I was saddened to read about the loss of two people killed by brown bears brought about apparently by a self-taught man in arrogance and bone-headedness.
The really sad part about this is how much of an effect his books, tapes and ideas have upon other uninformed people who come to Alaska each year to see the bears in their natural surroundings, not knowing the danger they put themselves.
They are led to believe that browns and grizzlies are like pets or farm animals. Wrong! Wrong! Bears eat many things other than meat, but they do eat all kinds of meat, including human flesh. They do not draw a magic line because one is human.
I am not an expert on bears, but I have lived in Kenai for more than 40 years. During this time, I have hunted bears from Eagle in the east to Cold Bay in the southwest, from above the Arctic Circle to the Cook Inlet Basin, and I am firmly convinced that if one goes up and down these alder trails in Alaska long enough that one day you will have a shootout with a brownie.
Whatever kind of firearm one is carrying will be the bear gun, whether it be a .410 spruce chicken gun, a .22 rifle or a .375 H-H magnum. It will have to be used to protect the person or the person will be killed by the bear. It is just that simple.
In my opinion, a handgun is a very poor choice. The newspaper article stated that the officers had to shoot the bear 11 times with a handgun to kill it. Bad. Bad. Bad. Why was he not carrying a good heavy caliber rifle with which one or two well placed shots would have killed the bear?
Admittedly, bears do not pose for one in the ideal positions and stand still for one to make that one shot kill. One must take their shots as one can. Further, one has very little time to react and fire. A bear can move unbelievably fast. I've been there and seen how quickly they move.
There is an old saying: "I would rather be judged by 12 than to be carried by six." I don't want to read or hear of others being killed by a brownie just because someone from California thinks they are cute and thus they are led to get close to watch the bears.
I love bear hunting, but I know that the bear is a very smart animal and has a nose that it uses to hunt its prey.
Bears are like people. Sometimes they just have a bad day, have been whipped by a bigger bear or lost a girlfriend, or maybe they are just plain hungry and want some food. People can be pretty mean if they are starving for food, and bears are no different.
It is my opinion that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has some bad numbers about how many bears we have on the Kenai Peninsula. There need to be fall hunts allowed to thin the bear population even on a limited basis, such as a drawing of a permit. We must not wait until a child or two is killed or badly mangled before this is done.
If one is going to view or hunt bears, don't do dumb things. Watch, look, listen, use the advantage of the wind and, above all, use a good bolt-action rifle of heavy caliber and the best ammunition you can afford. Practice shooting the rifle because the bullet placement can mean the difference between life and death.
Good luck with your hunting.
David F. Thornton, Kenai
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