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Grizzly bears deserve some planning ahead

Those of us who ever took a general psychology class probably remember Ivan Pavlov's dog. Through classical conditioning, the dog was taught to involuntarily salivate at the sound of a tuning fork.

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Those of us who ever took a general psychology class probably remember Ivan Pavlov's dog. Through classical conditioning, the dog was taught to involuntarily salivate at the sound of a tuning fork.

Did you know that this same conditioning takes place in our great Northwest? When a rifle shot is fired, old Ursa Horribilis - the grizzly bear - has learned that game is probably down, and that an easy buffet might be readily available for the taking.

A number of years ago, my frequent hunting partner Doug Koupal made a moose hunt into the Jasper, a portion of wilderness in the Canadian Rockies east of Banff in Alberta. His guide and outfitter was Clayton Grosso, a colorful old salt who had volumes of experience under his belt.

A few years later, I would join Doug on a hunt in the same area with Clayton, his son and a wrangler. While Doug sought elk on our hunt, I had a wolf and mule deer tag in my pocket. We saw grizzlies - big grizzlies - and I became keenly aware of them. While I'm not afraid of grizzlies, I know they can take my head off with a single swipe of a paw.

On that hunt, I rode a beautiful Percheron-palomino cross named Peyton. As I'm no horseman, Peyton's behavior was probably a figment of my imagination, but I'll describe it and you can make the call. Whenever we approached the dense alder thickets that lay along a stream or river, Peyton's nose was in the air. He also swung his head back and forth as he scrutinized every aspect of the terrain. I'm thinking that he was very bear conscious.

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Getting back to Doug's moose hunt, Doug dropped a nice bull. When Clayton saw where grizzlies had been scratching for grubs in the area, he had Doug put his coat over the moose and ordered that they get the "H" out of there! When they returned with pack horses, they did so with the utmost caution. Fortunately, bears had not yet found the carcass.

The grizzly we're talking about is an amazing critter. He is extremely intelligent - intelligent enough to use rocks or sticks as tools to spring bear traps. He knows that in all likelihood, a rifle shot means that game is down. If he's downwind, he can smell blood at three miles distance. His running speed is 35 miles per hour. He could be on a kill site before a careless guide and hunter had time to react.

During the fall of 2014, a Tennessee moose hunter was killed by a grizzly in the Northwest Territories of Canada. In looking at the newspaper account on the Internet, it appears that the guide and the hunter left their moose carcass to fetch some pack horses. During the interim, a grizzly had claimed the moose without their knowledge.

When they returned to the kill site, the hunter - anxious to begin the field-dressing process - preceded his guide by 100 yards. The bear bolted in and killed the hunter with a single swift blow. The hunter's rifle was not within reach. The bear was later hunted down and killed.

Next fall, I'll be hunting moose in British Columbia - grizzly bear country. The odds are heavily in my favor that there will be no unfortunate grizzly bear encounter. However, the things that I have just told you are causing me to think about my hunt and a degree of preparedness I plan to follow religiously. Here are my self-imposed rules. If and when my outfitter/guide tells me that I'm overreacting, I may adjust ... or I may not.

Rog's Rules When a Moose is Down

• I will remain with my guide at all times.

• On this hunt in grizzly country, my rifle will be loaded with a full magazine. It will be at my side. (In the past, when my animal is down, I have unloaded my rifle in the interest of safety.)

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• I will remain well aware of our backside.

• I might suggest moving the moose to an open area before field-dressing.

Well, there you have it. Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid, but I don't think so as I've never been overly cautious about potential danger in the past. I've had rattlesnakes dangle from the cuff of my jeans. I've fished for piranha in an Amazon dugout canoe. I've walked, unarmed, to distant virgin lakes in polar bear country. I've fished Africa's Chobe River among the hippos and crocs. Worse yet, I've driven down Sioux Falls' 41st Street during the pre-Christmas shopping holiday rush.

Relative to dangerous game, in the sporting magazines that I subscribe to, there have recently been two stories about hippos being Africa's most dangerous game. The authors state that hippos kill more people than the other bad guys put together. One of the stories appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of Sporting Classics. The story, "The Big 6th," was by our own Ron Spomer, arguably our country's most-talented outdoor writer.

Why do I mention this? At the recent Dallas Safari Club expo in Dallas, I had the opportunity to listen to Ivan Carter. I'll call Carter Africa's foremost hunter and conservationist. If you watch The Outdoor Channel, you'll know Ivan.

Anyway, Ivan repeatedly told us that "the hippo being the most dangerous" is the biggest myth in all of hunting. Ivan said that it wasn't even close. The number one killer is the crocodile. Who are we to believe?

As big a Spomer fan as I am, I'll go with Carter. He lives there, while Spomer makes an occasional visit. Perhaps we'll hear from Spomer on this issue. I did enjoy Spomer's hippo hunt story, as I slept in the same tent and saw the same crocs and hippos in August 2014.

See you next week.

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