Browning, Montana

From the Browning Glacier Reporter of November 7, 2007

Haggar’s encounter with grizzly ends tragically for hungry 400-pound bear

Carl Haggar has been living just west of the Blackfeet Reservation boundary on U.S. Highway 2 for years, and he’s been hunting the Lubec Hills area across the highway for just about as long. Carl is a responsible and careful hunter, and he’d already talked to Dan Carney, bear biologist for the Blackfeet Tribe, as well as Gabe Salois, a game warden for Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife. They’d already told him there were grizzly bears at large in the Lubec Hills.

“I went out Tuesday morning [Oct. 22] at daybreak,” Haggar said Sunday, Oct. 28. “It was a beautiful morning, not much wind. It took me about an hour and a half to get to the area where I hunt. Bears were not on my mind, but I knew of multiple sightings,” he said of his conversations with the experts. Nevertheless, Carl saw no signs of bear activity as he continued his solitary hunt.

He was walking along the top of a ravine – the Lubec Hills include several parallel ridges with narrow valleys between – when he saw a grizzly cub scamper up the other side. Immediately an enormous sow grizzly charged up his side of the ravine to investigate. Haggar stood his ground with his rifle held across his chest and softly but firmly said “whoa” to the griz. Haggar said “whoa” three times as the female griz waited, deciding what to do next, when Carl tripped and fell over backwards.

The griz was on him in a flash, covering the 20 feet separating them in a split second. “I knew I would be mauled,” he said. “I remember thinking that if I got a round off I hoped I’d have time to get in another one because it was obvious I was in deep sh_t.”

Haggar fell on one arm, still holding his semi automatic 30.06 rifle in the other. He got a single shot fired and hit the female just above the left eye, killing it nearly instantly. She fell at his feet, motionless.

“There was a moment when she was at the top when I thought she would stop, just for an instant, but my tripping just triggered her instincts…when she dropped at my feet I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Standing by a tree and catching his breath, Haggar said he looked to see if there were more cubs, but didn’t see any. “Then I started to get angry about the situation and why the bear had to die,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking at all about how close I’d come to death.”

Haggar hiked back out, called the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and that afternoon accompanied Rod Duty to investigate the scene.

When they got there, a male grizzly prevented the official from gathering biological samples, but upon investigating from the opposite ridge, they were able to see a gut pile from a hunter’s elk kill, lying at the bottom of the ravine. Although invisible from Haggar’s vantage point earlier, the remains had attracted the female as well as the male later that day.

Duty found Haggar’s shell casing lying nine feet from the bear’s carcass. Haggar said he’d tested his gun at home and found it throws the casings about five feet behind him so the bear was only about four feet away when it was killed. Duty absolved him of any guilt in the bear’s death, ruling it was self defense.

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