Revenant: The real story behind the man that killed a bear with just a knife, and was left for dead



Imagine yourself walking in the mountains of Idaho, Wyoming or Montana (If you have never seen them, it should be on your 100 impossible lifetime goals), and coming into a clearing where you see two little baby bear cubs playing and rolling around.

It would be cute, and possibly a little comedic, but when there are bear cubs playing, you can rest assure momma bear is somewhere close.

You look around to hear the overwhelming roar emerging from behind you, it sounds like thunder as it cracks. You instantly turn around to see a giant grizzly sniffing the air and making eye contact with you as it begins it's charge. You have about two seconds to figure out what you are going to do. 

All you have is one shot in the rifle you are carrying, and a buckskin knife.

What do you do?

The Story

In late August or Early September, 1823, there was a mountain man named Hugh Glass who encountered such a scenario.

By all accounts he was a man's man. An excellent trapper, tracker and explorer.

In this particular instance he was on a fur hunting expedition, as was customary during this period of time. Animal furs were used for trade, or to get money. It also helped to foster relations with some of the Native Americans.

Either way, it meant business, and payment.

You didn't get to pick who went on these expeditions with you, it was just a hodge podge of men with different skills to help make a successful mission. 

There were often Indian attacks, cold winters, and harsh environments, that these men had to endure and know how to combat. Things that most modern men have no idea how to deal with.

Westward expansion was happening, and there was a lot of America that was still considered "undiscovered" by the newest inhabitants.

It was risky business.

Exactly the type of thing for hard men.

An unfortunate turn of events

One morning as Hugh was out hunting for food, he came into a clearing and saw two bear cubs. Being a mountain man, he knew that the mom was near, but she was too quick for him to run or climb a tree. All he had was one shot in his rifle that he had just cleaned, and a buckskin knife.

The Grizzly charged him and reared up on its hind legs, Glass was able to get the shot off right into the bears heart. The bear swiped the gun out of his hand, and started tearing at him with its claws.

It grabbed the back of his neck with it's teeth and jackknife power bombed him, Kevin Nash style. The grizzly continued to slice him as he reached for his knife, it is unclear whether he got a knife jab in or not, but he continued to be cut and bitten by this grizzly.

The other trappers heard the shot and came to see if he had shot some game, but when they came to the clearing the cubs were chewing on Glass, and the giant grizzly was laying on top of him. Dead.

They shot the cub that was eating Glass, and lifted the Grizzly from off of him to find him still breathing.

Watch the video below to see the scene re-enacted (remember, he only got one shot, and we are not sure if he got his knife out or not.)


Glass is in bad shape, his neck is torn open and air bubbles form when he breathes. His men stitch him up the best they can and start to carry him on litter they made for the next two days.

Of course this is slow going, and with the winter approaching, Indians bearing down on them, and a deadline and a target to meet. Glass was dead-weight.



Glass's super compassionate team decides that two men should be left behind to take care of him. Fitzgerald, and a young man new to expeditions such as this one named James Bridger. They were promised an extra $80 for their compliance.

Fitzgerald convinced Bridger after three more days that they had fulfilled their obligation. The two men settled his pallet next to a flowing spring and headed for the fort at the mouth of the Yellowstone.  They also took Glass’ gun, knife, tomahawk and fire making kit, items for which a dead man had no need. Then they left him to die.

Somehow, Glass defied death, sets his broken bones, and began to crawl back to civilization. His final destination was Fort Kiowa. 

His travel was slow, and he ate insects, snakes, and whatever else he could find. He also found some wolves that were eating a buffalo and waited until they were gone. Then he went and stole some meat from the carcass.

By mid-October 1823, Hugh Glass limped into Fort Kiowa having covered over 250 miles.

He spent the rest of his life hunting down the men who left him for dead.

What can we learn?

There is no doubt that Glass was a hardened mountain man, he spent his life in the wilderness of the West. Whether he survived the bear attack because of luck is of little importance. However, his resiliency and his uncommon desire to succeed is what sets him apart, and makes this story more appealing.

He had an iron will. He was driven by revenge, but it helped him to recover and get back to Ft. Kiowa. Glass had also required skills along the way that had put chance in his favor. Skills that every man of his time should know. Skills that saved his life.

Just like Hugh Glass learned the skills that he needed for his time, men need to learn some of these timeless skills that will inevitably come in handy.

Not only are they necessary to learn, but they will build confidence, help you overcome fear, and feel like a bad-ass.

You need to learn these skills. 

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Grizzly Photo credit: dishfunctional on / CC BY-NC-SA
The Revenant Photo credit: Mabacam on / CC BY-NC-ND