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Blake Miller: GPS

How to survive a bear attack

How to survive a bear attack

What’s the best method for repelling bears? You might need some bear spray.

by Blake Miller

In my wilderness survival class, I am frequently asked what kind of gun would be the best defense against a bear attack.  I am asked “Is a rifle better than a pistol or what about a shotgun?”  Rarely does anyone ask about bear spray.

Early Saturday morning I was listening to Northwestern Outdoors Radio.  The show’s host, John Kruse, interviewed a representative from bear spray manufacturer Counter Assault.

After listening I did some research and verified some of the statistics brought forward on the radio show.  I focused on an article from May 2012 in Outside Magazine by Nick Heil (“Shoot or Spray, the Best Way to Stop a Charging Bear.”)  The studies evaluated pertained to bear encounters in Alaska.

As it turns out, bear spray may be the backcountry traveler’s best option.

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Here are a few “take-aways” from Heil’s article:

Over the period from 1883 to 2009, there were 269 bear close encounters.  Bears inflicted injuries in 151 encounters and killed 17 people.  Statistics showed that aggressive bears were repelled or killed 84% of the time with handguns and 76% of the time with long guns.

Bear spray was first introduced in 1985.  From 1985 to 2006 there were 83 close bear encounters involving 156 people. Heil reports that “In all the incidents involving spray, there were only three injuries and none of them were fatal: a 98% success rate.”

In regards to folklore (ie. wearing bells on your boots), an associate professor in Plant and Wildlife Sciences at Brigham Young University, Tom Smith, was asked to provide guidance on how to be safe in bear county.  “But all the information I could find was based on no data at all or just misguided impressions.”

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So, what should you do in bear country?

  1. Before going on your outing watch Counter Assault’s video on their website.
  2. Keep bear spray in a holster readily assessable and out of the backpack.
  3. Get the spray out in front and get ready to activate. Spray has a limited volume.
  4. Stay in a group and group up when a bear is seen.
  5. Initially, stand your ground and make noise and then slowly back out.
  6. Don’t make eye contact.

Please keep the following in mind:

  1. Bear Spray has a shelf life of about two years.  Check the bottle’s label.
  2. Bottles of spray are not allowed to go into your luggage for air travel.
  3. Bear Spray can be purchased at many parks, Cabelas, Sportsman’s Ware House, REI and other stores that cater to hunters.
  4. At the end of a trip the bottles can be recycled.  I left an expired bottle on my last trip with the park rangers.
Blake Miller: Navigation and GPS expert

Blake Miller

Blake Miller has made a career out of staying found and knowing where he is at all times. His formal navigation training began when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973. He served as an officer aboard several Navy ships over his twenty-year career; many of those tours included the duty of Navigator. Blake began working with satellite navigation systems at sea in 1976, culminating with the then-new Global Positioning Systems aboard the Battleship WISCONSIN in early 1990.

In 1998 Blake started Outdoor Quest, a business dedicated to backcountry navigation and wilderness survival. Blake has taught classes to wild land firefighters, state agency staffs, Search and Rescue team members, hunters, hikers, skiers, fishermen and equestrians. He regularly teaches classes through the Community Education programs at Central Oregon (Bend) and Chemeketa (Salem, OR) Community Colleges.

As a volunteer, Blake teaches navigation and survival classes, to students in the local school district and conservation groups. He is a member of a Search and Rescue team.

Contact Information :

Website: www.outdoorquest.biz;

Phone: 541 280 0573;

Email: outdrquest@aol.com

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1 Comment

  1. TERRY READ

    04/22/2016 at 08:31

    BE SURE TO SPRAY THAT SHIT REAL HEAVY ALL OVER YOURSELF THEN ROLL OVER & PLAY DEAD–> MAYBE THE BEAR WON’T MAUL & EAT YOUR “STOOP-PUD” ASS… BEARs LIKE IT WHEN YA TASTE LIKE LIKE MEXICAN TAMALE…
    I TAKE A “OLIN” FLARE GUN
    SHOOTS A 12-ga PHOSPHOROUS SHELL–> YOU CAN TAKE IT ANY WHERE…
    YA HAVE ABOUT A 30-40-FT RANGE–> BURNing OFF ABOUT 1/2-of THIER FURRY-HIDE TENDS TO TAKE THE FIGHT OUTTA EVEN THE BIGGEST BEAR

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Blake Miller: GPS

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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