TALES OF THE NORTH: Grizzly bears on the ranch

John Zentz

This tale is about the time we spent on the ranch way up north in Washington state.

The ranch was very close to the Canadian line; in fact, in some places, it touched the line.

On the ranch we had and needed a very, very large bunkhouse. It gets cold up there, so the bunkhouse needed a large, barrel stove to keep it warm.

The Canadian Mounties patrolling the line would, many times, come over to our home. They would stop by either to visit or get out of the weather.

We had men out in the bunkhouse all the time, so them showing up caused us no trouble. We enjoyed their company.


There were many grizzly bears on the ranch. They were no trouble in the winter, but big trouble in the summer.

My brothers and I had to help with the cattle. We all carried a model 94 30-30 in a leather cab bored on the saddle. A small gun against a grizzly, but light and easy to handle.

My dad, one day, said, “I’m worried about you boys. One day you are going to run into a grizzly and not be prepared to handle it.”

He went on to say that next month bear season would be open. “I will take you all up to the Lock Saw mountains in Idaho and show you how to kill a grizzly with a 94.”

The month went swiftly by, and we found ourselves in the Lock Saw. We set up camp, lots of fun.

The next morning, we got up early, worked our way up a ridge and scouted a river way down below us. There was a grizzly down there, working his way along the river.

My dad said, “We will work our way down until he smells us, then he will come up here.”

He was right. Soon the bear caught our scent and started working his way up the mountain. My dad then sent my brothers and I up the side of the hill. He went out to meet the bear. The bear finely came out of the trees about a 100 yards from my dad.


My dad’s first shot hit the bear. He went down, and came right back up. He was running full speed at my dad. My dad calmly walked right out to meet him.

The bear stopped about 10 or 15 yards from my dad and stood up on his hind legs. Boy, was he tall!

My dad walked even closer, lifted the gun and shot the bear under the jaw. The bear went over backwards dead.

We went running down to where he was.

My dad said, “Did you watch? The trick is to get him to stand up. If you act like you are going to fight him, he will stand up. He will not fight on all fours. He will always stand up.”

Boy, am I glad I never had to test that theory! I would have found a distracted bear that would not know he was supposed to stand up!

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