Tom Sommer Grizzly Mauling

This photo of Tom Sommer was posted to social media after he was mauled by a grizzly bear south of Ennis over Labor Day Weekend.

Facebook Photo

A grizzly bear mauled a bow hunter in southwestern Montana, slashing a 16-inch cut in his head that required 90 stitches to close.

"I could hear bones crunching, just like you read about," said Tom Sommer, as he recovered in a Montana hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

Sommer said he and a hunting partner were looking for an elk they had been calling Monday morning when his partner spotted a grizzly bear feeding on an elk carcass in the southern end of the Gravelly Range, just north of the Idaho border.

"The bear just flat-out charged us," Sommer said. He said it closed the 30-foot distance in 3 or 4 seconds.

His hunting partner deployed his bear spray, which slowed the bear's charge. Sommer said he grabbed his canister so quickly that he couldn't release the safety and he couldn't afford to look down as the bear closed in. He ran around a tree twice and dropped his bear spray in the process.

Sommer then grabbed his pistol and turned to confront the bear.

Tom Sommer Grizzly Mauling

This photo of Tom Sommer, posted to social media, shows wounds that he sustained after a grizzly bear mauled him on Monday in southwestern Montana.

"It bit my thigh, ran his claws through my wrist and proceeded to attack my head," Sommer recalled Tuesday.

He still had his pistol in his hand and was going to shoot the bear in the neck when it swatted his arm down, Sommer said.

"Just like that it stopped. He stopped biting me, he got up and started to run away," said Sommer, who splits his time among Idaho, Missouri and Florida.

His hunting partner had been able to deploy the rest of his bear spray, ending the attack Sommer estimated lasted about 25 seconds.

"It could have been a lot worse," he said.

Sommer reportedly shot his pistol into the air as the bear retreated, but did not hit the animal, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said.

After the mauling, Sommer found his bear spray canister. His hunting partner had some blood coagulation powder and they made a turban, stopping the bleeding after about 15 minutes.

Tom Sommer Grizzly Mauling

This photo of Tom Sommer was posted to social media after he was mauled by a grizzly bear south of Ennis over Labor Day Weekend.

They walked a mile back to their spike camp and rode mules another 4 miles out to their base camp, followed by a 2-hour ride in a pickup truck to get to the hospital in Ennis.

"Through it all I was very conscious, very level headed and low key about it," said Sommer. "Besides some scars, it doesn't appear that I will have any problems."

"I've been a hunter my whole life," said Sommer, 57. "I have no grievance against the bear. He was just doing what bears do. But I would have shot him just the same."

The incident was reported as self-defense and authorities were still looking into it Tuesday, Lemon said.

FWP does not anticipate any “management action” related to the grizzly but the Forest Service is posting warning signs in the area, he added.

Independent Record reporter Tom Kuglin contributed to this story.