Official Montana Hunting Safety Course Link to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Hello, hunter! Montana's online hunting course has moved. Click here to go to the latest version of the Today's Hunter in Montana course—the official hunting safety course of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Montana certification.

What Should You Do if Attacked?

Before you head into the field, mentally rehearse a worst-case scenario with a grizzly bear—you are more likely to be able to respond appropriately if you have imagined an encounter and mentally practiced a response than you are if you have never tried to think your way through such an event.

“If the mind has never been there before, the body does not know how to respond.”

Grizzly BearWhen hunting in grizzly country, carry bear pepper spray. Keep the spray within reach, and be familiar with the firing mechanism. In sudden encounters pepper spray has proven to be a valuable deterrent. Grizzly bears sprayed in the face at very close range often stop attacking and are less likely to inflict serious injury.

Use a firearm only if bear pepper spray is unavailable. Bears wounded with an arrow, knife, or firearm may intensify the attack, and killing a grizzly on the attack is difficult at best. If you have to shoot a grizzly in self-defense, take careful aim and attempt to knock it down by hitting major bones in the front shoulders. Leave the scene immediately, and report the incident to Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

As a last resort, if attacked, play dead. Lie face down, 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. Many people have survived bear attacks using this method.

Retrieving Game Meat Out of Bear Country

The golden rule to retrieving game meat in bear country is “get that elk or deer out of the area as quickly as possible.” The longer a carcass remains lying on the ground, hung up in hunting camp, or in the back of a truck, the more likely it is to attract a bear.

Two bears on a hillsideIf you do have to leave a carcass for a period of time, follow these special precautions:

  • Carry a lightweight tarp. Put the guts on the tarp and drag them as far away from the carcass as possible.
  • Locate an observation point 200 yards (or as far away as possible) from the carcass with a clear line of sight. Before leaving, walk to the observation point and memorize the site.

When returning, approach the observation point carefully. With binoculars study the scene from the observation point, and scan the area for the carcass and any movement.

  • If a grizzly bear is at the site and refuses to leave or the meat has been covered with debris by a bear and is not salvageable, report the incident to Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Hunters who have lost an animal to a grizzly may be eligible for another license.
  • Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a grizzly that does not leave a carcass!
  • If you see no sign of a bear, approach the carcass slowly. Yell or whistle repeatedly, and make noise to frighten away any bear you didn’t see!
    • If you live in grizzly country, do not hang carcasses near the house or garage for extended periods. Big game carcasses stored outside should be hung from a pulley attached to a stout 15-foot-long “meat pole” that is at least 25 feet off the ground. The lowest portion of the elk or deer should be swinging from the center of the pole and should be at least 10 feet off the ground. Grizzly and black bears have been known to climb trees and stand on objects in order to reach attractants.

Camping in bear country
Camping in bear country

Montana Fish, Wildlife,
& Parks
White-tailed deer tracks
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Official hunting safety course for Montana hunters last modified: November 16, 2011
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