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bear point of aim?

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Old 05-11-2009, 12:36 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 192
Re: bear point of aim?

Two years ago I was on a bear hunt and I blew the chance at a bear of a lifetime. It was a fall baited hunt for black bear. The bear came in, then turned around and walked off. 15 minutes later it came back and when it put it's head in the bucket I took aim with my 30-30 and pulled the trigger. I aimed just a few inches inside the edge of his hair and under the shoulder of the bear who was sitting on his rear with his arm up. I was trying to aim a little lower in the chest since I had read and been told that the vitals were a little lower than a deers. It was a perfect shot setup since the treestand had the safety bar that fit perfectly as a rifle rest. The crosshairs were steady and pulled the trigger. Long story short, I shot right through hair and never got that bear. I never knew that bears had such long hair and I blew the shot. The bear went down like it got hit and kicked for a second then took off and was gone.

I remember that shot like it happened 5 minutes ago and if I ever get a chance to hunt bears again, I'll be aiming dead center of the shoulder and I'll be ready for a follow up shot.
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Old 05-12-2009, 02:06 AM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Homer, Alaska
Posts: 30
Re: bear point of aim?

Teddy12B, if that bear went down and kicked around a bit I'd bet my life on it that you hit more than hair. Probably hit him in the chest bone and to low for the boiler room. If that's what happened there would be little or no blood trail and the bear would almost certainly survive the wound.
If your 30-30 was zeroed at 100 yds then the bullet would hit a little lower than your aiming point at forty or fifty yds so something like that could have
been a little added factor in your low point of impact.
Anytime I hit an animal and it runs off I follow up on the trail. If you have an idea of where the animal is hit then you have a better idea of how difficult it
may be to overtake that animal. If you follow them for an hour or so and they are traveling well and there is little or no blood then chances are that animal is going to out distance you and you have a poor chance of overtaking
it . If, on the other hand there is sign of difficulty traveling and obvious bleeding then there is a very good chance of finding that animal and every effort should be taken to do that. If you know they were hit hard then get
bull headed about it and search as long as you can find the sign. The longest
trail I have ever followed was a brown bear I once trailed for about 15 miles
until I finally lost his trail at the end of the third day. He finally quit bleeding and gradually began to out distance me. But on your bear if he was hit in the
brisket it is doubtful you would have ever over taken him. To a bear, thats
just a minor inconvience.
If it were me though I would bump her up to a 30-06 or equivelant for a thunder stick in case a really big old boar came in to the bait. And your plan to keep shooting as long as he's significantly moving is the thing to do. No use
making a sieve out of the hide if he's just moving from reflexes, but if they are
still very much alive then keep shooting regardless of where the first shot hit.
Maybe you get another go at it this fall. Hope so and hope he's a big one!
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Old 05-12-2009, 07:23 AM
Silver Member
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 192
Re: bear point of aim?

I don't want to hyjack the post, but I'l fill in the rest of what happened with my bear. There was no blood to be found where the shot was fired. When the bear went down he kicked around for a few seconds and when he got up and started quickly moving around a tree I worked the lever and as he came around the tree I fired again. I thought for sure that my first shot was good if not perfect, and the second shot was only meant to anchor the bear if not slow him down. The second shot was a high shoulder and we tracked that bear for almost three hours in the middle of the night in the ontario bush. We covered about a mile until the blood trail started to fade away and eventually the blood trail disapeared. The three guides all agreed that the shot wasn't where it should have been and the bear just walked it off. It's heart breaking, and I still believe in the 30-30's abilities, but now I also have a 1895G 45/70 that I plan on using next time I get a chance to go after the bears.
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Old 06-01-2009, 06:59 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Soldotna, Alaska
Posts: 44
Re: bear point of aim?

The shot placement for me has always been to shoot in the shoulder you will hit the vitals and you will break the bear down or atleast slow it down and that is the advice that I give to my clients here in Alaska.. Also as I am sure that AKBUSHAPE will agree that I will always if at all possible follow up with another shot even if the bear is down this ensures that it stays down and a second hole in the hide is an easy fix for a taxidermist I do not like to follow a wounded bear into the bushes because they almost always go to the thickest stuff around and if it is wounded and comes at you you have very little time in that situation . Even a well hit bear can live a long time.. I dont mind loosing meat on a shoulder shot but for me it has been the most effective all around shot and unlike a caribou or deer a wounded bear will love to kill you back
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Old 06-01-2009, 11:33 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Homer, Alaska
Posts: 30
Re: bear point of aim?

Absolutely Tony. Never take the time to see if he's down for the count after the first shot. Seconds count. As soon as you pull the trigger, chamber another round and get the crosshairs on him. Unless by this time he is stone dead, hit him again through the shoulders. Don't pause at that point. Reload and get the sights on him again. By this time you have observed him long enough to make a judgement call on whether another round is needed. Even if he appears to be nailed down, keep a bead on him and watch a bit. If he starts to get up, repeat the process. Never stop or pause to see what happens. You may be standing there with an empty chamber and your gun down when he jumps up and runs off. That rule goes with any animal, not just bears. After the first shot, reload and get the scope back on target. Don't
just set there with an empty gun. Be ready for a follow-up.
Rarely does a bear drop in it's tracks and stay there unless it's a brain (or broken neck) shot.
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Old 06-02-2009, 01:43 AM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Alaska
Posts: 3,384
Re: bear point of aim?

I shoot them in the lungs behind the shoulder / front leg bones if they are directly broadside, with absolute confidence. The same as I do with sheep, moose, caribou, deer, mountain goat, or any other large game animal.

If they're quartering a little away or a little toward me from the directly broadside position, I shoot a little back or forward from dead center of the ribs/lungs. This has proven completely effective on two brown bears and over a dozen black bears, as well as every other big game animal I've shot in that location, provided the bullet expands on impact.

If shooting on the level at a broadside bear, center the animal from top to bottom and aim 5-10 inches behind the front leg bones. With any kind of an expanding bullet, even though the animal may run off a short bit before expiring, they're running dead on their feet. I can see how this can make a guide nervous and perhaps this explains their preference for breaking the animal down on the spot with the shoulder/bone shots.

I shot an above average-sized boar black bear at 425 yards two days ago. Bear was quartering away about 30 degree from directly broadside. 210 Berger VLD from a 300 Win Mag entered mid-way up on the bear at the location that the diaphram contacts the rib cage and angled forward through the chest cavity. The bear died on impact. The only movement was to collapse and then slowly roll 5 feet into the low hollow directly adjacent to where the boar had been standing. Often they'll motor 30 to 130 yds, but they will sometimes drop as if brained.

I shot a brown bear that squared 10' 5" on Kodiak Island through the center of the ribs from 130 yds with a 338 Imperial Magnum using a 225 grain trophy bonded bear claw bullet. The only movement that bear made was directly down to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I kid you not, that bear was killed on impact with nothing more than a hit to the center of the ribs. I waited a good 20 minutes before slowly approaching the boar because I didn't expect that reaction from a shot to the lungs. on an animal of that size. I had just about convinced myself the rifle's sights must have been off and I'd brained the boar. I walked up and the bear's head and skull were intact and I saw no visible sign of bullet entry or exit. Upon skinning I found the bullet entry hole exactly centered on the ribcage. There was no exit hole in the hide. I dug around insid the chest cavity searching for the bullet after skinning the bear but never found the bullet. I did get a good look at the inenr wall of the offside ribcage and there was no entrance wound there, so the bullet evidently didn't even penetrate to the opposite rib cage, which surprised me based on this bullet's performance observed a different brown bear a few years earlier.

I don't dismiss what these experienced big game guides are saying. I'm saying what I have done, and I'm reporting excellent results associated with it. Why don't I shoot them through the front shoulders? I eat the black bears and prefer to minimize the meat damage by slipping the bullet in behind the front shoulders. And the animals are deader than dead by the time I walk over to them.

As I have said, most often a strictly lung shot animal will run a fairly short distance before expiring. However ocassionally, they'll drop in their tracks as if they were struck by lightening. My best explanation from what I've seen and read is that the hydraulic shock of the bullet on the animal's central nervous system can simply overwhelm and short-circuit the body's nervous system. It can be as dramatic as if a "life" switch was flipped off.

Not trying to deminimize the advice provided by the guides or any other posters. They have good reasons for their preferences and recommendations - and alot of experience to back them up. If I was guiding bear hunter's I'd probably direct my clients to the same shot placement these guides are recommending. That way if the animal didn't drop at the shot, I'd have a good reason to suspect my client may have placed a poor shot, and I'd know it was time to cut loose to prevent an escaped, and wounded bear.

I started life as a bow hunter, always aiming middle of the rib cage and alway having success with those hits. I'm comfortable with the animal running off a short distance before bleeding out. If I was a guide, I wouldn't be too comfortable watching an animal heading for cover, not knowing whether it was wounded or as good as dead. Those same center of ribs hits with a rifle bullet later proved to work as effectively as the broadheads did, except occassionally, the shock effect of the expanding rifle bullet will flip the life switch off, instantly and dramatically.

Last edited by phorwath; 06-02-2009 at 02:10 AM.
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Old 06-02-2009, 12:57 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Homer, Alaska
Posts: 30
Re: bear point of aim?

Thing is phorwath, aiming 10" behind the shoulder leaves no margin of error. If you hit even a couple of inches farther back you're looking at a gut shot. For the average marksman that is a poor aiming point. Miscalucating wind drift on a 200 yd shot can move your POI 5 or 6 inches. Thats risky business. You have gotten away with it so far and may continue to do so for some time, but eventually the law of average will catch up with you. In the field I prefer the "center of the pie plate" approach rather than the center of the marble.
I too have seen big bears drop in their tracks with a heart/lung shot, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
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