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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.

 

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