I started carrying regularly about two years ago. As an avid mountain biker I struggled for a long time to figure out a safe and effective way to carry while on the bike in the sort of terrain I ride. Ultimately, I decided on a Wilderness Safepacker attached to my pack about a year ago. I still carry a Glock 19 in the Safepacker each and every ride and I needed to draw for real from the pack while riding this past weekend. Ultimately, I didn’t end up firing, but I thought reviewing the experience could be instructive for me and others . . .

About 35 minutes into my usual crack-of-dawn Sunday ride, I came around a corner and startled a coyote. Startling coyotes or other wildlife isn’t all that uncommon. I have encountered lots of deer, javelinas, coyotes, foxes and even a few bobcats on rides. Typically, the animals will retreat at full speed until out of sight (except for bobcats — they like to run a little way and then watch you). In my experience, coyotes especially tend to run away. Usually they can’t escape the area fast enough. I ran into this one on a flat sandy area where I can’t make a lot of speed on the bike so it’s not like I just left it in the dust as I continued downhill.

But this coyote didn’t run away. It backed off about ten yards and just stared at me. I like to watch wildlife if I get the chance, so I dismounted and stared back for a while, but I didn’t like the behavior of this animal. Something just wasn’t right. I remembered that we have had several rabid animal attacks in the area as well as a recent local distemper outbreak. I also remembered Gabe’s admonition that “draw speed is not nearly as important as draw timing.”  In other words, better to have a gun in hand before it is needed.

So I calmly drew from the Safepacker. In the past, while practicing with this “holster,” I sometimes had difficulty with the buckle on the Safepacker while wearing gloves, or getting a good grip prior to the draw. Not this time. I actually don’t recall any details of the draw at all. After I decided to pull the gun, the next thing I knew it was in my hands with the red dot of the RMR center of mass on the coyote. I don’t remember any part of the process.

We watched each other for a bit. The coyote was beautiful and resplendent in its winter coat with a big bushy tail. After about 30 seconds I decided to continue my ride. I don’t turn my back on canines, and I started walking away, while keeping my eye on him. That’s when Mr. Coyote advanced.

That caught me off guard. It advanced to within 5 yards of me and stopped. I prepared to shoot it if it came one step closer, but it didn’t. Yelling or whistling at it had no effect. After a couple seconds, it backed off a bit and trotted out to about the 10 yard range. It almost acted like it wanted to play. It made no noise or vocalizations, just pranced/cantered with arched neck, ears forward, and lips slightly up. I continued to slowly withdraw while it followed me going back and forth at that distance for about 100 yards of trail. At that point it stopped following and we began to separate so I reholstered, got on my bike and rode off.

So why didn’t I shoot it? I don’t really know. The short story is I didn’t feel threatened enough. The longer story is: this encounter happened in a recreation area with picnic and camping areas nearby. No one was around at that time of day on a rather cold Sunday, but it’s not exactly desolate country. Also, it went through my mind that I obviously had no ear protection, and I had no desire to make my ears ring.

I also don’t have much if any desire to kill something I’m not going to eat without a good reason. My friends who grew up on ranches and farms and my hunting friends think I’m nuts for not taking any reasonable opportunity to kill a coyote. For them, being a “coyote” is reason enough to kill it.

So what did I learn?

First, my carry system works. The Safepacker has proven over the past year that it can hold a gun safely through all sorts of terrain and wrecks, weather, etc.. It does all this while keeping the gun close and accessible enough for any encounter where I have at least a few seconds warning.

The Safepacker isn’t a great choice for a reactive situation where an instant and dynamic draw while moving is needed. I honestly don’t see that ever happening in the woods, but if it does, I’m screwed and I’m okay with that. If I’m ambushed, I’m ambushed and that’s that. I am willing to accept a slower, clunkier draw in exchange for the other benefits of the pack. I’m also glad I took the time to practice drawing from the Safepacker with my biking gloves on.

Second, getting the gun out earlier than you think you need it in a situation like mine really is the way to go. I had no need of the gun when the Coyote was ten yards away and just sitting there, but I was very glad I had it pointed when it started to advance.

Third, having a pistol in the woods gives one options. I didn’t take a shot in this situation, but I could have if I needed to and it might save going hand to hand with a rabid animal or other insensate monster.

Fourth, just because the gun clears the holster, you don’t have to pull the trigger. The situation can change and it helps to keep one’s mind in the game. I had every opportunity to kill that thing with a fairly easy shot but we both ended up happily going our separate ways. All’s well that ends well.

42 Responses to Defensive Gun Use of the Day: My First Draw

  1. “I also remembered Gabe’s admonition that “draw speed is not nearly as important as draw timing.” In other words, better to have a gun in hand before it is needed.”

