Are You Ready to Hunt Grizzly Bears?

If a hunting season for grizzly bears is approved in the United States, are you ready to hunt if you draw a tag?

Are You Ready to Hunt Grizzly Bears?

Bear hunters use trusted firearms that pack a serious punch and ammunition that delivers a lethal blow. (Photo: Mark Kayser)

We won the fight with wolf hunting. In my home state of Wyoming officials even battled it out to maintain a predator status on wolves outside of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Be hopeful. We’ll win the fight for grizzly bear hunting too.

The science is too overwhelming on the fact that grizzly bears are recovered and activists only have so many court appearances before their debate falls short. In 1975 officials estimated there were approximately 136 grizzly bears in this corner of the West. Today they estimate numbers is more than 700. Some officials believe it actually could be double that number.     

Math aside, are you ready for a grizzly hunt when a season is finally approved?

First, you will need enough gun. You may be set up for coyotes and even wolves, but a grizzly bear’s makeup is entirely different. You’re hunting a cinder block of muscle, bone and might. Female grizzlies can easily exceed 350 pounds and mature males have no problem topping 500 pounds. Wyoming’s season that was nixed in 2018 was set for autumn when bears are at their heaviest before going into hibernation, so weights could even be higher. 

Although numerous old-timers took on grizzly bears with the .30-30 Winchester, you should set your John Wayne rifle aside. The .30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester are at the bottom and although they still provide a versatile hunting platform there are numerous other options to consider. 

egin the hunt in the large-caliber group with designations that include the .300 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, .300 Winchester Short Magnum, .300 Ruger Compact Magnum, .300 PRC, .338 Winchester Magnum, .338 Lapua Magnum and the .375 Ruger. Wildcats and caliber variations that fit into this range are welcome so don’t get your panties in a bunch if I forgot your favorite. If your caliber delivers 3,000 foot-pounds or more of power at the muzzle you have a winner.

Lastly, keep in mind that having too much gun could invite flinching. Your goal is to land a bullet precisely for a quick kill. Flinching with a .416 Ruger could cause you to miss or, worse yet, wound a grizzly. That leads to an entirely different blog on how much to tip your guide for tracking a wounded grizzly into a willow thicket. 

Of course a great caliber is only half of the equation. You need to combine it with a quality bullet. That’s easier than ever today. You’re looking for a controlled-expansion bullet that weighs 180 to 300 grains depending on the caliber. New materials and designs combine for bullets that plow a large wound channel regardless of velocity. On a grizzly hunt in Wyoming you may end up shooting across a canyon or stalking in close along a brushy creek bottom. Try to stay just far enough away for a calm, collected follow-up shot.

Whether your encounter is near or far, new bullets, like the Hornady ELD-X, are designed for accuracy beyond 600 yards. If your shot is at 100 or 600 yards, a bullet like this will expand the same regardless of its velocity. That significantly decreases your worries of a lost trophy.

Hunting will be done with a combination of still-hunting and glassing. You’ll be spending hours behind your optics so spend wisely. A reasonable option is a rangefinder binocular like the Sig Sauer KILO3000 BDX in10x42mm. It ranges to 5,000 yards to the nearest 1/10 yard, but best of all, when paired with the Sierra3BDX riflescope the onboard calculator of the binocular sends ballistic data via Bluetooth straight to the riflescope. That’s transferred for immediate illuminated, holdover information on the reticle. Range, aim and shoot in an instant.

Finally, be prepared to pack out a large load. The soaking wet hide could weigh 80 pounds or more on a mature male. Add in another 15-20 pounds for the skull and you have a prescription for ibuprofen when you get back to the trailhead.

Research a quality backpack or have a horse packer on speed dial after you summit the highest peak to get service. You’ll want to ensure your trophy gets out quickly preserving one of the greatest predator hunts that will hopefully transpire soon in the great West.


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