Re: Carrying a gun

9:26 a.m. on October 16, 2009 (EDT)
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I agree with Alicia: no one who has an already-formed opinion is going to change their mind as a result of an internet discussion.

If anyone is genuinely uncertain about carrying a gun in a particular area, however, the rationalist approach would be to Google accident and wildlife incident reports for that area. Then decide whether a firearm would have been of any use in preventing those kinds of problems.

I did that for Oregon.

There are no reported fatalities due to bear or cougar attack in Oregon.

I found three records of non-fatal bear attacks in 2008 and 2009:

1. A woman was clawed when she tried to chase a bear away from sunflower seeds she had stored on her porch.

2. A wildlife handler was mauled while feeding a caged black bear at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon.

3. Hunters wounded a bear in the shoulder with a .338 but could not track it; when one of their party later stumbled on it the bear attacked.

None of these were unprovoked attacks on back-country travelers.

The cougar information I found specifically for Oregon did not list any attacks; the incidents quoted were all of cougars watching people or of people seeing cougars.

Documented back-country fatalities in Oregon came from:

* Exposure after becoming lost

* Falls while mountaineering

* Hunting accidents

* Heat stroke

* Being caught in an avalanche

Hazards which might be considered, as there have historically been deaths in Oregon from them:

* Being struck by lightning

* Bee stings (a person dies in Oregon from bee sting roughly every other year)

* Rattlesnake bite (about 50 people per year are bitten by rattlesnakes; fatalities, however are considered "rare")

Highway fatalities run from 400 to 700 per year. Workplace fatalities are around 30 to 50 per year. Violent deaths in 2007 were 789, with 592 of those being suicides. (We are a gloomy people, and the rain soaks into our brains...)

The vast majority of injuries and deaths in Oregon occur on the roads, in the workplace, and in cities. In the Oregon back-country bees are more likely to kill you than bears, and you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of being killed by a cougar. Certainly you can get hurt or die in the Oregon wilderness. But with respect to the actual dangers -- being lost, getting caught in an avalanche or falling off a cliff, succumbing to heat stroke -- a gun is nothing but dead weight.

I don't carry a gun in the Oregon wilderness. I see no rational reason to start.

A similar accident / wildlife incident analysis for British Columbia would very likely reveal a much different picture. If an analysis suggests bears may be a real-world danger in a particular location, then the traveler should probably take an equally rational look at what measures have succeeded and what measures have failed to protect against bears in that environment.

But nobody who already wants to pack a gun is going to be dissuaded, and no one who is already anti-gun is going to be persuaded to start carrying. Alicia is right: this topic is mostly for airing pre-formed opinions. Nobody reading it is likely to change their mind.

4:53 p.m. on October 16, 2009 (EDT)
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Whether minds are changed or not, debate between reasonable people should serve the purpose of helping us understand differing points of view.

I would say that valid points have, and will continue to be made on both sides of this issue. In many cases it boils down to personal choice. In some situations there is no need, and in others there is.

In the area I backpack in we have had 2 fatal predatory attacks with consumption, and several aggressive territorial attacks.

One fatality was just a couple miles from a spot I fish at. Sure, the odds are very slim that it will happen to me, but if it does, I will be as prepared as possible. In the back country you must be more self reliant than you need to be in the city in a lot of cases. I do agree there is a greater risk of suffering exposure, falling injuries, etc.

To this day I have not had a serious problem, but that is no consolation to those who have. I have made my decision on sound reasoning, and on based what my personal capabilities are.

The risks are minimal, but being unprepared is not acceptable to me. I haven't had a car wreck in 17 years, but I still buckle up.

I think the only thing being debated is the best way to be prepared, and that will be different for everyone.

1:35 a.m. on October 24, 2009 (EDT)
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Trout hunter,

"I haven't had a car wreck in 17 years, but I still buckle up"

Nicely said dude....nicely said.

3:05 p.m. on October 28, 2009 (EDT)
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When backpacking alone for mutiple days in bear country I feel that's it's my own personal responsibility to my family & to myself to take every precautionary measure to be protected from the elements whether it be the weather or wildlife. I carry a 12 ga. with slugs & will start carrying a backup (44 Mag) for my own safety especially at night. I'm a responsible gun owner, but also love the wildlife & would only use my gun if I was in extreme danger other wise its just for added protection just as carrying warm clothing to protect you from the cold. Stay safe & have fun.

