What about Bear Protection?
Alaska Bear Protection. Many times during the course of planning trips for my clients, I get the question as to whether they should be concerned about bears and if they should bring a firearm. While most people that visit and fish the Kenai Peninsula and other parts of Alaska do not venture out into the bush or away from the more populated fishing areas, some do plan to hike to more secluded locations where there are less humans, and yes, more bears.
A good friend and fellow guide Greg Brush offered the following explanation for the question of “should I carry a gun or pepper spray on my trip to Alaska” and I found his explanation very sensible and worth sharing:
“As for informing clients, like you, I tell them to carry ‘protection’ only IF they feel very uncomfortable about bears being in our area, which they should not. The odds of an encounter are very very slim, and 99% of bears are more afraid/leery/cautious of us humans than we are of them! The other big IF is if they are participating in camping, hiking, drop hunts/fish trips, in which case they might then consider carrying some protection for peace of mind. Finally, I tell them by far the best ‘protection’ there is available is knowledge, i.e. do some reading on what to look for, beware of and avoid, how to respond etc. (this info is available thru ADF&G in a very nice little pamphlet.) The second best ‘protection’ is bear spray-I tell them not to even carry a gun unless they are really proficient in its use and it is a very large caliber rifle (.338 or bigger) or better yet a 12 Gauge with slugs. In my opinion, hand guns are a joke in any REAL situation (unless one is again very proficient and one has a monster caliber .454 Casull) increasing odds of an accident, false sense of security, or injuring/irritating a bear that may otherwise have just been bluff charging, in which case now the shooter is in very BIG trouble with a serious Fish and Wildlife Protection investigation (and charges!) pending! Just FYI, I always carry bear spray when in the field bow hunting, and do so with total confidence. I have encountered literally hundreds of brown bears over the years of hunting with nary a close call. I always pay attention, and think about the situation I am in as well as how I will react when surprised (which I have been several times!) by a sudden brownie close by. If I am in a situation that makes me nervous, such as very fresh sign, super thick cover, wind going the WRONG way, I make lots of noise so as not to surprise one suddenly. This works for me, but of course could be in the wrong spot at the wrong time on my very next outing, which is why I carry the spray. In all honesty, I love to see brown bears and respect them totally, but I do NOT fear them. After all, it is their home and I am simply a guest!”
Thanks to Greg for this excellent explanation!