Father Uses .44 Magnum to Shoot Grizzly Bear off Son

Rory Buckallew
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)– On the morning of 24 September, 2017, David Buckallew, 63, and his son, Rory, 35, were hunting black bear. David was along as an observer. Only Rory carried a rifle, a Remington model 700, semi-customized in the wildcat 6.5mm-06 caliber. Dave carried a Taurus Tracker stainless steel 4 inch .44 magnum in a Montana Holster shoulder rig made by Norm Schertenleib. Rory carried a Glock model 20 in 10mm.

The morning was cool with a light frost in low spots at Kalispell, Montana.  There was little wind. Sunrise was at 7:28 local.  Before 9 am, the men had spotted a black bear and were attempting to get in position for a shot. They were moving through thick cover on the steep side slope east of the Hungry Horse reservoir.

Taurus Tracker stainless steel 4 inch .44 magnum
Taurus Tracker stainless steel 4 inch .44 magnum
Hungry Horse Reservoir

Then they heard it. A large animal was crashing through the undergrowth. It was moving along the side slope angling up the hill, above them. As it came directly above them, about 30 yards away, they could see bushes move. It changed direction and charged down the hill at them. Neither man knew what it was. It was coming directly at them. Both men fired a shot in front of the beast in an attempt to divert it or scare it off. David fired his .44 magnum Taurus, Rory his model 700 bolt action Remington rifle. The animal was only 7-8 yards away, but the cover was so thick, they could not see it.

In a split second, the bear appeared as it slid to a stop only two feet from and just beyond Rory. The bear lunged at Rory, and Rory jammed the barrel of his rifle into its mouth. Then, as the bear jerked aside, he hit the bears head with the barrel.

The bear slapped the rifle aside, sending it spinning out of Rory’s hands. As the bear lunged for his face, Rory instinctively blocked with his right arm. The bear grabbed him by the elbow, its nose only inches from Rory’s.

The bear grabbed him by the elbow, its nose only inches from Rory's.
The bear grabbed him by the elbow, its nose only inches from Rory’s.

Dave had closed to within six feet of Rory and the bear. Not wanting to hit Rory, hoping to get the bear to release his son, he shot the bear in the hip.

It worked. The bear dropped Rory and spun toward him. His next round was meant for the bear’s shoulder, but the situation was dynamic. The240-grain slug went through the bears neck.

With the bear coming at him, its mouth was within two feet of his .44 Taurus when he fired the last shot. The bullet went alongside the bear’s head, into its neck, penetrating the chest cavity.

Dave says he doesn’t know if it was the three solid hits with a .44 magnum, or the muzzle blast of the revolver into the bear’s face that turned the bear. The bear whirled downslope. It paused momentarily, 15 feet away, looking back. Then it crashed off into the brush.

Dave did not try another shot. He knew he was out of ammunition. He had been taught, 50 years ago, to carry a revolver with an empty chamber under the hammer. In the five shot Taurus, that left him four rounds.

One had been fired to try to turn the downhill charge; the other three went into the bear.

Dave asked Rory “Did it get you?” Rory told him yes, and it hurt. Dave was relieved not to see any arterial spurting of blood, splintered bones, or a mass of torn meat.

He told Rory his Taurus was empty.

Most people in a deadly fight are not able to count their shots. Dave could, and did. Experienced shooters and hunters are often able to “call their shots”, and say where each shot went. Dave told me he informed the Fish, Wildlife and Park (FWP) officers where each shot had connected, and they told him he had been within a couple of inches for all three hits.

Rory handed his father the 10mm Glock to stand guard while he retrieved spare .44 magnum ammunition from Dave’s pack.

Dave used American Eagle 240 grain jacketed hollow point cartridges in the revolver.

 American Eagle 240 grain jacketed hollow point cartridge
American Eagle 240 grain jacketed hollow point cartridge

Rory reloaded the Taurus. They traded pistols, retrieved the rifle, and started back toward their vehicle. They kept their pistols in their hands. The shortest route would have been straight downhill, but they did not know the location of the bear. To avoid another attack, they headed back a quarter mile along the side slope, then downhill to the road in a more open area. It took them 25 minutes to reach their vehicle.

Dave drove back to Kalispell, as they came into cell phone coverage, they called Rory’s wife, Kristine. They told her to call Urgent Care, so they could have Rory’s wounds treated. When they got back, Kristine told them Urgent Care said it would not treat a bear attack victim. Rory would have to go to the hospital. Rory insisted on taking off his hunting shirt. He left it at the house so the hospital staff would not cut it off him in treatment.

