Bear Proofing Your Camp
compiled from our Message Board

 Here is my 2004 Muzz Elk Hunt story...

A buddy of mine was right... the 'critters' got into my camp (horse packed it in a week before the openner). A bear DESTROYED my new Kifaru tipi, a Thermarest, all can food, all water bladders, and much more. I was sick to my stomach! I bought the tipi for this particular trip and only had a chance to use it a few times this spring and summer. Fortunately, I had an emergency/spike camp shelter (paratarp), a spare Thermarest (smaller for spike camps), the bear graciously spared my sleeping bag (a couple bite holes), and I had hung my non-can food... so I was able to stay 'in' and hunt.

Unfortunately my homeowners insurance didn't cover my loss. They said 'bear attack' is not a covered cause of 'off premises personal property loss'! We are talking about approx. $1500 of damage.



Besides the 'bear destroying camp' thing, there was also another hunter in the valley w/ 6 horses (I expected to have the area to myself). Needless to say, the hunt did NOT start out well! Turns out the other hunter was more interested in HC bucks (although he did have a muzz elk tag as well) and decided to leave on Sunday due to the 'crowd', having other options, and not having found what he was after (he had been in there since Wednesday after a HC buck). He also had a Kifaru tipi that was raided by the same bear that hit my camp. unfortunately for him/them, they were in the tipi when the bear decided to slice one side of the tipi, grab their food bag, and have a midnight snack w/in a few feet of the tipi. [I spent a few days looking for that bear since I had a muzz bear tag!]

The short version of the story is that I was able to call in 2 different bulls. One was a small 4x5 that I let go. The other was a nice mature bull (didn't get a chance to count points, but he was what I was after!). The big bull had been bugling high on the valley rim for a day or so. I decided to climb above him from down valley to keep the wind in my favor. Getting in position took me over 3 hours (tough climb). Once in position, it took me less than 10 minutes to call in the bull with some social elk talk and estrous whines. What a thrill! He came in bugling the entire way. He entered a shooting lane I had my muzz pointed down and came straight at me to 60 yards. When he picked up his head, I took the shot. I looked for that bull for 6+ hours but didn't find blood or him. I don't know how I missed that shot other than the 'bull fever' of having a large bull coming in to my calls while bugling the entire way! I'll never know. but what an experience (made the whole trip).

A few other notes: I saw 3 HC bucks. One was well above timberline in an area I would only expect to see goats. I can't believe a buck could or would want to live in this area. I saw 6 goats (a nice Billy). I saw approximately 40 elk w/ binocs and spotting scope. And I made it out alive! The area is pretty remote and extreme. I love the raw beauty and adventure of that type of hunt, but I've come to the conclusion that it is probably too dangerous and don't plan to do it again alone (time will tell). 8 days (long hunt)... using a horse (added danger)... 6-10 miles from trailhead (remote)... alone (lonely and dangerous)... ='s just too much. But, what an experience!

Needless to say, I couldn't do w/o my tipi, so picked up an 8-man a few weeks after my return (pain in the wallet!). Love it... my own packable hunting lodge. I love the head room and being able to stretch out when relaxing after a day in the field (see pics in WY Buck topic).

In Montana, it is a law one must bear proof your camp. This can be accomplished by 1 hanging food 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from a tree.
2 using bear boxes, specifically certified bear resistant aluminun pack boxes.
3 keeping someone within sight of camp at all times.
Cabin tents, and conventional tipis, one can roll the sides up so the bear does not make new openings.
Other tents the wise move would be to hang them also.
Bears are highly curious, and extremely observant, so it is difficult to hide soething on he ground. However after something has been in place, and inspected without having an attractant, they will leave it alone.
Their sense of smell is super. I once had a griz bite my coffee pot that had been hanging on a low limb for years, and carry off a gallon of coleman gas.( probably thought it was surup) this seemed to be in flustration to the bag of feed and food that was hanging out of his reach.
the difficulity in hanging , is finding a suitable strong limb that is high enough under a load. Also without a mechanical advantage, one cannot pull a rope over a limb, that has much weight on it.
I over came these two problems by camping where there is a good high limb, and have built a light weight pulley assembly, that can handle 100 pounds.
( more than most branches can handle)
remember one is lowering and raising your food and grain twice a day or more.
Bear boxes are not practable going solo, or with limited number of horses. In addition to the weight and limited volumne, they are a damger for you and your horse. they are noisy, hard corners, slippery when mantied - an easy way to have a wreck.
Packing in and hunting solo is always interesting. One needs to be real aware of hazzards, but horses cannot be totally predicted, nor can unusual events. I am starting to feel that i'm pushing my luck after doing it for so many years.

