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Bear Big Game

Palin Sends Wrong Message About Wilderness Bear Safety

by Conrad Evarts   |  July 11th, 2011 26

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park from our 2009 visit.

Television is a very powerful medium. With that power comes responsibility. Turbogunnut, Sarah Palin is a moron when it comes to wilderness bear safety and reckless with the responsibility she has as a TV host. Check out this clip from her TV show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”.

She takes Kate Gosselin, a woman with no experience with firearms or the backcountry into the bush and offers a shotgun as her best solution for defending her eight shrill offspring from a bear attack. There is no mention of the much safer and more effective bear spray. The way the scenario is presented, Palin is singlehandedly responsible for defending a dozen people from brown bears. At least eight of them are horribly behaved rug rats sparking off in random directions. Realistically, there is likely a team of producers, handlers, camera operators and security personnel making an attack highly unlikely. But the message being beamed out to suburbia is that a shotgun is the best plan to stop bears. This is reckless.

Additionally, the camp in this episode defines a “dirty camp” in the Bear Aware world. The food is being cooked and consumed inside a ring of tents. The coolers are not bear safe. I will give Gosselin points for making sufficient noise to cause a bear to not only depart, but to attempt suicide. I would suggest searching “Sarah Palin Kate Gosselin camping” but it is such a train wreck, you may get fired for not being able to stop watching clips.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit, if I could choose anyone to feed to a grizzly bear, Kate Gosselin would be in the top five. That’s not the point though. A cult of suburban hens follow these women.

Yes, on the .22 no on the .45. When she starts dating, yes on the .45 no on the .22

Guns are not a religion. Guns are tools. Just like wrenches, they are great for the right applications. They keep bad guys away from my family, the put food on the table and according to the Founding Fathers, they keep our government in check. But, just because I am pro-gun and a gun owner does not mean I have to abide by some kind of zealous orthodoxy that forces me to put facts aside.

Here’s the deal; nobody who is untrained with a firearm should be carrying or using one. Most folks in griz country outside of hunting season are untrained with firearms, especially in places like Glacier National Park and Yellowstone.

Imagine guns are PLAN A bear defense in the parks. Here’s what it would sound like at the gate, “Hello, welcome to Glacier National Park, You’re from San Francisco? Great. You’re backpacking? You’ll want to rent a bear proof canister for your food, take some nylon rope to hang anything with a food scent, and here’s your rental .45. Try not to point it at anything but a charging grizzly bear, and be sure to calmly squeeze the trigger when it gets within range. Oh but first you’ll need to put a round in the chamber…oh and the safety must be off. Well here’s a little pamphlet, take it with you just in case.”

Honestly, I know we don’t see many Japanese tourists in the backcountry, but imagine them all piling off a luxury coach with their Nikons and rental pistols.  Hopefully no WWII vets are nearby. Imagine renting revolvers to the French tourists…the backcountry rangers would need to hike in and collect them off the trail when Frenchy dropped them during a bluff charge. Even better, imagine loaner pistols to Canadians, they’d come back all rusty from the tears shed over how much more violent American bears are.

So, back to why turbo gun nuts like Sara Palin are dead wrong.

I would suggest looking at the research.

Adding a heavy gun to this load isn't going to work. I'll be the first to admit, I received bad beta on this hike, she should have had bear spray.

Now lets move on to common sense. My best hunting buddy is my 82-pound daughter. She loves the backcountry. Research shows she and all of her peers benefit greatly from hiking and hunting in the boonies. BUT, I’m pretty sure she can’t handle a .45 caliber handgun. She also can’t handle a .12 gauge shotgun with a slug in it. She can carry and use a canister of bear repellent. I know this because I took her to a training hosted by Capital Sports and the Montana Wildlife Federation.

One of the big concerns with both mountain lions and bears is them picking off children. If a bear has my daughter in its clutches, I will be very hesitant to send lead in their direction. But, I will spray the hell out of the bear with minimal concern for the overspray hitting a human.

Believe it or not, some of us know how to get into the backcountry without assistance from an ATV, floatplane, pickup or livestock. It’s called walking. My research indicates an iron skillet makes better pancakes than an aluminum MSR camp pot, but that doesn’t mean I’m packing it hell and gone into the backcountry on my back.

The kid and I after three days on a tough section of the Superior Hiking Trail.