At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff has specialized in treating bear attack victims. He treated Rory. Fortunately, no bones were broken. Dave had shot the bear off of Rory before massive damage was done to his arm. There were a couple of scrapes on Rory’s shoulder from the bear’s claws. The claw scrapes did not require stitches.

At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff has specialized in treating bear attack victims.
At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff has specialized in treating bear attack victims.

Dave does not know who called FWP. It may have been someone at the hospital. As Rory was being treated, Dave accompanied the FWP officers back to the attack scene.  The FWP helicopter, Two Bear Air, arrived. By this time it was afternoon. The sun had heated the slope, so infrared detectors on the helicopter could not find the bear.

The FWP officers told Dave if he had bear spray, he might have avoided having to shoot the bear. Dave noted the FWP officers were all armed with shotguns and had loaded pistols on their hips. From mt.gov:

FWP would like to remind hunters and recreationists that carrying bear spray is another deterrent option

Dave told me if he had spray and had sprayed the bear, he would have had to spray Rory as well. Then, if the bear turned on him, Rory would have been unable to help.

It is a reasonable assumption. Tom Sommers was attacked through a cloud of bear spray, three weeks earlier, near the Idaho/Montana/Wyoming border. The bear had him by the head when his friend Dan sprayed the bear again from two feet away. Sommers was blinded by the spray and the blood. When he fired his pistol, he could not see the bear. He missed. Whether it was the spray or the gunshot, the bear left the scene and did not attack Sommers again.

David Buckallew said “I will depend on my .44 magnum.”

The bear never vocalized during the attack. Dave said you could hear the loud breath of the bear, but there were no warning growls, or other sounds from the bear.

FWP found the dead bear the next day. It was a 12-year-old dry sow. It was not lactating and did not have young cubs. It was about 250 lbs, and in good shape. 250 lbs is a reasonable weight for an adult sow grizzly in the mountains. The bear did not have any tags, or previous history of aggressive encounters with humans. Unprovoked grizzly attacks have been noted throughout the history of grizzly bears.  The current fad is to always assign a human motivation.

Dave and Rory never heard or saw any other bear near them. There is no evidence that any cub, or yearling grizzly, was nearby. The sow’s body was found about 50 yards from the attack location.

In the fall, bears feel a tremendous urge to eat and put on weight for the winter hibernation. Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed in an unprovoked grizzly attack in Alaska on October 6th, 2003. They did not have a .44 magnum. Neither survived.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

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 recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

42 Comments
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Tom
Tom
2 years ago

Most of us that work in the AK Back Country will carry bear spray and a firearm (12-gauge or .44 Mag). It all depends on the circumstances of the encounter which one is deployed. Under the circumstances described above, where heavy brush prevented seeing the bear until it was a few feet and a fraction of a second from attacking, the obvious & best choice would have been a firearm.

But don’t discredit the effectiveness of bear spray in preventing many bear vs man encounters.

Glad the two of you are OK.

Mada
Mada
3 years ago

Many of you have pretty strong opinions of how it should of gone and what they did wrong, but have never been in a situation even remotely close to this severity and how fast of amount of time it took place. If you think that you have time to think in the heat of the moment…think again, and talk to any survivor of a bear attack. Almost everyone will say it happens so fast. I am impressed with the way these two men dealt with this situation. It is unfortunate that the bear had to die, but if the bear… Read more »

Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove
3 years ago

Spray? Remember the old joke about grizzly poop having little bells in it and smells like pepper? I’ll carry something that has a little more affect than OC spray, thank you very much.

MarkWynn
MarkWynn
3 years ago

If the men were legally hunting bear, why would the warden admonish them for not having had bear spray to preclude shooting a bear??

R. Drake
R. Drake
3 years ago

R. Drake
I commend a father or anyone that would stick around to do what he could for a person being attacked by a grizzly.

