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GUNS Magazine June 2010 - Page 52
B ears awaken our primitive fear of becoming an edible link in the food chain. This is why so many bear hunters believe they should carry really big rifles, despite the fact the average black bear is about the size of the average whitetail buck. There is, however, a rational justification for The Big Bear Rifle. Bears grow throughout their lives, especially male bears. Black bears weighing over 400 pounds occur everywhere they’re found, and occasionally weigh over 800. Grizzlies grow twice as large along the salmon-rich seacoasts of British Columbia and Alaska, but as with black bears, extra-large grizzlies can turn up anywhere. My home state of Montana has a thriving grizzly population, but since 1991 the only “hunting” has been by biologists, who trap grizzlies to attach radio-tracking devices. A few years ago they trapped an old male who’d evaded humans (including biologists) for over 25 years. The bear bottomed out an 800-pound scale—and in spring, when the bear was skinny. After the autumn pig-out technically known as hyperphagia, bears typically weigh 25 to 30 percent more than their spring weight. This old grizzly would enter his winter den weighing around 1,100 pounds, about the weight of an Angus steer. This means North American bears vary from deer-size to steer-size. Apparently black bears are now found in every American state except Hawaii, and everywhere in Canada except Prince Edward Island, where they became extinct in 1937. Populations keep expanding, and many eastern states have either opened or extended bear seasons in an attempt to keep bears in control. Even so, there aren’t nearly as many black bears as there are deer, and bears are far less predictable than deer, due to a diet that includes anything from green grass to gut-piles, the reason baiting is legal in some places, particularly Canada. John Barsness like most hunters today, the bolt action is the rifle of choice for bear hunters and good ones include (from top to bottom) a Kimber Model 84 in .338 Federal, a Heym Sr-21 in .300 Winchester Magnum and a remington 700 in .350 remington Magnum. A lot of bear hunting in Western North America involves glassing open country, a technique usually known as spot-and-stalk. 52 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JUNE 2010