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Hunter-related grizzly bear mortality in the Yellowstone region has people concerned--is bear spray a realistic alternative for hunters?

Saving grizzly bears vs. hunter safety

On April 15th in Bozeman, Montana the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) will take public comments on its plans to reduce grizzly bear mortality in the Yellowstone region. Last fall, big-game hunters in the Yellowstone region were forced to kill 13 grizzlies in self-defense. To reduce bear mortality, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) want hunters to use bear spray. One, bear spray would spare the bear’s life. Two, in theory, bear spray offers hunters better protection than a firearm.

That theory is based on false claims about bear spray research.

And let’s not forget that grizzly bears often injure hunters. When a grizzly charges a hunter, the hunter’s life is on the line. If a firearm is a hunter’s best tool for self-defense, he or she should shoot the bear. If bear spray is a better choice, use bear spray.

The notion that bear spray is a better bet than a firearm took hold in 2003 after Chris Servheen wrote a “fact sheet” for the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service titled “Bear spray vs. bullets.” Servheen claimed that according to Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero, “a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are used versus when bear spray is used.”

The IGBC and bear spray advocates claim that research by Herrero (“Field Use Of Capsicum Spray As A Bear Deterrent,” 1998) and BYU professor Tom Smith and Herrero (“Efficacy Of Bear Spray Deterrent In Alaska,” 2008) shows that bear spray is more effective than a firearm.

In November 2008 I emailed Herrero and said, “I don’t recall any discussion about firearms, or any data on firearms, in the 1998 research on field use of bear spray that you published with Andrew Higgins. Did you publish something else prior to 2003? Is the USFWS claim about your research valid, or bogus? To the best of my knowledge, there’s no peer reviewed, published data on firearms. I know Tom Smith has data for Alaska, but I don’t think he’s published it yet.”

Herrero replied “there’s no published data yet [on firearms] but Tom and I are working on a paper.”

No data on firearms.

The IGBC has no legitimate basis for comparing bear spray to firearms.

People who claim research in Alaska shows that bear spray works better than a firearm haven’t read “Efficacy Of Bear Spray Deterrent In Alaska.” The study includes data on the activities of the people who used bear spray. Out of 69 incidents, “the largest category involved hikers (35%), followed by persons engaged in bear management activity (30%), people at their home or cabin (15%), campers in their tents (9%), people working on various jobs outdoors (4%), sport fishers (4%).”

Conspicuously absent from the list where big game hunters charged by a nearby grizzly.

Bear spray research does not suggest that bear spray is an alternative to a firearm for a hunter who gets charged by a grizzly. Bear spray research tells us that bear spray is a good last line of defense for non-hunters.

When it comes to using bear spray, people tend to overlook a crucial difference difference between hunters and non-hunters. Hunters in grizzly country often use the “two-hand/ready carry” to hold their rifle—which precludes using bear spray. How does the IGBC expect a hunter facing a charging grizzly to use bear spray while holding a rifle in his or her hands?

Of course some common rifle carries only require on hand. In theory, a hunter facing a charging grizzly could try to operate bear spray one-handed. But the preferred technique for using bear spray is to use one hand to lift the Velcro flap that secures it in a holster, while removing it with your other hand. Using bear spray one-handed would take practice. Hours of practice. It would take enough practice to overcome a hunter’s ingrained response: shoot the bear. Is bear spray a realistic option for hunters? Are there some situations where a firearm is the only choice, and other situations where bear spray would actually be the best tool for self-defense?

When the IGBC executive committee met back in November 2008 I asked them to form a “Bear spray or bullets advisory committee.” I wanted them to include Herrero and Tom Smith. I recommended biologists in Alaska who do firearms and bear spray training for the Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service. I suggested a retired biologist who happens to be an NRA firearms instructor—he does bear safety training for University of Alaska-Fairbanks staff and students doing research in bear country.

The IGBC never deigned to respond. Instead, the IGBC continues to mislead the public about bear spray. The IGBC continues to put hunters at risk. The IGBC should work with hunters and firearms instructors to answer the bear spray or bullets dilemma.

