it open. That scared a griz ten yards away. We got lucky. That bear had sneaked in. Close! And that elk hadn't been dead 30 minutes
7. As soon as quarters are off and meat bagged, move them away and stash or hang in a tree. Very difficult if you're alone. If you're alone, I'd suggest just laying them on top of a downed tree or bush. When you come back to get them, you can tell if some are missing or moved.
There's so much more to thing about but those are the ones that come to mind. I'm at work so I'd best get after it.
I'm like Stryker, bear spray only. When walking in the dark, I carry a large cannister with a pistol grip, and carry it in my hand at all times. It's about twice the size of the regular cans, and has 15% pepper compared to the 1.5% in the small cans. Also usually walk with the light off if I can see anything at all. During the day, I carry the smaller cannister in my right side pants pocket, no holster, with the handle and trigger exposed.
Two things I learned from getting charged last fall. One, when they say it happens fast, they mean it. Figure you have about two seconds to do something if you're in cover. Two, after the adrenaline rush, you can hike the rest of the day without getting tired.
Go to youtube and listen to Cord Lunds "Grizzly Bear Blues". My camp mates played it for me quite a bit.
One thing I would add is to make sure you have an in-reach and it is in a place you can access immediately. I carry mine on the front of my pack. Last spring a local horn hunter was mauled by a grizz. He used the emergency function on his in-reach and was picked up by a medical helicopter barely 20 minutes after being attacked. Not only is it great for an emergency, we use them a lot to reach each other when we get an elk on the ground to help with breaking the animal down and packing. This September by the time my bull kicked his last I had in-reached a friend with horses to pack him out.
Have a plan and make sure someone experienced knows where you are hunting. In September Ron knows where I am more than my wife..........
Also I'm not too worried as it seems the griz prefer to attack non-residents.
But I can’t forget that study that was done a few years ago where they sent hunters out with GPS units and found that collared bears we’re shadowing those hunters all day long. They know we are a food source, And because they are completely protected, they have no reason to anticipate that we would pose any kind of a threat. And you know, it’s just not that big of a stretch from Food Source to Food Item.
I might hunt alone, but I don’t think I would take up a blood trail without back-up. It would be one thing, I suppose, to stake a claim to your animal and stand guard until your helper(s) show(s) up, but there’s just no effing way that I would consider trying to break down an animal without somebody to watch my 6:00 while I am trying to use a knife that is sharp as I can get it. And my 3:00 and my 9:00 and my 12:00... and all points in between.
I’m sure I would’ve felt differently 25 years ago, but I was younger, stronger and dumber then, and that’s what, 5 or 10 more generations of bears that have been raised under protected status?
Kind of a game changer, IMHO
Type of Recreational Activity: Risk of Grizzly Bear Attack
Remain in developed areas, roadsides, and boardwalks: 1 in 59.5 million visits
Camp in roadside campgrounds: 1 in 26.6 million overnight stays
Camp in the backcountry: 1 in 1.7 million overnight stays
Hike in the backcountry: 1 in 232,613 person travel days
All park activities combined: 1 in 2.7 million visits
I'd worry more about stumbling onto an old cantankerous Angus bull in a pasture. Now that's an animal to fear. ;-)
Agreed. beef bulls are usually too fat and lazy to be fearsome. My neighbor had an Angus bull that was the exception. That damn thing tried to kill me every time he saw me. I was so happy when he finally put that mean SOB down.
I don't mean to dismiss taking precautions against bears, especially grizzlies. I just hope you don't let it affect your enjoyment of your hunt.
Just put a high-powered pistol on your hip and carry bear spray. Go enjoy yourself. Your risk of dying in a car crash is greater than dying from a bear attack.
There's nothing to fear but fear itself. There is some real risk, but it's small. The fear is all in your head.
I really appreciate all the input guys. Bowsite is a great resource.
The guy in this thread with probably the most experience hunting elk in griz country even sent me a p.m. with his phone number and an offer to chat. I'm going to take him up on it, listen carefully, follow his advice and go have fun.
But even down here; I don’t think they want any trouble, they just want Food. The trouble comes in when they think you’re trying to take their food from them, and that Elk you just killed? Yeah, that’s not yours. It’s theirs.
As long as you don’t argue that point, you oughtta be OK, right??
We don't address this often enough, imo, but, as the intimacy of potential threat increases, so should the immediacy of response. Don't be embarrassed to hike in the dark or blood track with your bear spray in your hands or resting your strong hand on the grip of your pistol. Your senses are distracted or reduced. It only makes sense that you compensate for lost response time.
