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The Bear Necessities for Avoiding Bear Attacks: Hunters Beware

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

By Buck Tilton

Encounters between humans and bears are rising in number. Why? The weather partially explains it. Warmer temps keep bears active longer. But the main reason, all things considered, is more likely to be the increase in the number of bears. Wyoming, for instance, estimates triple the population of grizzlies (about 200 to more than 600) in the Yellowstone ecosystem since the mid-1970s. As Brian DeBolt, the bear management officer for Wyoming Game & Fish, told the Casper Star-Tribune: “. . . if you’ve got more bears, you are going to have more conflicts.” And hunters top the list of possible victims because they walk around quietly, stalking game in bear country, and smelling like dinner.

Statistically, your chances of being killed by a bear, thankfully, are slim, but, to reduce the chances to an absolute minimum, here are three basic rules concerning bears:

  1. Hike and camp in a manner designed to avoid bears. In known bear country, avoid areas that are used often by bears–trails with bear tracks and bear scat, trails through berry patches, and trails through dense brush and thick forest. Avoid areas that smell of decaying meat. Bears like to cover their uneaten food and camp nearby to finish it off later. If possible, camp in the open. Cook food at least 100 yards from sleeping sites. If camping near a river, sleep upriver from the cook-site. Night breezes tend to blow down river, pushing the food smells away from the sleeping bags. Camp cleanly: Avoid wiping food-stained hands and utensils on clothing. Avoid spilling food on the ground. Avoid fish and greasy food. Pack food and other odorous stuff (such as toothpaste and gum) in a separate bag so the smells don’t get into pack and clothing. Hang the food at night, if possible, out of bear-reach from the ground and from the trunk of the tree.
  2. Hunt in a group large enough to ensure a measure of safety. Bears like a measure of safety, too, and have not attacked a group of four or more in recent history.
  3. Strive to never surprise a bear. Bears, particularly grizzlies, do not accommodate people up close and personal. Mother bears need even more room. Push their comfort zone, and they tend to either attack or run away. Once smelling or hearing humans, almost all bears will run away.

Surviving a Bear Encounter

A surprised bear that has seen the surpriser cannot be predicted to act in a certain way. Hopefully, he or she will turn and run. If the bear doesn’t run, speak in a calm, quiet voice. Back away slowly, but do not run. Running encourages the bear to play chase, a game the bear will win. If the group of people is four or more, it usually works best to maximize the threat to the bear. The people should stand close together, raise their arms, speak in a reasonably loud and assured voice, identifying themselves as humans, the age-old nemesis to the bear. Statistics say the bear will retreat. Bears who feel threatened turn to the side, displaying their size.  They will often woof aggressively. They may charge toward the threat, and suddenly stop. These are invitations for the human to retreat. It is advisable to do so, but, remember, no running. It is best to back off slowly and keep speaking in a calm voice (which may be difficult by now). Humans without backpacks may benefit from turning to the side while backing off, an act that makes you look smaller and less intimidating. Climbing a tree is seldom worth the effort. Black bears climb like squirrels, and grizzlies will climb into the lower branches at a very fast rate. Avoid eye contact with the bear, an act of aggression.

Surviving a Bear Attack

If the bear actually attacks, different tactics are called for depending on the species of bear. Black bears seldom attack seriously unless they are hungry. They are not used to having food fight back, and it is statistically best to counter-attack, doing all possible to convince the black bear to dine elsewhere. If the bear is a grizzly, assuming a least-threatening posture–playing dead–is the best tactic. Curl up to guard vital parts, clasping hands protectively behind neck. The brown bear may take a few bites, but then leave you alone. If, however, a grizz does not soon lose interest, fight back as aggressively as possible. Remember, the best offense is a good offense!

Recommended Gear List:

First Aid Kit – AMK’s Outfitter. Includes a wound irrigation system and enough wound care supplies and pain medications to treat to 1 – 14 hunters on trips of up to two weeks.
Hemostatic Bandage – AMK’s Trauma Pak with QuikClot®. The US Military-approved QuikClot® stops serious, even arterial,  bleeding in as little as five minutes.

Buck Tilton has authored 36 books on outdoor safety, including Wilderness First Responder, which won an award for excellence in medical writing from the American Medical Writers Association. For the last 20 years, Buck has contributed hundreds of articles on wilderness safety to Backpacker. In addition to his writing and journalism, Tilton also co-founded the Wilderness Medicine Institute (now WMI of NOLS), which remains the largest school of wilderness medicine in the world.

Hunting Injuries — Myths and Misconceptions

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

By Buck Tilton

With the season of the orange-clad huntsman comes an opportunity for a wound — more than 35,000 of these incidents occur in the U.S. each year — usually relegated to the wilds of major metropolitan areas. What you don’t know or what you think you know, but are mistaken, can make someone with a gunshot wound worse. So, let’s take aim at some of the enduring myths and misconceptions surrounding this potentially life-threatening injury:

MYTH: Modern, high-powered bullets always leave exit wounds larger than entrance wounds.
THE REALITY: It ain’t necessarily so. A tumbling, twisting, mushrooming bullet may surely create a wound much larger when it leaves a body, but often the bullet breaks apart or shatters a bone, and small fragments blow out of the body through a hole or holes smaller than the entrance wound. Remember, don’t focus solely on the entrance wound and forget to look for the exit wound.

