Handgun Bear Hunting

Muley_Stalker

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How many of you hunt for bear with a handgun?

I'm going to try it this year for bear and muley's. No bait, or hounds in Colorado, and I wouldn't do either anyway. So, it's still hunting, or stalking for me. Maybe a bit of calling, but I have a hard time sitting still, so not much calling if any.

Most handgun hunters us large guns and barrel with a scope. Nothing wrong with that if it's your choice. It just seems more like short rifle hunting to me, so it's not my choice. I'm going to use a smaller, lighter gun with a 4" barrel with open sights. It's a .44 mag though. I want a bit of power being so close, and with my vision it will be close. Probably within longbow range. The bigger calibers are needed for the longer shots, but I think in the range i'll be using the .44 should be ok. At least that's the plan. :confused:
 

Nameless Range

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I like to combine shed hunting and bear hunting, and I'd much rather carry my .44 mag Vaquero than a rifle. In 2010 I was west of Missoula up the Petty Creek Drainage and a bear that wasn't very big but was big enough blew out of the bushes I was hiking through and flew up a nearby Ponderosa.

I was jacked - what could be easier than a bear in a tree! I approached the tree with my gun drawn but every time I had a shot the bear would adjust to the other side of the tree. It was on a steep slope and I just couldn't find an acceptable lane so I figured I'd walk right up to the bottom of the tree. I was about 5 yards from the base of the tree when that bear figured out what I was up to. He launched himself to the ground from at least 12 feet up. Scared the s#!t out of me, I bet I jumped near as high as the branch the bear was sitting on, and by the time I landed he was running full bore up the slope about 30 yards off, never to slow down.

And that is how you fail to shoot a bear in a tree.

I've never shot a bear with the vaquero, but I have shot a couple whitetail does with it. I'm probably not good out to much beyond 25 yds with that gun, and I have literally put thousands of rounds through it when I was participating in Cowboy Action Shooting. You are really limited with the open sighted six-shooter.
 

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Muley_Stalker

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Yes, about 25 yds is it for me. I shot a lot of competition with a handgun when I was younger with good vision.

Now i'm blind in one eye, and what you'd expect in my good eye from a 72 year old fart.
 

StrutNut

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I had a 454 Casull for a while and took it out with me but never got a shot. I ended up taking one with my bow instead as it came in really close. With the right ammo you might be ok but I know I read something somewhere that a 44 mag was a 50 yard or less gun on a deer. Some bears are pretty small so it wont be a problem but a bear is an animal I would not want to wound so with iron sites and only a 44, those are things to consider. I think you are in good shape though with keeping your shots close. It should be a fun experience!
 

teamhoyt

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glendive, MT
several years back I had a limited quota tag in Wy and couldn't turn up any bucks big enough to shoot with a rifle so a shot a smaller 4 pt with my ruger 44 mag super red hawk. it has a 9.5" barrel. I used 300 gr bullets and shot him about 50 yds and it blew clean through. the deer went just a few yards. I have shot a coyote with it at about 100 yds but was more lucky than anything. With that short of a barrel I would think the closer the better. I have always wanted to shoot a cow elk with mine but have never pursued it.
 

Muley_Stalker

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Strut.........Don't those who use scopes hunt out to 100-125yds with a .44 mag? I know they use longer barrels, but that only adds a little more velocity that doesn't make up for the longer distance.
 

Muley_Stalker

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several years back I had a limited quota tag in Wy and couldn't turn up any bucks big enough to shoot with a rifle so a shot a smaller 4 pt with my ruger 44 mag super red hawk. it has a 9.5" barrel. I used 300 gr bullets and shot him about 50 yds and it blew clean through. the deer went just a few yards. I have shot a coyote with it at about 100 yds but was more lucky than anything. With that short of a barrel I would think the closer the better. I have always wanted to shoot a cow elk with mine but have never pursued it.

A cow is on my list for next year, but I want to see how this year goes first with deer and bear.

At least a cow will be a bigger target. :)
 

twsnow18

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I missed a monster chocolate bear with a 44 mag at 8 yards a couple years ago. Sucked, it was a tank. It would have been even that much sweeter with a pistol.

I have as much experience with handguns as I do sewing machines.
 

Muley_Stalker

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I missed a monster chocolate bear with a 44 mag at 8 yards a couple years ago. Sucked, it was a tank. It would have been even that much sweeter with a pistol.

I have as much experience with handguns as I do sewing machines.

I need to hear more about the missed shot at 8 yds?
 

