There be grizz in them hills! was a common campfire joke when I was young. The older I got the more true that statement became with old humpies expansion further south into areas where 30 years before they weren’t common. The reality is that the population has grown and will continue to grow at an unchecked pace until effective hunting seasons are established. So where does that leave us as hunters who want to venture into grizzly country for a trophy elk or mule deer?
It means that every hunter must continue to be diligent in our awareness that we are in bear country. Luck favors the prepared and to be lucky enough to venture into grizzly occupied backcountry without an encounter means taking precautions.
200 yards means 200 yards and not an inch short of it. Hanging food the proper distance can make all the difference in whether or not a hunter bumps into a bear close to sleeping quarters. 200 yards is far enough away from tents and sleeping areas that bears will stay that far out if possible. Bears don’t like confrontation with people but are more than happy to fight in defense of their life when they feel threatened. 200 yards keeps bears far enough away that they can hear or smell human activity and will leave without a fight.
Bears are also opportunistic in their feeding habits. This means that an easy meal of backpacking food hanging low or not the minimum four feet from the tree trunk are easy picking! Grizzlies aren’t the climbers that black bears are but a cub can certainly get out a couple feet on a ten foot high limb to reach improperly stored food. The four foot mark isn’t arbitrary, a big cub will likely fall from a flimsy limb learning the hard lesson only gravity can teach.
Believe it or not bear spray is not simply seasoning for a hungry Grizz’s next meal. The stuff works and a bear that has been sprayed has been taught a valuable lesson about the power that humans hold. A bear that has been sprayed is much less likely to challenge a hunter again because they are smart animals who do reason to some degree. Any law enforcement officer or soldier who has suffered through an OC spray qualification will politely tell you the stuff is for real. Invest in bear spray, it could save your life.
All in all, for me the risk is worth the reward as the bounty that comes from hunting in Grizzly country can be far greater than other units.