12:37 a.m. on November 12, 2009 (EST)
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Didn't want to wade in to what usually becomes an ideological firestorm, but... did ya'll read the post in "articles and comments" about the canadian singer killed by the coyotes. As the mtn goat said

"be prepared, be prepared

this lesson must be shared

you've got one life, so handle it with care"

Had that been trout, bald, or myself, everyone would be reading about a nasty massacre of coyotes. But, instead, we're reading about a talented young lady, Taylor Mitchell (19 yrs old), dying a horrible death that could have been avoided.

9:13 p.m. on November 12, 2009 (EST)
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Had that been trout, bald, or myself, everyone would be reading about a nasty massacre of coyotes. But, instead, we're reading about a talented young lady, Taylor Mitchell (19 yrs old), dying a horrible death that could have been avoided.

Thats a good point...

I must say I am a gun fanatic yet never carry in the back country (but always do everywhere else!). I carry bear spray and use common sense, and have been fortunate not to have been in a situation where I needed a gun.

10:13 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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Most of my hiking is here in East TN; Smokies, Big South Fork, Cumberland Gap; and always with my son. We camp, hike, backpack, and canoe; and I carry a gun. Why do I carry a gun? The same reason I carry a cell phone, a whistle, a signal mirror, a map, a compass, a strobe light, and more rope and cord than I need. If I need it, and don't have it, I'm screwed. I wear a life vest when I paddle. I can swim and I have never fallen out of the canoe, but, theres always that chance. Guys are cooking meth almost anywhere and that includes state and national parks. Some equipment you can leave at home and it is terribly inconvienant to not have it. But leave other equipment behind and a sudden snow storm, flash flood, etc and you are in a dangerous situation. I view my gun as that kind of equipment. I hope I never need it, but if I do, it's with me and I know how to use it.

Great forum and wonderful website. Thanks to all that post and review products. You have helped me a lot in recent purchases.

God bless and stay safe.

6:50 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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It is great that you go hiking with your son. IMO, teaching outdoor skills to the next generation is one of the rewards of fatherhood.

OTOH, we are also constantly teaching our children by example. How do we explain why we carry a firearm on a hike? I suppose if the handgun is heavy enough to stop a charging bear, that would be one explanation. Yet, that is a lot of weight to carry on most day hikes; after a few times of lugging that along, it would be tempting to leave it at home.

So, we tell them that we are carrying a lighter handgun because there are lots of bad people in the woods - "Guys are cooking meth almost anywhere."

I know my son, even when he was ten, would have asked "If these are bad people with guns doing bad things and avoiding the police, won't they have a lookout who could shoot us from behind the trees before we even see them?" To which I would have to reply "That would be the logical thing." And his response would be that I don't need to carry a gun if I'll never be able to use it.

Kids are pretty bright sometimes.

10:25 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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a shotgun and a .44? Isn't that a bit extreme? Isn't the .44 enough? As for the shotgun, do you realise that any animal that might threaten you will be an ambush predator tweaked to attack so fast that something as fast as a deer won't have time to escape. Will you be carrying this shotgun in your hands while backpacking with a round chambered, if so I hope I never meet you on the trail.

Jim S

9:30 a.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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As someone who spent a lot of time hiking and camping with a law enforcement officer, carrying is a natural thing for me and will be for my son as he gets older. Once more, my weapon is another piece of essential equipment. It's not too heavy, it's essential. If you don't think you need one, don't carry one.

And do you really think a meth cooker is smart enough to post a lookout? These people have no plan, but they are wild and unpredictable. You never know when or where you cross paths with someone seeking to do you harm.

I teach my scouts to be prepared, so therefore I am prepared.

10:58 a.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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Will you be carrying this shotgun in your hands while backpacking with a round chambered, if so I hope I never meet you on the trail.

Well said. Just my opinion, but i think at this point we're getting pretty close to the dividing line between using reasonable caution and paranoia.

BTW to say that a gun is an essential piece of equipment is pushing it. Come on. Look at all the long distance hikers who spend months living in the backcountry. I've never seen one carying a gun, yet they're out there every day, and still alive and well.

