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Every day there are bear encounters somewhere in the U.S. but most end peacefully with humans and bears trudging off in different directions.
People who hike, hunt, camp, or fish in the Rocky Mountains, the western Canadian wilderness, and of course Alaska are long familiar with the threat from Grizzlies. They’re larger than black bears, they can absolutely kill you, and even if you get away with your life they can tear apart your tent, cabin, or even home if they smell anything that hints of food.
Both black bears and grizzly bears are hunters. But they can be hunted. We explain several methods for hunting bears, how to prepare bear meat, and how bears can provide you with winter warmth once their thick, rugged fur has been removed.
1. Dangers From Bears
Did You Know That Black Bears Eat More Humans Than Grizzlies?
While grizzlies are considered the most dangerous bears by most people who venture into the backcountry, did you know that black bears are responsible for eating more people that grizzlies? A grizzly, if it attacks, will maul you, leaving you half dead. Once you’re no longer moving they are known to typically lose interest and simply walk off. That’s why playing dead is a great tactic to escape a grizzly attack. You may still end up injured but you can live to see another day. It’s not guaranteed of course, but playing dead can work with a grizzly.
Playing dead is not a good tactic to use on a black bear, however. If you play dead with a black bear the black bear is likely to simply start eating you. As its teeth tear into you, biting through your clothing and ripping open skin and tearing into the flesh and bones underneath, it can be a slow, horrific, agonizing death as this hungry black bear eats away at the soft tissues low on your legs before moving up your body to your torso, arms, and head.
Grizzlies have been hungry enough at times to eat humans as well, but it is black bears that have eaten more people over the years.
2. Hunting Bears As A Survival Food
In A Survival Emergency, Consider Hunting For Bears First
Here’s something that might surprise you. Before you start hunting for deer or elk, start hunting for bear instead. It’s because of the danger from bears that in a survival emergency you should strongly consider hunting bears first. The reason is this: Not only are bears a threat to your safety, including while you sleep in your tent, they make great eating and an adult grizzly bear can have a few hundred pounds of meat and even a smaller adult black bear can still have 60 – 100 pounds of meat or more on it. That’s enough meat to feed several people over several days or even weeks (when properly preserved and stored).
So, when in bear country and properly armed with a rifle or shot gun or both with the necessary power to take down a bear, and in a survival emergency, go after bears. In a long term survival situation consider making it a goal to eliminate the local bear population. These bears are threats to your safety.
Remember, this is survival we’re talking about, and as talked about in several articles on SecretsofSurvival.com, in the coming years we might see a collapse of federal government following any number of catastrophic disasters we are currently threatened with.
With chaotic and dangerous conditions erupting across the country, almost overnight, a number of people are likely to flee for the hills and forests and mountains — which for many will be the only avenue of possible escape apart from the miraculous protection and provision of God.
3. Survival Game Plan
Survival Game Plan For Those First Days Living Off The Land
A strategy to quickly procure food could go something like this: You and others you’re with can set several snare traps for small game like squirrel, possum, rabbit, or raccoon, and while waiting several hours for a trap to catch something, you can during that time begin the chore of hunting for bear meat a short distance out of the area (don’t hunt in the same area you are trapping as your presence could scare away small critters). Trap and hunt in separate areas.
Trapping is the easiest and safest way to hunt bears. Many bears are attracted to the smells associated with humans and also smells from our pets or livestock. Wilderness regions that are close to human populations have produced bears with little or no fear of humans who are dubbed nuisance bears and can break their way into homes and sheds, tear apart garbage cans, and be a danger to your family and visitors.
Setting traps for bears – It takes a large trap to hold a bear, especially a grizzly bear. Bear traps that are large enough to snap down around a bear’s paw can be strong enough to snap a 2×4 in half. They have long been used in the wilds of Alaska and Canada and other places known for dangerous bears.
- Keep pets on a leash when bear trapping and if there are other people possibly in the area put up a warning sign to stay away for their safety, you are trapping bears.
- Be very careful when setting these traps. To increase a trap’s effectiveness, position large logs, brush, or even manufactured items (an empty dog kennel for example, could be used as a place to set a bear trap) in a way that creates a path to the trap, even setting a trail of bait along the ground with a larger amount of bait hanging over your trap.
- A trap won’t kill the bear, so you still have to use a firearm (or other appropriate weapon) to finish the job.
- As a suggestion, due to the threat from bears you are likely to face in the wilderness or simply near a wilderness region, you should strongly consider using traps as a means of reducing the threat even if you choose not to ever hunt bears as food.
Setting bait for bears – Currently illegal in many states under hunting regulations but in a survival emergency use bait to draw a bear (or bears, you may end up attracting more that one so be ready) into your traps.
- Bears are drawn to the smell of berries and fruit, peanut butter, honey, sweets, garbage, a rotting carcass, fish, and anything else a bear might believe is edible.
- If fresh fruit or berries are in likely to be in short supply or out of season, keep a stored supply of freeze dried fruit or berries that you can use to bait bears when the time comes.
Hunting Bears From A Treestand
Bait can be used to draw bears into traps and it can also be used in a survival emergency to draw bears into an area where you are positioned for a shot from a rifle. A treestand is a common practice of big game hunters and works for bears as well. There are treestands that are manufactured for this purpose and for safety reasons and reliability, a good treestand is a smart investment if you will ever do any possible hunting. You can hunt wild turkey and other game birds as well from a treestand. A treestand is simply a good tool to have on hand. Since being a good hunter calls for quite a bit of patience, a good treestand will allow you to take a seat securely and comfortably up in a tree, where you can keep your eyes and ears open for any approaching wildlife — which, in this case, we’re talking about black bears and grizzly bears.
Spot And Stalk
The art of hunting on foot is called spot and stalk. It relies on absolute patience as well as a keen alertness to wind direction and being as quiet as possible as you move over land, your eyes and ears open for anything from a mule deer, to elk, moose, or bear or other animal you are after. It is a technique that can take many years to develop, but the experts say it really boils down to three things: Staying out of the animal’s sight, staying out of its nose, and staying out of its ears. If it doesn’t see you, smell you, or hear you, you now have a chance of safely taking it down, whether it’s a bear, moose, deer, or elk other common big game animal.
Hunt Downwind — Don’t Let A Bear Smell You
No matter how much scent concealer you try to wear (sold by hunting suppliers), or that you choose to wear clothing that have been sitting in the woods for several days so as not to have any smell of home or laundry detergent, when it comes to bears, a bear’s nose is said to be 7 times stronger than a bloodhound’s.
To successfully spot and stalk bears, it’s important to hunt downwind. One way to ensure you are downwind is to hang a thin piece of frayed string from your rifle or bow (yes, some people hunt bears with survival bows) and then check it periodically to see which way the wind is blowing.
When it comes to hunting, wind direction is essential to be alert to constantly. The wind will carry your scent and that will alert a bear that you are in the area. Most bears of course are shy of humans and will go the other direction if they catch your smell, ruining the hunt for you.
Then of course there are those bears that are drawn to your scent, whether that’s simply out of curiosity, or they consider you a threat that should be eliminated (more often grizzlies will take this approach), or they simply think you will make a good meal and have no qualms about taking your life and eating you.
Be As Quiet As Possible — Don’t Let A Bear Hear You
There are several things you can do to eliminate noise as much as possible:
Wrap a small piece of duct tape around any zippers you have attached to any gear, sleeping bag, tent or backpack. Zippers can rattle quietly otherwise as you move. (Incidentally, we have an articles specifically about ultralight sleeping bags, survival tents, and survival backpacks on this site).
Do not talk with any hunting partners; if you have to talk, use as few words as possible and of course talk in a hushed voice.
Make sure your mess kit and any hunting tools are wrapped individually in cloth so they do not bang together. That goes the same for any other loose gear you may be carrying.
Use the noise of a nearby river (if it’s making noise due to a rushing current, a slow river doesn’t make noise) to your advantage. The noise of a nearby river can help cloak any noise you do make as you travel along a trail or through the brush on the look out for a bear.
Careful though: That same noise can hide the sound of an approaching bear or even a moose (which can be more dangerous and aggressive than a bear, especially during the rut) as it moves through the brush in your direction. Watch the brush around you as well as low lying tree branches for movement that can signify that a bear or moose is nearby.
Wear Appropriate Camouflage That Matches The Vegetation — Don’t Let A Bear See You
Choose camouflage including for your face and hands that helps you blend in with the environment. Some hunters have even carried brush before them, as they spot and stalk, to help keep wildlife from spotting them as they approach. Your blind and or your treestand can also be well concealed, using brush.
4. The Art Of Bear Hunting
Selecting The Best Firearm For Hunting Bears
It’s a myth that you need a high powered firearm like a .338 Winchester Magnum to take down a bear. A lot of hunters are convinced that a .300, .338, .375, or .416 magnum are needed for protection from bears and moose, however experts say that the bore size, bullet weight, and velocity are of secondary importance to precise bullet placement in the vital heart-lung area.
For the average hunter, and especially someone new to hunting big game, it’s important to be an accurate shot and have experience using a rifle at various distances. Without that accuracy and experience, a large magnum firearm is more apt to miss it’s target area, wound the animal rather than kill it, and ultimately fail you. Thankfully you can get that practice on a gun range and even taking a course or two in shooting from a reputable instructor.
