Sunday Funny: Don’t feed the bears

I am forbidden, under the terms of my National Park Service Commercial Use Authorization, from carrying a firearm while I guide. As a private citizen, anyone may carry (it was a rider to Federal credit card legislation of all things) so long as they are following the laws of the state in which the National Park resides. But not me when I am working. So a knife it is if I am ever attacked.

As a general rule I do not like to voluntarily lower my position on the food chain. While I know I am more likely to be struck by lightning than be attacked by a shark, I can further reduce those odds by staying out of saltwater. However, as a freshwater trout-guide, bears are a different story.


I never did see a grizzly bear in my 4 years in Idaho (excepting inside a car while driving through Yellowstone). And only once did I see a black bear on the bank as I floated down the Snake River in my drift boat. This changed when we moved back East and I began to guide in the Smoky Mountain National Park.


I cross paths with a black bear a few times a summer. Usually it is just catching a glimpse of the bear’s ass-end as it crashes through the rhododendrons and away from the trail. Occasionally, the encounter requires some waving, shouting, and banging of rocks. There is one encounter that stands out as one of the coolest instances of wildlife behavior that I have ever witnessed.

I was guiding on Greenbrier Creek (Middle Prong Little Pigeon River) when I crested a mobile home-sized boulder. Up ahead of me, about 50 yards upstream, were a mama bear and 3 cubs crossing the river. Luckily, she was between us and the cubs. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself between mama and her progeny it is like being between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera – not a safe place.


I hunkered down so I was just barely peeking over the rock, and I waved my clients up quietly. I could tell Mama was aware of our presence because while she never became agitated or looked to be aware of us, she circled around behind the trailing cub in line and bit it on the butt, hustling its pace. It was the equivalent of a parent “dope slapping” their kid on the back of the head.

It worked and she proceeded to shepherd her brood across the river and up the hill. They disappeared into the brush, and I turned to my clients and asked, “that was an intentional act wasn’t it?”. They both replied, “I have never seen anything like it”. It was truly remarkable.

302595_10150361125296745_1427787_nTruthfully, I would rather run into a bear than a wild boar. These are becoming a problem in the GSMNP, but while I have seen plenty of torn up ground, I have never seen a pig in the Park. Bears are relatively predictable, boars – not so much. Oh, and there are snakes as well, like this Timber Rattler I saw on Wednesday. Usually, it is a copperhead.


Don’t tread on me.


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  1. Long Island Mike says:

    Just finished bio of mountain man Hugh Glass. The one who was horribly mauled by the griz, crawled with no provisions other than a straight razor for 350 miles thru Injun territory to get his rifle back. Well worth the read to correct the silly commie movie with the commie climate change advocate as star…..

  2. Carlos Perez says:

    Can regular grunt citizens carry conceal in Smokeys?

    1. Yes, so long as you are legal in TN or NC depending on where you are.

  3. Roger says:

    I hunt boars. Be careful, normally we aim for the piglets but I’ve heard a lot more boars are being seen more recently. More torn bark on trails.

    Smart bastards too, they’ll set an ambush on trails they know are used by humans. I’ve even heard of one that ambushed a guy outside a port-a-john alongside a road.

  4. cmeat says:

    “i never did see a grizzly bear in my 4 years in Idaho (excepting inside a car while driving through Yellowstone).”

    how he learned to operate a manual transmission i’ll never know.
    at least he didn’t have bare tread.

  5. Carlos says:

    3 years ago, coming down a hike in Townsend we saw a black bear, walked 10 yrds from us. Just kept our cool and he walked by. We were in his living room so we were polite. It’s best to keep walking away and not act threatening but we made sure to stay on the path.

  6. PeterK says:

    That meme is entirely hilarious. Is that accurate?

  7. Kazinski says:

    I can’t count the times I’ve chased a bear out of my campsite wearing nothing but boxers, and maybe flip flops. Black bears that is, I wouldn’t try that with a grizzly. The key is just shine a flashlight in their eyes, and they’ll turn around and scuttle away. I’m not sure that’s going to be all that effective in daylight when they can tell you aren’t really a train.

