Hunters Must Expect to See Bears

With Montana’s upland game bird season opening Sept.1—and the bow hunting season set to open Sept. 6—remember that slow moving, quiet and camouflaged hunters will soon be sharing the landscape with the state’s even stealthier bears that may be stalking similar prey.

It may not be an encounter one hopes for, but all hunters must be aware there is that potential.

Grizzly bears are found throughout western Montana, not just the Rocky Mountain Front, Bob Marshall Wilderness complex and the Yellowstone ecosystem. Black bears also range widely across the state.

Upland game bird hunters and archers hunting in bear country should:

  • carry bear spray and know how to use it
  • hunt with a partner and let someone else know your plans
  • get harvested big game out of the woods quickly
  • upon returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site at a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise
  • never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass
  • contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable

Most grizzly bears will leave an area if they sense human presence. Hunters who observe a grizzly bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area. If you do encounter a grizzly, stay calm, don’t run, and assess the situation by trying to determine if the bear is actually aware of you. Is it, for instance, threatening or fleeing? Always keep the bear in sight as you back away, and leave the area.

WATCH: For hunters who encounter aggressive bears, a can of bear pepper spray can save lives.

When to use bear spray

  • Bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.

How to use bear spray

  • Picture3Each person should carry a can of bearspray.
  • If a bear is moving toward you from a distance of 30-60 feet direct the spray downward toward the front of the bear with a slight side to side motion so that the bear spray billows up and creates a wide cloud that acts as a barrier between you and the bear.
  • If the bear is within 30 feet spray continuously at the front of the bear until it breaks off its charge.
  • Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you. Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge.
  • Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.
  • A full canister of bear spray is essential for bear encounters.
  • The expiration date on the spray should be checked annually.

Selecting a bear spray

Purchase products that are clearly labeled “for deterring attacks by bears,” and that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

No deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, bear spray has demonstrated success in a variety of situations in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved.

For more on living with bears and being bear aware, check out the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks website– Be Bear Aware.

For more on bear resistant products, go to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website.

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