Pack The Heat So You Can Pack it Out

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Pack the heat so you can pack it out. Photo By: Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

No trees here to climb and I can barely see the truck with my naked eyes far off in the distance.

The recent run-in with the local WYDNR officer, who just gave me the run down about heavy bear activity in the area, has got me the heebie-jeebies. I’m trying to let loose and be one with the rod, but I can’t stop from thinking I’m smelling wet dog in the air, and I’m terrified of what could be lurking behind the thick moose brush out of sight. If you’re in the process of planning a trip into the deep wilderness where bear, moose, and other dangerous predators thrive, you just might consider purchasing a canister of pepper spray, and keep it holstered on your side. Hell it could save your life.

Two years ago, I stumbled right on top of a Boon & Crockett moose bedded down during a short hike-in to a secluded stretch of the Snake River. Luckily, we both decided to flight in opposite directions, and I only had to change my britches before wetting a line. Guiding in Alaska one season, I somehow managed to stay under the radar, as two giant brown bears went toe to toe battling over a spawning bed within inches of my outpost tent. And I’ll never forget the feeling of total panic, when I walked up on a fresh bloody mule deer kill on the Upper Hoback River this past July. With my heart pounding out my chest,  and the realization of no one knowing my whereabouts, I quickly said the hell with fishing, and high-tailed it back to the truck before I became desert.

We often drop a thousand dollars or more for our out of town fly fishing trips without giving it a second thought. That’s why I find it ironic, that when we get there, we gawk at the $50 price tag of a can of pepper spray. I’m not sure if it’s my life experiences that’s making me wiser, or if I’m just getting softer in my old age, but I’m damn sure of one thing. I’ve already used up all my get out of jail free-cards with dangerous wildlife, and I’m going to be packing the jabenaro heat from here on out, when I’m not riding down the river in a drift boat. Oh, and one more thing, don’t think your pepper spray is only good for deterring wildlife. You never know what crazy backwoods lunatic you may run into on the river that thinks you’ve got pretty eyes and a nice smile. It’s better to be safe than sorry my fellow trout bums, and you’re family will thank you when you return home safely. Being that we’re getting close to prime tourist season, I thought it couldn’t hurt to bring back up this important piece of recreational gear.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Pack The Heat So You Can Pack it Out

  1. The WY Game and Fish just noted that sportsmen should be aware of bears increasing their range in WY and being seen in areas unaccustomed to them.

  2. The problem with bear spray carried in a neoprene pouch on your hip is that it’s hard to get the spray out of the holster in a hurry. So on my way through bear country, I carry the canister in my hand (and clip the belt closed so it doesn’t fall out, esp. in momentarily caught in the brush). Once I’m out of the hot zone, I’ll either put the can in an external pocket in my pack, or buckle the belt around my waist. But I rotate the buckle so that it’s right next to the canister on my hip. When I see a bear, the first moves (after “Hey, Bear!” and dropping my rod) are to unbuckle the belt and get my forefinger through the plastic guard with my thumb poised to remove the ‘safety’ clip. These actions are much faster (with more certain outcomes) than trying to wrestle the can free from its stretchy pouch.

  3. I worked in AK for a few years, worked around bear spray a lot. I’d present the suggestion of buying an extra can (or use last year’s, don’t let them get too old anyway), and PRACTICE spraying it (always in no wind, or facing downwind, for the dumb ones out there). It’s enlightening to see a narrow spray that moves 4-5 feet from the target if your shaky hand moves an inch. Also only effective at about 30′ out or less, and since brown bear run about 44 feet per second at top speed….you’re not going to have a whole lot of time to get that spray right (about half a second) if she charges from cover with no warning. Imagine doing all that facing into the wind, and you could make it worse on yourself, not the bear. Just a few words of wisdom.

    Ha, one of the coworkers got it stuck on a branch at one point, and sprayed herself and our buddy. Our daily helicopter ride back to camp ended with carrying their outerwear in a sling basket below, while they rode inside in their long johns… still makes me giggle.

  4. Of course a scramble would not be a great idea, rethinking that probably two cans, one for each hand would do the job should a close encounter be inevitable. Have an acquaintance that spent 10 days in the “Winds” with 3 others and never saw animal one, not even a deer. They were grateful,My only encounter has been with CA black bears and you can run them off with a broom. Probably still not a good idea, but I’ve done it many times……

  5. I’ve never fired-off a can of bear spray, although I’ve heard and read of it for years… I just read online somewhere recently that evidently the pressurization in the can is such that if you’re not prepared for it, there is a substantial “kick” when you pull the trigger, with the result that quite a bit of the contents will jet out above the intended target.
    I concur with Brad West’s comment: there is also a school of thought that a can worn in a chest holster is more readily available and rapidly-deployed than one worn attached to a belt or otherwise at the waist. I subscribe to this notion.

  6. I personally never go fishing at home (AK) without a 44 mag. I don’t have to worry about the date on the can or the which way the wind blows. Either way (can or gun) you MUST have confidence in your protection. You need to practice with it so that when/if you ever need it, the process is as familiar as signing your name. Confidence is a huge factor, IMO. If you visualize yourself as being the baddest thing on the stream, animals can sense it and may try to avoid an encounter. You should also be aware that spray has proven less effective against black bears (in attack mode) than it is against grizzly/brown bears. There was a case this spring outside Fairbanks, where 2 women were attacked while doing mineral survey work. One was killed and partly eaten, the other was mauled. Both were armed with spray. The event was kept fairly quiet, due to the companies involved not wanting any negative publicity.

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