I'm wondering if anyone else has had any experiences with guns and/or bear spray in combination, instead of just carrying one over the other? How have bears reacted to warning shots?

We backpack in bear country (black & grizz) and carry bear spray as well as a handgun for our safety. Unless we're in a National Park, we will also have our Border Collie with us, mostly off leash (if you ever hiked long distance, over variable terrain with your dog(s), you know why a leash isn't comfortable or safe for either dog or owner), but not allowed to run ahead of us on the trail. I've read many stories, statistics and comparisons between using bear spray vs. a gun for protection, almost all of them favor the bear spray. I'm not disagreeing with these, but haven't found much advise on the use of BOTH. We ran into black bear in the Wilderness the other day, on the trail, about 50-70 yards away. The dog was about 10 feet to my right, and we saw the bear just after it had spotted us. She didn't charge or bark. The bear checked us out, while I turned sideways, keeping an eye on the bear, reaching for my bear spray, and telling my hiking companion behind me of the bear. We were slowly backing away to give the bear an escape route, speaking to the bear and the dog. The bear (bluff) charged, and my companion shot a warning shot. Everybody froze. The bear stopped its charge. I discharged the bear spray, mainly to build a wall in front of us, as the bear was about 25 yards away now. The wind carried the bear spray cloud off to the side, it went out maybe ~10', not the 35' advertised on the can, I was disappointed in the product. We talked loudly and aggressively to the bear and stood our ground, the bear left. Despite being in the wilderness, this was on a fairly busy trail, at a lake used for camping as well. I'm assuming the bear was habituated to humans and looking for food rewards. We saw it again on our way back from our destination in a gully, this time we were louder and there was no wind, so the bear had spotted us beforehand and wandered through the creek and up the other side of the gully, clearly not out for a confrontation. After this experience, I don't see how one would ONLY carry bear spray, as the bear would have to have been so much closer in its charge for it to have even reached it/deterred it with the wind. The warning shot proved very effective in this case!

  • Proofed is as word? WallOfText.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 18:59
  • past tense of 'proof'
    – rudibell
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 19:14
  • 1
    You should clearly flesh out what you are asking (e.g. are warning shots effective) and then state the question up front. One has read through all of this just the end up with the very broad question asking about experiences (which is asking for anecdotal evidence which isn't good practice either).
    – imsodin
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 20:09
  • 1
    proof pro͞of/Submit verb past tense: proofed; past participle: proofed 1. make (fabric) waterproof. "the tent is made from proofed nylon" 2. make a proof of (a printed work, engraving, etc.). "proofing could be done on a low-cost printer"
    – rudibell
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 21:48
  • 1
    Point taken, I put the question at the start, even though you'd still have to read through the text to make any sense of it.
    – rudibell
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


Before bear spray was even a thing, people always carried shotguns. Most people in the wilder parts of the world still do carry shotguns, because an angry bear will charge right through bear spray, as recently happened to a man in Montana late last year.

One guy I hiked with as a kid kept 5 shots in his shotgun, the first was just bird shot, a warning shot into the air. The second was a ball slug, to shoot past or near the bear so he could hear it whiz by. The last three shots were hollow points, to put the bear down if it didn't stop.

Bear spray is only effective if deployed within range of the bear, there's no such thing as, "putting up a wall" of spray, you should only use it on bears that are approaching you and are getting close enough that you are going to have to either spray them or fight them. If a bear is in full charge, you can try spraying early and hope the bear doesn't run into the cloud, but it's not guaranteed to stop a bear.

The only time you'd carry both spray and a gun, is if you had more than one person and you wanted to have lethal backup incase the bear spray proved ineffective. But even if the bear spray doesn't work, and the guy with the spray gets attacked, there's a chance the guy with the gun might shoot guy with the spray instead of the bear. A man was shot by his son in law near Fernie BC not to many summers ago trying to save his life from a bear that was attacking him. The son-in-law put several shots into the bear and at least on into his father-in-law's leg during all the kicking and screaming with the bear on top of him.

  • Thanks for your answer. The story of this bear attack, where the bear charges right through the cloud of spray, somehow never gets mentioned on the pro bear spray sites... Yellowstone bear encounters suggested to start discharging the bear spray when the bear charges to 60' or closer. They are supposed to be deterred when running into the cloud. I didn't expect it reach the bear at this distance, but wanted to see whether it would have any effect, should it get closer. I didn't empty the canister, either, saving 95% of the spray for spraying the bear at closer range. Luckily never had to.
    – rudibell
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 22:20

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