    1. See my reply to George True’s comment below. That sort of thing has been my experience as well.

    2. Warren says:

      I think grizzly’s are too big to find proper fitting boxer shots and flip flops.


      1. ftw.

        Actually triggered a coughing fit.

      2. David Mitchell says:

        Dude you owe me a new keyboard.

      3. Casey says:

        Groucho would be proud. 🙂

        1. Warren says:

          A classic!
          How they got into my boxer shorts and flip flops I’ll never know.

  8. George True says:

    Some years ago a pal and I were hiking out from Grand Teton in Wyoming. I was nursing a sore knee and was having a hard time keeping up with him, so I told him to go on ahead to the trailhead. About 1/2 mile from he trailhead, I heard the sound of wood breaking. About 50 feet from the trail, there was a very large black bear in a sitting position pulling large pieces of bark off of a log, looking for grubs no doubt. The bear was fairly lean, but tall, at least six feet.

    The bear saw me about the same time I saw him. He kept sitting there breaking bark and watching me, and I kept moving down the trail at the same pace, sneaking quick glances at him as I moved off. I felt it would be a big mistake to run or quicken my pace, and would certainly be a mistake to stop and gawk at him.

    This bear was probably somewhat used to seeing people. He was more interested in what he was doing than he was in me, as long as I made no sudden moves. Yet had he decided to be aggressive, I was pretty much defenseless. Other than my pack and hiking poles, I had nothing that I could have used to fend off an attack. Thinking back on it makes me realize the advisability of carrying a large caliber handgun when on excursions into known bear country.

    1. I have had “interactive” encounters with black bears on many occasions. While I wouldn’t want a starving one to take an interest in my child hiking ahead of me on the trail, in any encounter where they didn’t initially run on their own, usually noticing me first, they are usually driven off by shouting and waved arms, banged pans, etc. The only one I have encountered that didn’t respond to waved arms and shouting was dissuaded by some rocks thrown, not directly at it but close enough to be loud and ricochet past it.

      Again, grizzlies are a different story.

  9. David Prince says:

    I’m just glad they reintroduced bears into the Big South Fork. We need more human-bear interaction for sure, and black bears are so scarce in the Eastern United States.

    1. Michael Becker says:

      Human / bear interaction. Absolutely. Let’s turn a couple of hundred grizzlies lose in Washington DC on Capitol Hill.

  10. G Mac says:

    Boar question: I have to walk my half mile wooded driveway in the snow. Are they nocturnal, and would they think I would be tasty?

    1. They attack you to be mean (technically a bias towards “fight” over flight), more than because you would be seen as prey. That said, they would probably eat you if you were lying there dead.

      I’m no expert on pigs, but that is my impression.

  11. Sam L. says:

    Linked by Instapundit at9 PM.

  12. Paul says:

    I presume you can carry bear spray. Better than a Bowie. How about a hiking staff with a rather large metal spike on one end? Or a 1000 luminum flash light? Sure, I’d prefer a well fed .44 S&W but still…

    I guess, as a guide, you can get a Winchester .44 magnum 94 and just kind of let one of the Clients catty it for you.

  13. Jack Hairston says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Gene Moe, who killed an Alaskan brown bear with nothing but a buck knife. Yes, he clangs when he walks.

  14. Jimbo says:

    From my experience with black bears in northern PA, this guide put his clients in great danger. A sow with cubs should be avoided at all costs, for if she gets a whiff of you, she will charge, and as a minimum, back you off, which happened to me. Whether these people had an escape route is unclear. Also unclear is how the guide knew the sow was aware of their presence, since bears have poor eyesight. After my close encounter with a sow and two cubs, I was advised to carry a .44 Magnum revolver when alone in the woods, which I did for a while, but then switched to pepper spray, since I really didn’t want to kill or injure a sow, which would mean certain death for the cubs.

  15. DrTorch says:

    Bearmageddon is a great comic.

    Glad you referenced it, hope everyone gives it a read

  16. Bill Befort says:

    Black bear encounters are not uncommon in Minnesota canoe country. The best avoidance advice is to keep your food where they can’t get at it. Beyond that, they actually scare fairly easily, so weaponry isn’t a central consideration. This site — — has good advice from experienced people.

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Sunday Funny: Don’t feed the bears

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