Bear Essentials: Staying Safe in Bear Country

If you are going to hunt bears, you will need to go where the bears are, and sooner or later, you will have a confrontation with a bear when hunting in bear country. It might be a subtle face-to-face meeting on an overgrown trail, or it might be competing for your food in your camp. Being prepared will keep you and the bear safe, and here are some tips for staying safe in bear country.

Most bear conflicts happen when humans are camping. No matter what we do, we hunters cannot hide all the odors generated by our foods and that is a very important point to remember when planning on camping in bear country. Every year, bears are shot in self-defense by campers and hunters, but the party responsible for most of those conflicts is the man and not the bear. The sad part about most of these incidents is that the bears are shot out of season, and many sows are shot while just trying to make a living for her and her cubs. This sort of tragedy should almost never happen to a well-prepared camper or hunter.

If you cannot carry a bear-proof food container, then try to suspend your food far up a tree with a rope or cord, and try to do it away from your camp.  It is not very convenient to walk 100 yards and untie a rope just to grab a snack or some meat, but it is very responsible and safe.  Even if you have a bear-proof container, try to locate it away from your sleeping area to not only protect yourself, but to also protect your gear.

When cooking any food, again, do it away from camp. Even if you clean up the pots and pans, the odor from the cooked food will linger and attach itself to whatever foliage is nearby. You can never be too safe.

Even if you are hunting, it is not a bad idea to make yourself heard while navigating thick brush or broken up terrain. You don’t want to surprise any bear, period. Another thing to always keep track of when hiking in bear country is the wind direction. Always try to travel downwind. This will alert any bears in your path and help them detect your scent. If you see a bear and want to avoid it, try to walk upwind of it so it has a chance to smell you and honorably retreat. Bears can smell from great distances and this is a good tactic to help your cause.