Be Bear-Wise and Predator-Wise This Hunting Season

Hunting season is upon us and that means good times with friends at hunting camp, but we have to stay bear-wise and predator-wise while in the field.

Be Bear-Wise and Predator-Wise This Hunting Season

Hunting season is upon us and that means good times with friends at hunting camp along with a chance to stash some of those cute, white packages in the freezer after a successful hunt.

It also means you could be chumming for sharks if you are successful. That phrase refers to the fact that any time you gut or debone big game, the animal's aroma wafts across the landscape. That could lure in predators large and small, but particularly bears. Think about Martin Brody in “Jaws” and his first encounter with the big shark. Do you get my drift?

Earlier this fall, outfitter Mark Uptain of Wyoming fell to misfortune to just such an event when a female grizzly bear and its cub charged the elk carcass he was preparing to pack out. Uptain was with client Corey Chuban and was almost finished with meat prep when out of nowhere a sow charged them. Up until this point there had been no signs of bears feeding or visiting the downed elk that they had left overnight. This sow simply stumbled on the pair and its reaction was swift. It was going to claim the elk at all costs. Humans weren’t seen as a threat, but as a species to dominate for the chance to eat. In the end it cost Uptain his life and although Chuban survived with only slight injuries, the hunt will haunt him the rest of his life.

The pair had bear spray and a sidearm. Investigators determined the bear spray had been deployed, but the sidearm did not appear to have been fired. Nobody will know the exact details, as Chuban was able to escape during the attack. But investigators believe the attack was so swift there was little time for reaction from the wounded Uptain.

In this incident grizzly bears were the aggressors, but black bears also have been known to be protective of food. Plus, with the expansion of wolves it’s just a matter of time before more human conflicts emerge between these canines and humans. There was already one documented wolf attack in Canada in 2005. With the two species meeting in more places it’s just a matter of time before the headlines reveal another conflict.

Don’t stop hunting just because of predators in your zip code. Instead, be aware and be prepared. When you do finally find success immediately stay in hunt mode. You need to constantly be on the lookout for a predator showing up to the chum you soon will be sending across the breezes. Here are a few tips.

First, it’s best to hunt in pairs in big predator country. One person can be the lookout while the other does the meat preparation. I once shot a bull moose in brown bear country in Alaska. Up until the day I shot the moose we saw between five and nine brown bears each day. I placed a teenage packer on a high rock to watch as I took apart the bull in thick alders. Fortunately, we finished the meat prep without incident, but the bears moved in and claimed the kill overnight.

Next, set up a perimeter. If you can move the animal into a more open location, do it. If not clear away some brush to give you visibility and time to engage a marauder on the prowl.

Always carry bear spray. Read the instructions and practice deployment. You can’t use bear spray if it is in your backpack or on the other side of an elk carcass. Keep it within reach at all times.

As someone who always keeps a backup plan in my backpack, I also carry a sidearm when I feel it is needed. That usually equals a hunt in grizzly country, but once I begin packing any bloody meat in bear country while archery hunting I make sure I have a sidearm as a backup deterrent. Your hunting rifle can also serve double duty or you can take along the camp shotgun, but if the bear spray doesn’t work it doesn’t hurt to have some Hornady help!

I just finished an archery elk hunt that included calling. Bears are attracted to the sounds of other wildlife so be watchful for them approaching just like a bull elk or a buck. They’ll likely come from downwind, but a dominant male may charge with confidence from upwind.

Finally, always leave information with your loved ones on when you will return, where you are going and where your vehicle is parked. It’s needed information to quickly find you if something does go wrong.

For more information visit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Bearwise Wyoming page. Have a safe and successful hunting season.


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