Pistols & Bear Spray Stop Two Bear Attacks on Archery Hunters in Montana

Opinion

New Mexico Hunter Mauled in Bear Attack Montana 16 Sept photo released by hunter 600
New Mexico Hunter Mauled in Bear Attack Montana 16 Sept 2019 photo released by hunter.

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- Two pairs of archery hunters were attacked by a grizzly bear or bears in Montana, in the Gravelly Mountains. The attacks occurred within 11 hours and one mile from each other.  Because of the proximity, it is suspected the same bear was involved in both attacks.

The attacks are remarkably similar with an interesting difference. In one, the hunters used bear spray. In the other, they used 9 mm handguns.  From mt.gov:

The first attack happened about 7:30 a.m. when two archery hunters from New Mexico were following elk tracks south of Cottonwood Creek, west of Black Butte. The two men said they were walking single file up a hill when they heard a noise. They both turned to see a bear charging toward them. The bear struck one of the men as the other was reaching for his bear spray. The man fell to his hands and knees, then the bear grabbed onto his backpack.

The other man deployed bear spray at the bear. When the spray reached the bear’s face, the bear let go of the first hunter and attacked the other hunter. The man continued spraying the bear’s face, and the bear eventually let go and left.

Both New Mexico hunters were injured, but they were able to walk back to their vehicle and make it to the hospital. According to Terri James of Shedhorn Sports, in Ennis, the New Mexico hunters had guns, but chose to use bear spray instead. From facebook:

Workin at Shedhorn today, a couple of guys came in just after the Grizzly attack! They had guns but said the bear spray is what finally did the trick!

Terri James said the hunter pictured had a bad gash to the back of his head, and the other hunter's injuries were in the groin area.

The second attack occurred eleven hours later, about a mile away. Again, there were two archery hunters. This time they were from the state of Washington. We know their names, Chris Gregersen and Donivan Campbell.  The attack was very similar to the previous attack. Donivan Campbell was grabbed before he could deploy a defensive weapon.

In this attack, the hunters chose to use 9mm pistols to drive off the bear. From kiro7.com:

“I heard the bear catch Donivan before I actually saw it,” he describes, “and it’s a scream I hope that I never have to hear ever again in my entire life.”

Donivan was on the ground when Gregersen reached him carrying a gun, pulling the trigger just in time.

“I could feel his mouth right behind my head,” Donivan said.

If Gregersen did not shoot, Donivan says he would have been killed.

“I would not be sitting here. I'm 100 percent convicted of that,” he said.

Gregersen says he saw the bear crawl across his friend as it tried to bite him. Donivan was pushing the bear’s face away when Gregersen approached and shot the bear, temporarily scaring it away.

The hunters say the bear kept coming back to attack.

“It charged again just as quickly as it did the first time,” Gregersen explains, “We have never seen an animal that was that furious, that was that terrifying.”

After shooting the bear multiple times, the friends were able to escape.

Chris Gregersen wrote they used 9 mm pistols to defend themselves. He was of the opinion bear spray would not have worked in their situation.  Officials conducted a search, but did not find the bear.

Chris Gregersen and Donivan Campbell After 2019 Bear Attack Image provided by Chris Gregersen
Chris Gregersen and Donivan Campbell After 2019 Bear Attack Image provided by Chris Gregersen

Gregerson has organized a gofundme account to help cover Donivan Campbell's medical bills and recovery. Donivan and his wife are expecting their first child in the next two months.

Eight days later, on the 24th of September, 2019, another hunter was attacked in the same area. He survived, but details are sparse at this time. From  billingsgazette.com:

After back-to-back grizzly bear attacks last week in the Gravelly Mountains, wildlife officials on Tuesday said that another individual survived an attack earlier Tuesday in the same region.

According to Fish Wildlife & Parks spokesperson Morgan Jacobsen the victim survived and was being treated in Sheridan, Montana, Tuesday afternoon. FWP is investigating the incident and Jacobsen could not provide any more information.

The media reports are emphasizing the effectiveness of bear spray, and mostly ignoring the effectiveness of 9 mm pistols. You have to search to determine pistols were used and effective.

If readers can find national media that are mentioning the defensive use of pistols in the attack on Campbell and Gregersen, please let us know in the comments below.



