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Old 01-26-2013, 12:04 PM   #1
Ishmael8
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Bear Spray (spun off from "Do you carry a gun" thread)

I've thought about the value of carrying a pistal when hiking. I still don't think I really need it. However, I have no problem with someone else carrying if they are responsible and they feel it makes them comfortable.

Not to change the subject, but, I've been wondering where to buy bear spray. Anyone know of any stores that sell it? I don't think I need it really but some of my hiking partners may feel more comfortable if we are carrying bear spray in the back country.

Thanks, in advance, for any info..
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Old 01-28-2013, 09:24 AM   #2
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I read through this whole thread and find it very interesting. I often get asked if I carry a firearm when I hike, esp since I mostly hike alone. I do not, but I did grow up around pistols and rifles and have no problem with them in responsible hands.

That being said, I was wondering if anyone reading this thread had any specific situations or stories they would be willing to share where having a firearm was beneficial while hiking or backpacking. By beneficial, I don't mean target shooting - I mean a situation where you needed to defend yourself against a 2 or 4 legged adversary, signal in the event of trouble, or hunt game for food in a survival situation.

Please understand, I am not trying to have anyone justify their actions - you don't own me or anyone else any sort of explanation. I am just really interested to hear of real situations where the firearm was needed. If you are comfortable sharing that of course. I realize it might be sensitive for some folks.
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Old 02-01-2013, 05:03 PM   #3
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As for the negative. There have been several times in the course of my hiking when at camp the solitude was broken by people with firearms "plinking' as well as a couple of times when they actually shot at or killed mice, in a couple of cases squirrels, and in one instance a chipmunk. I'm sure all were a threat of some kind rather then making a living like animals do, scavaging for food. In any case it's annoying to have to listen to gunfire when one is seeking solitude, even more so when one is a veteran who has been in combat.

On one occasion I was camped at one of the lean tos at Plumley point when a float plane landed and taxied toward the shore. Several hunters got out in their cmos and with their rifles slung made their way toward shore. I was just getting ready to rab my ear and move to a tent site when one of them informed my that I would have to leave since they "reserved" the lean to. At that point a dialog took place in which I explained hat whether they has hired a float plane or not, the lean to was first come, first served up to the capacity of the lean to. In other words they could camp there but I wasn't leaving (My stubborn streak kicked in). Then the dialog turned to the fact that I had big cohones because they all had firearms and I didn't. My reply was that I had the advantage because as soon as the first raised his weapon, he and his comrades would be amazed as how I was able to stick it up his rear so quickly. So they and I shared the lean to much to their discomfort. I never bothered to inform them that here was nother lean to a few hundred feet away. I figured that was the guides job.

They were from out of state and I will testify to the fact that as far as hunters go, they are the exception, rather then the rule.

But, if you want to know the thing that scares me the most about people carrying a firearms in he woods it's the case where the person carrying is inexperienced with firearms and afraid of whats in the woods. After all fear makes a mouse or chipmunk or a hiker coming in after dark sound like a bear or wolf. It's a formula for disaster.

I have been backpacking all my life. I have been in bear country, wolf country, cougar country, etc. I have been in proximity of all of the above. I have never felt threatened or endangered. I have never had a negative experience. I have followed all the rules pertaining to food storage, camp and personal hygiene, etc. I have researched and absorbed every tidbit of information about the habits of all the animals I might encounter including the two most dangerous, bison and moose. I do carry bear spray (just in case) but have never had to use it. The reason I carry the spray is because in my research I learned that in the experience of the professionals, who are out in the field all the time, it is the most effective method of defense. It also works on any other animal including dogs and humans.
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Old 02-01-2013, 05:27 PM   #4
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@redhawk thank you for sharing your experience

Based on your experience and what you shared it sounds like you have backpacked and camped many places, not just the ADK's. I was wondering if carrying a firearm (pistol or rifle) would change for anyone depending on where you were. i.e. ADK's vs Lake Clark National Park or Gates of the Arctic...both in Alaska. Based on what you said it sounds like your personal choice would be bear spray, no guns. Would that be right?

