Wisconsin Bear Attack in the 1960s Stopped with .22 Magnum

Missouri just wrapped up their first-ever black bear hunt. IMG iStock-482557323

Over a year ago, I started tracking down a story about a bear killed in self-defense in Wisconsin in a chicken coop with a .22 Magnum revolver. With considerable effort, the source of the story was contacted.

Around about 1964 or 65′, a boy accompanied his father on the Menomonee Reservation in east-central Wisconsin. A well-known logger was visited. Upon entering the log house, made of logs cut and fitted by the logger, with a fine living room paneled in knotty pine, the boy noticed a bear-skin rug with a Ruger Single Six revolver prominently displayed above the mantle of a massive field-stone fireplace.

Fred Simons Jr. was the boy. Fred has shared the story that accompanied the bear rug and the revolver. As a curious young boy, Fred asked the man of the house about the revolver and the bear skin rug.

The Logger was highly skilled and well-known on the Reservation. He excelled at difficult jobs involving old growth timber. While felling a large tree, the top, which was dead, came off and struck the logger, causing him serious injury. We called those situations “widowmakers”. He was required to wear a bodycast for a period of time. Logging is a dangerous occupation. The year was in the neighborhood of 1960-63. The Logger had obtained one of the recently introduced Ruger Single Six revolvers, either chambered in .22 Magnum (introduced in the Single Six in 1959) or the interchangeable cylinder version, introduced in 1961. In 1960, the .22 Magnum version was advertised at $64.25. This correspondent purchased a mildly used Colt Woodsman for $60 in 1968 (before the GCA 1968 law went into effect).

Ruger Single Six, .22 Magnum, sold in 1963, courtesy of Rock Island Auction.

We do not have a positive name for the logger. While recovering at his home, in a fairly wild part of the reservation, the Logger was having problems with raccoons raiding his chicken coop. He kept the Ruger loaded with .22 Magnum cartridges to deal with the problem. A .22 Magnum out of a 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inch barreled revolver will produce ballistics very close to a high-velocity .22 LR out of a rifle (40 grain bullet at about 1250 fps).

One night, a commotion in the chicken coop had him hobbling toward it, in the body cast, flashlight in one hand, Ruger revolver loaded with .22 Magnum cartridges in the other.  He got the door open and stepped inside. The door slammed shut behind him. In the beam of his flashlight the expected raccoon transformed into a full-sized black bear.

The logger was completely justified in shooting the black bear. Not only was the bear killing his chickens, it was a serious threat in the limited circumstances in which it was discovered. Fred does not remember if the number of shots fired was mentioned. He recalls the Logger felt in extreme danger and probably fired all the shots in the cylinder, even if he killed the bear with the first shot.

At the time, killing a chicken coop-raiding black bear was considered a virtuous but not particularly newsworthy event. The body cast, the Ruger revolver in .22 Magnum, and the slamming chicken coop door make a great story.

There is not enough detail to consider it documented. We do not have a name for the Logger. We do not have a good date. We do not have any substantiating documentation, such as a diary, newspaper report, or even property records from the Reservation.  Fred was a young boy who was visiting. It isn’t as if he heard the story repeated over decades.

This correspondent believes it probably happened close to what was related. However, it is not enough to consider it documented, so it will not be included in the database. The story is recounted here for readers’ edification and enjoyment.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean WeingartenDean Weingarten

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