Wednesday, December 07, 2022

MT: Choteau Bear Attack stopped with Shotgun, 10mm Handgun

 Image of grizzly bear  by Troy Nemitz, used with permission.

 On October 11, 2022, a Washington State resident and his wife were hunting birds on block grant land near a creek bottom, with their dogs, near Choteau, Montana. They were charged by a large grizzly bear boar. The 51 year old doctor was hit by the bear and his lower leg was broken. The doctor defended himself with his shotgun and his sidearm, a 10 mm pistol.

Block grant land in Montana is privately owned land which the landowner has signed a contract with the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The contracts vary, but provide access for hunting and other activities on private land, for which the landowner is paid a fee. Some blocks require reservations; others merely have a sign in sheet. This block only required users to sign in.

A representative of Montana FWP was kind enough to supply details beyond what was given in the press release.

While hunting, at about 1 p.m., the couple's dogs went on point, indicating the presence of a bird. Pheasants, sharp tailed grouse, and Hungarian partridges all have breeding populations in the area.

The husband started to approach the area of the creek bottom where the dogs were pointing. This is the common practice while hunting birds with dogs. The bird or birds are flushed, providing a sporting shot for the hunter.

The wife got out her phone and laid down her Benelli semi-auto 12 gauge shotgun to video the incident. The husband saw some brown in the brush, which he thought was a porcupine. Porcupines are common in the area. He stepped forward and a large boar grizzly erupted from the creek bottom coming directly at him.

He fired one shot with his shotgun before the bear bowled him over, breaking his lower leg, then continuing past him. It appears his shotgun went flying. As the bear spun around, the doctor was able to draw his 10mm pistol. The bear headed back toward the doctor and the creek bottom, passing the doctor within a few yards. The doctor fired one shot, thinking he hit the bear near the "armpit" of a front leg, as the bear moved past him.

The video from the wife's cell phone only showed their dogs, then either sky or ground. It did not capture the bear.

The couple contacted the authorities. They were transported to the hospital where the husband was treated and released. A team of about eight federal, state, and local authorities assembled to investigate the situation and find the bear, which they assumed was wounded.  A drone was used to search for the bear. When found, it was obviously wounded and in distress. The decision was made to put it down.

It appears the bear moved when the team approached. Most participants opened up with a variety of firearms. The bear was quickly dispatched with dozens of shots. Because there were dozens of bullet holes in the bear, no necropsy was done. The bear was weighed at 677 lbs, in moderately good condition. This was a large inland grizzly bear boar.

It was not determined if only the shotgun or the 10mm impacted the bear, or both.

From my experience hunting upland birds, an experienced hunter is able to hit small, moving, targets at close range very quickly with a shotgun, in a fraction of a second. At under 5 yards bird shot can be deadly on large game. It acts much like a pre-fragmented slug. Several grizzly bear attacks have been stopped by bird hunters armed with shotguns and bird shot.

Similarly, the 10mm has a good record for stopping grizzly bear attacks.

If the Doctor hit the bear in the "armpit" with a 10 mm, the bullet would have an excellent chance of penetrating the thoracic cavity.  Such a shot would likely result in death. If only one lung were penetrated, and the heart and major arteries missed, death would come eventually, if not quickly.  It would make for a very sick bear.

As the doctor was only able to fire one shot with the shotgun, it is likely the bear contacted him less than two seconds after being recognized as a threat by the doctor. Followup shots are common and fast while hunting birds, often in a fraction of a second.


This case shows the advantage of having a firearm out and ready. While the doctor was not expecting a bear, his long practice and familiarity with his shotgun, ready to fire in an instant at a flushing bird, served him well. While the bear contacted him and broke his lower leg, the bear was, almost certainly, sufficiently wounded it continued on and did not attempt to renew the attack.

It shows the utility of having a holstered sidearm. When hit, it appears the long-gun (shotgun) went flying. This happens with some frequency during bear attacks. The doctor was able to draw his handgun and re-engage the bear. He had reason to believe the bear would renew the attack. The boar had already charged him and broken his leg, without provocation.

There are many cases where bears temporarily leave the scene of an attack, then return and renew the attack.

Everything happened so quickly, the wife was not able to react fast enough to pick up her shotgun and engage the bear.

Bears which are aggressive toward humans should be removed from the gene pool.

The relative small number of bears which are aggressive toward humans in a given year are not enough to make a significant difference in even the grizzly bear population.

In the Choteau, Montana area, most grizzly bears are careful to avoid contact with humans.


©2022 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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