Again - and to make sure - not trying to stir any pot here...its just a question I get asked even more than I realized and didn't give it much thought until I read this.
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:33 PM   #5
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I'm with Hawk on carrying bear spray for use in any encounters with a 4 or 2 legged threat. And as Hawk says, if you do your research the odds of having an encounter with a grizzly, cougar, bison or moose is minimal. I've done many, many backpacking trips in country those animals call home and have never been threatened by an animal or a human.

Bear spray as a deterrent has a couple of big advantages. First, it works. Dr. Stephen Herrerro's research showed it was effective in completely deterring grizzly attacks about 90% of the time. And, indeed, there have been no fatalities where the stuff was used in earnest. I know that both Idaho and Wyoming Fish and Game people recommend bear spray to hunters in grizzly country (bear are attracted to Elk and Sheep carcasses and gut piles). Think about it: they recommend bear spray as a more effective deterrent to people who are already carrying guns.

Bear spray works so well because it is super easy to deploy and disperses in a cloud, so aim is not a factor. If used on a 2 legged adversary it leaves that adversary only temporarily disabled, whithout permanent consequences. Not so with firearms.
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Old 02-04-2013, 09:55 AM   #6
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I would say that in grizzly territory there is direct relationship. You'd better know exactly what you're doing to avoid a bear encounter or be able to protect yourself. Protection can be bear spray, a firearm, or both.

Dr. Stephen Herrero's book, "Bear Attacks:Their Causes and Avoidance" is all about avoidance and avoidance is all about knowledge and experience.

Hawk would have the tools to avoid such encounter as best as one can do.
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Old 02-04-2013, 11:41 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mrsmileyns View Post
@redhawk thank you for sharing your experience

Based on your experience and what you shared it sounds like you have backpacked and camped many places, not just the ADK's. I was wondering if carrying a firearm (pistol or rifle) would change for anyone depending on where you were. i.e. ADK's vs Lake Clark National Park or Gates of the Arctic...both in Alaska. Based on what you said it sounds like your personal choice would be bear spray, no guns. Would that be right?

Again - and to make sure - not trying to stir any pot here...its just a question I get asked even more than I realized and didn't give it much thought until I read this.
Regardless of he locale, I would feel much more secure with bear spray (especially the ones that are purchased out west) then with a firearm.I have had extensive training with many different types of weapons and was proficient with all of them and my odds of stopping a charging bear or worse yet bison or moose is much better with spray then with a firearm.
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Old 02-04-2013, 11:52 AM   #8
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Here is a hypososis. You are hiking, you round a bend and are confronted with a grizzly abut 40 feet away guarding pair of cubs that are on the trail. She charges, you have about 3 seconds to:

a: draw your handgun (assuming it's holstered in easy reach), bring it up, aim at a spo that will drop her immediately before she gets to you.

b: unsling your rifle, aim and fire a shot that will stop her in her tracks.

c: Grab your canister of spray point it in the direction of the bear and pull the trigger.

Take your pick, and keep in mind that it's also critical to be calm and accurate while facing a target that is charging you. Even the most experienced hunter will have difficulty. A combat veteran might have that kind of cool.

The other factor is, with the spray, you deter the bear and the cubs still have a mother.
With the firearm, if you're cool, calm, collected, a great shot and lucky, theh the cubs are on their own.
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Old 02-04-2013, 12:18 PM   #9
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Regardless of he locale, I would feel much more secure with bear spray (especially the ones that are purchased out west) then with a firearm.I have had extensive training with many different types of weapons and was proficient with all of them and my odds of stopping a charging bear or worse yet bison or moose is much better with spray then with a firearm.
thanks for all of the insight in this and various other posts - very insightful - to clarify...do you carry bear spray when backpacking in the ADK's and if so, where do you keep it? Meaning, how ready is it and where at any given moment when hiking, camping, sleeping?

Perhaps this has gotten a little off topic of the thread.
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:40 AM   #10
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thanks for all of the insight in this and various other posts - very insightful - to clarify...do you carry bear spray when backpacking in the ADK's and if so, where do you keep it? Meaning, how ready is it and where at any given moment when hiking, camping, sleeping?

