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General Big Game Season Opens Oct. 20, A Few Key Things to Remember


Wed Oct 17 10:33:31 MDT 2018

Deer and elk hunters will take to the field Oct. 20 for the general big game season and they’ll all need to keep in mind a few important pieces of information.

Be bear aware

Grizzly bear populations are continuing to expand in western Montana, and though we often say that anywhere in the western half of the state is grizzly bear country, not all recreationists, particularly hunters are ready to encounter a grizzly bear.

  • carry bear spray, be prepared and know how to use it,
  • hunt with a partner and let someone else know your plans,
  • pay attention to fresh bear sign. Look for bear tracks, scat, and concentrations of natural foods,
  • use caution when hunting areas that have evidence of bear activity or areas with scavenging birds such as magpies, ravens, or crows,
  • get harvested big game out of the woods quickly,
  • upon returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site from a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise,
  • never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass,
  • contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable.
  • if you do shoot something and have to come back to pack out all or part of it, make sure to move the meat away from the entrails, if possible.

For more on living with bears and being bear aware, visit FWP's website at; then click Be Bear Aware. Bear resistant products are described on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee's website at A “How to Hunt Safely in Grizzly Country” brochure is also available at FWP regional offices.

Bear spray – carry it, know how to use it

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends the use of bear spray and urges hunters to learn other bear-aware safety measures.

Most grizzly bears will leave an area if they sense human presence. Hunters who observe a grizzly bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area. If you do encounter a grizzly, stay calm, don't run, and assess the situation by trying to determine if the bear is actually aware of you. Is it, for instance, threatening or fleeing? Always keep the bear in sight as you back away and leave the area.

Here are some guidelines for using bear spray:

  • Bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.
  • Each person should carry a can of bear spray.
  • If a bear is moving toward you from a distance of 30-60 feet direct the spray downward toward the front of the bear so that the bear spray billows up and creates a cloud that acts as a barrier between you and the bear.
  • If the bear is within 30 feet spray continuously at the front of the bear until it breaks off its charge.
  • Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you. Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge.
  • Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.
  • A full canister of bear spray is essential for bear encounters.
  • The expiration date on the spray should be checked annually.
  • Purchase products that are clearly labeled “for deterring attacks by bears,” and that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

No deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, bear spray has demonstrated success in a variety of situations in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved.