Monday, September 27, 2010

Zucchini Control

I hate to admit it, buy I may have been wrong.

A few days ago I added the post "Pistol Dawn," and thought I had answered Jeremiah's question on whether he should carry a large caliber handgun while archery hunting elk in Northern Idaho.

Just a couple of days after I answered Jeremiah's question, there was an AP story in the Great Falls Tribune.  A woman near Frenchtown, Montana was attacked by a black bear in her house.  She didn't use any high caliber firearm.  Instead, she beat the bear off with a 14-inch zucchini.  (Story here.)  The story didn't say if she had a license for it.

"Watch wear ya point that thang!"


Return to Montana Elk Hunting: Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pistol Dawn

A Reader Asked

A while back, Jeremiah, a reader of this blog, sent me the following question, "I archery hunt North Idaho . . . maybe a few Griz here. Is it worth carrying a large caliber revolver for bear protection?"

I could make this a very short blog post and simply answer "No."  However, there is more to it than a simple "Yes," or "No."  It is a matter of personal preference.

My preferences have changed over the years.  Growing up my dad used to take us to the Beartooth Ranch at the head of Holter Lake, and let us wander along as he hunted deer and elk.  My great uncle John Warehime was the ranch manager/forman at the time.  (The Beartooth Ranch was sold in the early 1970s and is now Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Beartooth Wildlife Management Area--complete with deer, elk and other game and non-game animals.  It is also very close to the site of the Mann Gulch Fire that killed 12 smokejumpers in 1949 and is told in Norman Maclean's book, Young Men and Fire.)

On a couple of occasions at the Beartooth, we ran in to a friend of the family--I don't recall his name, but he was huge.  At least he was huge for a 10-year old kid.  We gave him some ribbing because of all the weapons he carried.  At the time, most hunters carried a rifle--many times sans scope, and a small knife.  Our friend carried a huge pistol--I'm not sure what caliber it was, but most likely a 44, as that was about the largest handgun caliber available.  The hand-held bullet launcher was on one hip; on the other was some Bowie knife of incredible magnitude.  Possibly a throwback from a military hatchet/machete/dagger experiment.  A 300 Weatherby Magnum was slung over his shoulder.  Back in the 1960s and 1970s people were still using 7x57s, 30-40 Krags, and 300 Savage and 250-3000 for elk hunting, so the 300 Weatherby tipped the scales to HUGE, again.  The line was that our friend had the biggest rifle known to man (at least known to 8, 9, and 10 year old kids).  And, if he lost that he could kill the elk, or an elephant, with his hand cannon.  If that failed the Bowie-machete would topple an elk with one blow.  The backup plan was that our friend needed none of those; he could wrestle an elk barehanded . . . . and WIN!!

For most of my life I kept the thought that pistols, of any size, were unnecessary.  That changed in about 1990-91.  If you watch my video, Montana Wilderness Horn Huntin' you'll find a snippet where my partner Tom had to kill a mountain lion with a large stick.  Neither of us thought much of handguns and attacks by big, mean lions and bears were a distant thought.  Having said that, my grandfather, Charlie Carter said that back when there were more lions, a hunter could back track and find where a lion had been tracking "him."  In a sense we have worked our way back to the 1930s and 1940, and beyond.  Lion numbers are up from where they were before the 1980s.  Grizzly numbers are much higher than they were in the 1970, and it seems that grizzlies have become habituated to NOT BEING TARGETS FOR HUMANS.  Grizzlies have nothing to fear.  If they do something "wrong," they have to walk into a trap and get a good meal, get a dose of drugs and they get a free vacation ride to a new home.

Jeremiah and others who bow hunt may be interested (or not) in the recent Great Falls Tribune articles on bears attacking archery hunters near Yellowstone.

After Tom's run-in with the lion I started packing my old M1911 .45 ACP.  I never really thought of it as stopping power, more like a pacifier; it made me feel like I was safer.  While guiding, I never took the pistol.  A smoke-pole in 30-06 of some kind was at hand--either a sporterized M1903A3, or an M-1 Garand.

I don't recall when it became "uncool" for a guide to carry a long gun, but when I did, it seemed to coincide with grizzly events becoming more rule than exception . . . . which, made me think that maybe I needed something more potent than a .45 ACP.  I tried Blackhawks, Redhawks and my favorite, a Desert Eagle.  Favorite because it shot the nicest.  My +P handloaded 240gr bullets didn't have the kick and had more accuracy than in the revolvers.  The big pistols were all sold.  They looked nice, they shot well, and a person could say, "I have a big, bad, Dirty Harry pistol, that will stop anything."  The downside is that big pistols weigh over 4 pounds apiece.  Whether guiding or walking through the woods huntin' horns, I hated dragging the Magnum Research or Ruger boat anchor along.

Somewhere in the mid-1990s I bought a Sig P220 .45ACP.  It is less than half the weight of the big guns, can be kept in a relatively small holster and it shoots +P loads rather well.  If it matters it is also double, or single action.  I still carry it today.

This summer, each time I left the house to take photographs my wife would ask if I had my pistol.  "Yes, Dear."  I think that she feels me having a pistol is better than me not having a pistol.  I'm not sure.  If it is used it will be used close.  If it isn't, the thing isn't weight for a sailboat, getting caught on every limb, branch and rock I encounter, or shoulder holstered next to a sweaty shirt.

My life-long route concerning handguns has brought me close to where I was in the 1960s and 1970s--pistols are rather unnecessary, even while I carry one.  Below is a chart that compares a couple good big bear rifles with several pistol cartridges.

From: Federal Premium Ammunition:

Here is a chart comparing some popular "Bear" handguns with a Sig P220.

From Magnum Research, Sig Arms, and Smith & Wesson

The rundown, Jeremiah?

  • Bears are more prevalent
  • Bears seem to interact more with humans
  • There are fewer bears in Northern Idaho than Montana's Wilderness, Forest or Wyoming/Montana/Idaho's Yellowstone National Park
  • Is a pistol that weighs over 4 pounds (empty), but only has a third to a half as much energy as a "Big Bear Gun" worth carrying?
  • Is a pistol that weighs less than two pounds (empty), but only has ten percent of the energy of a bear gun worth carrying?

It's your call.

My final thought on handgun use comes from the days I frequented and closed up a few joints at 2 a.m. 

"Drink 'til dark,
Pistol dawn."

Update to this post:  Zucchini Control