Harell R. Coley
Harell R. Coley
3 years ago

When in bear territory I try to carry my Browning .50 caliber with a short barrel. However, for what it’s worth!, the last black bear I killed was taken by beating it to death with an axe handle. Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. As important as it is to discuss grizzly bear eradication I hope you’ll all indulge me for a few minutes while I make a suggestion or two regarding the manner in which we exchange opinions on grizzly bear wrestling. Just because you might have a technique or bear opinion that differs… Read more »

Ed
Ed
3 years ago

I had a Pa. bear under my cabin. I did not know he was there. He came out very slow. I go about 15′ from him and took a few pictures. He was more afraid of me then I was of him. He walked away and he had no fur on his side. Later when I looked under the Cabin I saw where he pulled the insulation down and made a bed with it. He must have had one good time with that fiberglass on this side. I called the Game Warden. He gave me some rubber shot and said… Read more »

Amos Pentagram
Amos Pentagram
3 years ago

I don’t hunt Bears, but, a 250 female adult Griz seems kinda light. I would have expected a Black Bear to be that size. Have always Grizzlies were much heavier.

M Reyna
M Reyna
3 years ago

Wouldn’t a 45 LC just as effective on a Bear
As a 44 magnum?

mickey
mickey
3 years ago
Reply to  M Reyna

less power but more bullets, if it doesn’t jam.

Deb Scotty
Deb Scotty
3 years ago

We are so thankful you both are still alive and there was no life threatening injuries. I am postiive both of these men are aware of how to protect themselves in the wild since they have benn doing this their entire lives living in bear country. There shouldn’t be a father alive that wouldn’t have done the very thing Dave did to save his son. Thank God he thought to save his son’s life before worrying about the bear’s life. These men are relatives of mine and wouldn’t be afraid to go anywhere with them in the wild and beautiful… Read more »

Andy
Andy
3 years ago

Jim H is right. This is A Lesson. Learn from this and plan accordingly. If you have been paying attention to the Teaching Examples in class, you might have picked up on the fact that things rarely go according to plan… your conditioned response is what you will default to. TRAIN accordingly, and often.

JL
JL
3 years ago

Carry bear spray in grizzly country? Had he had bear spray against that grizzly sow, this story woulddhave ended badly . For the two men. But common black bears kill more people in US by far than any other types of bears. We have cougars here in Virginia but no problem. But nothing against bears, but they can be very unpredictable. Just their nature.

Joe humphrey
Joe humphrey
3 years ago

Roy reminds me of a experience that I had I was building a building and I guy next to my worksite was clearing some ground burning a brush pile as he was putting logs on this Pile with his escalator I hydraulic line burst and sprayed into the brush pile and back end of the escalator catching everything on fire the guy was able to get out of the escalator unharmed as it was burning and I heard experts say so-called experts well he could’ve backed up or he could’ve did this or that. The interesting part is none of… Read more »

Roy D.
Roy D.
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe humphrey

You’re right, I have never been attacked by a bear, grizzly bear or black. However, I spent much of my summers between age 12 and 17 in the Lignite and Savage River area of Alaska. And then there was all the rest of the time I spent in the woods around the Fairbanks area. You see I learned what to do and not to do while in that environment. Been within 25 yards of bears but never without a suitable firearm and almost always knowing the bear was where it was before seeing it. If a bear is charging at… Read more »

Jonathan Trivette
Jonathan Trivette
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe humphrey

I’m pretty sure you are talking about an “excavator” not an escalator. You ride an escalator in the mall to go from one floor the other instead of taking the stairs.

James Higginbotham
James Higginbotham
3 years ago

as we say.
all the Monday morning quarterbacks ext.
this SHOULD BE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR ALL OF US
and for one FK BEAR SPRAY and any game warden who thinks that should be a hunter’s FIRST CHOICE IS JUST A DUMB ASS.
you have only ONE LIFE, SO PROTECT IT ANY WAY YOU CAN.

Stephen West
Stephen West
3 years ago

Taurus revolvers have a transfer bar and can be carried fully loaded. Read owners manual!

Tim McCrory
Tim McCrory
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen West

You would think anyone carrying a revolver into harm’s way would know all the ins and outs of his revolver. How could that person not know about the transfer bar safety feature? Rather strange.