11:49 a.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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I don't mean to be contentious and I don't deny your right to carry a firearm (assuming you can legally do so); however, you said:

And do you really think a meth cooker is smart enough to post a lookout? These people have no plan, but they are wild and unpredictable. You never know when or where you cross paths with someone seeking to do you harm.

I teach my scouts to be prepared, so therefore I am prepared.

If a person is walking down a city street at 3:00AM and is carrying a gun, how are they prepared for human predators? First, successful human predators, like animal predators, use the elements of surprise, concealment, camouflage, pack behavior, and speed of attack. Someone jumps out of the darkness, and knocks you unconscious with a club - concealment and surprise - your gun is no defense. A person walks past you with a cheerful greeting and then strikes you from behind - camouflage, surprise, and speed - your gun is no defense. Someone asks you for a cigarette, you have you hand on your gun, and their associate clubs you from behind - pack behavior - your gun is no defense.

So, unless you are ready to shoot everyone on the street the moment you see them (and in most of the scenarios above even that won't help) carrying a gun is only a defense against complete idiots. OTOH, pulling a gun escalates any bad situation. Once you display the gun, you must defend the gun.

Now, move the backdrop from city street to forest. People performing illicit acts like silence. Hikers are not silent, especially children; therefore, it is likely that the meth makers will hear you before you hear them. Since "you never know when or where you cross paths with someone seeking to do you harm" every moment in the woods for you will be preparing for an attack. Be prepared! Wow, that doesn't sound like fun. A twig snaps and you hand goes to your gun! If you don't move fast then that twig snap may be the last thing you hear. And you must shoot first, otherwise the other guy will.

Your assumption that all meth cookers are stupid displays lack of preparedness against the meth maker of above-room-temperature IQ. It is dangerous to make such assumptions.

I wouldn't enjoy your world. I am happy assuming the best of people, even the "worst" of them, and very seldom am disappointed.

Why not teach the scouts to "Be Prepared to Make Friends and Influence People"?

12:21 p.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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A couple points here, and these come from my own experiences, not just something I have heard or read somewhere. I am not preaching here, nor do I claim to be an expert, but just from actual experiences in the backcountry. I would also expect the variables are quite different from region to region.

1.There are no absolutes in handling problems in the backcountry, whether the problem is an injury, illness, or some kind of encounter where danger is either real or just perceived. We can educate ourselves and be mentally prepared, but I do not think there is any way to predetermine, or tell someone what the exact course of action must be for a given problem because there is no way to know the exact dynamics of a situation that has not occurred yet. I'm not saying that you shouldn't take or teach classes in order to learn / teach others these skills. But the problems we encounter do not have exact, static parameters. It comes down to personal decisions at that time and you are in many ways limited to what you have brought with you.

2. Everyone tends to have a different reaction to problems resulting from their own experiences, skills, capabilities, ability to handle stress, and level of self reliance. I think that what is proper or suitable, in terms of gear they carry, will in some ways be an extension of this. I don't believe anyone can say with certainty that a gun, is or is not needed.

3. Possession of a gun, or bear spray, or a wooden staff in no way means that you will be able to use it effectively, nor does not carrying such items mean that you will not need them at some time.

4. This is directly from my own personal experience and things may be different elsewhere. Methamphetamine cookers use dogs as sentries, not armed guards hiding in the bushes. Dogs are more effective at giving a warning to intruders, and can not snitch on the owner. Meth cooks tend to work solo, or with a partner. They are not out in huge numbers armed to the hilt, they are secretive and tend to be paranoid. One of the biggest dangers is not the meth cook, but the meth addict who steals or mugs for money to buy drugs. The biggest danger for hikers is going to be at or near trailheads, or in seemingly remote locations that are actually wilderness areas close to where these guys live.

5. You can not lump all hiking and backpacking in one category as far as risk is concerned. Hiking the AT or PCT is not the same as bushwacking the side of Parsons Ridge. Different types of gear is needed for different types of backpacking. You must weigh each situation for yourself and make your own informed decision based on your own skills and capabilities. By the same token you can not get on the internet and tell someone in another region of the country or world that they are doing it wrong if you have no real knowledge of that persons environment, concerns, or capabilities. I'm just referring to the topic of this thread here, not whether or not it's appropriate to use a tarp tent in Antarctica for example.