Ultimately, the noise and recoil strength of a large magnum firearm is a recipe for disaster in the hands of an inexperienced hunter or someone not experienced enough to handle the weapon correctly.
- Keep in mind that you won’t always spot a bear at a long distance. When spotting or stalking or simply hiking through bear territory you might suddenly be met with a charging bear and if your .338 doesn’t hit the sweet spot, that bear can be on top of you and attacking just a second or two later.
- Stopping a charging bear means being able to hit it in a spot (vital heart and lung area) that will bring it down mid-charge. The experts say that a smaller but appropriate firearm that is much easier to fire accurately for hunting bears include a 270 Winchester, 7mm-08, .308 Winchester or .30-06.
- You should use ammunition designed to completely pass through an animal if hit in the heart-lung area. Once a bear is hit, from any distance, whether charging or not, it can run off into the brush, even after being shot, seeking escape. You will now have to track it. If you use a bullet that doesn’t pass through then a bear is likely to not leave much of a trail of blood for you to track due to its heavy fur soaking up much of the blood.
If a bullet passes through though, it’s more likely to die sooner and to leave more blood that makes it easier to track.
Dangers When Tracking A Wounded Bear — A Bear Can Circle Around Behind You
Let’s say that your shot misses the vital heart or lung area by a few inches and leaves a bear wounded. The bear may escape into the brush but be aware that it can try to circle around you and attack from behind. Since it’s a good idea to hunt with a partner(s), you and your partner should have a game plan for this scenario, where your partner (his or her weapon ready) can keep an eye on the brush around you and behind you while you track a trail of blood leading to what is hopefully a deceased bear.
What Type Of Bullets You Use Can Make A Difference
Experts say that the shape of a bullet is not as important as the quality of a bullet and how well your firearm will shoot a specific bullet. There is more to be said here on the subject of bear hunting and so here’s an article that goes into detail on recommended firearms and bullet types that work best for bears. (Due to the length of this article, I did not want to overwhelm readers with too many details and have included a link to the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game website for further reading on specific tactics recommended for both bear defense and bear hunting.)
5. Primitive Bear Hunting
Primitive Weapons For Bear Defense And Hunting
Historically, primitive tribes have been able use to spears with spear points shaped like a bay leaf to defend against a charging bear. Under the head of the spear is a cross piece that helped fix a spear into a bear’s body so it didn’t simply slide out when a bear recoiled after being speared. By anchoring the end of a spear into the ground, and pointing a spear up at a bear, a single hunter has been able to take down a large bear.
Quickness on one’s feet also comes into play; bear hunting with an appropriate spear should be left only to a few select hunters capable of the task. Anyone else is picking a fight with a bear they are likely to lose.
6. Survival Gear For Bear Defense
Don’t Underestimate The Dangers From Bears
If you plant edible foods, bears can rob you of your food, especially at night, picking your plants and trees clean while you sleep. An electric fence (solar powered electric fence if we’re talking about a possible life off the grid) can protect your plants from thieving bears (also raccoons and other animals). Animals do not like being zapped!
Not only your plants, but an electric fence can also protect your doorways and windows as well, if you are creative and not concerned about how it looks to the neighbors! Anyway, if this is life off the grid we’re talking about, safety from dangerous bears is more important than how it looks to visitors. If it keeps you and your family safe it’s worth the investment.
A 12 gauge shot gun is a great deterrent to an approaching or charging bear, specifically when you’re not carrying a rifle and not bear hunting that day.
Here’s a proven deterrent for keeping away bears — Bear Smart, a resource for home owners with information on dealing with problem bears, recommends do-it-yourself spike strips; upward pointed nails, nailed through wood, placed over your doormats. Consider going beyond your doormats however, and also protect your window areas.
These spike strips are easy to build. Just a small amount of plywood (a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thickness should do the trick), with nails pounded through the bottom side so that the pointed ends stick up.
Several of these can be placed around your home in appropriate places; though a really hungry bear may be bold or aggressive enough to find another way to your food (or into your home), these spike strips may otherwise do the trick.
7. Preparing A Bear For The Dinner Table
- All bear meat should be cooked thoroughly, bears (and some other animals like pork) can carry a dangerous parasite called trichinellosis. Once you’ve thoroughly cooked bear meat it doesn’t hurt to cook it a little bit longer just to be sure you’ve actually thoroughly cooked it.
- Once a bear has been killed, like other game animals the meat needs to be cooled as soon as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria. Since bearskin is an excellent insulator, it needs to be removed immediately after a bear has been killed, to speed up cooling. Read more on bear preparation here and how to ready a bear for proper storage and transport.