About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten
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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Wild Willy
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Wild Willy

If I was in bear country, I would at the very least carry a 44 Magnum. I’ve heard too many stories about bear spray not working.

twoguns
Member
twoguns

Best bear ammo is from Buffalo Bore, whether handgun or long gun!

CaptainKerosene
Member
CaptainKerosene

When asked, the Bear said,
“Use enough pepper to enhance the taste.”

Midnight
Member
Midnight

Check bear spray or replace it. I carried mine for several years and one day decided to try it and discovered it only fizzed out the top about 3 inches and had no pressure. I called and asked what was shelf life on Bear Spray. Not as long as you’d suspect. So, don’t go too long without a testing or just buying a new canister every year for best performance. A couple of years later I had a second one leak as I carried it on my backpack belt while I was hiking into my deer camp. “Hot balls of… Read more »

Longhaired Redneck
Member
Longhaired Redneck

“…the other hunter’s injuries were in the groin area.’

That’s just nuts!

Clint
Member
Clint

Living in Alaska I try to get out and hunt as much as possible. Whether I’m bow hunting or rifle hunting I always carry my Rugar Redhawk .44 Magnum. I haven’t needed to use it for personal defense yet but I have had a few incidents when I was tracking a bear that I found it was really tracking me so it’s a good tool to have. My recommendation for a side arm would be a .41, .44, or maybe a snub nose .460 if you’re willing to carry it. I do have a buddy that carries a 10mm out… Read more »

ras52
Member
ras52

Clint, all of those are good ones.

Bill
Member
Bill

We can comment about opinions, but black bears will eat you if you play dead. Grizzlys are supposed to leave you you are “dead” and no longer a threat. So playing dead is risky- who knows what the bear will do to confirm you’re dead?

Dean has written articles showing that pistols of all calibers used, have saved lives. That is the point. Carry the most powerful gun that you can get to fast and use accurately I don’t believe that any oistol is a “stoped” to. Charging bear. But they do seem to cause the attacks to stop.

Stan
Member
Stan

I’d like to throw in my 2 cents. First, in my opinion any of the autoloaders short of a desert eagle chambered in 44 mag is minimal for grizzly defense. I personally carry a 41 mag loaded with solids which I still consider minimal for grizzly defense. I also carry bear spray which I have personally experienced and can tell you that it is very debilitating, if you think I’m kidding, try it out. So my first choice is going to be the bear spray. I have not had a bear encounter and hope I never do, but I live… Read more »

StWayne
Member
StWayne

So glad they survived! If you’re going into the wilderness, where Murphy’s Law rules, you should have bear spray IN ADDITION to your sidearm. As for their use of the 9mm, nothing less than a hollow point +P round should be chambered, only in a firearm that is designed for that specific round. Guns can be replaced, you can’t! The better choice in this situation would be the 10mm pistol with the same magnum load. It has been known to stop bears right in their tracks. I use a full sized Ruger P95 with home defense 9mm hollow points chambered… Read more »

Tman72
Member
Tman72

Good on them for at least having a sidearm as a defensive weapon. I on the other hand would be carrying my G21 with hard cast Underwood ammo made for these types of encounters.

mlhtd51
Member
mlhtd51

My everyday carry is KAHR Firearm {KP9094} Lightweight 15oz’s, 3.565 barrel, certified for +P+ ammo. I don’t believe I would trust my Life to A Can of Spray because there is No Way to Test Fire it.

Wass
Member
Wass

All the comments are very valid and seem to come from hard experience. What was not mentioned was the need for high capacity magazines. Imagine, out of nowhere, a bear attacks you or a companion, you draw and shoot. The last thing you need is an empty pistol after firing six or eight times, e.g. The sheer anxiety of the encounter could cause miss shots or insufficient wounding of the animal (the same goes for attacks by wild cats). By the way, on a trip to Alaska, in 2013, my wife and I took an optional “bear sightseeing journey”. All,… Read more »

Wild Bill
Member
Wild Bill

@Wass, You could just as well had hair spray.

Get Out
Member
Get Out

Ah, the hair spray and lighter would probably work too.