MYTH: Big bullets leave big holes and vice versa for little bullets.
THE REALITY: Think again. Sharp edges (such as arrowheads) slice the skin, but bullets stretch skin, crushing it momentarily before blasting through, and the elasticity of skin causes it to bounce back, leaving a hole typically smaller than the bullet’s size.

MYTH: You can judge the path of a bullet through a body by the orientation of the entrance and exit wounds.
THE REALITY: BZZZ! Wrong answer. The hunk of lead can make mysterious turns and ricochets once inside a body, entering, for instance, the shoulder and ending up passing through the abdomen or entering the thigh and ripping up into the chest.


Check for both entrance and exit wounds, yes, and apply direct pressure with bulky material such as the trauma pad from your first aid kit or shirts and bandannas. When external bleeding has stopped, cover the wounds with sterile dressings. The petrolatum dressing with AMK’s Hunter kit works very well at protecting the wound and speeding up the healing process. In arm and leg wounds, bones may have been broken. Check for broken bones and splint the extremity if necessary. Treat for shock and go for help ASAP.

Make sure your kit includes trauma pads and QuikClot for stopping serious bleeding


If you base your management of impaled arrows on John Wayne movies (think of the “Duke” in one his many popular Westerns, heroically ripping out Indian arrow after Indian arrow as if they were bothersome splinters), number yourself among the first-aid impaired. Today’s broadheads are not only razor sharp but also designed to tear apart large chunks of an animal’s anatomy. Pushing one through or, even worse, trying to pull one out usually enlarges the problem substantially.


You can cut off, if you’re able, the visible shaft down to, say, three or four inches. Pad around the shaft well with gauze or clean clothing and tape or tie the object securely to prevent movement. If the object is stuck in an arm or leg, be sure the tape or ties does not cut off blood flow past the tape or ties. Treat for shock. Go for help.


AMK’s Hunter Kit Includes 5″ x 9″ and 8″ x 10″ trauma pads for stopping bleeding, among other hospital quality wound care materials; Nitrile Gloves for safely handling blood-soaked bandages; and MD-penned Easy Care™ Card with instructions on how to stop bleeding.

Trauma Pak With QuikClot®Comes with essential wound care materials, including a 25 g pack of QuikClot Sport, the US Military’s Hemostatic bandage of choice; stops serious – even arterial bleeding – in as little as five minutes.

Buck Tilton has authored 36 books on outdoor safety, including Wilderness First Responder, which won an award for excellence in medical writing from the American Medical Writers Association. For the last 20 years, Buck has contributed hundreds of articles on wilderness safety to Backpacker. In addition to his writing and journalism, Tilton also co-founded the Wilderness Medicine Institute (now WMI of NOLS), which remains the largest school of wilderness medicine in the world.

We Don’t Make This Stuff Up….

Thursday, October 29th, 2009


I really love the products you present. There are many to choose from regarding first aid. That is my problem. I am a hunter and fisherman in the state of Alabama and have never strayed from this state in for my hobbies. I know Alabama is not Africa in terms of large carnivores, but I have had some scraps with a wild hog (hawg, in Alabama), and once was pinned by several coyotes. The hog I killed bare handed, not unscathed mind you, and the coyotes I fought off with a homemade spear i fashioned out of my hunting knife and a long branch while in a pine tree. That stuff was funny then after it was over, but now that I am a father I am thinking differently.

I would like your recommendations for my needs on a medical/survival kit. What I want is three kits. One for each of my two vehicles and one major pack for my home that can be grabbed in case of an emergency like a tornado, etc. I have looked at all your products, but I am still at a loss as to which one would outfit me the best. The most diverse a group with me would be is 3 male adults, two female adults, one male child, and 2 female children. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Jeremy Smith


Dear Jeremy,

Many of us only dream of the adventures you have. Maybe nightmare would be a better word for some of us.

I recommend the Sportsman Hunter or Outfitter Medical Kit for your two vehicles. Both of those kits have a detachable inner bag (kit) you can take with you in the field while leaving the larger kit in the truck.  I would add the QuikClot 25gram Sport to each of those kits.  This is a blood stopping dressing that works fast. I imagine a hawg or pack of coyotes could take quite a chunk out of your leg.

It sounds like you would be a great candidate for the Pocket Survival Pak. Keep this on you at all times. You could work your way out of any jam with it.

For your home I would recommend the Mountain Series Fundamentals or the Sportsman Outfitter kit. All of the kits I have recommended are ideal for either remote areas or when you are cut off from medical care by a natural disaster.

Please keep us posted on any exciting new adventures.

Be Safe,

Frank Meyer, Co-Founder/Marketing Director

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