Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Details of Bear Defense with .22 in 1962, Mentioned by Louis Kris, Revealed


 Image courtesy of Rock Island Aucitons

In the research done by this correspondent and colleagues, much credit must be given to those who sent in detailed information about bear attacks and pistol defenses.

As incidents of defense against bears with pistols mounted, some did not have enough information to be considered documented. One of those was mentioned by Warden Louis Kis in "More Alaskan Bear Tales" by Larry Kaniut on page 276. In previous articles it was mentioned as an incident requiring more information. Reader were asked to provide information. The information was presented thus:

1. Early 1960s, North Fork of the the Flathead river in Montana, .22 H&R 9 shot revolver, grizzly bear.

The worker approached a bear in a black bear snare. The bear charged the worker, who shot it with the .22 revolver. The bear died, but it took some time to do so, as told by game warden Louis Kis.
p.  276, More Bear Tales

There was no name of a person who did the shooting, no date, no specific location.

The request for more specific information has been answered.

Allen Schallenberger is a long time Montana resident. He was a helper of Chuck Jonkel in 1963. Jonkel had killed the grizzly bear the previous year, in 1962. Chuck told Allen about the incident and allowed Allen to shoot the H&R revolver he had used to kill the grizzly. The incident was well known in Montana Fish & Game, which is how Lois Kis heard about it decades later.

"It is not surprising that Kis got most of the story correct, but did not have all the details, and got one or two things wrong.  Allen continued with Fish & Game  and did significant grizzly bear research in Montana. Here are excerpts from the letter by Allen Schallenberger:

 I assisted on black bear research trapping with Chuck Jonkel, MT Fish and Game Dept. for most of June 1963 on the head of Big Creek and other smaller drainages such as Hallowat Creek and Skookolleel Creek, all north of Whitefish on the North Fork of Flathead River. Chuck and his wife and small son James lived in Whitefish. I believe the Aldrich snare Louis Kis talked about was incorrect. It was used later in Montana. I used it on grizzly bear research in the 1970’s. We were using steel, double spring bear traps with an approximate 3/4 inch gap in the jaws in 1963. They were fastened to a double hook drag with approximately 6 feet of log chain. We lived in a 16 FG camp trailer which a grizzly bear had tried to enter by ripping all the aluminum siding off one side. He did not make it through the plywood. I stayed there alone whenever Chuck went home to Whitefish. We ran the trap line with an FG Jeep Wagoneer. 

The incident with the grizzly bear happened in the 1962 spring trapping season. Another worker was helping Chuck then. I met the guy once but have forgotten his name. A 500-pound male grizzly bear was caught in the steel jawed trap and took it and the tangled up drag about two miles where the bear hid in an aspen patch. Chuck and his helper tracked the grizzly on foot. The helper was armed with a 12 gauge shotgun and all Chuck had was his nine shot Harrington and Richardson Model 939, double action, .22 revolver in a holster on his belt.The grizzly charged and Chuck stood still waiting for his helper to shoot. He looked around and the helper was running off with the shotgun. Chuck turned to run and tripped over a tree root and fell to the ground. The 500-pound male grizzly ran up to Chuck and stood up on his hind legs over him with the trap on a front paw. Chuck pulled out his .22 revolver and fired all nine shots in it. Some missed, some glanced off the grizzly’s skull and one went into an eye socket, killing the bear. I shot that .22 when working for Chuck in 1963. It was first manufactured in 1958. 

Allen Schallenberger believes the bear trap was probably a Newhouse Number 150. Such traps with chain and drag are reported to be about 21 and a half pounds.  The traps used in the research did not have teeth, and had a 3/4 inch gap between the jaws.  Allen says they did not do much damage to the bears.

Over 20 lbs of steel on a bears paw would be a fearsome weapon, even if used unintentionally.

It is entirely believable a .22 Long Rifle slug could be fired into a big bear's brain, killing it. The most famous case was Bella Twin killing a world record grizzly with a single shot .22 rifle in 1953.  She is reported to have used .22 long cartridges.

Now we know Chuck Jonkel killed a 500 lb grizzly boar, with a .22 pistol, in self defense, on Big Creek on the North Fork of Flathead River, in the spring of 1962.

©2023 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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