When Bear Go Bad
By Bryce Wells
Black bear can look oh so cute and cuddly to some. But when you come across a “bad” one, you’d better be prepared. Two years ago my son Cody, who was then 15 years old, came across one such bear. We were up hunting one of our favorite spots near beautiful Priest Lake, Idaho. We were elk hunting and were seeing quite a few bear. Now bear was not our top priority so we were only going to shoot a bear if it was a really nice boar. We loaded up our quads and headed up to look over a couple of our spots. We are always prepared for encounters with bear, but hope we never have to test our shooting skills in self-defense.
What happened next is the scariest moment I have ever experienced in my life. As we headed up to our spot, we came across a couple good sized downed trees. We were still a ways from where we needed to go so I sent Cody up to take a look to see if it was worth going any further. I was talking with Jeff Stearns and Scott Kambrich, who were hunting with us, about whether it looked like it was worth cutting the trees or trying somewhere else. We were talking away when I noticed my son taking his pistol out of its holster some 60-70 yards away. I was trying to figure out what he was doing when all hell broke loose. It all happened very suddenly. Cody opened fire on the big boar that was a mere 10 yards away and coming down the mountain toward him.
As we ran toward the commotion, the big bear was lying dead at young Cody’s feet. When we got to him moments later, Cody looked like a ghost. Upon inspection there was a visible entrance wound right in the front of the bear's skull. Cody, who was no doubt still checking his drawers, was quite calm for somebody who just shot a charging bear. After skinning the bear out we found that Cody had hit him four times. We all kind of joked about who was the best shot in the group after that. We decided it was for sure Cody. Scott said he was quite sure if he was in a gunfight he would pick Cody for his help.
This is what actually happened that day as told by young Cody Wells……
“I was walking just a short distance from where I left you guys and looked to my left and saw a bear walking parallel with me up the hill about 35-45 yards away. I decided to take my .44 mag out just in case. I was watching the big bear when he turned my way and came on a dead run at me. At about 10 yards I fired my first shot and the last one was at probably 10 feet. He was on me so quickly that if I had not had the pistol out already I am sure this would have ended very ugly.
I cannot help but wonder why he did it. Was I dinner that night? Did he think I was another bear? I will never know why, but I am certainly glad my dad had spent the time letting me practice with the 44 mag. We spent many days out practicing. We use solids for bear country and they had certainly did their job. I can tell you this: I am glad I was not using a smaller pistol. I have been around a lot of bear and this was my first encounter with a ‘bad’ bear.
There are many reasons a bear may charge--protecting a kill, or thinking you are another predator. And females will defend their young to the death. Or maybe they are looking for a meal. Whatever the reason you’d better be prepared. I am a firm believer in having at least a 44 mag topped with solids. While other smaller calibers may work, a 44 mag or bigger is much better. I myself use a .454 Cassul with Buffalo Bore bullets and it is one stout bear round. I am not a real believer in pepper spray. I think it is too risky to use because the bear needs to be close to make it effective. Having a charging bear really close and hoping it will work is just not for me. I would much rather hit him hard with a heavy bullet and help change his mind.
Bear can be a really beautiful animal to see in the woods, but never trust them. They are very unpredictable and anything can happen. One of the most dangerous animals in the wild is a mama bear with cubs, so be alert and be safe out there. The bear I shot I certainly would have shot anyway, but it sure does make for a good story to tell all the adults I meet. Needless to say I won’t even leave camp looking for firewood without my trusty 44 mag with me. My dad thinks bear are attracted to me, as this is not the first time I have taken out my 44 mag thinking I would have to use it. Fortunately for the other bear they decided to leave me alone those times.”
So happy hunting, and always be prepared for “Bad News Bear”
Bryce Wells is a sponsored hunter and shooter From Sagle, Idaho. He is married to his great wife Sabrina and has two children. His wife and kids also get in on the hunting, and enjoy long range shooting and bowhunting. Some of his sponsors include Kelbly's custom rifles, March Scopes, Minox, Rivers West, Limbsaver, Rocky Mountain Packs, Berger, Trophy Taker, Tru Glo, Sabermaxx, Wolverine, Day 6 Outdoors, Spypoint and more. You will find Bryce out each season hunting across the West. He spends at least 200 days in the field each season. Bryce has been fortunate enough to have taken many world class trophies over his career. Many consider him to be one of the best black bear hunters on the planet.