JakeJ
Member
JakeJ

Obviously, 9mm is pretty light and they got off lucky, but you never know. One of the largest grizzly bears ever killed was shot in Canada a long time ago by a woman armed with a .22 caliber rifle. That said, if I were in grizzly country I’d at the very least have my .357 magnum with a 6-inch barrel on my hip, and would be tempted to get a .454

Deplorable Bill
Member
Deplorable Bill

Couple of problems here. That bear IS STILL OUT THERE! Most states will NOT let you carry a firearm while archery hunting. A bear can charge faster than a horse can run so you just can’t out run a bear. You MIGHT be able to play possum and not get too injured but don’t bet your life on it. You MUST fight back — or be grievously injured and/or die. THIS bear has attacked several people several different times. It is aware what an easy meal a person is. If it were dead, the searchers would have already found it.… Read more »

JakeJ
Member
JakeJ

They were hunting elk. My reading of Montana’s rules for hunting elk, deer, and antelope does not show that it’s prohibited to carry a firearm while bow hunting. I don’t know if that state has a separate bow hunting season; if they do, I suspect that the worst they’d do is prohibit someone from taking the grizzly carcass with them after shooting the bear in self-defense. I thought I’d check Oregon, which has all kinds of hunting restrictions. It’s legal to carry a firearm while bow hunting there. You just can’t use it to shoot whatever you’ve bought a tag… Read more »

JakeJ
Member
JakeJ

The editing time limit expired before I could add to my original comment. I checked WA State, and it doesn’t specifically address the question of whether you can carry a gun while bow hunting, but it’s implied that the rule is the same as Oregon’s. I also checked Idaho, and its law is silent on the issue. You can only USE a bow during archery season there, but it’s not prohibited to CARRY a gun. My guess is that the actual legal practice would be the same as in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. You could shoot it if it attacks… Read more »

Deplorable Bill
Member
Deplorable Bill

During an archery only deer hunt along Gardener Canyon Rd. here in Az. I was approached by a game warder who told me it was illegal to have a firearm present during the hunt in Az. and in most states. I did bring up self defense against the cartel or bears but he saw to it that I had to walk it back to the vehicle and leave it there. From then on I carried concealed during archery hunts. All I can do or say about firearms “present” during an archery only hunt is what happened to me. Just my… Read more »

Deplorable Bill
Member
Deplorable Bill

Same game warden a year later told me I could NOT use my a t c on the trails wither they were marked or not. This was on a mule deer rifle hunt. He showed up in camp one day and he made me put my quad back on the trailer and hunt on foot. Another issue is I am a disabled vet. I am minus some body parts and have to walk with a cane. Still didn’t make a dent. Worse yet, I was there with a friend who was dying of cancer. He was on horse back and… Read more »

Wild Bill
Member
Wild Bill

@DP, how is it that most states will NOT let you carry a firearm during archery hunting? Do game laws superceed the Second Amendment or out natural right to defend ourselves? I can see if the states’ game laws said you can not use firearms during archery season, but can not carry a firearm, seems like that infringement that thing!

Stan
Member
Stan

Bill you should stick to the facts, first they don’t know that it is the same bear, second nobody has been eaten so to assume that a meal is the bear or bears intent is assuming a lot. Third to say that if the bear that was shot was dead “not likely with a 9mm” it would have been found by now is possibly not realistic depending on the terrain and how far it could have traveled having only been shot with a 9mm.

Deplorable Bill
Member
Deplorable Bill

Based on the fact that griz command a territory and actively protect it from other bears tells me it is the same bear. The same fact also tells me the bear has discovered that people are easy prey. Dead animals start to rot and stink rapidly. The common tactic to go after bear is to use dogs. If Fish and Game did go after this bear and it was dead it would have been found fast enough even if they were on foot. I have tracked bear, elk, deer, lion, jaguar and people on foot. It’s not rocket science. It… Read more »

Circle8
Member
Circle8

I don’t want to sound like a smart a$$ but the comments include too many “IFS”. We take what we are comfortable with into the woods and of course it varies. Me I carry a Model 29 with 240 Grain SWC or FMJ in addition to my rifle. Others go heavier or lighter. The key point is being alert to save your butt. I have had many encounters with Mr. Browncoat and have had them as close as 8-10 feet. Being aware, alert and prepared is what counts. My experience is based on hunting in Alaska, Canada and Montana. Good… Read more »

ras52
Member
ras52

Mod. 29, great choice!

Soupcon
Member
Soupcon

Lucky for you, your many encounters didn’t include this bear or your story would be different. The vast majority of us who encounter grizzlies don’t encounter the rare one who is an aggressive attacker and doesn’t care what you’ve read and what luck you’ve had with the other 99% of grizzlies.