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41 comments

  1. who is “counterbart”?

    bad article.

    the imagined scenario is downright comical. the evidence cited in the article actually suggests that bear spray is a better deterrent than bullets, the evidence simply does not take into account the particular situation of big game hunting. but it also doesn’t take into account the particular situation of roasting marshmallows around a fire pit either. my point being that all would probably agree that more research still needs to be done, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use the research we have.

    the real kicker is it appears U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee are only encouraging hunters to use bear spray as what they believe is the best option. they are not requiring it. hunters would still have both options available should it be needed, and could use the option that best fits the situation.

    like I said bad article. and why would anyone need anonymity to publish this? … this smacks of a lame attempt to manufacture controversy where there is none. (and what was up with the NRA mention, how is that relevant?)

    There are enough real issues without making mountains of molehills.

    I suggest “counterbart” either abandon this, or return with a more compelling, cohesive explanation of why this matters, preferably under his own name.

  2. I can tell you who it is, this is the self proclaimed bear expert and author Dave Smith who runs around the internet trying to hide who he is and let everybody know that the educated experts and agencies charged with preventing bear conflicts don’t know what they are talking about, he has been doing it for years now.

  3. No, I agree that this article is ridiculous; but, counterbart can’t be Dave Smith; Smith is a fullblown crackpot. I admit that this counterbart is barely literate; but, he and Smith can’t be the same guy.

  4. Great article! Servheen should be fired for conning people about bear spray. Remember, this is the same guy we trust to deliver accurate information about grizzly bear recovery. I’ll never believe another word he says.

    Seems like some people here are trying to kill the messenger rather than the message.

    I don’t care if counterbart, dave smith, or donald duck wrote the article–he destroys that widespread belief that bear spray is an alternative to a firearm for hunter who surprise grizzly bears. He’s right that no NRA firearms instructor who have hunters holding a rifle in one hand and trying to use bear spray with their other hand. That’s not safe or practical.

    Everybody here claims smith is a crank and a self-proclaimed bear expert. Funny, BYU professor Tom Smith wrote an endorsement for Backcountry Bear Basics that says Smith’s “extensive first
    hand experience and keen insight” makes Backcountry Bear Basics a must read. Lance Craighead, Ph.D., and director of the Craighead Environmental Institute said Backcountry Bear Basics is the “best guide to understanding bears” he’d ever seen.

    Hard to believe people would write endorsements like that if Smith didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Maybe Smith has reasons for using a pen name at sites like this. He’s not hiding at his bear attack information center (www.bearattackinformation.com) or his Wild bear news blog. It’s the most accurate, thoughtful information I’ve found on the net.

  5. shameless plug Dave and false front of fake friendship for your opinion. nice try

  6. Yeah, the whole thing is starting to look more disgusting and what little respect I had left for BYU just took a hit. I hate to be critical of Craighead; all of us will have to face the ravages of age and how it diminishes the acuity and takes its toll on the judgement.

  7. actually Tom is a real guy. Still pathetic that Dave hauled off and whined to him to “back him up” and plug his book.

    :::sigh:::

  8. Does he/you not realize that if you have bear spray in a belt holster you don’t have to drop your firearm? All you have to do is pull up on the velcro tab, use your thumb to release the safety and fire from the hip. You do not have to remove the can from the holster, you might get some spray on your clothes but I would rather be firing a fog that expands to approximately 30 feet in diameter (shotgun spray pattern) than try to hit a 1 inch square on a bear with a bullet, which is not all that big, which may or may not even stop the bear even if you were to hit it in the heart. Dave Smith aka counterbart, a hyphenation of Counter Assault and Chuck Bartlebaugh, has been in UDAP’s pocket for sometime now and seems to be trying to promote a war between the two manufacturers. In the mean time all he is doing is confusing the public and putting them in danger. He might win his little petty war but the public and the bears will lose.