Perhaps this has gotten a little off topic of the thread.
No, I don't carry bear spray in the Adirondacks. Since most of my backpacking is off the beaten path away from where most people hike, the bears are not associating people with food. In most cases the bear is going to avoid people. In the event I run across a bear, I do what I have been taught (information which is readily available on the internet) and have never had a negative confrontation. I also follow all the rules of hygiene and clean camping and hang a bear bag a decent distance from camp.

The thing to remember is that if you research what to do if you come across a bear, make sure you research the right near. Grizzly or brown bear behavior is different then the black bear behavior in the case of a charge.

There are threads here from several years ago on bear behavior. Here is one I did back in 2004.
It used to be a sticky but isn't anymore.

And maybe this topic should get a new thread of it's own instead of jacking this one. (Scott)
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:45 AM   #11
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No, I don't carry bear spray in the Adirondacks. Since most of my backpacking is off the beaten path away from where most people hike, the bears are not associating people with food. In most cases the bear is going to avoid people. In the event I run across a bear, I do what I have been taught (information which is readily available on the internet) and have never had a negative confrontation. I also follow all the rules of hygiene and clean camping and hang a bear bag a decent distance from camp.

The thing to remember is that if you research what to do if you come across a bear, make sure you research the right near. Grizzly or brown bear behavior is different then the black bear behavior in the case of a charge.

There are threads here from several years ago on bear behavior. Here is one I did back in 2004.
It used to be a sticky but isn't anymore.

And maybe this topic should get a new thread of it's own instead of jacking this one. (Scott)
thanks a lot yes - grizzly and black bear, very different
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Old 02-05-2013, 11:37 AM   #12
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I don't worry about bears too much in the ADK's. I've been close to plenty of black bears and never felt threatened. My opinion is that you are more likely to have an issue with one of the half tame town bears than one in the woods. The ones in the woods tend to head the other way in a hurry. The town bears are a lot more brazen as they are habituated to humans.

I've spent time in Alaska in close proximity to grizzlies and have seen two charges up close and personal. One of them in the alders with very limited visibility. That one was a sow with a cub and it she broke off the charge at about 10 feet and went the other way. The speed, quickness, and power of a grizzly in a full on charge (false, or not) is unreal. Especially with very limited visibility.

That said, in grizzly/brown bear country I'll take a firearm over bear spray any day. Some people people carry both. Bear spray doesn't work well in any wind, and you run the risk of blinding yourself which creates more problems.

Here's a video of a grizzly charge. It happens pretty fast...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=401ATHqOCOg
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:51 PM   #13
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That said, in grizzly/brown bear country I'll take a firearm over bear spray any day. Some people people carry both. Bear spray doesn't work well in any wind, and you run the risk of blinding yourself which creates more problems.
A lot of experts would disagree with you. You're right (to an extent) about wind but there's a major problem with firearms in the face of a charging bear. Grizzlies charge head down at 35 mph or faster. You only have a crescent shaped area below the head where you can put a lethal shot. Good luck with that. Dr Herrero recounts several incidents in which it took many shots to deter a grizzly.

A fellow I know had his first grizzly encounter in the Wind River Range, WY, this past summer. The bear was surprised at a range of about 40 yards and the bear spray was deployed at about 20 feet. It completely stopped the charge.

Another technique people are using with success is a couple of blasts with an air horn before entering any willowy thicket that could be occupied by bears on day beds. This alerts them to your presence and strongly encourages them to leave.

As far as the Adirondacks are concerned and with black bears most palces, I don't bother with carrying bear spray. There are cases in remote parts of Canada and Alaska where black bears have treated people as prey. Rare, but worth thinking about.

Don't take my advice as any kind of expertise. Do your own research and make your own decision. I've never had a grizzly encounter. My only negative black bear encounter was with a very educated bear who defeated my food hang. He was easy to chase off but very persistent. My lesson learned is to absolutely go the extra mile so I don't let bears learn how to get human food, ever.
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