I understand that the granolas are in the pepper spray camp because they don’t want dead bears. I don’t want random dead bears. But being opposed because granolas support or vice versa is not reasonable. Sometimes we can agree. I’m a pragmatist. I’m interested in what works, not positions based on fundamentalism.

Picturing yourself John Wayning a friggin’ griz while sitting around a table full of beers may be awesome in your brain. Safely avoiding or defusing a bear encounter in the bush is awesome in reality.


  • Ron

    Well said,

    but I think both of them should get tossed to Mr. Chocolate.

  • rachel k.

    Lucky little girl, getting trained by the likes of you! I bet you two have a BLAST together!

  • Tomachek Vladisknaus

    Your an idiot. Let me shoot you with pepper spray and then with a shotgun and lets see what works better.

    I have been an police officer with North Slope Borough police department for 15 years, have killed 20 of Alaska's bears, and been with Alaska natives while they killed 8 polar bears. I know something about killing bears, and keeping them from killing me.

    I'd take a 12 gauge shotgun with buckshot over a pepper spray gun everyday.

    • Conrad Evarts


      In English, it would be, "You're an idiot."

      Comparing shooting me to shooting a grizzly bear is not a useful analogy. Grizzly bears and people are very different physiologically and react very differently to both bear spray and buckshot.

      Your anecdotal evidence is not nearly as reliable as the evidence cited in the blog.

      With your experience, I'm sure you know that hunting a bear is very different than stopping a charge.

      I am glad to hear that you will be choosing a device with a 67% success rate over a device with a 92% success rate, because you just joined the group of five people I mentioned in my blog.


    • Shane


      Wow. The nonsensical threat was a particularly nice touch. My advice is that you quit acting like you hold some secret proprietary knowledge of how to deal with bears. Everyone on this forum knows that a person can kill a bear with a gun. Five-year-old kids know. Conrad's point, which I don't think warranted a death threat (from a police officer, no less), was that there is evidence showing how effective bear spray is. You don't like the data? Tough. I don't like that it's raining right now. But what am I going to do? Shoot the clouds?

    • Adam

      Buckshot? really? Your the idiot…. 3" slugs is what it takes. buckshot is gonna just piss you off

  • skip knowles

    “Hello, welcome to Glacier National Park, You’re from San Francisco? Great. You’re backpacking? You’ll want to rent a bear proof canister for your food, take some nylon rope to hang anything with a food scent, and here’s your rental .45."

    Hilarious, Conan! sorry some readers are a little short on fiber in their diet

  • Ron

    Tomachek Vladisknaus

    I am glad to hear that you have killed many bears in your days, including polar bears. Now some people may think this is impressive, I do not. I am not bragging but I have myself have killed over 20 bears and have been there on over 100 other kills, this should not impress you either. With that being said the one thing I would not brag about is that you were a police officer. No lie some of my friends are officers as well, and let me tell you something they are some of the worst shots I have seen. So in panic situation I am saying I would not want any of the ones I know at least defending me from a bear attack. Under pressure they would soil themselves, But you must be special, ya know kinda like Barney Feif. I think in general what conrad is trying to say is that most people that are out for a walk in bear country should carry the spray, because in panic situation its safer.

    • Adam

      Exactly…. I wouldnt even trust Sarah Palin with a gun, she is a complete idiot, and depsite what she says, you can tell buy her stance she doesnt handle firearms often.

  • Pete MacMahon

    Conrad, love the pick on the French! Funny as heck. Palin is now just another money making media-ite and as you stated has no place doling out advice.

    However, it's a personal choice and I for one would gladly deal with the heft of my Marlin guide gun all day long for the sense of security it would give me in bear country. But I would not give it to someone not very knowledgible in guns or even lever actions.

  • Rick Sofaly

    I think you should stick to bear sprau, Darwin will settle it for you. I'll take the shotgun

    • Conrad Evarts

      Darwin was a scientist of sorts. He valued research.

      I don't get what is complicated about this:

      Guns are 67% effective. Bear Spray is 92% effective. I do believe I will stick with the bear spray.

      Oh, and Rick, I'm sure Darwin won't settle this for me. He's dead. I think you mean the application of his Theory of Natural Selection. I think you are implying I'm stupid for going with an analysis of 20 years of data and 475 incidents.

      • Adam

        HAHA, Rick got schooled, i carry both, cause i know spray is more effective, you can spay a wide area, a bear, running at you full speed is actually quite a tough target, plus if you spray the bear and it doesnt stop. it will atleast slow it down long enough to get a well placed shot

  • john

    peper spray are you kiding me shotgun is the way

  • http://windows7 Ben Petrone

    The blinding sting of pepper spray is a very painful thing it not only blinds the bear it disorients it,but you better get going fast they also can smell their way to you.where i fish in Alaska the fishing guides carry a 12 gague sawed off pump shotgun first 2 rounds are double o buck shot the other three are slugs. i never have been involved in a confrontation but i have been close enough to them as not wanting any thing to do with them you can not appriciate the size of them unless you are up close from stats pepper spray is supposed to be the best me i would carry both.if you kill a griz you had better be able to prove on your part that there was no alternstive but to kill the bear. they frown on willy nilly killing of bears in the U.S. Griz that is.

  • Eugene Hostetler

    You sure spend a lot of time finding fault with Sarah Palin. Why do you resort to calling her names like "turbogunnut"?Perhaps your time would be better spent in opposition to the people who are actively trying to take away your right to use your guns as "tools".

    Or maybe you are actually one of those people, hiding behind your position as a writer for Petersons?

    • Conrad Evarts


      "Turbogunnut" is an awesome word I made up myself. Please show some appreciation as I'm letting others use it for free for the time being.

      And yes, you did discover my deep dark secret, I'm anti-gun and using my position to completely undermine our gun rights in America by suggesting people look into life saving research. The key to this is that it has to remain a secret. So let's you and I keep it to ourselves OK? If my bosses find out, it will be like that scene in the movie SALT in the safe room, when it all goes bad. SHHHH.

      • Mike Schoby


      • Eugene Hostetler

        Sarcasm aside, is it really necessary to call one of our own names in order to make a point about research? A shotgun is far better than nothing, both for defense against bears and human predators and if we make personal attacks on each other, the antis win.

        • Conrad Evarts


          Again, we all lose credibility when we blindly march lockstep with someone who is behaving foolishly simply because they hold the same membership cards we hold. This is not a cult.

          I would hold that Palin is doing a great deal of damage to the cause of gun and hunting rights by behaving irresponsibly. I would be complicit if I did not hold her accountable.

          I have two layers of responsibility here. The first is as a gun rights advocate, the second is as a television producer. While I clearly have a great deal of fun in the second position, I also went to journalism school and studied under people who taught me a great deal about the ethics developed by people like Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly.

          The antis win when our self-proclaimed spokespeople behave irresponsibly. We all win when we think for ourselves, live up to our responsibilities and behave ethically.

  • Neanderthal

    How do you tell the difference between Black bear scat and Grizzly bear scat. Black bear scat has twigs and leaves in it and smells like berries. Grizzly bear scat has little bells in it and smells like pepper.

  • Kyle Roach

    Just some FYI on the statement that Darwin was a scientist of sorts. When he finally graduated from college his degree was in theology, kinda weird given what he is most known for. He did help a naturalist with some research mounting animals (It was taxidermy… you're dirty! Shame on you!).

    Just seems to me like the spray works fairly well. I don't have any experience with it personally, but I do have a friend that let a can get overheated in their car. Days after the inevitable explosion the only way they could drive the car was hanging their head out the window. They seem to be a believer after that experience.

  • Charles

    Warning: In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert of bears while in the field.

    We advise outdoorsmen to wear noisy little bells on their clothing, so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them. We also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear.

    It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear manure: Black bear manure is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear manure has little bells in it and smells like pepper." I'll carry my 45-70 or my 12 gauge thank you.

  • rachel k.

    I LOOOOVE 'turbogunnut'!

    Eugene: "Or maybe you are actually one of those people, hiding behind your position as a writer for Petersons?"

    I've never known a man more willing to back his convictions with action than C. Evarts. Accusing someone of his caliber as one to hide behind anything is laughable. I would NEVER want to match wits with him, 'writer for Peterson's' or no. I would assert that he knows what he is talking about otherwise he wouldn't be running his mouth (or typer, as the case may be).

  • Tater

    The point that went by the wayside long ago is that a novice has a MUCH better chance of survival with pepper spray. Not knowing guns or bear anatomy, and factor in an animal the size of a small house charging straight at you, I don't believe many people could make the decisions and actions necessary with a gun.

  • Chuck

    I am guide in Alaska and make a living hunting bears. A 12 ga with 00buck is fine in most cases. That said I don't care how experienced you are you don't use one in crowds and you certainly don't use on with 8 children running around.

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