Monday, October 14, 2019

Detailed Report: Grizzly Bear Attack in Montana Stopped with 9mm Pistols

Donivan Campbell's severe wound from bear attack

On 16 September, 2019, Chris Gregersen and Donivan Campbell were bow hunting elk in Montana, in the Gravelly Mountains, when they were attacked by a grizzly bear. They had gone out for an afternoon hunt, had hunted up  a steep drainage, climbed the opposite slope, and had been calling for elk on the opposite side of the ridge with a bugle call.

They were returning to their truck and camp. They stopped calling on the top of the ridge, crested the ridge, and were on a steep downward slope, moving toward the creek at the bottom, on an old game trail. There was no cell service in the area.

The weather was clear, in the 50s, with a slight breeze. 

It was 6:30 p.m. The sun was low in the sky. They wanted to get back before dark.

In addition to their archery equipment, both men had 9 mm pistols. Chris Gregersen had a Glock 43. Donivan Campbell had a Sig Sauer P320. Both pistols were loaded with full metal jacketed (FMJ) cartridges.

Chris said he carried the Glock 43, because it was small enough to be carried every day. 

Both men are professional biologists, with degrees in wildlife ecology, working in their chosen field.  They are familiar with bears and bear behavior. They live and work in Washington State.  They are both longtime hunters and fishermen. They are proficient woodsmen.

Donivan (face-paint, left) and Chris  after successful turkey hunt

The way back to the truck was north, down slope, through the timber and up the other side.  They were in thick timber of mature lodgepole pine with some spruce, and patches of brush and blowdowns. In the picture, the attack occurred across the creek and up slope in the timber in the upper right.

Attack occurred in dense timber across the creek and up slope

As they crossed a small bench, they heard an animal jump up, downwind, in the brush to their left (West). It was close, within 20 yards. Their first thought was: elk!  As they turned to look, the grizzly bear erupted from the brush, charging at them, woofing and breathing heavily, only feet away. Chris ran and jumped downhill. Donivan attempted to dodge uphill, but the bear veered and grabbed him by the thigh, shaking him like a dog shaking a rat. The initial attack happened in seconds.

Chris said, even if he had a deterrent in hand, he would not have been able to deploy it fast enough.

Chris had just landed when he heard Donivan scream. He immediately drew his pistol and ran uphill toward Donivan and the bear.  The bear had shaken Donivan again.  Donivan was on his belly, the bear holding him down by standing on his back.  The bear had let go of Donivan's leg and was attempting to bite Donivan's  head. Donivan had both hands behind his head, trying to protect his neck. His thumbs were in the bear's mouth, trying to hold the bears teeth away from his head. He could feel the bear's teeth on his hands. To this point, the action had taken about fifteen seconds.

The attack was aggressive, fast, violent. Chris could see the bear going for Donivan's head, when he shot.

Chris said he had no choice. He had to fire. If he did not fire, Donivan would be killed or injured more severely. He had run to within 15 feet of the bear and Donivan, the bear facing away from him, on top of Donivan. He took a snap sight picture and fired at the bear's rear. It was probably 16 seconds into the attack.  The point of aim was the bear's hind quarters. There was no other choice.  The bear and Donivan were upslope with brush on either side. There was no time to flank the bear, on a steep hill side, with considerable brush, when fractions of a second could make the difference between life and death.   Chris had a clear shot. He has considerable experience shooting under stress while hunting. He says he has "shot a lot".  He had a brief worry about hitting his friend, so he had to do it right.  

Chris believes he hit the bear in one of the hind quarters, from the rear. The searchers reported finding a little blood, but it might have been Donivan's.  From the rear, a 9mm FMJ would be unlikely to reach the bears vitals, or penetrate far enough to reach Donivan. On a large bear, with lots of fat in the fall, a significant blood trail was unlikely.

Gregersen's Glock 43 and ammunition

Chris expected the bear to turn on him. At the shot, the bear leapt away from Donivan and disappeared into a thick wall of brush only 5 feet away.  The bear could not have acted faster to a cloud of bear spray.

Chris did not know if Donivan was alive or dead. Donivan drew his Sig Sauer as soon as the bear jumped off him.  As Chris approached Donivan, he saw his friend was alive and armed. They immediately heard the griz coming back from about 30 yards out. As a snap plan, Donivan agreed to fire to deter the bear, with Chris in reserve to fire as soon as he saw it. The friends are yelling at the bear. As it gets to within 5 yards, still unseen, Donivan fires two shots into the brush, toward the bear. The bear stops, starts walking away, retreats perhaps 20 yards.

The friends hear the bear charge a third time. Donivan fires another shot at the noise as the bear closes to about 10 yards, still without being seen, hidden by  the thick brush. Indexing on the sound, they had a good idea of where it was. The bear stops, and the friends hear it slowly walking in the brush, then slowly walking away.  They hear the sounds of the bear's retreat fade. The only clear shot fired at the bear, was the first one fired by Chris, it was  effective in stopping the attack, driving the bear off of Donivan and giving him the opportunity to draw his Sig.

Chris emphasized bear spray would not have been effective. The spray would have been directed at the bear's backside. If the spray had reached the bear's head, it would have disabled Donivan as well. When the bear charged again, bear spray would have been unlikely to reach the bear through the heavy cover.