  9. Yeah he isn’t anyone’s favorite guy, but then again that’s the way he likes it.
    It is kind of complicated in some respects. Hunters are comfortable with their guns. If I were a hunter the first thing I would go for is my gun, it’s a natural reaction to danger or to bringing down a threat while out in the wild. However, there are many hunters who like to shuffle things up a little and use different weapons to keep things interesting. So they train with Bows and different guns. There is no reason why hunters can’t have the option and the access to train with bear spray, especially since there is proof that coming out with skin intact is more common with certified bear spray than firearms of any sort. I just don’t know why he fights this fact so much? What does he get out of it?
    We can also assume that the more diligent we are with trying to find other options to ensure the safety of both bear and human, the sooner those who enjoy trophy hunting (biting tongue) will be able to do so. Otherwise, after this years onslaught of bear mortalities we will just continue to keep the numbers a few below stabilization. Which actually sounds quite nice to me. BUT if hunters really can’t stand to see something bigger and stronger then them through a scope and they must “kill the beast” they should consider giving it a few more years and learning other ways to avoid unnecessary close encounters and avoidable deaths.
    A great deal of bear mortalities are hunter misidentification. Chuck is doing a lot of great work or at least trying to in order to solve this problem. He does a lot a great stuff and is barely mentioned.
    It really isn’t all as toxic as Dave tried to make it out to be.
    It’s cut and dry that bear spray is another tool that has been proven time and time again to being effective in deterring unwanted bear encounters.
    You could also look at this in a positive light. The more spit and fire on the subject of bear spray the more interested parties will delve into creating more definitive and distinct research on it.
    Dave creates “dilemmas”. According to him the IGBC snubbed him and gee, who can blame em. He wants and answer to a question that in his mind is already answered. “Bear spray over bullets.” To me it isn’t either or, to me it’s an alternative option to avoiding a messy situation. One such messy situation is that, ok, you shoot the bear, the bears dead and now, you wait for hours, if not days for management to come in, wait for the clean up, you go to the station to address the situation and you can kiss your elk/moose/deer hunting vacation goodbye. Who wants to deal with that over something you weren’t aiming for in the first place? You spray the bear, he runs off, you and your buddies hike the opposite direction, if you see a ranger, report it and keep hunting, if not, keep hunting, report it when you get back.
    Messy situation two: your buddy there is being mauled by a bear. You have a shotgun and you have some bear spray. Which would your buddy prefer you to use while he is rolling around on the ground with a bear?
    Just some thoughts 😉

  10. You say that if you “were a hunter the first thing” you “would go for” would be your gun. If you’re a hunter the first thing you SHOULD go for is your conservation ethics. If that’s not the case, then you shouldn’t be out there. I know; dream on. Your depiction is undoubtedly accurate; but, it sure paints a disgusting picture of spoiled children in the woods with firearms.

  11. touche’. I was trying to get to the chase there. 😉

  12. Myself personally would wait until the data on guns and bear spray is reviewed and published, lets see what the real experts have to say, there is a paper being published as the author of this article said. Herrero said he and Dr. Smith are working on a paper now, I would say it would be prudent to wait until the data is published, they are as we know two of the most respected authorities in the business…but no Counterbart, wants hunters to be trained in full military combat tactics!

  13. Combat shooting? “If you plan to travel armed and seriously consider trying kill a charging grizzly bear, then you must be expert with your chosen firearm. The type of shooting that I have described is not hunting. It is self-defense shooting under extremely demanding conditions. Training should include shooting hundreds of rounds with the chosen firearm under a variety of conditions chosen to simulate field conditions.”

    That sounds like combat shooting to me. The quote is from Herrero’s Bear Attacks.

  14. Roxi–would you be willing to demonstrate your bear spray (as an alternative to a firearm technique) in front of representatives from the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service, when they train employees to qualify with a firearm during bear safety training? I think it would be a real hoot.

    Perhaps Bob Jackson would be willing to demonstrate. With Sabrina as his assistant.

    I suggest you all bring earplugs and a suit of armor.

  15. Dave, did you really write this ridiculous screed? Come on now! Confirm or deny, truth or dare, are you actually running around writing advertisements for your own tough guy hillbilly porn using “counterbart” as a cover to make it sound like some kind of independent endorsement of that paperback nonsense you sell? Come on and fess up if you did! Aren’t the sports departments at all those Walmarts selling enough of your silly stuff as it is?

  16. Who’s “real mike”

    Can “real mike” provide us with scientific data on big game hunters armed with a rifle using bear spray for protection from charging bears?

