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Grizzly Bear Attacks Three Bowhunters Armed with Pistols

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Article first appeared on Ammoland.com

U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- On the East Fork of the Wind River, near Lander, Wyoming, three bow hunters were walking to their hunting grounds, bows in hand.  An old boar grizzly suddenly charged them from a few yards left of their approach.

The bow hunters had set up base camp the day before at the East Fork trailhead. The next morning, they rode horses six miles up the trail, turned west, and rode uphill until the terrain was too steep for the horses.  At about 7:30, they dismounted and continued up the steep slope of the trail on foot, in line.

Wind River Peak from Wikipedia, Chiffre01, 1 August 2010 CC BY-SA 4.0, Cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

The three men had covered about 500 yards from the horses when it happened. They heard loud crashing noises above them to their front left. The lead hunter started to reach for an arrow, thinking it might be an elk. He saw the grizzly coming at them. He dropped the arrow and bow and drew his Taurus .45 1911 semi-auto. He yelled at the bear and started backing away. As the bear saw the two other hunters behind the lead, it momentarily paused, giving him time to rack the slide and chamber a round. The Taurus had eight rounds in its magazine.

The pause was momentary; not a full stop of the charge. The lead hunter was able to start shooting from a range of six feet. The grizzly grabbed the lead hunter by the left thigh and the hunter went down with the bear on top of him.

As the bear closed with the lead hunter, the middle and last hunters had seen the bear, dropped their bows, and drew their pistols, a .44 magnum and a 9mm. They started shooting.

With the lead hunter down and the bear in his lap, he put the .45 against its head and shot his last rounds. The bear went limp. The lead hunter was able to crawl out from under the big bear.

Shortly afterward, the bear was seen to move, and the hunters fired two more rounds into the chest cavity from the side. The hunters estimated they had fired 19 cartridges at the bear; 8 rounds of .45, 6 rounds of .44 magnum, and about 4 rounds of 9mm.

The event occurred on 20 September 2014. Detailed reports of the incident were discovered in a reply to a Freedom of Information Act (FOID) request about bear attacks. This correspondent has not discovered any detailed reporting in searches of public media on the Internet.

The hunters rode back to base camp. There, they were able to access a cell phone booster in a friend’s truck. They made contact with Wyoming Game and Fish (WG&F).  The WG&F warden made arrangements to contact the men the next day, on September 21,  2014.

Two WG&F wardens interviewed the three hunters and took statements.  They went to the attack scene and investigated. Everything they found collaborated with what the hunters had told them.

At the scene, they collected 12 cartridge cases, including 9mm, .45, and .44 magnum. They examined the bear, which was an old male with worn teeth. The age of the bear was estimated at 17 years. The wardens found seven bullet wounds in the bear, five of which were from the front, and two of which were from the side. They recovered four bullets from the bear in three different calibers.

Each of the three hunters had hit the bear at least once.  They concluded the hunters had shot and killed the old boar grizzly in self-defense. The grizzly had been feeding on whitebark pine nuts a few yards off the trail. The WG&F took the four bear paws and the bear head.

After the reports were filed the Special Agent for the US Fish and Wildlife Service met with the Assistant United State Attorney assigned to the case on 20 November 2014. They determined the shooting of the grizzly was in self-defense and fell under the self-defense exception in the law. It was recommended the case be declined for prosecution.

On 3 December 2014, the Special Agent received a letter of declination from the Wyoming United States Attorney’s Office, determining the shooting was in self-defense, and thus not a violation of the law. The investigation was recommended to be closed.

The attack appears to have been unprovoked. There were no cubs.

The bear started charging the hunters before they became aware it was in the vicinity. The attack started from only eight yards. The hunters were able to draw their pistols and direct effective fire in order to stop the attack.  While the bear had grabbed the lead hunter by the thigh, the combination of clothing, worn teeth, and quick shooting by the victim appears to have prevented the need for hospitalization.

If there had been any penetration of the victim’s flesh, some medical treatment would have been necessary. None was mentioned in the FOIA report. All three hunters were interviewed a few hours after the attack. No mention was made of a trip to the hospital.

In the investigative documents, it was mentioned the incident had been posted on Facebook, with pictures. This correspondent has been unable to find those posts.

It is likely most defensive uses of pistols against bears are not reported in public media, especially if no hospitalization of people is required. Readers are encouraged to report any incidents of defensive uses of pistols against bears that are not recorded in the latest update of the database of known and documented incidents.  Send the information to Dean Weingarten, via AmmoLand.

All incidents which can be documented are included, whether the defensive action was successful or not.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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