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Safe Hunting in Bear Country

DILLON — Hunters are, by design, good at sneaking up on bears unobserved. They also provide bears with an attractive food source in the form of gut piles and carcasses. Follow a few precautions to minimize bear interactions and increase safety while hunting this season.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Watch for bear sign or signs of carcasses that would attract bears such as scavenging birds or foul odors. Be on alert in areas of low visibility and by streams which mask noises.

  2. Bear spray works! Bear spray produces a large cloud that targets a bear’s nose and eyes - its most sensitive areas. It has proven 98% effective at preventing human injury in actual encounters. Remember that bears have thick hides and that they move faster than most pistol shooters can properly aim.

  3. Calling for elk and deer/elk scents are attractive to bears. Bears have approached and injured hunters while calling. Always hunt with a partner and keep your bear spray readily accessible if calling for elk. Include a coagulant like quick clot in your first aid kit.

  4. Keep a clean camp. Bears are very smart, have a great memory and if they receive a food reward in one camp, they may become aggressive as they continue to raid camps. Make sure all attractants are placed in a hard-sided vehicle, locked in a bear-resistant container, or hung 10 feet up and four feet out from any supporting branches. Anything that has a smell or has once had a smell needs to be put away.

  5. Regular coolers are not bear-resistant and must be appropriately stored, even when empty. Check with a local ranger station about obtaining bear-resistant containers through the loaner program, free of charge.

  6. If you are fortunate enough to harvest an animal this year, Move the gut pile as far away as possibly from the animal carcass, carry a tarp, put the guts on the tarp and drag at least 300m from the animal. Cover the gut pile with the tarp to minimize birds attracting bears to the site.

  7. Locate an observation point at least 200 yards away from the animal carcass with a clear line of sight. Before leaving, walk to the observation site and memorize the site.

  8. When returning, approach the carcass carefully, yell repeatedly and with binoculars scan the area for your carcass and any movement.

  9. If a bear is at the site and refuses to leave or the meat has been moved and/or covered by debris – the meat is not salvageable. Do not try and scare a bear off of a carcass. Report the incident to FWP (1-800-TIP-MONT). Hunters who have lost an animal to a grizzly may be eligible for another license.

  10. Never bring a carcass into your camp! If you need to leave a carcass on the forest, hang it (10’ up, 4’ out) 100 yards or farther from a sleeping area or trail. If you must leave it on the ground make sure it is at least a half mile from any sleeping area and 200 yards from a trail. Leave your kill in a place where you can view it from at least 200 yards away as you return.

If you do encounter a bear, it is important to leave the area quietly as soon as possible without running or turning your back. Avoid making eye contact with the bear and immediately take out your bear spray and be ready to use it. Report any encounter to your local Forest Service Office.

Also, use motorized vehicles only on designated routes, and bring certified weed-free hay and straw. For information about local regulations or bears, go to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest website at, or read about Hunting Safely in Grizzly Country:, or, stop by a local Forest Service office.

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