    Yawn. Let’s change the topic, right, “real” mike.

    Fact check for real mike. Lance Craighead has not had to “endure the ravages of the age,” that would be his father.

    But little facts like this don’t matter to the bear spray cult.

    Anything to score points, even if it’s not true. Bear spray cult. Fanatics. Crazies. Lunatics.

  17. Good grief, it is you! You actually ARE using a pseudonym to write endorsements of your own positions, writing your own advertisements under a cover name! This is HILARIOUS!

  18. Dave,
    I saw your appearance on the Discovery Channel and couldn’t figure out why your attitude against all things IGBC and Center for Wildlife Information since every thing you said on the show has been what both the IGBC and CWI have been saying and teaching all along. At least from what I have read. Or were you just mouthing what the writers told you to say?

  19. Roxi–Discovery Channel did a program titled “Bear Feeding Frenzy” that featured BYU professor Tom Smith. He said it was “stupid.” I was on a stupid Animal Planet program about bear attacks, but I didn’t say anything about the IGBC, the Center For Counter Assault Bear Spray, or bear spray.

    Tom is a good man who does his best to help bears and people co-exist. Most bear research is redundant and/or unnecessary. Tom has focused on topics that are useful.

  20. Hadn’t been to this site in awhile and see there is a “jackson B” and then reference to a “bob Jackson” by Dave Smith. I don’t know if this other Jackson B. also is a bob jackson, but I am the one who was a ranger in yellowstone for a number of years. Griz and bear spray is an interest of mine and I have commented on possible solutions before, but I am not the one commenting to this or recent articles.

    Just wanted to clarify in case someone thinks we are the same person. thank you

  21. No, my first name is Jackson…

  22. Good grief, where’s counterbart? Who’s on first?

  23. Hey real mike, please share your thoughts on the practicality of bear spray for hunters.

    Real Mike is elk hunting and using the two-hand/ready carry for his 30/06 when he startles a nearby grizzly and it charges. Would Real Mike point his rifle at the bear and shoot, or do . . . something with his rifle . . . I can’t imagine what that something would be, so he could somehow reach for his can of bear spray in a hip holster.

    Let the excuses begin.

  24. I don’t like the bear spray idea. Bears only attack when you are a threat to them. By their food or by their cubs. So don’t use the spray. I’m only 12 and I know bears only attack if threatned.

  25. Okay, Counterfeit. …and sorry about the delay in getting back to you; turns out that I had a real bear issue to work, encouraging a boar that slept late and woke up grumpy to keep moving and not snack on anything destined for any upcoming sale barn shipment, not like anything you have experience with as a “winterkeeper.”

    I already indicated my position in a posting above. A commenter hypothesized that if “I were a hunter the first thing I would go for is my gun” and I responded that, if you’re a hunter the first thing you SHOULD go for is your conservation ethics. If that’s not the case, then you shouldn’t be out there. I meant what I said. You act like it’s some big deal to toss aside your gun and reach for the bear spray. What’s the problem? Are you afraid to mar the finish on your stock?

    Admittedly, the question might be easier for me; I was raised in the tradition that a true sportsman strived for nothing less than a clean, humane, one-shot kill and saved his shot until that is what he could make. My father gave me one cartridge when we started a hurt and made it damned embarrassing if i had to ask for another and hell to pay if he had to finish anything I started. …and contrary to the unsportsmanlike behavior of way too many of today’s hunters (behavior that your attitude and viewpoint serve to encourage), we did finish what we started. We knew and I know where my shots land and we didn’t and I don’t leave wounded game in the field. I hunt with a break-action single shot rifle and I am quite prepared to toss it down and have tossed it down when doing so was the right thing to do. To a real sportsman, endangering the alignment on your scope is a better choice than further endangering the recovery of a rare native species.