thomas j schweikert
thomas j schweikert
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen West

i SURE would have 5 in a 5 cap modern
revolver

M Reyna
M Reyna
3 years ago

I agree all preparations should have been made prior to the hunt. Having extra ammo in backpack is ok except when you need it immediately. I carry extra ammo in front pocket of my hunting jacket. Now to speculate how to handle a surprise bear attack really. Until it happens to you, you will never know. If you go Into the wild always prepare for the unexpected. I personally always carry a revolver my rifle and a large knife plus extra ammo I can reach immediately in case I need to reload. Never go hunting alone, very bad idea which… Read more »

oldshooter
oldshooter
3 years ago

I also carry a similar Taurus Tracker in .44 Mag when I hunt anything (OK, not when dove hunting). I used to carry the same model in .357 Mag, and had a close encounter of the PO’d kind with an angry 250 pound feral hog. She charged me from about 10-12 yards away, I pulled my .357 and shot her behind the ear – instant kill. She still almost reached me, plowing up dirt about 2 feet in front of me when she died. I immediately went to the monthly gun show and traded in my .357 for a .44.… Read more »

Joe
Joe
3 years ago

So the 50 year old advice about carrying on an empty chamber could have cost one or both their lives. This guy should not have been carrying a gun he didn’t know enough about to load properly with all five. And therefore should not have voluntarily been in a position in which he might have to use it. Having said that it sounds like they both behaved incredibly well given the situation, and were lucky rather than smart.

Randy
Randy
3 years ago

Treadwell is not a good example. I live in Kodiak and know his story well and the people involved. He got himself and his girlfriend killed. He was a dumb ass.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
3 years ago
Reply to  Randy

, Quite the video. Mother Nature doing her part. Apparently, he did not tread well.

Walter
Walter
3 years ago
Reply to  Randy

I thought you all in Kodiak called him Snackwell

Bryan StMartin
Bryan StMartin
3 years ago

I’ve always heard that you don’t hunt bears, they hunt you.

Stephen West
Stephen West
3 years ago

The Taurus revolver has a safety bar so yes you can carry it fully loaded. Read owners manual!

rappini
rappini
3 years ago

I have an Idea when you put the barrel of the Rifle in the Bears mouth how about you pull the trigger, but that’s just me.

jim
jim
3 years ago
Reply to  rappini

he had fired a round out of his BOLT ACTION rifle as the bear charged. I guess he isn’t as quick cycling the bolt as you would be and it appears that he was on an empty chamber when the bear emerged from the brush.

cc
cc
3 years ago

So roy d I guess you would have done everything right uh. shut up fool.

Bud
Bud
3 years ago

It seems having the revolver fully loaded while in the field is a good idea. As well as having a quick reload at hand rather than in a pack. Bear country is not the place to be careful about how many loads you have.

dj
dj
3 years ago

Well, the FWP should have their bear bug spray up front on their duty belts also. And it should be used 1st always. Just like they are reminding the rest of us. Then and ONLY then, when the bear is at less than arms length may they upgrade their defense.
To remind us that it’s good for us, surely then REALLY good for them.
Or they hiding behind a badge as a bunch of flaming hypocrites?

JS
JS
3 years ago
Reply to  dj

Forest service staff are the most righteous about telling you not to shoot their animals but they will dispatch one in a heartbeat if threatened. the sad thing is most of them train a lot less than most people I know, including my daughters.

Barry E.
Barry E.
3 years ago

You got to love the Monday morning quarter backs they are clue less of reality !!

Wake.Up.People
Wake.Up.People
3 years ago

Roy: Suck it Ms. Expert you.

David Eustache
David Eustache
3 years ago

With all due respect there is not any Woulda Coulda Shoulda. My point being as in a situation like that my bear repellent is not in my hand and my firearm is especially if I’m trying to save my son’s life I’m not going to make a decision other than to pull the trigger as many times as I can.

Roy D.
Roy D.
3 years ago

So much fail from these two. Try to avoid the bear while leaving was the only thing they did right.

Roy D.
Roy D.
3 years ago

So much fail by those two, especially the father. Trying to avoid the bear while leaving was the only thing they did right.

Blob
Blob
1 year ago
Reply to  Roy D.

Ok, This was an old post, but I can’t resist. Rory D: Hindsight is 100% . You seem to excel at hindsight. These men are obviously experienced outdoorsmen, and did many things right. Given a real life situation, things can degrade rapidly, and these men did pretty well, considering. It seems a lot of armchair critics have a lot to say; things they presume to have learned from a great deal of personal inexperience.. Rory D, is that you?

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
1 year ago
Reply to  Blob

, waiting two years to comment certainly is an instructive example of the use of hind sight or phenomenal personal discipline.

RoyD
RoyD
1 year ago
Reply to  Blob

Couldn’t trouble yourself to read the posts in thread, Blob? So, are you always this lazy or were you “special” just for today. Come on Blob, let’s see what you got.