Thanks to the quick thinking of one Wyoming elk hunter, what could have been a lethal encounter with a grizzly sow instead became merely a painful nip. KBZK reported that two bowhunters encountered a female grizzly with cubs north of Dubois on Sunday, which resulted in an attack. One of the hunters was walking near Horse Creek Drainage when the grizzly approached the men. Officials say that it was likely that neither the hunters nor the bear noticed each other until they got too close, at which point the grizzly instinctively charged. According to Reuters, the grizzly bit one of the hunters in the side before the other rushed to his aid and used bear spray to scare off the aggressive sow. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Although this bear encounter did not end in tragedy, it comes on the heels of another attack earlier this month. The body of Adam Thomas Steward, 31, was found on September 12 in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, where officials say he was killed near his campsite. A native of Utah, Steward was in the area conducting research for the US Forest Service. In light of the recent attacks, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent out a warning for hunters to carry bear spray while in grizzly territory.

“As bears become more active and hunters begin to pursue game in the field, we anticipate that there will be an increase in human-bear encounters,” said Tara Hodges, information and education specialist for Game and Fish. “As hunters, we do exactly the opposite of what we would have most recreationists do to avoid bear encounters—you might say that hunters are pre-disposed to encounters.”

Some hunters prefer carrying a compact but powerful firearm in case of bear encounters, but officials suggest that bear spray may be a more efficient deterrent. Pulling off an accurate shot at a charging bear—which you may not notice until the last several yards—is a difficult proposition for even a veteran hunter. In addition, it may take more than one shot to stop an aggressive grizzly. However, some hunters are more comfortable with firearms than a can of bear spray and many states, such as Wyoming, allow hunters to carry a firearm during bow season for the purpose of self-defense.

“Firearms have been used successfully in self-defense situations and using one as a deterrent is a personal choice,” Hodges added. “No matter what type of deterrent a person chooses, it is essential that a person has practiced and can use the deterrent in sudden, high stress situations.”

Image courtesy Ken Conger/ National Park Service

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  • Harryo

    Just got back from WY 2 people killed 1 at brooks lake 1 at double cabin we here what they want us here.I killed an elk the gut pile was hit by Grizz

  • Christopher Riddle

    Leave the”Bear Spray”in the truck;bring your 500 S&WMagnum!

    • Truhawk

      bringing both is wise. Studies show bear spray has a far higher percentage of effective stops with no injury to persons. The average number of shots taken to stop a bear attack is four, and the person attacked is injured over 60% of the time. With bear spray the person attacked is injured less than 10%of the time, and the bear gets to live as well. I’d have no problem killing a bear that wanted to hurt me, but spray is far more effective. I have had to use it to protect fishing clients in Alaska. That never stopped me from carrying a pistol grip 12 gauge on my back, but I knew what was my key to safety. I also carried and used a flare gun if their method of approach was up a gravel bar streamside…fire danger would prohibit use in many circunstances, but bouncing a flare off a gravel bar right in front of them has worked on many occasions. Likewise the hand held air horn. When walking in heavy brush, carrying salmon, I try to always have the bear spray in my hand.

  • azduane

    I think I would have a better chance of survival in a bear encounter with bear spray. It’s kind of like a shotgun in that I do not have to be that accurate to get the spray out and have it still be effective. Just my opinion. Hope I never have to use it but glad I have it.

    • Robert J Hecht Jr

      Just hope the wind is in your favor… YMMV..

  • Dave Gill

    Bear Spray might be better IF the wind is blowing in the right direction and if there isn’t heavy rain…

  • Rob

    I had an encounter while bow hunting in the Bridger-Teton Nat’l Forest last year with my guide. We saw the boar about 40 yards away. I’m went for my hand gun, he went for his bear spray. We yelled at the bear and no encounter ensued. Hunting in pairs is a good idea. Better strategies for calling in elk too while bow hunting.

  • Chris

    I was chased two miles on horseback by a starving lone female grizzly. Ladd dick of Teton outfitters and my guide Cooper saved my ass. Not fun

    • Tom McCormick

      i wasnt there i realize that dont get me wrong but im curoius…is there a reason you didnt kill her? no firearm? worried about Lawyers etc?