This is only true if you aren't putting yourself at more risk doing so. For instance, you don't want to hand fight your way through a Kodiak Island Alder thicket holding a pistol in your hand just because it could hold an unseen bear. You'll more likely shoot yourself in the head than fend off an attack. That's a scenario where, if you are uncomfortable, you may want to give your wind to the approach or just talk your way through. Commonsense stuff.
The most difficult part of hunting G bear country for an East-of-the-Rockies hunter is finding your way back to it once you've experienced it.
Secondly, I think your nerves will get you before a griz, the stress with each step has to be intense, make sure to get checked out by a cardiologist before you go lol.
Third, if I were going to griz country I would certainly bring some trip alarms with by 5th ops, they are perimeter alarms that fire a 12 ga blank and a few around my tent about 50 yards away would let me sleep better. You could also put them out before cutting up a elk. Would certainly spoke a bear and give you time to be ready for a charge/attack. they are 3° dollars each but I think money well spent. Good luck if you decide to go and I'm sure you won't end up on the den wall of mr griz lol
Big boars like the one above are seriously intimidating. I had this guy at 40 yards.... covered with a very pathetic-feeling .44 magnum...as I sat quietly in some willows. Nobody got hurt.
This bear (above) is the one that will get you fast. Her 2 x 2 yr old cubs ran past my camp, followed by the blond sow. She wasn't too happy about the existence of my camp, and was looking pretty agitated. Really covering ground.
Huge blond boar I encountered while backpacking my first load into spike camp from the airstrip. After over-flying the area and seeing nothing of concern, I decided to leave my handgun far below. And of course this bear chose that opportunity to walk my way. I finally bluffed him away, but he showed up in camp mere feet from my tent a few days later.
Very slim chance of having a bad bear encounter. Even in wide open country they can show up dangerously close....and they typically don't provide advance notice.
I carried my Casul .454 then I went to a Ruger Alaskan .454 shorter barrel than the 10 inch Casul, now I'm using a 9mm as I can draw and shoot it with 1 hand not the 2 hands I needed on the .454's.
I've packed in with my llama pack string and have followed simple guide lines for Bear Aware camp and all has gone well.
I do prefer to get the meat off the mountain with in a day of harvesting though.
To me, it's like anything else in life, the more ya do it the more normal it becomes.
Good luck, Robb
Just a thought...
I'll admit, I'd be too busy freaking myself out, and wouldn't be able to enjoy it... especially at night! We can all learn a valuable lesson from Timothy Treadwell!!
I don’t have any problems sleeping alone in grizzly country like interior Alaska, as long as I know the bears are truly wild. I always keep my food supplies in my shelter. I prepare and eat my food in my shelter, and store the trash in there too. In short, I do everything possible to make it difficult for a bear to overcome their natural curiosity about my camp. I intentionally use my urine to stink up the surrounding bushes. I would certainly NOT do the same things in the lower 48, mainly due to bears which are much more familiar with humans.....and likely to act on impulse.
Just a thought...
If coming out in the evening we try to walk in open hillsides. We leave an area if we find anything dead. I try to play it smart
I was trying to get my neighbor on a nice black bear but after June 1st when Brown Bear season closed I had a few looks over my shoulder as I would sneak in to toss some bait. He wouldn’t go in there alone after seeing some of these trail cam pictures.
This last year, I set a tree stand up on water in a different area. There was a little wallow to the right about 75 yards that I didn't see until I had my stand already up in the tree. I put up a game camera on it to see if there was enough activity on that one to reset my stand. The second day up in the stand I kept hearing something splashing in the water through the trees to my right. It was too thick to see anything but after I got done hunting, I got down and went over and checked the camera on that stand. Big old nice grizzly was there as well as several black bears while I was up in the tree. Kept the camera on that hole and it stayed busy for the rest of bow season. During the same day at times, elk, black bear, and grizzly all came into that wallow within about 30 min to one hour of one another. Something knocked my camera off the tree the first day so I reset it and then the grizzly twisted it around during the night. Got a lot of shots of the camera being molested.
I started wondering if it was a good idea to shoot an elk 75 yards from a wallow that has a grizzly and blackbears coming into it several times a day.
The only piece of advice I have, and this is something I really like, is to wear your spray where you can deploy it in a moment’s notice in the case you surprise a bear or vice versa like in the scenario that happened to me above. I carry a handgun but I also have spray mounted in a holster to the bottom of my bino harness. It can be discharged without removal from the holster very very quickly in case of an “oh chit” moment where you know you can’t get to your handgun. It could also potentially be discharged if a bear has you on your back, etc. Pic attached for reference. This way even if I take my pack off for a minute with my pistol on the belt as well I still have my spray on me.
Our experience for deer this year was enough to make me look to POW area before returning to Kodiak for deer. The goat hunts are exceptional though.