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Anyone encounter Bears while on the trail?

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  • Riding horses in bear country
  • Encountering a bear trail riding

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    01-08-2013, 10:40 AM
  #21
Foal
I have lead packtrips in Yellowstone, Colorado and Wyoming wilderness and have ridden in both Grizzly and Black Bear country for the better part of the last 20 years. I have also spent the same amount of time on foot photographing both bears as well. I have encountered bears on the trail several times and luckily have not encountered a situation where we got between a sow and cubs...at least not on horseback.

Wildlife photographers have a saying..."only food runs". The big thing is to stay calm, stay put and try to enjoy the experience. It is most likely that the bear will take off at the sight of you but in case it doesn't I would recommend staying put or moving SLOWLY in the same direction you were going angling away from the bear. Give it an escape route and it will likely take it. If it feels as if you are pressing it or cornering it, the possibility is there it may charge and even if it is a bluff...you horse may not think so!

There are few instances where a bear attacked a group of people on food numbering four or more, even sows with cubs. Anytime we go into an area that is bear infested (certain lakes in the Yellowstone high country during cutthroat spawning season) we try to go in groups of four or more. Confronted by such overwhelming odds a bear will typically skedaddle as opposed to fight it out. The biggest risk you run in bear country is two fold...getting bucked off if your horse freaks at the sight of a bear and bears coming into camp, especially if you don't keep a clean camp.

The only caveat to the above is if you are unlucky enough to stumble really close to a bear on a kill. Then all bets are off. I would ride as steady and well trained a mount as possible that I know I can handle if things go south and keep my eyes and ears peeled. Being alert and staying in groups, especially in thick cover is your best defense. I could tell stories about all kinds of wildlife encounters both on horse and off after 20+ years as a wildlife photographer and hunting guide.

Cheers!
Les
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    01-08-2013, 10:48 AM
  #22
Yearling
Wildlife is difficult to photograph. I have a rebel 2 that I play around with kit lenses. I sure wish I could afford better lenses and a full frame. Lighting is another learning process for me....You can rent lenses can't you? Sorry for hijacking the thread!
     
    01-08-2013, 10:50 AM
  #23
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
I've only ever run into bears while hiking. I almost bumped into one once when I was hiking too quietly. Scared the Dickens out of each other.

Too bad there isnt a picture of your face in that exact moment you realize you snuck up on a bear. Bet it would have been a classic. I think my heart would have dropped out of my chest if that happened to me.
     
    01-08-2013, 10:54 AM
  #24
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by goneriding    
Wildlife is difficult to photograph. I have a rebel 2 that I play around with kit lenses. I sure wish I could afford better lenses and a full frame. Lighting is another learning process for me....You can rent lenses can't you? Sorry for hijacking the thread!
Wildlife photography is all about get close to your subject (either optically or physically) and understanding behavior and habitat. I would recommend lenses in at least the 200mm range if not higher. There are several good places online I have worked with for rentals Rent professional cameras or camera lenses for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Leica and Pentax and LensRentals.com - Rent Lenses and Cameras from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Leica, and more . I have several workshops that I lead for horse and wildlife photography and if you google my name it will lead you to our workshops.

Wildlife photography is a fun hobby, but like horses, it can get expensive. Better yet, try horses AND photography. Glad I make money off both!

Cheers!
Les
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    01-08-2013, 10:59 AM
  #25
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by wetrain17    
Too bad there isnt a picture of your face in that exact moment you realize you snuck up on a bear. Bet it would have been a classic. I think my heart would have dropped out of my chest if that happened to me.
I have a photograph of a grizzly bluff charging a group of tourists after they got too close to him on an elk kill in Yellowstone. Unfortunately I had too long of a lens on and all I got was the bear jumping...you don't get to see the tourists scattering like flies while peeing themselves. Really funny thinking back on it now but not so funny at the time. Or the time... After 20+ years photographing widllife professionally, I got stories but I am not going to hijack this thread...

Cheers!
Les
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    01-08-2013, 06:26 PM
  #26
Weanling
If you have your heart set on seeing lots of bear, expecially grizzly, just ride the center Teton Mountain in mid August. You will see many bear every day, and a lot of them a lot closer than I liked. Never again will we ride these mountains in mid August.

Now for pictures, don't have any of the close encounters, too busy staying a live, and scared to death.

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bear1.jpg
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bear2.jpg
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    01-08-2013, 06:31 PM
  #27
Green Broke
Gorgeous bit of wilderness there - awesome photos! But yeah, I would not return for a hike or on horseback that time of year. That's why God gave us brains :)
     
    01-08-2013, 07:48 PM
  #28
Foal
A black bear crossed the trail just ahead of us at Big South Fork last summer. It stopped and looked at us, our horses stopped and looked at it, and then it slowly walked off into the woods again. No big deal. Well, my horse thought otherwise-- I could feel her heart pounding through the saddle, but she was really good and stood quietly. It was pretty neat.

Now, a Grizzly would scare me a bit more, or a mom and cubs...
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    01-08-2013, 08:20 PM
  #29
Weanling
I went to Brooks falls last year (I was not on a horse) we literally were within 5 ft of a probably 1100 pound grizzly bear that was just lumbering down the trail. What we did was to say "Hey bear come get us!" of cource the bear never even glanced our way but it was a pretty amazing experience. We also fished with a bear 10 ft behind us which actually charged my uncle because he had a fish on our reply was to scream (neer scream at a bear unless it is young and stupid) at it and it just acted like a dog. Brooks bears see a ton of people and are not scared worth a bit but their beauty,strenght, and just their way of being are amazing. Look up Brooks falls on explore.com so amazingi! I don't see why bells would be necessary after 2 visits to Alaska and probably over 100 bear encounters (Alaska apparently is overrun by bears!) I have never needed to use bear spray. But I would have it just incase! Just make a lot of noise.
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    01-08-2013, 09:26 PM
  #30
Trained
Wow, great pictures gbsmfg! I can't get a good picture of anything and that's w no bears around. :)

I have only ever seen a single bear and I have riden in bear country many times. :( How unlucky is that? I got a picture of the one and only little black bear I saw whilst camping in the smokeys (on family property). I was a kid (no digitals) it was morning (horses all tied) and foggy, I saw it and grabbed my camera and ran toward it to take a picture, it stood up, and I and manage snap one before my cousins insisted I come back or else....I think I remember the word "behind" :). I still have the photo somewhere - it is blurry, blurry...but I was still sooo proud of it! My crappy pic taking skills started pretty young. :)

I actually have never thought about bears whilst riding...good thing, it would just make me paranoid.
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