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Out & About: Loaded for pheasant, hunter shoots charging grizzly bear

OUTDEFEND – While bird hunting along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, a sportsman must consider being loaded for bear as well as pheasant.

On Nov. 4 near Pendroy, a pheasant hunter shot and killed a grizzly bear that charged him after it was surprised by the hunter’s bird dog, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The incident occurred after the resident hunter from Bozeman had shot a pheasant near an irrigation canal on a farm almost 20 miles north of Choteau.

“The female grizzly was in a patch of willows along the canal with her three young-of-the-year cubs,” reports Bruce Auchly, FWP spokesman in Great Falls.

“She emerged from the willows and charged the hunter’s dog. The hunter yelled at the bear, which turned and charged him. The hunter shot in the air once with his 12-gauge shotgun

“As the bear continued to charge, the 69-year-old hunter finally shot at the bear twice, hitting it in the chest and face. The final shot came when the animal was within 10 feet.

“The bear returned to the willows, where the cubs had remained. By the next morning Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials went into the willow patch and found the sow dead and the cubs were gone.”

Biologists determined the sow was 9 years old and weighed about 500 pounds.

“In recent years, grizzlies have wandered out onto the prairie away from the Rocky Mountain Front, following irrigation canals and streams and river bottoms, including the Sun, Teton and Marias rivers,” Auchly said.

FWP recommends hunters carry bear spray and be ready to use it at all times.

“Statistically, bear spray offers better personal protection than a firearm when faced with a charging bear,” Auchly said.

Another grizzly bear attack occurred on Nov. 4 involving an elk hunter near Livingston. He was charged and bitten on the hand, but was able to drop to the ground and deploy bear spray. Even though he sprayed himself in the process, the hunter said the grizzly apparently was deterred and it left.