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Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne (1876) describes how Siberian hunters used to hunt bears with nothing but a knife. This was ideally done with a single lethal blow, to damage the fur as little as possible.

[Michael Strogoff] was between the bear and the girl. His arm made one movement upwards, and the enormous beast, ripped up by that terrible knife, fell to the ground as a lifeless mass. He had executed in splendid style the famous blow of the Siberian hunters, who endeavor not to damage the precious fur of the bear, which fetches a high price.

A modern source from 2008 describes that the bear can be first trapped with a wooden pole, and stabbed afterwards. That could indicate that the Verne passage is an over-simplification of the actual technique.

On whether people really hunt bears with knives:

Emelianenko: Yes, they do. A few years ago there was an unfortunate incident. One sportsman, a world champion in wrestling ... what was he doing? Yes, he was putting a fork under the bear’s neck. [The practice of hunting bears with a knife involves, once the bear is in front of you, placing a long stick with a letter U-shaped end under the bear’s muzzle as it rears up to fight. Once the stick is in place, the bear isn’t able to bring its body down and the hunter stabs it a number of times, ideally killing it instantly.]

And then the bear couldn’t attack him, and he was stabbing it under the ribs in the heart. And as he was stabbing it, that bear swung with its paw. It was dead already -- the paw was its last gasp with all its strength and basically took half of the wrestler’s head off. And of course the other hunters opened fire on the bear, but it was too late. He went to try his luck with a bear, and it didn’t come off.

For me everything is still fine. I’m OK. I’ve done it and it was OK. About half a year ago, it was in Russia, in Siberia. Everything was fine. I put the fork underneath him and stabbed him in the heart. And that was it. The other hunters dismembered, prepared the bear.

How exactly are bears hunted with knives? I am specifically looking for the technique used by Siberian hunters in the past, but other examples could also be applicable.

Do these techniques still have practical usage nowadays? I would assume that bullets damage the fur more than a single knife wound.

  • I remember reading that the early Catholic missionaries in the early 1900's witnessed Eskimos hunting polar bears with an ax. Some died trying, while others succeeded. – Ken Graham Apr 17 '16 at 21:35
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    Bad assumption that a bullet would damage the fur more than a knife. Assuming the shot was well placed so that it left no exit wound, the entrance wound for a bullet will typically be smaller than the entrance wound for a hunting knife. – Carey Gregory Apr 17 '16 at 22:59
  • Additionally, Roald Amudsen's diaries apparently (I read this from a second source) describe how bears were hunted in Finland with a club. Basically, you would hit them in the head with a club and they would die. Robinson Crusoe by Danie Defoe (fiction) describes the same. – user9296 Apr 18 '16 at 5:15
  • Just some random facts: There are actually still some people hunting with knives. However, I don't know any which go for other game than wild-boars (crazy enough). adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/hunting/… – OddDeer Apr 18 '16 at 13:45
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    If they werent using it as excuse to go after the bear afterwards it would be a good natural selection method... – Erik vanDoren Apr 18 '16 at 14:40
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Unless you sever the spinal column near the top of the body there is no body injury that can be done with a knife that is going to result in instant death/disablement of any animal.

Any injury that does not completely disable the animals neurological system is going to be dependent on the animal bleeding to the point that they become unconscious. Even if your head is completely removed from your body your brain can function for up to 15 seconds. Best case scenario of a human with a knife is to stop the heart or completely sever the carotid arteries supplying blood to the brain.

15 seconds in close proximity to an injured bear is likely to be an experience that last the rest of your life.

You can find occasional reference of 'Bear against Man with Knife' where the Man lives and the Bear does not. But this is a scenario of last resort.

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    One small nit: The carotid arteries supply blood to the brain, not the jugular veins. The jugulars drain it. – Carey Gregory May 7 '16 at 4:38
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I read how Eskimos would approach a polar bear and while the team of sled dogs kept it a bit distracted he would circle the bear until the sun is just at the right place so it shines in the bears eyes, you have to strike right at that exact moment and get past bruins paws. I would not stake my life on it if I were you just from what I've said though. And the weather and terrain of course have to be right.