Chris believed the sound of the shots and the yelling stopped the second and third charges. He thinks all three shots fired by Donivan missed the bear. It could not be seen. Donivan was on the ground, firing at the noise of the bear crashing through brush at them. There was a lot of brush.

Chris checked his friend's wounds. The bear had torn up Donivan's thigh with  six lacerations, ripped into severe wounds at the bear shook Donivan.  One of them was large enough for the doctor at the hospital to put his entire hand inside while cleaning it out.

There wasn't any arterial bleeding. The emergency "first aid" kit was useless, designed for minor cuts and insect bites. The friends improvised bandages using game bags and t-shirts. Chris improvised crutches from trekking poles.  They believed they could be attacked again at any time, as had happened in several other cases, with Todd Orr being the classic example. Chris kept his Glock in hand and put Donivan's Sig in his pants pocket. He reloaded his Glock 43 with a spare magazine.  Donivan would have both hands full staying upright and moving back toward the road.

The sun was nearly down, with deep shadows across the valley. They had to make it down to the creek, and across it, a three-quarter mile hike. Then there was an uphill climb to the road and the truck. At the camp was a 4-wheeler, five miles away.

Chris cleared a trail for Donivan, helped him over logs, and provided security as they hobbled their way, as fast as they could, toward the road, the truck, and safety.

Once they got to the other side of the creek, they were able to make it to an area of sagebrush.  Donivan was spent. The two decided, rather than risk further injury by carrying Donivan, Chris would go and get the 4-wheeler at the camp. Chris returned Donivan's Sig P320 9 mm, and left him in a relatively open area, covered with clothes, in a defensive position. The sun was below the horizon.

Chris ran upslope for a quarter mile to the truck. He drove five miles back to the camp, returned with the 4-wheeler, found a way down slope with the vehicle, and loaded Donivan on it. Donivan had his headlight out and turned on.  The evening sky glow was fading.  As they headed up slope in the 4-wheeler, it was dark. 

On the road, they headed back toward camp. Part way there, they were able to flag down someone to go and call 911 from a local cabin with a land line. The call started an ambulance on the way up.  They loaded Donivan into the truck and started down the mountain. Just as they reached cell phone service, 40 miles from the attack site, they met the ambulance coming up. The ambulance took Donivan to the hospital.

Donivan's injuries after some suturing

A search party with a big crew and helicopter were organized to look for the bear.

Based on descriptions, the bear was a mature, dominant boar.  One of the searchers told Chris the chances of two dominant bears this close together is very low.  Chris was told the bear was likely hit. This might cause it to den up to recover, or to leave the area. If not hit, denning or leaving would be less likely, for such a territorial, mature boar.

One of the first responders recommended quick clot, a wound dressing, and a tourniquet as a kit to cover most serious wounds. A warden suggested more power and a large magazine capacity gave a better chance of hitting the central nervous system. He recommended the Glock 20 in 10mm.

Chris believes it was probably the same bear. He thinks the bear spray used in the attack 11 hours and less than a mile away, likely aggravated the second attack.

Chris Gregersen has purchased a Glock 20.  Chris purchased a quick clot kit for future hunts.

Donivan Cambell is recovering. It will be months before he can hunt again. Donivan's wife is expecting their first child. Fortunately, the bear attack did not sever any arteries. A gofundme account has been set up for his expenses.

Chris says bears are highly individualistic. There are aggressive bears, and mellow bears. Without legal hunting for bears, aggressive bears tend to be taken out when, or after they attack. With a legal hunt, bears that did not fear humans would be more likely to be harvested before they attack a human.

Chris Gregersen says they did not expect to be attacked. They believed if they acted properly, they would be safe. Now, he knows there are bears in the woods who will attack and kill you simply for being there. If it could happen to them, he says, it could happen to anyone.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One Mistake many people make is the ammo they use for the job they want it to do. Different bullets styles accomplish far different effects, that is why different styles exist Full jacket is designed for drilling holes. No stopping power. Stopping power comes from the damage the bullet does. The reason stopping power is so important is not very many people can make killing shots in split second decisions. If you want stopping power use half jacket hollow points on bears, they penetrate , expand and cause much more damage with each hit. Non jacketed may not penetrate far enough on large hairy animals. bears have a lot of fur, fat and muscle. Stopping power comes from vital organ damage and the amount of bleeding that each hit causes. The loss of blood drops the blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure slows the ability to function. lose enough blood the heart stops. No blood nothing for the heart to do. Too bad most heap big white hunters are not bullet experts. Big powerful weapons and no knowledge to back them up. the more expensive the scope does not make better hits if the bullet being delivered cant do the job. One of my neighbors has a single shot 45-70 he is very proud of. it will punch a fine hole in a half inch steel plate and with jacketed bullets it would pass through both sides of a bear while that bear keeps coming. Combat NATO ammo is designed to wound, full jacket, nothing to expand. Bullets used in the revolutionary and civil wars were soft lead some with hollow points. the damage they did was horrific. One shot might cut a person in half or blow completely off a leg or an arm. Humans don't have the fur, fat or muscle of bears. the bullet must penetrate before it starts expanding.