Wisconsin Hunter Survives Grizzly Attack Near Dubois
I can’t explain the emotions we had at that point. We never had that feeling of helplessness and fear before.
(DUBOIS, WYO.) – Hunters in Fremont County are no strangers to the presence of Grizzly Bears, and all hunters have methods of preparing themselves for an encounter. Sometimes even the most prepared hunters can be taken by surprise by a Grizzly. Seth Ziegler, a 39-year-old bowhunter from Mineral Point, Wisconsin, discovered first hand how quickly an attack can ensue earlier this year.
On Monday, September 11, 2017, Ziegler and his father were bow hunting elk in the mountains above Dubois. The pair of hunters were taken by surprise when a Grizzly Bear, accompanied by two first-year cubs, walked up on their location from behind.
That evening, Ziegler and his father hiked to the top of a ridge overlooking a meadow. The pair of hunters were familiar with the area and have had luck spotting elk from that location in the past. Ziegler sat on a downed stump as his father did the same, about ten yards away. “The plan was to sit and listen for elk, and if we heard elk, we would move in on them,” said Ziegler.
Around 15 minutes passed as the pair of hunters sat waiting for elk to show up. At that point, Ziegler heard what he thought was an elk approaching them from behind, through the timber. He quickly knocked an arrow and turned his attention to where the steps were coming from.
Ziegler saw a large sow Grizzly Bear walking to his right, around 20 yards away, followed by three 1st year cubs.
The hunter set his bow down on the ground and began to pull a can of bear spray from a holster on his left hip. At this point, the bear disappeared behind a small, bushy pine tree about three yards in front of him. “My thought, as I was pulling my spray out of the holster, was to get the spray out with the safety off and pointing in her direction. That way, if she saw me and advanced, I would be ready to spray,” explained Ziegler.
I immediately felt a sting in my back and at that moment I thought, Oh my God, I’m going to be torn apart now.
Ziegler managed to slide the safety off of the bear spray while he looked at his father and whispered loudly, “Grizzly Bear! Grizzly Bear! Grizzly Bear!”
“Just then, all I see is the pine tree bend over and claws and bear teeth as she plowed into me, sending me 15 feet off my stump and getting slammed to the ground. All of my gear flew off me, arrows, hip quiver, rangefinder, etc,” said Ziegler. “I immediately tried covering my face and neck with my arms as she rolled on me and got on top of me. I immediately felt a sting in my back and at that moment I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be torn apart now.’”
Ziegler heard his father screaming at the top of his lungs at the bear. He then felt the weight of the bear jump off of him suddenly. “I opened my eyes and the only thing I saw was my bear spray that was laying an arm’s length away from me,” said Ziegler.
“I immediately grabbed the spray and stood up and started sprinting towards my Dad. I had no doubt that the bear had now turned her attack on him and needed to do what I could to help him,” Ziegler explained. “I got around a tree to look to see Dad holding his bow in the air screaming, ‘yeeaa you son of a b****!!!’ The bear, at this point, ran into the timber, stopped, looked back, and then took off.”
“Dad said that when he screamed at her while she was on top of me, she got off of me and charged at him. She got less than a yard away and bounced to the left of him at the last second,” Ziegler said. As the pair of hunters stood there in shock, Ziegler felt stinging on his lip and back. The hunter also noticed that he wasn’t able to lift his arm beyond shoulder height. Ziegler touched his bloody lip and asked his father, “is my face tore up? How bad am I? Am I tore up bad?”
“He said my face looked ok,” said Ziegler. “I reached to my back and felt my vest was wet on the outside. I assumed it was blood and asked Dad to see how bad it was. He said there was a tear in my vest. I lifted my shirt to discover two puncture wounds from her bite and the wet vest was her saliva and not blood.”
“Once we calmed down a little, we started looking over the scene. We looked at my gear spread across 15 feet where she took me from the stump to the ground. We saw the dirt ripped up where she stopped a yard in front of Dad,” said Ziegler. “I can’t explain the emotions we had at that point. We never had that feeling of helplessness and fear before. Myself, the helpless feeling of about to be torn apart by a Grizzly and there was nothing I could do about it. My dad just experienced the helpless feeling of watching his son possibly being severely mauled or killed in front of him.”
“We reported the attack to the U.S. Forestry Service. The next day the Bear Biologist from the Wyoming Game and Fish came and took our statements as well as GPS coordinates of the attack,” said Ziegler.
“My biggest take away from this experience is that no matter how prepared, ‘Bear aware’, you think you are, it can happen extremely fast. I can’t express with words how unbelievably fast those large bears can move. As elk hunters, we do pretty everything wrong when in bear country. We are trying to be quiet, sneaking through the dark timber, walking with the wind in our face. So the chance of a surprise encounter with a bear greatly increases,” Ziegler told County 10.
I will continue to hunt there in that area… there are risks every single day, no matter what you do. I could get into a car accident just going to the grocery store. At least elk hunting, I’m doing something that I’m passionate about and love to do. I don’t have that same passion for going to the grocery store, but I’m still going to do it.
“I’m not ever going to get into the old gun vs bear spray debate. It’s whatever you feel comfortable with and whatever you feel confident in being able to protect yourself from a Grizzly. In my case, it wouldn’t have mattered what I had. I literally didn’t have time to quickly pull my spray from the holster. I have practiced in the past pulling the spray and taking the safety lock off thinking I was fast but in this case, it wasn’t fast enough. I guess if I had any advice it would be just that.”
Ziegler says that he did continue to hunt after the attack. “I wasn’t able to pull my bow back for a few days due to my shoulder and elbow injury, but I went along with my Dad to be his partner and to help call for elk. I will continue to hunt there in that area,” said Ziegler. “I know how lucky we were in this situation but I also understood the risk before and still understand the risk now. I guess to me, there are risks every single day, no matter what you do. I could get into a car accident just going to the grocery store. At least elk hunting, I’m doing something that I’m passionate about and love to do. I don’t have that same passion for going to the grocery store, but I’m still going to do it.”