MT: Bear Spray Works; Bear Saved, Hunter Injured

By Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten

Arizona -( A hunter who was tracking a wounded elk was attacked by a grizzly. The bear chomped on his hand, then retreated. The hunter had a rifle, but chose to use bear spray instead. He got ready for the bear with the bear spray.

The bear came back.

The hunter sprayed the bear and himself. The bear retreated.

The bear came back. The bear spray was empty. They hunter threw the empty can at the bear.  The bear retreated.

Having expended the potential for bear spray defense, the hunter readied his rifle.

They bear did not come back.


He put up his arms to fend off the attack, but the charging grizzly bit his right wrist. He threw himself on his back and rolled to his stomach so the bear would maul his backpack instead of his ribs.

The bear backed off and circled back into the brush, out of Kiedrowski’s sight, which he said gave him time to ready his bear spray.

“I got really quiet because I knew it wasn’t over yet… You could hear him huffing over behind where he originated from… and then all of a sudden it came around the exact same way but this time I was actually ready for him,” he said.

Kiedrowski sprayed the bear as it charged a second time, covering the bear’s face and getting some on his own as well. The grizzly shied away and circled back again. As it came back a third time, Kiedrowski realized his bear spray was empty. With his face “on fire,” Kiedrowski threw the empty can at the bear, causing it to back off into the brush, he said,

Kiedrowski said the entire attack lasted about two minutes.

He readied his rifle and made his way up onto a ridge, where he had a better view of the surrounding area. He stopped to assess the situation and made a call to his brother, Zach Kilwein, who was about three miles away.

“I just got attacked by a bear,” he said to Kilwein.

“How bad is it?” Kilwein asked.

“It’s pretty bad.”

It is hard to know if Kiedrowski was carrying his rifle at the ready. Most hunters do so when tracking wounded game, but some do not. Joe Kiedrowski has not been quoted about how he carried his rifle.

Two months previously, a woman was mauled in the same area. Companions used bear spray to drive off the bear after the woman was chewed up. That mauling was close to the carcass of a cow.

Some people claim the bear spray worked exactly as intended. It saved the life of the bear. Even though the hunter (and earlier the woman) were seriously injured, requiring hospitalization, they survived, and so did the bear.

At some point the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) advised people to chose bear spray or a large caliber pistol.

From, attributed to the FWP:

– Carry bear spray or a large caliber pistol, know how to use it, and keep it on your hip or somewhere equally accessible.

Some people carry both. I have not been able to find this advise on a FWP official site, so they may have changed their policy.

If you have a rifle in your hand, it offers another option.  One of the major proponents of bear spray, Tom Smith, Professor at BYU, said so in a Sports Afield article in 2012. He said that it would be foolish to drop a rifle to attempt to obtain pepper spray, while being charged.


Here’s the problem, according to Brigham Young University professor Tom Smith. In an interview with Sports Afield, he said, “If I’m actually out hunting and I have a gun in my hands, and suddenly a bear comes at me, do you think I’m going to lay the gun down and pick up bear spray? Are you out of your mind?”

We do not know how Joe Kiedrowski was carrying his rifle, or how he was carrying the bear spray. He did not use either in the initial attack.

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

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.

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Larry Brickey

Bear spray? No. Gun? yes.

Missouri Born

The hunter made at least two mistakes, first he took a shot on the Elk and didn’t drop it, then he used Bear spray when he had a rifle with him.
Both were bad choices on his part.


I agree with your second point but not your first. We all strive for fast, one shot kills but there is absolutely nothing guaranteed no matter how much you practice or how much you think you know or how long you’ve been hunting. There are just too many variables to “guarantee” that kind of kill every time.

It was his decision to use bear spray and let a bear get a taste of his arm, something I never would have done if I’d had any alternative. That said, I won’t second guess him, just say what my feelings are.


We don’t know the whole story behind the elk shot. But I do know there are too many yahoo hunters where I live that cannot resist a shot at any nice buck they see, regardless of the poor chances of a clean kill. They are often the same people who don’t practice before hunting season or, if they do practice, do not do so in a realistic manner. If you’re going to be in a tree stand, at least some of your practice should be shooting a target from a tree stand, practice shooting at various distances, etc.. I’m not… Read more »

joe martin

The other non-lethal method advocated to avoid being attacked by a bear is to wear little bells or some form of noise maker (rocks in a can) so the bears can hear you and avoid you (seriously). The joke in grizzly country is: how do you tell black bear scat from grizzly scat? Grizzly scat smells like pepper and is full of little bells.


It seems like the bear attacked because it was protecting its food!