U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- On October 11, 2022, a Washington State resident and his wife were hunting birds on block grant land near a creek bottom, with their dogs, in Choteau, Montana. They were charged by a large grizzly bear boar. The 51-year-old doctor was hit by the bear and his lower leg was broken. The doctor defended himself with his shotgun and his sidearm, a 10 mm pistol.
Block grant land in Montana is privately owned land on which the landowner has signed a contract with the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The contracts vary but provide access to hunting and other activities on private land, for which the landowner is paid a fee. Some blocks require reservations; others merely have a sign-in sheet. This block only required users to sign in.
A representative of Montana FWP was kind enough to supply details beyond what was given in the press release.
While hunting, at about 1 p.m., the couple’s dogs went on point, indicating the presence of a bird. Pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, and Hungarian partridges all have breeding populations in the area.
The husband started to approach the area of the creek bottom where the dogs were pointing. This is the common practice while hunting birds with dogs. The bird or birds are flushed, providing a sporting shot for the hunter.
The wife got out her phone and laid down her Benelli semi-auto 12 gauge shotgun to video the incident. The husband saw some brown in the brush, which he thought was a porcupine. Porcupines are common in the area. He stepped forward and a large boar grizzly erupted from the creek bottom coming directly at him.
He fired one shot with his shotgun before the bear bowled him over, breaking his lower leg, then continuing past him. It appears his shotgun went flying. As the bear spun around, the doctor was able to draw his 10mm pistol. The bear headed back toward the doctor and the creek bottom, passing the doctor within a few yards. The doctor fired one shot, thinking he hit the bear near the “armpit” of a front leg, as the bear moved past him.
The video from the wife’s cell phone only showed their dogs, then either sky or ground. It did not capture the bear.
The couple contacted the authorities. They were transported to the hospital where the husband was treated and released. A team of about eight federal, state and local authorities assembled to investigate the situation and find the bear, which they assumed was wounded. A drone was used to search for the bear. When found, it was obviously wounded and in distress. The decision was made to put it down.
It appears the bear moved when the team approached. Most participants opened up with a variety of firearms. The bear was quickly dispatched with dozens of shots. Because there were dozens of bullet holes in the bear, no necropsy was done. The bear weighed 677 lbs, in moderately good condition. This was a large inland grizzly bear boar.
It was not determined if only the shotgun or the 10mm impacted the bear or both.
From my experience hunting upland birds, an experienced hunter is able to hit small, moving, targets at close range very quickly with a shotgun, in a fraction of a second. At under 5 yards, birdshot can be deadly on a large game. It acts much like a pre-fragmented slug. Several grizzly bear attacks have been stopped by bird hunters armed with shotguns and birdshot.
Similarly, the 10mm has a good record for stopping grizzly bear attacks.
If the Doctor hit the bear in the “armpit” with a 10 mm, the bullet would have an excellent chance of penetrating the thoracic cavity. Such a shot would likely result in death. If only one lung were penetrated, and the heart and major arteries were missed, death would come eventually, if not quickly. It would make for a very sick bear.
As the doctor was only able to fire one shot with the shotgun, it is likely the bear contacted him less than two seconds after being recognized as a threat by the doctor. Followup shots are common and fast while hunting birds, often in a fraction of a second.
This case shows the advantage of having a firearm out and ready. While the doctor was not expecting a bear, his long practice and familiarity with his shotgun, ready to fire in an instant at a flushing bird, served him well. While the bear contacted him and broke his lower leg, the bear was, almost certainly, sufficiently wounded it continued on and did not attempt to renew the attack.
It shows the utility of having a holstered sidearm. When hit, it appears the long gun (shotgun) went flying. This happens with some frequency during bear attacks. The doctor was able to draw his handgun and re-engage the bear. He had reason to believe the bear would renew the attack. The boar had already charged him and broken his leg, without provocation. There are many cases where bears temporarily leave the scene of an attack, then return and renew the attack.
Bears that are aggressive toward humans should be removed from the gene pool. The relatively small number of bears that are aggressive toward humans in a given year is not enough to make a significant difference in even the grizzly bear population. In the Choteau, Montana area, most grizzly bears are careful to avoid contact with humans.
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 retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.