I have to start by pointing out that with changes in location and circumstances, strategies will need to be adjusted.
For over 40 years now we’ve lived over 30 miles from town smack dab in the middle of brown bear country with salmon streams within a mile on either side of us. We even have bears in our yard looking for trouble once in a while. “Trouble” being anything edible or attractive in any way. If we do our part to deny them, they have no reason to be there and seldom return. But their memories are incredible, and neighbors who have had problems report that almost to the day the same bear will return the next year looking for a revisit to the food source. I’ve also made countless ventures into the hills and along rivers here spanning days and weeks.
In my youth I also worked for 3 years in the hills in the heart of black bear country, having almost daily encounters. The only problems in the area occurred around campgrounds and homes, both with food issues.
I’ve also spent quite a bit of time in the hills in interior Alaska with grizzly bears, though not on a regular basis or for periods longer than about a week.
Only reason for telling you that, the biggest problems occurring with any of the 3 species involve habituation to food or threats to the bears or their cubs. I have little concern around bears well away from regular human presence and the potential for habituation. I have a lot of concern about surprising bears in any setting.
My formula is to seek locations away from reports of habituated bears and to make lots of noise as I move about. Best (or worst?) noise I’ve found is my typical off-key singing. Drives my companions nuts, but the bears seem to feel the same way and flee. Singing works for me because it’s easier to sustain the noise than trying to remember to say “Hey bear!” now and then. Bear bells seem to work about as well on bears as they would on other shoppers at Black Friday sales events in the city. I won’t depend on them. Bears have no clue that the bell might be anything but a new bird in the neighborhood, but they instantly recognize human voices.
Walking in the dark brings its own special issues, something I’ve encountered all too often when returning in the evening from overstays in the hills. I’ve BTDT early in the AM too, however. Little choice of treading in darkness on return jaunts, but there are choices when starting out. I can verify that the light of a powerful headlamp turns every mossy stump and boulder into a bear, leading to particularly enthusiastic arias. I use the light and make my yodels in the AM, but I’m not ashamed to turn around and leave when I encounter fresh bear sign.
Bottom line, pick your location, make your noise, bring your light, and retreat when possible. I’ve been charged by bears on a number occasions when ignoring my own rules, and I can verify that it will make an indelible impression and improve your resolve to return to the rules.
Notice I haven’t said a thing about guns or bear spray? That’s because my attitude is clear: We CHOOSE to be there, and I don’t care to make a bear pay for my mistakes.