Stan
Member
Stan

I agree with the model 29 and alert/prepared

Koyote
Member
Koyote

I would like to know if a high pitched hand held air horn would scare away a bear…

RoyD
Member
RoyD

Scare away or stop one in full charge? Let us know what your field research shows.

Wild Bill
Member
Wild Bill

@Roy, I have always wondered how many bears one adult, human, corpse would feed… as long as he is keeping careful notes.

Tionico
Member
Tionico

Scare one away? Might make it laugh a bit, shake his head in amusement, then recommence his already planned attack.

RoyD
Member
RoyD

Maybe this is fallout from the clown guide who got lucky in Alaska that had his story spread far and wide in gun/hunting circles and was touted as an example of how a macho man rolls. Life is all about choices.

FORD Will
Member
FORD Will

A NINE, might be good enough for a two legged predator? BUT, IMO nothing less than good penetrator round in AT least a HOT 45 Caliber is minimum. I would prefer a 454 Casull myself. IMO of course,How much is YOUR life worth in a bear fight??

Finnky
Member
Finnky

@Ford Will – depends on what one has (or can afford) and on what one can shoot well. Have never shot a 454, but I can empty 17 from my m&p faster than I can empty the cylinder of my 357 and with greater accuracy. Unlike JM I cannot instantly speedload a revolver, but mag change in pistol is fast. As saying goes – fast is good but accuracy is final. Against a bear I’d say one needs multiple – high power – deep penetrating – and accurate shots. With my 9 I get two of those, and right ammo… Read more »

Stan
Member
Stan

I agree

uncle dudley
Member
uncle dudley

If it was me going into Bear country I would have at least a 40 caliber pistol at the ready, the spray isn’t going to make the Bear quit if it’s determined to kill you.

JPM
Member
JPM

If it was the same bear, had the first guys used their guns instead of the spray, the second attack might not have occurred and the first attack might have ended with only 1 guy getting injured. Seems like all the spray did was piss the bear off and make him attack the sprayer. Bringing bear spray instead of a gun isn’t unlike bringing a (dull) knife to a gun fight.

Finnky
Member
Finnky

If I read correctly the first paid had pistols, but second guy chose to use spray rather than his pistol. I’m thinking the first guy was busy with his head in the bear’s mouth – so probably didn’t get a say on the decision
.

KenW
Member
KenW

A 9mm would not be my choice of handgun in bear country, better then no pistol I suppose. But as posted a 10mm would be better. IMO even a .45 Automatic would be a better choice then a 9. A 44 or 45 revolver would be good too, and need not be a Magnum either.

ras52
Member
ras52

Thanks for the stories Dean. Yes as far as the media is concerned, they will never report on how good firearms are for self defense.

Wild Bill
Member
Wild Bill

@Ras, I concur. Absent Dean’s reporting, a guy would never know. And unlike the msm, Dean even reports the facts that don’t support a particular political agenda.

ras52
Member
ras52

Wild Bill, right on!

Quatermain
Member
Quatermain

My thought is that a 9mm is a bit light but with full metal jackets and its known penetrating ability it should work with proper shot placement. (assuming one has the time) I would seriously recommend against hollow points.

NOBETO
Member
NOBETO

Agreed with the caution against hollow points. I use Underwood ammo extreme penetrator chambered in 10mm for my trail gun (glock 20 gen4). The bullet is a solid copper design that penetrates deep and doesn’t deform and doesn’t come with the need to upgrade my barrel to use hard cast ammo.

ras52
Member
ras52

Glock 20,good trail gun for four or two leg attackers.

JMR
Member
JMR

The fort Scott guys took a bear with a 380 and their TUI ammo. That might be some I’ll have to pick up.

Tionico
Member
Tionico

You forgot to mention their HUGE bucket of amazing luck coupled with what was likely a high level of skill. Not standard equipment with the .380. I carry a Kahr .380 but ONLY when I’m out riding my bike. Most goofballs out there consider us cyclist as sissies or poofties because of the “silly” chothing we wear. I figure that .380, the barrel of which they are staring into, will seem like a plenty big enough hole to assist them in making an informed decistion that at least THIS cyclist is neither a sissy nor a pooftie. Bears, in ocntrast,… Read more »

ras52
Member
ras52

Anyone who can ride a bike fast and far and up mountain roads like I see them doing is not a sissy in my book. Wish I was in that good physical condition.