Monday, April 01, 2024

Black Bear, Early 1960's, Montreal River, Upper Peninsula Michigan, Ruger .22 Magnum


James Albert Maierle was a well known educator and sportsman, born in 1942 in Calumet Michigan. He was an enthusiastic hunter, fisherman and woodsman. He well known in his local area and published a few stories in hunting magazines. He died in 2022. His son related the circumstances of his father's shooting of a black bear in self defense in the early 1960's, on the Montreal River in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The location is only a few miles from where Maierle grew up. The area was pretty wild in the early 1960's. After the major copper mine shut down in 1967, the population dwindled further. From Jim Maierle:

 It was some time in the early 60s from what he told me, I don’t remember him saying what year specifically.  This was somewhere on the Montreal river up in Keweenaw county where he was stream fishing alone.  I believe it was in the spring.  He said he was walking along the river when he noticed a small cub.  He stopped and looked around and immediately realized he had inadvertently ended up between the cub and the sow.  He started backing away from both of them and the sow started advancing on him.  He put some distance from them but she wouldn’t stop despite him yelling and waving his arms to warn her off.  When he realized she wasn’t backing down he drew the Ruger and waited until it was quite close before he fired.  He was a very good shot so I have no doubt he wanted to make sure he could hit where he was aiming.  The bear went down as I described. [dead right there with a brain shot] He then took the cub and wrapped it up in his jacket and put it in the trunk of his car.  Not sure what to do with it and not wanting to just leave it to die out there, he brought it to a local bar where some of his friends were to show them (it was the 60s..).  One of them tried to pet it but it chomped his finger pretty good.  He took it home to his parents’ house and let it loose in the cellar for the night where it made a lot of noise from what he said.  Then the next day he called the DNR about it and they suggested he release it at a local dump where a mother with some cubs had been seen frequently.  He did, and some time after he heard this mother bear had an additional cub hanging around with her and the others.  Not positive if it was the same one but it’s likely so it could be it was a happy ending after all.


Because of this personal story of his I never go in the woods without a sidearm.  Largest is a .44mag Ruger but I’ve lately been carrying a lighter 45 long colt SAA or a .45acp P345.  I inherited his Single Six from the story but don’t carry it for bear protection LOL!

The story fits known bear behavior. Most black bears will run away from humans. Occasionally a black bear sow with a cub or cubs will attack a human. It is not common.  James Maierle would have been in his 20's at the time, probably home on spring vacation from college. The Montreal river is pretty wild, less than an hour's drive from his parents house. While the year is unclear, the background of James Maierle and the details of the event are reasonable and not contradicted by the geography of the area. This correspondent grew up only 250 miles away, at roughly the same time. The idea of showing a captured bear cub to your buddies at a local bar is authentically 1960's for the area.  James' son Jim says the revolver was an early Ruger Single Six with interchangeable cylinders and a 6 1/2 inch barrel.

Note: This correspondent contacted a cousin who lives in the upper peninsula a few miles southwest of where the incident occurred. He is a contemporary of James Albert Maierle. He did not recall hearing of this specific incident, but will ask his contemporaries about it. He is 88 years old. My cousin related an incident where he had to kill a black bear which had become habituated to humans. One night, his wife went out to use the outhouse at their hunting cabin, where they were spending time with family during the summer. She was blocked by the presence of a large black bear who was not intimidated. My cousin reluctantly accessed his .300 Savage, went out, and shot the bear. He did not want to shoot the bear, but it had become habituated to hanging about the hunting camp. It was too much of a danger to his wife and young children.


©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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