Thirteen miles from the nearest paved road in Utah's northeastern backcountry, high on an impossible bluff, a predator stalks its prey through snow-filtered moonlight. It has incredible night vision, padded feet, wicked claws, hearing that finds the feeding mule deer below like radar and canines that can sever the spine of an animal that vastly outweighs it. In one violent whirr, the 130-pound masterpiece of muscle and stealth pours onto a mule deer and seizes its neck like a Conibear trap. Moments later, the mountain lion drags its lifeless prey up a rock face while heavy snowflakes erase what few crimson clues remain of the deer's demise.
As sunlight crests the mountain's peak, the predator takes another half-pound of flesh from the softest parts and begins to cover the rest for later. Then suddenly its ears attune to the distant, detested, bawling sounds of its only enemy in this country as they resound up the ridge and grow nearer. With a distended belly, the cougar will have trouble running. This time it may have to fight.
Three miles away, a hunter struggles to keep within earshot of Suzi, his lead hound. He'd cut the track the evening before, grabbed a restless night's sleep in his pickup and put the hounds back on it two hours before dawn. By sunup he knows the 5-inch-wide print like it is his own, as does the relentless Walker with the talented snout who lives to fill it with fresh scent of feline. In this wet snow and with this wind, the hunter likes the odds, but he knows it's never even close to a sure thing. Any second the big tom could bound up sheer rock and over miles of mountain. What if he can't get there fast enough and his beloved hounds mix with the cat? Sweat sluices down his back as he picks each snow-laden foot up past the other and crunches them down, metronome-like, in the energy-sapping powder.
When bawls give to frenetic yaps, it's evident age-old enemies have spied each other. Spurred, the hunter double-times and trudges uphill alone, as determined as a man can trudge, directly toward the sounds of hell and its trappings. As the houndsman nears the ruckus in the pines, he thumbs the leather thong of his holster and peeks between the cylinder and gate of the Super Blackhawk. This time it's rimmed with five .44 caliber hollow-points, because this is not another practice run. This is opening day.
How to Put Down A Black Bear
Most hunters are used to aiming behind the shoulder on deer for a double-lung shot. This works on bears, too; you can aim right behind the top of the shoulder and nearly halfway up the side. Better yet, break one or both shoulders. A bullet that busts bone and bursts lungs is the best way to anchor a bear. Bullet and bone fragments should damage the lungs and maybe even the heart. If you accidentally hit high you should still sever the bear's spine.
Take this shot only on a wounded bear that needs to be anchored. Your target is the top of the tail, not below it, so nervous and skeletal systems are hit. You want to split the pelvis and take out the back legs so a finishing shot can be taken.
Try to brain a charging bear. From the front, your target is just above a line that would join the top of the eyes. If possible, wait till the head points down or at a 90-degree angle to the bullet path. Keep shooting until it is down, as an adrenaline-charged bruin can be hard to stop.
If it's facing you, aim just below the jaw to drive the bullet through the neck and chest. If it's quartering toward you, aim for the shoulder you can see and send the bullet through the chest cavity. If it's quartering away, do this in reverse by shooting up through the chest to the far shoulder.
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Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »