In an attempt to avoid the second Wyoming grizzly bear mauling in one week, Lee Francis of Evanston, Wyoming drew and fired several rounds from his 10mm handgun as a grizzly closed in on him while he was hunting in the shadow of the Tetons. Francis succeeded in scaring off the charging grizz but shot himself accidentally through the lower leg in the process.
Francis’ son called the incident in via satellite phone before loading him onto a horse and evacuating him to an area where the local search and rescue team could take over his care. Mr. Francis was life-flighted to the University of Utah hospital where, as far as we know, he remains.
Our prayers our with Mr. Francis and his family as we ask for a speedy and complete recovery. That said, his accident serves as yet another stark reminder of the realities of hunting in grizzly country.
Quite often the most dangerous elements of hunting in grizzly bear country are not the bears themselves.
The Killer H’s
- Horses: In almost all of Wyoming’s grizzly bear habitat horses and mules are the best way to access good hunting. However, they are also far more dangerous than any bear roaming the mountains. Horse wrecks outnumber grizzly maulings badly each year across the mountain west and are often more deadly. 1 in 10,000 horse wrecks result in the fatality of a human being. Compare that to 1 in 2.1 million for your odds of being killed by a grizzly.
- Handguns: As this unfortunate instance illustrates, handguns are not the best defense against bear attacks. In fact, they are woefully ineffective… ‘“Our findings suggest that only those proficient in firearms use should rely on them for protection in bear country.” (Copyright The Wildlife Society). I think we would all like to think we are “proficient” but the truth is, even as hunters, we all aren’t. Firearm accuracy in the heat of a fast, stressful and real-life situation isn’t easily tested.” http://www.bear-hunting.com/2019/8/firearm-vs-bear-spray
- Hypothermia: The silent killer… hunters are much more likely to die from exposure than being killed by a bear. In fact, in Wyoming your odds of perishing via Hypothermia are roughly 1 in 100,000. That’s a chilling statistic.
I could go on and on and none of this is to question Mr. Francis’ abilities with a handgun or his judgment in choosing one for his defense. His story, while unfortunate, should serve as a reminder to us all of the importance of being prepared for an accident in the backcountry; his son’s satellite phone likely saved Mr. Francis’ life.
I’d like your opinion on this, as via shared information we might all learn something. What items do you carry for personal protection in the backcountry?