Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is urging archery hunters to stay alert for bears, to know what to do in the case of an encounter, and remember that all of southwest Montana is bear country. Two weekend incidents involving grizzly bears drive this message home.
On Saturday afternoon, a hunter received minor injuries after encountering a presumed grizzly while calling for elk in the Cabin Creek area north of Hebgen Lake.
Then Sunday morning, another man hunting elk with his bow on the north side of the Tom Miner basin north of Gardiner was mauled by what his hunting party believes was a female grizzly with two cubs. He suffered bite injuries.
Both hunters were treated at local hospitals and released.
While it is impossible to prevent all events like these, archery hunters should understand the inherent risk of hunting in bear country and do what they can to avoid encountering grizzlies.
Before venturing into an area, hunters should take notice of warning signs at trailheads, observe the brush at a distance for movement and look at the ground and trees for bear sign (i.e. tracks, scat, and trees scratches). Bear spray should be carried in an accessible place and hunting with at least one other person is highly recommended (in all cases).
Note that areas with high deer and elk hunting success may attract bears (ravens circling may indicate a kill). Elk bugling and cow calling also may bring in bears. It is important to stay alert.
Hunters should have with them what they need to immediately field dress their game. If hunters have success in the field and can’t haul their meat out right away they should remove the meat from the kill site and hang it at least ten feet off the ground and at least 150 yards from the gut pile.
Returning to the meat later, a hunter should check with his or her binoculars to see if the meat has been disturbed. Hunters should never attempt to haze a bear off a kill.
More information about safety in the outdoors and bear awareness can be at FWP’s website here: http://fwp.mt.gov/recreation/safety/wildlife/bears/bearsAndHunters.html.