Grizzly Bear Attack in Montana Stopped with 9mm Pistols

Discussion in 'General Hunting' started by EC, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. EC

    EC 12 pointer

    Jul 13, 2003
    Louisville, KY.
    Grizzly Bear Attack in Montana Stopped with 9mm Pistols
    Ammoland Inc. Posted on October 7, 2019 by Dean Weingarten

    Gregersen's Glock 43 and ammunition
    Arizona -( – On 16 September 2019, Chris Gregersen and Donivan Cambell were bow hunting elk in Montana, in the Gravelly Mountains, when they were attacked by a grizzly bear. They had gone out for an afternoon hunt, and had hunted up steep drainage, climbed the opposite slope, and had been calling for elk on the opposite side of the ridge with a bugle call.

    They were returning to their truck and camp. They stopped calling on the top of the ridge, crested the ridge, and were on a steep downward slope, moving toward the creek at the bottom, on an old game trail. There was no cell service in the area.

    The weather was clear, in the 50s, with a slight breeze. It was 6:30 p.m. The sun was low in the sky. They wanted to get back before dark.

    In addition to their archery equipment, both men had 9 mm pistols. Chris Gregersen had a Glock 43. Donivan Campbell had a Sig Sauer P320. Both guns were loaded with full metal jacketed (FMJ) cartridges.

    Chris said he carried the Glock 43 because it was small enough to be taken every day.

    Both men are professional biologists, with degrees in wildlife ecology, working in their chosen field. They are familiar with bears and bear behavior. They live and work in Washington State. They are both longtime hunters and fishermen. They are proficient woodsmen.

    Donivan (face-paint, left) and Chris after successful turkey hunt
    The way back to the truck was north, down a slope, through the timber, and up the other side. They were in thick timber of mature lodgepole pine with some spruce, and patches of brush and blowdowns. In the picture, the attack occurred across the creek and up the slope in the timber in the upper right.

    The attack occurred in dense timber across the creek and up slope
    As they crossed a small bench, they heard an animal jump up, downwind, in the brush to their left (West). It was close, within 20 yards. Their first thought was: elk! As they turned to look, the grizzly bear erupted from the brush, charging at them, woofing and breathing heavily, only feet away. Chris ran and jumped downhill. Donivan attempted to dodge uphill, but the bear veered and grabbed him by the thigh, shaking him like a dog shaking a rat. The initial attack happened in seconds.

    Chris said, even if he had a deterrent in hand, he would not have been able to deploy it fast enough.

    Chris had just landed when he heard Donivan scream. He immediately drew his pistol and ran uphill toward Donivan and the bear. The bear had shaken Donivan again. Donivan was on his belly, the bear holding him down by standing on his back. The bear had let go of Donivan's leg and was attempting to bite Donivan's head. Donivan had both hands behind his head, trying to protect his neck. His thumbs were in the bear's mouth, trying to hold the bear's teeth away from his head. He could feel the bear's teeth on his hands. To this point, the action had taken about fifteen seconds.

    The attack was aggressive, fast, violent. Chris could see the bear going for Donivan's head when he shot.
    Chris said he had no choice. He had to fire. If he did not fire, Donivan would be killed or injured more severely. He had run to within 15 feet of the bear and Donivan, the bear facing away from him, on top of Donivan. He took a snap sight picture and fired at the bear's rear. It was probably 16 seconds into the attack. The point of aim was the bear's hind quarters. There was no other choice. The bear and Donivan were up slope with brush on either side. There was no time to flank the bear, on a steep hill side, with considerable brush, when fractions of a second could make the difference between life and death. Chris had a clear shot. He has considerable experience shooting under stress while hunting. He says he has “shot a lot.” He had a brief worry about hitting his friend, so he had to do it right.

    Chris believes he hit the bear in one of the hind quarters, from the rear. The searchers reported finding a little blood, but it might have been Donivan's. From the back, a 9mm FMJ would be unlikely to reach the bear's vitals or penetrate far enough to reach Donivan. On a large bear, with lots of fat in the fall, a significant blood trail was unlikely.

    Severe wound on Donivan's Thigh from Grizzly Bear Attack
    Chris expected the bear to turn on him. At the shot, the bear leaped away from Donivan and disappeared into a thick wall of brush only 5 feet away. The bear could not have acted faster to a cloud of bear spray.

    Chris did not know if Donivan was alive or dead. Donivan drew his Sig Sauer as soon as the bear jumped off him. As Chris approached Donivan, he saw his friend was alive and armed. They immediately heard the grizzly coming back from about 30 yards out. As a snap plan, Donivan agreed to fire to deter the bear, with Chris in reserve to fire as soon as he saw it. The friends are yelling at the bear. As it got to within 5 yards, still unseen, Donivan fired two shots into the brush, toward the bear. The bear stopped, started walking away, and retreated perhaps 20 yards.

    The friends heard the bear charge a third time. Donivan fired another shot at the noise as the bear closed to about 10 yards, still without being seen, hidden by the thick brush. Indexing on the sound, they had a good idea of where it was. The bear stopped, and the friends hear it slowly walking in the brush, then slowly walking away. They heard the sounds of the bear's retreat faded. The only clear shot fired at the bear was the first one fired by Chris, it was effective in stopping the attack, driving the bear off of Donivan and giving him the opportunity to draw his Sig.

    Chris emphasized bear spray would not have been sufficient. The spray would have been directed at the bear's backside. If the spray had reached the bear's head, it would have disabled Donivan as well. When the bear charged again, the bear spray would have been unlikely to reach the bear through the heavy cover.
    Chris believed the sound of the shots and the yelling stopped the second and third charges. He thinks all three shots fired by Donivan missed the bear. It could not be seen. Donivan was on the ground, firing at the noise of the bear crashing through the brush at them. There was a lot of brush.