    Counterfeit, you make a big deal about experts who are coming over to your position, a position that sounds an awful lot like another dose of overreaching NRA propaganda; but, Alaskan wildlife officials, who sure aren’t exactly flaming liberals, sure don’t buy your position and clearly Montana FWP thinks you’re, well, that you’re hinges need oil at the very least. In fact, the local paper just did an article, a Q&A;interview with the bear people at MT FWP. According to them, “Based on the analysis of existing statistics, about three people are killed in bear attacks annually, including polar bears, in North America.” An awful lot of recovering grizzlies were shot out of the gene pool last year in response to this level of threat. In fact, this low level of threat in relation to the lethal response that you, and the NRA if they didn’t always hide behind their minions, would advocate would seem to open the question of whether bears are safer than rottweilers; are your NRA friends now going to say that they need concealed carry because of the rottweilers in the neighborhood? The local paper goes on to provide what is said by the MT FWP bear specialists. I offer it here to balance the stuff that you’ve been spreading…

    MYTH: Bears are naturally aggressive towards humans.
    TRUTH: Bears are normally shy, aloof animals. They may act aggressively, like many other wild animals, as a last resort if they feel threatened. A bear may act aggressively to defend its space, food or cubs, but bears rarely exhibit predatory behavior toward humans.

    MYTH: A bear standing on its hind legs is preparing to charge.
    TRUTH: A bear that is standing on its hind legs is trying to get above the vegetation for a better view, or smell, of something nearby. A bear that is preparing to charge will have all four feet on the ground, its head down and its ears back.

    MYTH: If a bear huffs and growls, or slaps the ground, it is about to attack.
    TRUTH: A bear that huffs, growls, slaps the ground, salivates, “pops” its jaws, or is using other body postures is communicating to you that it feels threatened. It is trying to scare you away. These threat displays are a bear’s way of trying to avoid a confrontation.

    MYTH: Once a bear charges, it is attacking.
    TRUTH: A bear that is running at you is still gathering information and deciding what to do. The bear may only be “bluffing” and may stop short of reaching you. Or, it may run past you or veer away at the last moment. Bluff charges can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a real charge, but a bear that is bluffing and only trying to scare you away will usually run with a hopping or bouncing motion with its head up and ears forward.

    MYTH: A gun is always the best defense against a bear.
    TRUTH: Bear spray is an EPA regulated product that is specifically designed for use during a bear confrontation. If used correctly, it temporarily affects the bears breathing and sight. Bear spray may help diffuse a potentially dangerous situation by forcing the bear to reassess its options and providing the user time to move out of harms way. Research in Alaska suggests that people who use firearms against bears are more often attacked and severely injured than those who use bear spray during a confrontation with a bear.

    Counterfeit, as far as your knowledge of bears is concerned, the very fact that you trot out your stay as a winterkeeper in the Park as somehow relevant to your expertise in bears says a lot to me. Being in the Park in the winter gives you no significant experience with bears, unless you are somehow telepathically communicating with them as they snore under twelve feet of snow. Either you don’t realize this, thus don’t know anything about bears, and are a charlatan or you do realize the truth and still tout this experience as relevant as a means of luring in a rube marketshare, which would make you a common grifter. Which is it?

    The truth is, Counterfeit, that your positions on this issue make you sound like another NRA shill; your publications give advice that is 1) definitely not in agreement with the vast majority of subject matter experts and 2) potentially dangerous for both humans and rare and barely recovering wildlife; and even the comic circus we have seen here tends to complete the picture, complete with name-dropping, disclaimers from people afraid to have their name dropped, and “alias counterfeit” intrigue. By the way, those endorsements from Utah schools sure don’t impress me. You don’t seem to have any real credibility, although you certainly represent yourself as having it. You seem, well, counterfeit.

  26. Very well said Mike, I am glad to see someone call Smith on his so called expertise…

  27. real mike–If you’d really drop your rifle and reach for bear spray when facing a charging grizzly, you’d fail firearm safety 101.

    Under the heading “Basic Firearm Safety Rules,” the Montana FWPs “Hunter Education Student Manual” says,

    “1. Always point the muzzle of your rifle in a safe direction.

    2. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded. Even if you are certain a gun is unloaded, act as if it were loaded.”

    If you drop your rifle, you don’t know if it will land with the muzzle pointing in a safe direction, at your foot, or at your hunting partner’s head. You might even shoot the charging grizzly by accident.

