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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Man With Bowie Knife vs. Bear With Teeth and Claws

There are numerous reports of men with bowie knives going up against bears, some more believable than others. The following one was published in 1884:
A Desperate Encounter Between an Indian and a Bear.

Miguel is the name of a tall, lank Indian who is just now the lion of the hour in the Pecos River settlements, just across the mountain from Santa Fe. He is well known as a steady, industrious fellow, pretty well advanced in the acts of Western civilization, and last year did good service in the employ of the Pecos River Mining Company as a miner, near Hamilton. He is counted a dead shot every time: in fact, is an expert with almost any weapon, and can handle the bowie knife with a rapidity akin to lightning and a certainty that is deadly. He has had some experience as a bear hunter. This class of “varmint” has been quite destructive to stock in the Upper Pecos Valley the past Winter and this Spring the fact has been demonstrated to the ranchmen that there are more bears in the adjacent mountains than has been known before for many years.

These animals have been growing more bold in their depredations for some months, and have made such havoc among the herds owned by Mr. McRay, a leading ranchman of that section, that he was forced to cast about for some method of retaliation. Knowing Miguel to be a good hunter, he sent for him and employed him to put in his whole time hunting bears in and about the grazing territory frequented by his stock. As a result the Indian has already killed five bears this season-certainly a record that any frontiersman might well be proud of. But Miguel's encounter with the last two, fine specimens of the black variety, came very near putting a short stop to his “reg'lar bizness” as a bar hunter. He jumped up this pair while engaged in a playful wrestle in a mountain canon on Friday last, and his first shot sent the male bear howling to the earth; then another shot and its companion rolled over pierced right through the heart. But by this time the male animal had regained his feet and was making for the Indian with blood in his eye and death in his paws. Miguel waited a second, thinking to make sure work of the second shot when the bear got nearer, but the weapon failed him. It was a repeating rifle, and the lever refused to work. The situation was critical. A second time he wrenched the lever, but to no effect, and by this time the desperate brute, rendered so by the bullet in his side, was fairly upon him. He had nothing to do but to club his gun and go at him, and this he did with a vengeance, but the bear bushed it from his grasp as if it had been a handful of straw, and with his huge paw clutched the Indian by the left arm between the wrist and the elbow. Then Miguel remembered his trusty bowie knife. It was unsheathed in a jiffy and he thought to catch his antagonist in the short ribs with his keen point, but the wily brute seemed to discern this, and the next moment had torn the flesh from the arm that held the knife. By this time it was a clear case of hug between the man and the beast. As the Indian dodged the bear's desperate blows he caught the knife in his left hand and then sprang forward and clasped the animal tight around the body. This lasted a second-certainly not longer, for the bear was then in a good way to grind the man into mince meat, when with a remarkably cool move Miguel reached around the bear with his right hand, took from his left the knife and in the next instant plunged it through the animal's side into his heart.

It will be some weeks before Miguel will be able to do any more hunting. He now wears each of his arms in soft cotton bandages.

Parties from this section to-day say there are a great many bears in the vicinity of the Santa Fe Rod and Gun Club's quarters, in Woodruff Park. Not alone the black bear abound thereabouts, but the cinnamon and silver tip varieties are plentiful, affording rare sport for all who have the nerve to hunt them.


  1. that's when men were men!

  2. Yes, this man was not your normal everyday run of the mill male, his Indian cultural training as a child probably saved his life in this bear attack. I have given much thought to if I were ever placed in a life, or death situation with a bear like this brave man was, and it is my thoughts, that I would thrust my 10" bowie knife blade upward through the bears jaw close to the neck, throat area deep into the brain of the bear, I believe this would be a quick, and sure instant kill. Other opinions welcome !

    1. Bears, sure are very tough animals, but they have got a heart and brain and bleed just like any living being. They are by no means immortal creatures and I think, that most times, stories people tell.....make them somewhat unbeatable. I think a good thrust to the bears vitals will kill him just as a bullet would, it is a lot more dangerous considering the distance, nonetheless.

  3. i think that james bowie did not kill a bear with just a pocket knife you can't kill a bear the easy i think that this just a made up story

  4. Interesting thoughts I really enjoyed your blog.