Brian Braconnier and Keith Farkas, of Fernie, B.C., were scouting the area around Mount Proctor, in the province's southeast Interior, on Wednesday morning for the upcoming hunting season when they came between a grizzly mother and her cub.
"I heard a growl, and then we both heard a second growl, and we said, 'What was that?'" said Farkas.
"And before we could react, she was on us ... She knocked [Braconnier] over, hit him in the back and took him downhill out of my sight behind some shrubs."
After the bear swiped Braconnier four times and swung him through the air by his arm, he managed to hit back with some bear spray.
"She was right there — arm's distance — I hit her with some bear spray," Braconnier recalled.
Undeterred, the bear turned on Farkas, who was fumbling with a shotgun.
Feared for the worst
"When I saw her coming back up the hill, I had been fumbling with unstrapping the shotgun off my back, fumbling with shells," he said.
"I managed to load a shell. I saw her paws. I shot ... She seemed to stand up and writhe in pain like I had connected with her. And in an instant like lightning, she was around a bit of a corner and airborne at me, and she clawed me and pushed me back."
Farkas feared for the worst when he landed on his back more than three metres down the hill, with the angry grizzly bearing down on him.
"The most terrifying part was I was so vulnerable, head down hill, feet up. I was screaming. Her face was no more than a foot from my boot. And she turned around and left."
Pair treated in hospital
The attack left both with deep puncture wounds and claw marks on their arms and legs but no serious injuries. They made the two-hour hike out and were treated and released from local hospitals on Thursday.
"Somehow and some way, while my hand was in her mouth while I was in the air, she never touched tendons or nerves. It was millimetres from my vital vein which goes through your wrist," said Braconnier.
Conservation officers searched all day for the bear, but failed to find it and now believe it was not badly injured. If she turns up and has to be put down, or if she is already dead, the cub will be sent to a rescue centre, they said.
Officers say the pair did nothing wrong and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The pair were joined by their relieved wives when they spoke to the media on Thursday night.
"I'm so thankful that we are here making this statement, the two of us, and it is not our wives writing an obituary, because it could have been that easy," said Farkas.
Despite the close call, the men have vowed to return to the woods for hunting season, and Farkas said he will get quicker at loading a shotgun.Suggest a correction