Don, I'm with ya! I grew up in Cody, WY so always took 'bear precations' in that country (not sleeping in the cloths I cook in, sleeping 100 yards from where I cook, hang food 100 yards from where I sleep, etc). Up until now, I have been 'lazy' in CO (black bears vs. gizzlies). The only thing that will prevent me from continuing to use Kifaru tipis will be the cost of replacement (replacing cheaper tents is less painfull). Hopefully this thread will turn in to a discussion on how to 'bear proof Kifaru tipis'!

I did make the mistake of leaving the can food on the ground and leaving some coffee singles/creamer inside the tent (I did hang all non-can food). I have NEVER had a camp destroyed by a bear, so didn't think twice about how I left my camp or the danger of leaving it unoccupied for a week. Moving forward, I plan to do the following...
1) Don't set up camp prior to the hunt!
2) ALL FOOD will be hung in trees or dunked in river/lake
3) Leave doors open enough to allow a bear to come in and leave w/o costing me another $1000 (unfortunately this means anything that could get wet will have to be protected before leaving to hunt )
4) Don't cook in the tipi (will certainly heat water on the stove and eat freeze-dried dinners)

Don, I considered getting bear proof boxes/packs for my horse, but I don't see any (on internet sites). This would allow me to pack equipment in before the hunt... but is probably not worth the effort/expense.

I have spent a great deal of time alone in very remote wilderness areas and I seriously doubt that any technique will prevent a bear from messing up a camp, Grizzlies in particular are very nosey and like to wreck everything they get their grubby, big paws on.

The only way I have ever found to prevent bear damage to my supplies is to use a bear pole tied at the base to a tree and then pulled up with a separate rope tied on the other end and looped over a stout branch on said tree....which is not always growing right where one wants it!

You did good, buddy, the use of an emergency "siwash' camp in addition to your main camp is something I have done for more than 30 yrs., this can save your life in sudden storms. You demonstrate a particular form of emotional strength that we seldom see nowadays, the ability to remain alone like this while admitting that you get lonely; most guys won't admit that and this is why they frequently cannot handle wilderness isolation, tavern b.s. notwithstanding.

I am not a horseman and I think that solo tripping with horses is pretty dangerous, but, a real, multi-day deep wilderness, solo trip is, to me, the ultimate experience. Again, you did good, be proud of yourself and you ain't the only one on this board who has missed an Elk!!!!!

I actually worked alone in some of the most isolated wilderness areas of B.C. for many years, starting in 1965. I was born in a small town at a time when most B.C. highways were single lane gravel and I was brought up and taught by men who had started "bushwhacking" in real wilderness before WWI. So, I grew up with it and have continued to learn and refine my bush knowledge/skills for the past 40 yrs.

I find that almost all of the "near geezers" I know who love to buy and display pricey guns, gear and talk the talk, DO NOT want to walk the walk, so, most of my trips are solo. I also prefer to hunt alone, because it is more productive in most respects, although a good pair of partners are probably best for Elk during rutting season.

As to safety, I carry more emergency equipment than most, including a very complete first-aid kit, I NEVER depend on being able to make a fire or light a stove, I carry extra water and, most important, I trust my intuition completely. If, I get the feeling that something is hinky and that there is a real danger to me, I will back-off, re-consider and leave if it seems best to do so. This is the real benfit of extensive bush experience, IMO, at 58, I know exactly what I can and cannot do and I do not take foolish chances, such as free-climbing the cliffs I used to 30 yrs. ago.

Motivation is simple, I love it out there and i push myself to get into the really wild and beautiful places so I can see them before the relentless pace of "progress" and human population growth destroys them. Also, we are out there to enjoy ourselves, so, if a given trip is not working out, go home, relax and plan your next one!

I have a four man tipi and have never felt comfortable cooking in it during the summer or fall seasons, I hunt during the third Colorado season. What I do is to cook with the stove sixty plus yards from the tipi and after dinner, move the stove back in. I let the stove cool a bit and grab it by the legs and re-attach it back in the tipi. This may be overkill but during backpack trips, we're usually back to camp and I have the time for this. Other than hanging food and keeping the tipi squeaky clean, I'm not sure what else to do. Hope this helps