6. It is easy to go out and buy something that you think will solve a problem, whether the odds are high or low, or whether the risk is real or perceived, then just stuff it in your pack, or clip it to your belt and think your covered. I don't think it matters whether the item is a water filter, a first aid kit, or a can of bear spray, possession of the item without the knowledge and ability to use it is pointless for the most part.

7. There is a huge, astronomical difference in taking a class or reading a book vs. having to execute an action under duress, whether it be setting a broken limb or facing off a bear, or cooking blueberry muffins for the first time, or trying to backpack with the flu.

These are just my thoughts, it's fine if you disagree, I respect other peoples opinions as long as they are rational. I get along fine with my hiking buddies who disagree with me on various topics, when we are out backpacking together we concentrate on being a team of outdoor enthusiasts who work together to ensure we have a safe and fun trip.

1:02 p.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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Excellent. I would add that in various national parks and other forest areas - according only to articles I have read, not anything I have experienced - pot growers are more numerous each year. Again, this may be a regional phenomenon. and Apparently, these farmers are sometimes heavily armed.

Now, here is where I will apply logic and we can pick it to pieces. Logically, people tending these farms will not want police searching the area. If a hiker is killed, the growers would fear that a search would ensue when he did not return from his hike; thereby threatening their large investment. Therefore, killing/threatening with guns would not be a profitable tactic, but a last resort for said farmers.

I spent a lot of time working with, and living with, speed freaks in the late '60s and early '70s. I never encountered a tense situation that couldn't be diffused through words and positive intent. Guns and police, IIRC, were never necessary. Crystal meth addicts may be different, but fourteen people shooting up using the same disposable needle is still a pretty desperate sight. And a speed freak crashing is a sorry sight as well. We may dehumanize these people - and sometimes there is little but the animal still visible - but they inevitably have a core that wants human contact. Taking a minute to find that place is, IMO, more effective than a gun.

(Wow, what a seemingly sanctimonious sermon. Not intended, I assure you.)

1:29 p.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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Yes I would agree, I did not touch on pot farmers because I have not had any direct encounters with them in the woods, I have ventured into a grow field a couple times but there was nobody present. I assume there are difference between the way it is grown by locals here in the Southern Appalachians, and the way it is grown in more remote locations by drug cartels.

I would encourage anyone to use their wits to solve problems of any kind, not just the implements (gear) they have with them. The best piece of gear you have is your mind.

I don't walk around with my first aid kit in my hand just because I am on a rocky slope, and likewise I don't think that dangerous encounters can necessarily be resolved through the show of force whether that be a rock, stick, or whatever. Interpersonal skills can resolve a lot of problems, and helping people can sometimes give troubled persons hope that someone cares, and a better life is possible. I agree.

All I'm saying is that having a stick, or bear spray, or a handgun gives you an option that you don't have if you leave it at home. That does not mean you will decide to exercise that option, or that you have the skills / ability to exercise the option.

I'm just voting for personal choice here, not trying to leave the impression that the woods are dark dangerous places, I do not think they are. Most things can be done irresponsibly or to excess, and I'm sure it will continue to be that way, but I don't think we need to limit personal liberties in an effort to combat that. I think we need to do a MUCH better job of educating and instilling a sense of responsibility in our children. Lawless people are not usually effected by laws until or if they are caught, much better I think to be able to raise our children to be decent people that don't go down that road to begin with.

Also a seemingly sanctimonious sermon. HaHa

12:29 p.m. on November 27, 2009 (EST)
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I'm not saying this in my official capacity with -- just saying as a live human being who enjoys using this forum: I am fed up to my forehead of all the back-and-forth about lethal force.

I would ask as a courtesy to everybody else that before we succumb to temptation and weigh in on this never-ending debate, we:

1) Search on "guns" and read everything that's already been posted.

2) Post only if we have something fresh and original to say, based preferably on our own experience (vs. hearsay or something we read online somewhere).

3) Give ourselves a three-day cooling-off period -- if somebody writes something that really frosts our cookies, we should wait a few days and revisit the issue, at which time we might not feel the vein-bulging imperative to have our say.

If all we have to talk about is lethal force, we're not trying very hard.

12:34 a.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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Well said. Let's agree to disagree and move on. I joined this site to learn more and read the reviews, which by the way, are excellent. I've really upgraded my gear over the past year or so and a lot of those purchases were made based partly on the reviews here.

Thanks all, and please post more reviews if you have used the equipment.

4:40 p.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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I agree, the topic has been beaten to death.

My last two posts were meant to tamp down the notion that you can just buy something to solve problems that you may well never encounter, those problems are best solved by using your head, not just gear.

I would add that these matters, or the chance of having a problem, may seem non existent to some, I understand. This may not be a concern where you live or hike. Quite frankly the odds are probably greater you will choke to death on your own cowboy coffee than you will stumble upon a problem

I spent many years living in and around the little towns in the heart of Appalachia, so I do have some authority to speak on these matters. In fact the home directly behind ours burned to the ground when a meth lab caught fire, and the people involved were on the TV show 'Americas Most Wanted'. Their child later died in the Cincinnati burn unit. If you want proof, or just more info, E-mail me at the address on my profile page. I've seen moonshine operations, 5 gal. buckets of Xanax, and meth labs in school buses parked in mountain hollers. I only say this because it is out there, but not a worry for the average hiker on trails.

If you stay on main trails in the Appalachians, you will be just fine, please have fun!

Bushwacking is different, if you are not used to bushwacking in the Appalachians you have a lot to learn about the unwritten rules that super-cede the law when the law is not present, and sometimes when it is.

Just a few points and I will not post in this thread again, but these are some facts many people are not aware of, and why some people don't understand how this topic is relevant to hiking.You will not see this on any .gov site I'm aware of.

40 - 45% of all pot in the US is grown in Southern Appalachia, that means the mountains I hike in. No disrespect to officials here, but eradication programs are a complete joke if you understand the scale of things.

Many of the small community economies in Appalachia are funded by two main sources:

1. Government Subsidies (welfare, food stamps, etc)

2. Drugs (you'd be amazed at what you can buy with food stamps)

I have lived in these communities, worked around the people, and hiked in these areas. If you don't mess with them they will not mess with you. If you should ever encounter shady characters, be respectful and act naive, some of these guys consider the mountains where they live to be theirs, regardless of who holds the deed.

Most people in Appalachia are wonderful, big hearted people who will welcome you to dinner, and who work long hours trying to scratch out an honest living.

I'm just saying, if you decide to go bushwacking in S. Appalachia you need to understand these things because the local tourism industry acts like it doesn't exist, and some elements of law enforcement are complicit in the drug trade.

Kinda like snakes or poison ivy, no need to be scared, just informed.

Edit: My point being, this is why some folk have a concern for safety and others just don't understand why you would. It depends on what you have been exposed to.

5:01 p.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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So, you've had my cowboy coffee!

On a historical note: the folks in those mountains have two hundred years of distrust of the government. The roads into the hollers were poor or non-existent for much of that time. The only way to get their corn to market was to make it extremely portable (and potable), so they liquified it. Imagine their shock when the government smashed their stills. The crop has changed but attitudes haven't.

I only spent one summer on a farm on Hurricane Mt. on the NC side of the GSMNP, but I found your statements about the folks accurate. Actually, they fit just about any people in any country that I have visited.

The "be respectful (always best) and act naive" is a wonderful admonition when stumbling through anyone's turf, urban or rural. "What, me worry?" de-escalates almost any tense situation IMO.

8:45 p.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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Just because people take drugs does not meen they have low IQs.

One would not choose to set up a lab in the woods - its not clandestined enough - any bathroom with lights, electricity and doors that lock would be better and safer. Your odds of running into a methlab in the woods is like being struck twice by lightning in the same place, or of winning the lottery.

A meth cook is a chemist and a burinessman, both require inteligence. He probably has a degree in chemistry and probably has a lot higher IQ than some of the people who post here.


10:06 p.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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Well, now that we've established the superior intellect of those who chose a life of crime and degradation over honest work, we can consider this topic covered in sufficient depth.

I'm locking it. If you want it unlocked, appeal to Alicia.

4:34 p.m. on November 29, 2009 (EST)
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Now that everyone has had more than ample time to discuss this topic, I'm declaring an indefinite moratorium on any forum posts or threads concerning carrying a gun or other weapon.

Thanks to everyone who has been patient and civil during this lengthy discussion. I appreciate it.

Now, let's move on to talk about other backcountry topics.

June 20, 2018
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