No Round Chambered: Hunter and Guide Defenseless Against Grizzly Bear Attack
Russ Chastain 06.04.19
A bear attack in Wyoming last year strongly illustrates the need for folks to keep firearms ready to function at a moment’s notice — and this means loading a round into the chamber before you even carry it.
A Wyoming hunting guide and a hunter from Florida were working on a dead elk when they were attacked by two grizzly bears, a mature sow and her 150-pound cub. Only the guide had a firearm — it was an archery hunt — but he was not wearing the gun at the time of the attack. He’d taken off his chest holster and shirt while dressing out a dead elk.
Game and Fish and OSHA gave the following account of the incident. Chubon arrowed the elk in the evening of Sept. 13, Hovinga said. But the two couldn’t immediately find the mortally wounded animal. The next day, they discovered the elk carcass at the end of what Hovinga said was ‘a pretty good blood trail.’
There was no evidence, he said, that a bear had yet been to the elk carcass. Nevertheless, ‘I’m certain it was coming to the scent,’ at the time of the attack, [Wyoming Game and Fish Regional Wildlife Supervisor Brad] Hovinga said.
Before the two began field dressing the elk, ‘the guide removed an automatic pistol that he carried in a chest holster as well as his shirt and left them with the two men’s packs a short distance up the hill from the carcass…’ OSHA wrote in its fatal alert.
‘They had removed the intestines and all the guts and were quartering it up,’ Hovinga said, Uptain was sawing off the elk’s antlers when the two heard rocks rolling ‘and turned and discovered the bear coming,’ Hovinga said. ‘It just came to them immediately … at full speed,’ over rolling terrain across which there was only a broken line of sight.
The bear hit Uptain as Chubon went for the pistol. ‘He said he had [the Glock],’ Hovinga told WyoFile. ‘He had a hard time trying to find a clear shot.’
Chubon tried to shoot the bear, Hovinga said. ‘He grabbed [the pistol], was unable to make it fire,’ Hovinga said. ‘There was not a round in the chamber, so the gun was empty. He couldn’t make the gun work.’
After hitting Uptain, the grizzly quickly turned and bit Chubon in the ankle.
‘He swung me around in the air,’ Chubon told WKMG Television in Orlando, Florida, near where he lives. That’s when Chubon threw the pistol toward Uptain.
It was ‘a matter of seconds’ during which the bear attacked Uptain, turned on Chubon and then returned to further maul Uptain, Hovinga said.
But the Glock, ‘it didn’t make to Mark [Uptain],’ Hovinga said. ‘The hunter fled.’
Chubon mounted a horse and rode to where he had cell service and called for help.
Even making the call was fairly amazing, according to one of the first responders as reported in Jackson Hole News & Guide.
‘I’m not quite sure how he did that, because there’s no cell service out there at all,’ Carr said. ‘That’s something we could not duplicate when we were there on the scene.’
If only he’d known how to run a semi-automatic pistol as well as he worked his phone that day. Apparently he didn’t know how to chamber a round, and of course no gun can be fired without ammo in the chamber. The pistol and magazine were found in different locations, but it’s unknown whether the magazine may have been released by Chubon in his urgent attempts to make the gun fire — he may have been searching for a safety — or if it separated from the handgun when he threw it down and fled.
There’s no way to know whether a round in the chamber would’ve prevented the attack, or even the death… but if the guide had been wearing the pistol with a round in the chamber when the charge began, it’s likely that things would have been much different. Even a five-minute lesson between guide and hunter about how to run the Glock might have saved Uptain’s life, and his five children may still have their father around.
Moral of the story? Load your gun — all the way. And keep it where you can lay your hands on it in an instant.
I may one day be found mauled in the woods with an empty gun at my side, but I sincerely hope that I will have fired every round from it, rather than carrying an essentially useless item with me into harm’s way.
Prayers for Uptain’s family and friends.