    You just don’t drop a rifle, ever. To cross an obstacle like a fence, Montana FWP tells students to “1. Unload your firearm and leave the action open. 2. Carefully place your firearm on the ground under the obstacle, with the muzzle pointing in the direction away from you.”

    Some hunters don’t chamber a round until they spot game, others hunt with a round in the chamber, safety on. In either case, it’s not safe to drop the rifle because of basic firearm safety rule #2. “Always treat every gun as if it were loaded. Even if you are certain a gun is unloaded, act as if it were loaded.”

    I found step-by-step instructions on how big game hunters should handle a grizzly encounter at http://www.bearspraycult.biz

    1. Hold up a “stop” sign. 2. Open the action on your rifle and check the chamber to make sure it’s unloaded. 3. Carefully place your rifle on the ground with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. 4. Get out your bear spray and point it at the bear. 5. Flip the stop sign to “go.” 6. Spray the bear. 7. Buy another can of counter assault bear spray.

  28. Yellowstone bears emerging from slumber (Associated Press) May 10, 2009 “Bears are waking up from hibernation and emerging from their dens in Yellowstone National Park . . . Rangers suggest that hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers travel in groups of 3 or four and make plenty of noise so they don’t take bears by surprise.”

    “Cross-country skiers need to be conscious of bears in late winter/eary spring. When I worked as a winterkeeper in Yellowstone, I often saw my first grizzly tracks in March.” p.68, 1st ed. Backcountry Bear Basics, 1997

    “the very fact that you trot out your stay as a winterkeeper in the Park as somehow relevant to your expertise in bears says a lot to me. Being in the Park in the winter gives you no significant experience with bears, unless you are somehow telepathically communicating with them as they snore under twelve feet of snow.” real mike

  29. The truth in this topic is no more complicated than use of pepper spray and firearms by law enforcement.
    If a cop wants to stop a potentially life threating situation, they use the spray to deter their opponent.
    If a cop wants to stop an actual life threating situation, they use the firearm to stop their opponent.
    Use the spray if you have the opportunity and have sympathy for the animal. If the bear forces your hand, you better shoot.

  30. Dr. Smith’s study looks at 300 incidents where firearms were used for protection from bear attacks. The success rate for the shooters was not good. He states elsewhere that the overwhelming majority of big game hunters and fishers he knows carry.44 magnum sidearms. A .44 magnum is not a “bear” gun. In fact, a high-powered rifle is the first choice, plain and simple. Second choice, handgun-wise, is a gun that can consistantly stop a bear even with one shot. One is the .454 Casull. A snub-nose .454 still has 40% more power than a full-size .44 magnum. A .50 revolver also qualifies and there’s a few others. Dirty Harry would have been in real trouble had he been attacked by a bear and relied on his inadequate .44 magnum.

  31. Dave 5-01-09

    Where was that “study” by Tom Smith that looks at 300 incidents where firearms were used for protection from bear attacks published? I missed it. And so did the rest of the world. Because Tom Smith has not published a study or any research on firearms. I’m talking about peer-reviewed published data.

  32. Robert–Comparing cops to hunters is not a valid analogy–cops don’t walk down the streets with a .308 rifle in their hand(s).

    If a hunter with a rifle in hand(s) gets charged by a nearby grizzly, he or she is in what you call an “actual life-threatening situation,” so use of a firearm is 100% justifiable. Especially since using bear spray is not an option.

    “Sympathy” for the bear has nothing to do with anything.

  33. Dave–Tom Smith and Steve Herrero are working on a study about the effectiveness of guns for self-protection from bears. If it turns out that guns work 75% of the time, people will compare that 75% rate to the 90% + rate for bear spray and say, “see, statistics prove that hunters should use bear spray, not a gun.”

    Which is not a valid statistical comparison. Because the people who used bear spray were hikers and other non-hunters who did not have a rifle in their hand(s) when they bumped into a bear. It’s not safe for hunters to drop their rifle or attempt to use bear spray one-handed. Bear spray is not an option for big game hunters with a rifle. End of story.

