Few animals in North America have inspired as much lore and misunderstanding as the bear. Both Black Bears and Brown Bears/Grizzlies are subject of innumerable stories and legends, and inspire a torrent of advice on everything from how to hunt them to how to defend yourself from a marauding attack. Fortunately, as in many stories, the reality of hunting bears is significantly less dubious than what you might hear. Here are 4 common myths about bear hunting that I hear on a regular basis, and my experience directly contradicts them.
Myth #1: Bears are tough (or nearly impossible) to kill
Contrary to popular belief, bears are very mortal, and a well-placed arrow or bullet will put them down as quick, often even more quickly than any other big game animal. Sure, those teeth and claws, and occasionally aggressive nature make them a force to reckon with, should your shot not be where it’s supposed to, but a well placed first shot will almost always result in a shorter tracking job than a whitetail. The only exception I’ve seen to this is if a bear sees you, knows you are a threat, and gets his adrenaline going, he’s usually not going to go down easy.
Myth #2: Shoot a Bear in the Shoulder to “Break Him Down”
Another myth, no-doubt inspired by a sliver of truth, is the practice of shooting a bear in the shoulder with a rifle, to keep him from going anywhere. I hear this a lot pertaining to Brown Bears and Grizzlies primarily. The problem is, given a broadside or quartering-away shot, there’s not much in the way of vital organs behind the shoulder. If you shoot the shoulder, and don’t completely break both shoulders, it’s a non-lethal hit, and that bear is not staying put. Often, you won’t get a second shot, so your best bet is always to put the first round right through the boiler room.
Myth #3: Bring Enough Gun
Obviously, you do want to bring enough gun, but the arguments that many make for bear cartridge minimums is a bit out of hand. I know of several folks who have killed huge Kodiak Browns with a .308 without incident, or multiple follow up shots. Probably my favorite black bear cartridge is the .243, which it’s commonly found on bear cartridge round-ups. Rather than packing a cannon you’re not comfortable shooting, your deer rifle with good bonded bullets is plenty to handle any black bear. Shoot what you are comfortable with, and make that first shot count!
Myth #4: Bears Are Likely to Attack After the Shot
I can vouch for some accounts of Grizzlies and Brown Bears charging after a shot, but typically that is when the shot is at close range, and out of surprise. The vast majority of the time, a bear is too busy trying to get away after a shot to worry about chasing down a hunter. Take appropriate precautions, but they aren’t out to get you.