How To Survive A Bear Attack!
Having grown up here locally, my hunting opportunities were always limited. You could go to Guana Wildlife Management Area which is located between Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine and hunt for wild pigs and deer. Or maybe even venture to the other side of Jacksonville and hunt one of the other state run wildlife management areas. With what always seemed like a crowd of hunters looking for their own place to hunt.
The friends that i hunted with and myself were successful at times but mostly it was an exercise in futility. A few nice hogs and the occasion lost deer gave us bragging rights (amongst ourselves only) that we were great hunters.
As we grew older more hunting opportunities came up and as most hunters do, we learned so much more about hunting. We quickly found out that we really didn’t know much about the sport at all. Food sources, bedding areas, funnels, edges, rubs, scraps, track signs, and what they meant were just a few of the small things that eventually added up to successful hunts.
Bigger and bigger game soon turned out to be the ultimate quest. In my case that meant one animal in particular, elk. I remember watching some of the very few hunting TV shows that were actually aired back in those days. The american sportmans was my favorite because it would show hunting in far away places and every now and then, elk would be the target. How great would it be to hunt elk? But back then, the Rocky Mountains seemed such a long ways away that hunting there probably would never happen.
When my longtime hunting partner and best friend, Brad Reed, decided to move to Wyoming things changed. Elk was now on the agenda. Brad and his brother, Barry, bought a beautiful home in Dubois, Wyoming on the top of Union Pass. The views were spectacular. When Brad and Barry went to see the house the very first time, Brad instantly knew that this was it. As they turned into his future driveway the first thing he saw was a magnificent 6×6 bull elk standing in the front yard.
He had arrived and twelve years later he has become a very successful elk hunter. Numerous friends that he has invited up to hunt have taken their first elk, mule deer, or even antelope while hunting with him. The elk especially are big weighing in at 500 to 750 pounds. They are not animals that you can just pull into a pick up truck and drive around to show off for your buddies.
Cleaning in place and packing out are the norm. Think about this, harvest a big bull elk three miles from the nearest road late one afternoon. If you decide to clean it then and pack it out then you can bet you’ll see the sunrise in the morning well before you are done. So normally, hunters field dress those animals and come back the next morning to do all of the hard work.
This is where the story can change a lot because in some of the areas that elk roam so do bears, black bears and grizzly bears to be exact. Black bears are more of a nuisance than grizzlies for several reasons. 1) They are hunted every year and thus are mostly afraid of human contact 2) They are smaller than grizzlies and are not as much of a threat and 3) when they find a carcus that has been left overnight they are more likely to leave it when confronted with human presence. Don’t misinterpret any of the above to mean that black bears aren’t dangerous, because they are.
When it comes to grizzlies there is a huge difference. Start with his size. A male grizzly can weight over a thousand pounds and when standing can easy pass the nine foot tall mark. He is used to being the dominate predator and when he finds a carcass in the wild, he will rarely give it up.
This year for the first time since 1974 grizzly bear hunting was going to be opened up on a limited basis in Wyoming. The total hunt quota was going to be less than two dozen bears. Two weeks before the opening of the hunt a federal judge put a hold on it thus stopping the hunt dead in its tracks. That decision is currently on appeal.
I mention this because grizzly bears in Wyoming have very little fear of humans and encounters between the two seem to be happening more and more with every passing year. Bears mauling humans especially mauling that involve bow hunters and grizzlies around game carcasses left overnight are becoming more and more frequent.
This year after the judges ruling stopping the grizzly bear hunt was issued, there was a very bad encounter between a bow hunter (Cory Chobon), his guide (Mark Uptain), a female grizzly bear, and her two year old cub. It happened in an area known as Turpine Meadows which is close to Togaed Pass (40 miles east of Jackson Hole). The hunter had taken a nice bull elk late on the afternoon of September 16th, deciding to come back in the morning to clean and pack it out. When the pair arrived back at the sight the next morning the carcass had been moved by two grizzly bears. After a short search, the elk carcass was found and the hunter and his guide started cleaning it. Thats when the attack occurred.
Brad Reed had an opportunity to talk with the guides father who gave the following details on the attack. Mark (the guide) had quartered the elk out and was preparing the meat for loading onto the pack horses. The bears appeared and the female bear attacked Cory (the hunter). At this point, the guide got the bear’s attention and the bear left Cory and attacked Mark. While fighting off the bear Mark yelled for Cory to get his pistol out of the backpack which he did. The pistol was a block 10mm semiautomatic. Cory didn’t know how to operate it and while trying to get a shot off he hit the wrong button and dropped the clip onto the ground. Then Mark yelled for Cory to throw the pistol to him which he did. As the pistol was coming towards Mark the bear reached out and swatted it out of the air. It landed to far from Mark for him to grab it. The pistol was then useless. Cory then fled for his life a Mark rolled over and played dead. The bear sensing that the threat was gone went to the elk carcass. After a short time Mark tried to escape the area by crawling away. He made it about 40 yards before the bear realized Mark was moving at which point he returned to Mark and finished him off.
The words of the victims father follow very closely to the media accounts so i fully believe them to be true. For all you bear spray proponents there was an empty can of bear spray found on the sight of the attack but it was unclear as to when and who used it.
When authorities arrived on the scene the following day Marks body was recovered. Then the two bears were tracked down. When they were found, the female bear charged the officers who opened fire with their weapons and killed her. The cub was euthanized after it was determined that he had participated in the attack.
The whole incident is a very tragic event to me personally, I hunt elk as often as i can in Wyoming. Bears are always a concern and we hunt knowing that one could show up anytime. And they have period. In fact, this attack happened exactly one day after Brad and myself had hunted elk in the afternoon in Turpine Meadows, the sight of the attack. We saw no elk, no hunters, and no bears. When darkness was approaching we packed up and went to Brads house for dinner and a good nights sleep. The next morning we did it all over again.
I would imagine that Mark Uptain just wanted to do the same thing, finish up packing out and go home to a nice dinner with his wife and five children. Then he would get up the next morning and do it all over again. After all, thats what guides do.