Safety In Bear Country
Safety precautions in bear country may be one of the most important part of any elk hunt.

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Safety precautions in bear country may be one of the most important part of any elk hunt. You will need to take these precautions to avoid bear problems. Many rules are set forth by the Forest Service and the state Game and Fish Departments to protect anyone who uses the backcountry for camping. They are for your protection and may save your life.

The first rule in avoiding bear problems is proper camp planning. Do not set up camp in a place that will force bears to move through a small area or where there is a bear trail. Also avoid setting up a camp next to a roaring stream that may drown out sounds. Bears that hear you, will usually avoid you. Also avoid setting up camp where they will feed, such as near berry patches.

When setting up your camp, keep sleeping areas away from food storage areas and cooking areas. The sleeping tent should be set upwind from the cooking tent or site. Evening winds will usually blow down the valley. You should also clear away any underbrush, branches, and deadfall around camp for better visibility.

Make sure that your food storage is bear proof, such as hanging it from a tree out of a bear's reach, both in height and far enough from the tree so it cannot be reached from the tree or branch. Some camping areas have bear proof containers that are made out of metal, use them if you can.

Keep a clean camp. All dishes should be washed immediately after a meal. Food garbage should be burned, and horse feed and strong smelling plastics should be stored just like your food and away from camp. It is recommended that your food storage should be at least 100 yards away from camp. You should avoid wearing the same clothes for hunting and sleeping that you cook and eat in, as your clothes will pick up the food odors, especially strong odors such as bacon, and store those clothes as you would your food.

Keep a small, but sharp knife handy in your sleeping tent in the event that you need to make a new doorway. Always have pepper spray handy in camp. Always carry your rifle and pepper spray with you if you go for a walk or into the woods to go to the bathroom. Urinating in different locations around camp will help keep bear away as well.

Hang any and all game meat as you would food. Hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and so it cannot be reached from the sides either. Some areas also have meat poles set up for this purpose. If they are there, use them. These are built with the sole purpose of hanging game far enough out of reach for bears, and are very sturdy.

When returning to camp, make noise. You do not want to surprise a bear. All bear have a critical space and react within that space. If you surprise a bear within that space there is no telling what will happen. If possible, enter camp from upwind, so he can smell your presence. Upon returning to camp, go through your pack and rid of any leftover food that may be in there

If you have to leave your kill overnight and return for it the next day, approach the kill site from upwind and make lots of noise. Again, you do not want to surprise a bear. If a bear is on your kill (which should have been hung also), he will consider that kill his and will defend it. While dealing with the game, keep an open eye and listen carefully as well. A bear may return for your kill, or may have been drawn to that spot by smell.

If you are on a guided hunt, you will be under the watchful eye of your guide and outfitter, who know how to avoid conflicts with bears, so follow their instructions closely. By following these rules, you will probably have a safe and enjoyable hunt, both in and out of the hunting camp, and avoid any problems. More outdoorsman are hurt and killed each year by poisonous snakes, lightning strikes, and other acts of nature, than by bears, so the risk is not great, providing that you take the precautions.

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