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Grizzlies can be found throughout much of Montana. Due to conservation efforts, grizzly bear populations are expanding, and bears are moving back to where they once lived. This means that hunters are more likely to run into grizzly bears.

The very act of hunting puts hunters at increased risk of encountering bears; elk bugling, game calls, and cover scents attract not only game, but also bears.

Tips for hunting in bear country:

  • If you hunt in bear country, leave detailed plans with someone, and check-in periodically.
  • Hunting partners need to share details of their hunt plans and have a regular check-in or communication system in place.
  • Pay attention to fresh bear sign. Look for bear tracks, scat, and concentrations of natural foods. Use caution when hunting in areas that have evidence of bear activity.
  • Communicate with other hunters and let them know when and where bears have been seen or fresh sign was observed.
  • Some bears have learned to associate gunshots with the availability of a carcass or gut pile, and may move in to the site of your kill.

Most bears will leave an area if they sense the presence of humans. Hunters who observe a bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area immediately. If by chance, you encounter a bear:

  • Stay calm
  • Do not run!
  • Get your bear spray out and ready to use
  • Assess the situation
    • Is the bear aware of you?
      • If not, with your bear spray in hand and ready to use, keep the bear in sight, back away, and leave the area immediately.
    • If the bear is aware of you, how is it behaving? Is it:
      • Fleeing?
      • Curious?
      • Aggressive/Defensive?
      • Looking at you as food?
  • Curious behavior is often displayed by sniffing the air, standing on hind legs, or acting tentatively.
    • With your bear spray in hand and ready to use, keep the bear in sight, back away, and leave the area immediately.
  • Bears aggressive/defensive behavior includes, “woofing,” running side to side, clacking teeth, and/or pawing the ground.
    • Stay calm, get your bear spray ready to use, speak softly… “Hey bear, whoa bear,” and retreat slowly while keeping the bear in sight. Never run.
    • Bear attack
      • Use your bear spray!
      • If you do not have bear spray, you should play dead by lying face down and covering your neck and head with your hands and arms. If you have a backpack leave it on to protect your back. Stay face down, never look at the bear, and remain still until the bear is gone.

Bears displaying PREDATORY behaviors are typically silent, and may include stalking, followed by a fast rush to make contact.

  • PREDATORY bear attack
    • Use your bear spray immediately and fight back.

Nothing is 100% effective; however, bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off bears, and for preventing injury to people and bears.