  34. You don’t have to drop you gun to use bear spray, that is where Dave Smith is wrong..

  35. It was “real mike” who said you could should drop your rifle in order to use bear spray. I’d never drop a loaded rifle. But please do explain how a hunter using the two-hand/safe carry or cradle carry could use bear spray. You need at leaast one free hand to operate bear spray, but you’re holding a rifle with both hands. What’s the secret technique taught in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho dept. of fish & game hunter education classes?

    While we’re on the topic, what do you regard as the best technique for using bear spray. I’m right handed, and I like to yank the velcro safety flap up and out of the way with my left hand as I pull out the can of spray with my right hand.

    I’ve done it one-handed, but with hip holsters, that darn safety flap falls right back down on the can of spray if you don’t remember to yank it back a tad. So you end up hanging on to the safety flap, then letting go of it and grabbing the can of spray.

  36. Since you didn’t actually read my last post, I’ll repeat:
    If you have bear spray in a belt holster you don’t have to drop your firearm? All you have to do is pull up on the velcro tab, use your thumb to release the safety and fire from the hip. You do not have to remove the can from the holster.

  37. I read your initial post about using bear spray without removing it from the holster, and didn’t think it was worth dignifying your comment with an answer.

    If you read my remarks to JacksonB on 5-3-09, it’s apparent I’m aware that bear spray can be operated with one hand. I’m also aware that bear spray advocates have started selling the notion that you can fire bear spray without removing it from the holster. I know it can be done, but I asked JacksonB for his opinion on what’s “the best technique for using bear spray.”

    What’s your opinion Roxi?

    I know it’s possible to fire bear spray from the hip while the can is still inside the holster, but I think it’s best to remove it from the holster, hold it in my right hand (because I’m right handed) extend my arm and point it at the bear, then spray.

    Of course if I get charged by a grizzly while I’ve got a rifle in my hands (two-hand/ready carry) I don’t regard bear spray is an alternative to my gun. Do you? How could I deploy bear spray while I’m holding a rifle in my hands. That’s hands–plural.

  38. Two handed Combat carry is not the way the normal hunter carries their guns..you might, but not most.

  39. I’m not familiar with your “combat carry,” but the state of Arizona’s hunter ed. manual says the two hand or ready carry “provides the best control, particulary in thick brush or when you need to fire quickly.” The Montna Dept. of Fish, Wildlife Parks hunter ed. manual says the two hand/ready carry “gives hunters the best control and be one of the safest carries.”

    Both states list 5 other carries. How do “normal” hunter carry their guns, other than the safest carry that provides the best control and the best means of firing quickly?

    I guess you don’t want to discuss the best technique for using bear spray. That’s understandable given that the best technique for carrying your rifle requires 2 hands and precludes using bear spray.

  40. Most hunters I know, either use the sling attached to the rifle, or use a cradle carry, I don’t advocate dropping a loaded weapon, but do still advocate bear spray and can demonstrate how it can be used when carrying a firearm..but I guess you have made your mind up..I just happen to believe your wrong…

  41. JacksonB–Would you please explain how to use bear spray while holding your rifle with the cradle carry?

    For the cradle carry, the Montana Hunter Education Student Manual says, “Cradle the barrel in the bend of one arm while holding the stock with the other hand.”

    Since I’m right-handed, I’d cradle the barrel in the bend of my left arm while holding the stock with my right hand.

    OK, I’m not going to carry bear spray in a chest harness, because my rifle is being held at about a 30-45 degree angled across my chest. The spray would be in the way while I was hunting. My rifle might be in the way when I needed bear spray.

    Thankfully, I can carry bear spray in a hip holster. Do I carry bear spray on my right hip or my left hip?

    If bear spray is on my left hip, I’d either have to let go of my rifle with my left arm/hand and reach for bear spray with my left hand, or

    Let go of my rifle with my right hand and reach across my body for my bear spray.

    If bear spray were on my right hip, I’d have to let go of my rifle with my right hand and grab my bear spray.

    What should a hunter do?

    Jackson, just for fun pretend the Center For Wildlife Information is making an instructional video of you demonstrating your bear spray technique. From hunters desperate to learn how to use bear spray to NRA certified firearm instructors who volunteer to teach kids firearms safety during state sponsored hunter ed. courses, you’re the bear spray guru. Have at it.