StrutNut

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In my experience the longer barrel really helps holding and with the groups. My Freedom Arms stacked bullets holes at 50 yards and was 1 inch at 100 yards. I had a 1.5 power scope on mine. The longer barrel although helping with the noise really helped with barrel jump for a follow up shot if needed. Nonetheless I think with a close shot, great quality ammo you should be fine. I know at the time the bullet Freedom Arms recommended on bear was hard cast. Things have changed since then but you really want something that will get through there and not just open up with little penetration.
 

Muley_Stalker

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I've been thinking about that. A hard cast bullet doesn't expand at all, or very little at best. Great for penetration, but does it make a big enough wound channel? I know a flat nose with a wide meplat acts somewhat like an expanding bullet, but is it enough?
 

Dan O

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Every thing I've read to date recommends a hard cast flat point "meplat" approx. 72% of the bullet diameter. LBT bullet designs have been copied by many bullet mould makers, LFN,WFN. The WFN style I believe need to be pushed to remain stable at a distance. Years ago I shot a nice 5 Point Muley at about a 100 yards with a Ruger Super Redhawk in 44 mag. I used a 300 grain sierra flat point jacketed bullet. There was no expansion and complete penetration with a 44 cal hole through the heart. I've found that everything being equal you "normally" attain higher velocity with cast bullets vs. Jacketed. On another occasion I had to put down a injured Deer. I shot it twice with my 10mm using 175 grain Silver Tip hollow points. Both were front shoulder shots, one was a complete pass through the other was recovered under the hide on the off side. This round had the classic mushroom and retained most of it's weight. This load ran 1200fps from my pistol and the shot was about 25 yards.
For Bear or Elk I would go with a heavy for caliber cast bullet with a wide flat point. AND practice with it and not over extend your range but keep it to where you can consistently put all your rounds into a standard paper plate. With this guide line you will be able to determine what YOUR maximum effective range is. Hope this information helps.
Dan
 

twsnow18

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I need to hear more about the missed shot at 8 yds?

I think I wrote a thread about it a while back, can't remember.

It was during our OTC archery elk season. A buddy had the tag, I was just along to sit back and call.

We got to our first point that we always bugle and glass off of, and I spot a wolf feeding on a dead elk calf down in a creek bed 700 yards below. We only had his bow and his pistol, his bow is way way too big for me, so pistol it was. I stalked down there and got about 50 yards above the creek bed, all the sudden the wolf blows out. The wind was perfect, WTH. Opposite the draw from me a big chocolate boar was coming down to claim his meal, unaware of my presence.

Perfect, I have a bear tag too. I spent about 20 minutes within 15 yards of this bear trying to find a shooting lane through the thick brush (guys that hunt the boise front can relate) all while it's crunching hind quarter bones and scraping this calf clean. Finally it decides to make it's way back up the trail it came in on, giving me a clear lane across the creek. Jerked the heavy trigger, didn't follow through, clean miss high. It bolts dead away :( My buddy above is laughing his ass off!

Sorry, hopefully I didn't hijack your thread. Keep us posted on how the pistol hunt goes, close encounters with predators or any game for that matter are always exciting.
 

Muley_Stalker

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Funny story.

I'll keep you posted if there's anything to post. It might end up being a bear hunt with no bears.
 

Cav1

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In my experience the longer barrel really helps holding and with the groups. My Freedom Arms stacked bullets holes at 50 yards and was 1 inch at 100 yards. I had a 1.5 power scope on mine. The longer barrel although helping with the noise really helped with barrel jump for a follow up shot if needed.

I agree with StrutNut on this. I usually carry a 4-inch Smith Model 629 for protection, where shots will be at close range, but when handgun hunting deer in a weapons restricted area I dig out the old 6-1/2-inch Model 29. My eyes ain't what they used to be and I find just that extra couple of inches of sight radius cuts my group sizes significantly, like around 40%.

Never shot a bear with a handgun but for "bear loads" I go with the 300-grain hardcast flat-nosed "Kieth-style" bullets around 1,200 fps.
 

brianmacdowell

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.357 hollow points 158gr. seem to do well for me, but never had a shot opportunity over 30yds..
I've had most of my bear success by still hunting up gulches and creeks and calling once I hear or smell bear. Calling seems to get a better response rate with more aggressive boars, so I use it as a sorting tool. I'm also a big fan of anchoring head shots because it's all too easy to loose a bear in thick brush especially since they seem to prefer dying in dark holes.
 

BAKPAKR

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Appalachia
I went through a phase where I did a lot of hunting with unscoped 44s. I have taken 6 bears with 44s. When hunting elk, I used hard cast or some other penetrating type bullet. When hunting deer or bear, I used 240 grain jacketed hollow points. The 240 gr hp did fine on bears. I liked the portability of a short barreled revolver. Unfortunately, I need about a 5” barrel now for my aging eyes. Good luck!
 
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