    Chris checked his friend's wounds. The bear had torn up Donivan's thigh with six lacerations, ripped into severe wounds as the bear shook Donivan. One of them was large enough for the doctor at the hospital to put his entire hand inside while cleaning it out.

    There wasn't any arterial bleeding. The emergency “first aid” kit was useless, designed for minor cuts and insect bites. The friends improvised bandages using game bags and t-shirts. Chris improvised crutches from trekking poles. They believed they could be attacked again at any time, as had happened in several other cases, with Todd Orr being the classic example. Chris kept his Glock in hand and put Donivan's Sig in his pants pocket. He reloaded his Glock 43 with a spare magazine. Donivan would have both hands full staying upright and moving back toward the road.

    The sun was nearly down, with deep shadows across the valley. They had to make it down to the creek, and across it, a three-quarter-mile hike. Then there was an uphill climb to the road and the truck. At the camp was a 4-wheeler, five miles away.

    Chris cleared a trail for Donivan, helped him over logs, and provided security as they hobbled their way, as fast as they could, toward the road, the truck, and safety.

    Once they got to the other side of the creek, they were able to make it to an area of sagebrush. Donivan was spent. The two decided, rather than risk further injury by carrying Donivan, Chris would go and get the 4-wheeler at the camp. Chris returned Donivan's Sig P320 9 mm and left him in a relatively open area, covered with clothes, in a defensive position. The sun was below the horizon.

    Chris ran upslope for a quarter mile to the truck. He drove five miles back to the camp, returned with the 4-wheeler, found a way downslope with the vehicle, and loaded Donivan on it. Donivan had his headlight out and turned on. The evening sky glow was fading. As they headed up slope in the 4-wheeler, it was dark.

    On the road, they headed back toward camp. Part way there, they were able to flag down someone to go and call 911 from a local cabin with a land line. The call started an ambulance on the way up. They loaded Donivan into the truck and started down the mountain. Just as they reached cell phone service, 40 miles from the attack site, they met the ambulance coming up. The ambulance took Donivan to the hospital.

    bondhu, Ataulbe1 and muddhunter like this.
  2. grinder

    grinder 6 pointer

    Oct 28, 2003
    harrodsburg, ky, USA.
    Just goes to show, certain calibers may not be ideal for certain jobs, but ANY gun, is better than NO gun !
  3. 93chromedaytona

    93chromedaytona Spike

    Nov 20, 2014
    That makes me cringe just reading it. If I was in Grizzly country, I would def have a better option than a single stack 9mm. But def better than nothing. I prob wouldn't get out of the truck with a glock 43 full of FMJ!:)
  4. Ataulbe1

    Ataulbe1 12 pointer

    Oct 27, 2017
    Estill County
  5. carnivore

    carnivore 12 pointer

    Nov 17, 2007
    Im angry that we are in an environment that they have to over communicate that alternative means of deterrence would not work. A bear is a dangerous animal and these guys should not have to defend their decision to shoot the bear.
    Munson, Nock, Lady Hunter and 12 others like this.
  6. barney

    barney 12 pointer

    Oct 11, 2005
  7. kyhunter99

    kyhunter99 12 pointer

    Dec 21, 2014
    Probably in the kitchen Ky
    I read the overview on where they studied all bear vs gun reports for the last few decades. Self defense scenarios of course.
    They found a 9mm was just as effective as any.
    Kind of shocking. But larger calibers have no advantage if you fail to hit the bear.
    JR in KY likes this.
  8. carnivore

    carnivore 12 pointer

    Nov 17, 2007
    I would likley take exception to the study you refer to. The bear in this article came back for more after being shot, twice! In my mine thats already a fail. This would not have happened with a more powerful round. If the study calls this example a win its flawed.
    I read what I believe to be the same one you read and there is a recurring theme, in all scenarios warning shots waste a bullet you might need and the bear usually comes back for more. One fella luckily killed the bear with his last bullet after firing a couple warning shots and an intentionally non lethal hit.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
  9. 1wildcatfan

    1wildcatfan 12 pointer

    Jan 2, 2009
    raised n Bullitt Co.
    FMJ bullets, in this example, are far from the best at stopping a bear. Probably just pisses it off more. I'd take a 44 or 454 casull with hard cast bullets any day over a 9mm.
  10. bstickin1

    bstickin1 8 pointer

    Jul 1, 2005
    Rocky Hill, Kentucky
    Many moons ago one of my uncles trapped quiet a few bears in California and used one shot from a .22 to kill every one of them. Anything is better than nothing but if I was taking on a bear I'd feel a lot better having as much knock down power as possible.
  11. kyhunter99

    kyhunter99 12 pointer

    Dec 21, 2014
    Probably in the kitchen Ky
    Imo I'd want the balance. As with carry concealed you want to defend yourself with a gun you will actually carry, and that is easy enough to handle in a fight. This leaves alot of long barrels out if it imo.
    And it also leaves out the desert eagle and s&w 500 for many. ;P
  12. carnivore

    carnivore 12 pointer

    Nov 17, 2007
    I agree to an extent. I carry a sig 938 9mm daily but thats cause im trying to keep it concealed. I dont want to be hastled by the cops or store management because a nervous nelly reported me. If im hunting in bear country im open carrying and packing a 44 or 45 is easy when not trying to conceal.
    As far as knock down power goes a 9mm is like getting hit by a bicycle vs a car. Soldiers talked about it all the time in regard to an enemy continuing to fight vs knocked on their ass.
  13. timer

    timer 10 pointer

    Feb 20, 2013
    La Grange
    Many years ago there was a humongous brown bear mount on display in the Anchorage airport. Legend has it that he was taken by a .22 shot to the eye when he stuck his head in a pup tent....

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