Big-bore double-action revolvers like the 44 Magnum are excellent choices for dense-woods bear hunting

If youve got the nerve to hunt this dangerous game, heres how world-class shooter Doug Koenig and Outdoor Editor Dick Metcalf did it, courtesy of master guide Wayne Bosowiczs Foggy Mountain Guide Service.

By Dick Metcalf


Big-bore, heavy-power handguns are excellent choices for dense-woods bear hunting. Experienced guides say they are usually even better than long guns, particularly if there is any chance you might have to track on the ground because they are quicker and more maneuverable in tangled thickets and brush. I prefer a double-action revolver with its inherently more crisp cocked-action trigger pull compared to a single-action revolver. A magnum-level semi-auto, such as a Desert Eagle or Grizzly Win Mag, is also an effective choice. And although I love them otherwise, I don’t recommend single shots for bear. After all, would you want to be in a bear stand with a single-shot anything when the quarry may very well disappear into the brush before you can load a second round and no way of you knowing whether it was heart shot or just wounded and severely perturbed?

Doug Koenig's patience in the treestand finally paid of when he took this 225-pound bear running at 60 yardsUsing a T/C Contender with a heavy-hitting cartridge, with a revolver as a companion gun, might seem to be a reasonable setup, and the Contender is indeed favored by many hunters. But while the challenge of the one-shot kill is the height of hunting, a zero margin of error with a potentially dangerous predator game animal is not something I feel comfortable with. And putting down the single-shot gun to pick up and launch an aimed shot with the backup gun is not faster than reloading the single shot. Of course, I know that right now all my friends in the T/C Contender Association are saying, “One shot is all you should need, Dick. Hey, no argument, guys. It’s just that hunting anything with longer teeth than me makes me very cautious. So I choose a double-action revolver with highly visible open metallic sights for quick target alignment in dim light against shadowed or dark backgrounds.

Since I first hunted at Foggy Mountain over a decade ago, I’ve seen many hunters using optical sights – scopes and electronic-dot setups. Many have been successful. My own experience is that optical sights are not helpful in very dim light at close quarters. I favor optics for most handgun hunting, but the problem here is that when they are aimed down from a treestand towards dark and shadowed ground the reflection in the eyepiece lens of the brighter sky above completely blocks visibility of the target.

Doug Koenig feels differently. He used a 50mm Gilmore Red Leader electronic dot on his revolver, and he had no problem. Of course, he’s won nearly every handgun championship available in the world using a dot sight, so he has a lot more experience with it. The bottom line for any hunter should always be: “Use what you’re comfortable with.” For me and bear that’s highly visible open sights with clear color contrast against black backgrounds, and that’s what I strongly urge any newcomer to use.


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How to Hunt Black Bear can be read in the July/August 1995 issue of Handgunning. See page 60.

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