What if a Grizzly Bear Kills Me?

People always ask about what they should do if something happens to me.  Part of the sentiment comes from the fact that I promote alternate strategies and some of it is because of a remote connection.  What are the chances of finding someone else to advise you on the use of an alternate strategy?  And local advisors are not near as likely as me to spend a lot of time in deep wilderness and unpredictable situations.  Fortunately I have already worked on a solution if things happen to not go as planned.  Before I get started I need to let you all know that I’m not worried at all.

We need to clear another thing up as well.  When I say camping, it means to me traveling into national forest or wilderness to spend at least two nights.  It’s not pulling a tent out of an SUV and pitching it in a park next to a highway.  That’s just sleeping outside.  That can be fun as well and I mean no disrespect to anyone who enjoys it.  It’s just that from a very early age I went camping the way I always understood it to be.  We hiked into mountain lakes and went fishing with my dad, brothers, cousins and grandpa.  I don’t think I was even four years old the first time I did it.

We were in grizzly country, always.  The men in my family were very much into tough love.  Every single one is kind, generous and strong but they made sure that I learned hard lessons.  There was no coddling or letting any of us boys avoid responsibility.  We were never taught that life would be easy.  And we were sure as hell made very aware of the danger present in wilderness travel.  Falling, cutting yourself or bad weather can make things miserable and possibly deadly.  Let’s not forget that grizzlies are out there too.

We were always fishing.  My dad used to tell me to make sure and wash my hands really well.  If the smell of fish stayed on there then a grizzly might come into the tent and get me.  We all scrubbed religiously but would never know whether we did a good enough job.  Night was always coming and we tried to sleep, wondering whether any of us would get dragged out of our sleeping bags.  It never happened but dad put the fear of God in me and we always respected the possibility of a catastrophic event.  After all this time I’ve figured out that he was probably just trying to get a few dirty little kids to clean up.

Because of those lessons, my dad trusted me to go out on my own at a relatively young age.  I was 14 years old when they sent me and my cousin, without adults, on a multi-night backpacking trip in the Jewel Basin in Montana.  Dad gave me his 44 Magnum, just in case.  He knew that I knew how and when to use it if necessary.  We didn’t use it so it just ended up being another heavy thing in my backpack.  We might have done some target practice but I couldn’t afford to pay him back for the shells, which I assumed were only free if I had to defend my life.

Activities like that became much more common and continue to this day.  When my cousin and I came back alive, our parents trusted us to do it again.  My teenage summers were spent the same way.  Every spare moment when I wasn’t working was spent climbing mountains in grizzly country to go fishing.  Girls and booze were strictly forbidden and that’s the only thing besides sports that could keep my attention.  It worked well for me and I am grateful because it led to me getting two really cool summer jobs, guiding fishing trips, in Montana and Alaska.  

Alaska introduced me to a whole new experience with grizzly bears.  We were mostly fishing for trout who eat salmon eggs and bears like to eat spawning salmon.  Bears were always around and in very close proximity.  When a bear in Alaska has salmon to eat, they have no interest in humans.  A grizzly sauntering by, five feet away is very unsettling at first but you get used to it.  It’s certainly nothing to take for granted but you can be assured of relatively safe encounters 99 times out of 100.  When salmon aren’t available the bears can be more of a problem and a sow with cubs is always dangerous.  You still have to pay attention.

I had close calls with bears in Alaska on either side of salmon season and it wasn’t pleasant but I survived.  Experiences around them taught me about behavior so it was easier to avoid conflict.  That helps now that I’m back in Montana because bears here are much more like the ones in Alaska when they don’t have salmon to eat.  Grizzly bears in Montana are always looking for something to eat so there’s more curiosity when we happen upon them in the woods.  You certainly want to make sure you’re not the next thing on the menu.

That mostly comes into play during hunting season.  Bears in some areas are conditioned to move toward the direction of gunshots.  If some poor bastard is busy dressing an elk when a grizzly with a rumbling belly finds the kill site, two worlds collide.  Either the person or the bear is going to die and sometimes both will.  That’s not going to happen to me because of the experience with and respect I have for grizzly bears.  You have to keep your head on a swivel.  Have a buddy to keep watch or better yet, make sure your mules are close and not tied up so they can protect you.  In other words, I’m set up to deal with it.

I’ve told the story before about taking Kerry Pechter, of the Retirement Income Journal, on a backcountry trip years ago.  We all experienced horses, mules, campfire grilling and of course fly fishing in the wilderness.  Obviously bears were a thought in his mind but I told him a lot of these stories.  Once out of the woods, we stopped for burgers at a little dive bar.  We had two trucks and one of them had a knocking sound in the engine but we were still 100 miles from home.  The questionable truck was a Chevy so Kerry rode home with me.  With the possibility of truck problems in addition to everything we had just done, I’ll never forget Kerry saying, “you do a lot of stuff where things could go really wrong.”

Yes I do.  But I know how to deal with it.  I’ve been doing it for 40 years and I always have respect for the possibility of a tough situation.  If something happens to me my family will be sad and I sure hope I cleaned my bathroom before I left.  You may notice the advisors who I have been bringing closer to my business in the past couple years.  Between Ashok Ramji, John Balmer and all the guys from Midland National that I just met, I was able to create a business succession plan so that you are all taken care of in the event of a tragedy.  Honest and sincere, like-minded people will be able to provide the service you all deserve so wish me a good time and don’t worry about anything bad happening to me.

I may get bitten by a grizzly bear but it ain’t gonna be next week…

Episode 94 What if a Grizzly Bear Kills Me?

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
[2:10] The relationship between grizzly bears and alternate strategies
[3:36] A young Bryan’s experience in the wilderness
[9:31] When in Alaska: A whole new learning experience with grizzly bears
[11:19] Bryan’s experience and thoughts on coming face-to-face with a grizzly bear
[14:16] What to expect on a bear encounter and how to handle it
[16:34] More of Bryan’s trips and what he learned from them
[20:02] Business Succession Plan: Preparing for the unforeseeable

Key Quotes:

“Do not take for granted the smooth, easy days. It will get harder at times and you have to be ready to deal with it.”

“Part of retirement is enjoying life.”


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Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Bryan Anderson