    And that is the best advice anyone can give. “Better to have it (in your hand) and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

    You might also want to consider having a can of bear spray available, to discourage critters that you don’t want to shoot – or can’t, due to safety considerations. I carry one with me on my early morning walks (in addition to the .38), because I would prefer to NOT shoot one of the neighbors’ dogs unless I am in “immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm”. I prefer to send the dog home with pepper spray all over it than have to explain to the sheriff why I had to pop Fido.

    • Who’s Gabe?

      Kidding.
      Eric, you have nerves of steel, my friend. At 10 yards: “arched neck, ears forward, and lips slightly up”. Aren’t some of these threatening signs?

      +1 on the bear spray

    • I once had to spray a neighbor’s dog with bear spray. My neighbors just let their Rottweilers roam free, or they used to. The dog came running at me so fast, I wasn’t actually sure if it was a dog or a coyote or whathaveyou. I just remember that I had the safety tab on the spray removed so fast the I managed to scratch myself. Long story short, if I thought the dog was fast coming at me, it was twice as fast running away with a face full of pepper. An interesting note: my bear spray didn’t shoot out in a stream- instead it sent out a huge CLOUD of spray at VERY high velocity. I learned then that bear spray is most definitely not for indoor use.

  2. Not every DGU ends in a blazing gun battle. But 99% of the time just having the gun will keep the situation from escalating.

    As for what the average coyote, or cougar or bear will do in any given situation, Who knows? I don’t believe any reputable author on wild animals has yet managed to interview any of the critters named so we really can’t say with any certainty how an animal is going to behave in any given encounter. We can guess, but that’s all it is.

    As for not wanting to kill the animal unless it was absolutely nessecery, that’s showing good judgement. You pull the trigger only when there is no other choice in a DGU.

    A whole different set of rules apply to hunters and farmers. If you’re neither then their opinions are just that.

    • This was not a DGU. If it was a man instead of a coyote and the man was deterred by the sight of a drawn gun, then you might be able to claim a DGU. This was an unnecessary brandishing of a gun, neither a criminal act nor a DGU.

      • While I agree this wasn’t a DGU; I wouldn’t call this an unnecessary brandishing of a gun. Was he suppossed to wait until he was actually attacked?

        • In retrospect we see that it was unnecessary, Don’t we? A fair point is that it was not criminal to do so, but you can’t say it had been necessary unless you think the animal recognized the gun for the danger it posed and split because of it.

        • “In retrospect”

          There’s the problem with your argument, Mike. You don’t get to make decisions based on what you know 5 minutes from now. The Supreme Court of the United States recognizes that. Why can’t you?

          It was necessary because the Coyote (a wild, and thus dangerous, animal) was advancing on him. Wild animals do not, as a rule, advance on humans unless there is something wrong with them. Wild animals with something wrong with them are even more dangerous to be around than wild animals are normally.

          Whether it counts as a DGU, I don’t know. It was certainly defensive. It involved a gun. But “use” is iffy. That said, if he had shot the coyote when it was 10 yards away (a reasonable thing to do considering the potential consequences of a bite, and the general legality of shooting coyotes), it certainly would have been a DGU. Do we discount it because he used less force than he reasonably could have?

        • The true gun nut will argue eternally even over a tangential point.

          Drawing the gun was the right thing to do, but as it turned out, it was not necessary.

          I know, I’m as bad as you for not letting go of an unimportant point.

        • Mike, “in retrospect”, as you so eloquently put it, I do not think it was unnecessary. I can’t speak for you, but I don’t know of any animals that would recogonize a gun if it was pointed at them. Unfortunately, I’m not a psychic or clairvoyant. Thankfully, as Dan stated, you are judged by the facts present at the time of the incident. I’m sure even if the author of the article had shot and killed the coyote, no charges would have been pressed if they had articulated why they felt their life was threatened. I will sleep soundly at night knowing that you have the ability to hug out with wildlife; even if they present a potential threat.

          To comment on your last point, sticking to your beliefs has nothing to do with being a “true gun nut”. A logical person will defend their point of view if they believe they are correct. Both Dan and I conceded that we do believe this was a DGU, but it wasn’t unnecessary. However we are just lowly humans who do not reside on Mount Olympus, passing judgement with impunity on mere mortals. Perhaps you lack a spine a concede easily when argued with, but there is no reason to resort to name calling just because other people refuse to bend to your point of view. At least you were able to admit that your can’t let it go either. Maybe you are a mere mortal like the rest of us.

      • I don’t know if this was a DGU either, but had I been in that situation I sure as shit would have drawn. What about this situation is telling you preparing to fire was unwarranted?

        • I might have drawn the gun too. But afterwards I sure as hell wouldn’t call it a DGU. It was an unnecessary drawing of the gun. The animal left, there was no threat.

          This is what happens with people too. Gun owners THINK there is a threat, or that there MIGHT BE one. They draw the gun and sometimes use it. Afterwards they call it a DGU and insist it had been necessary.

  3. There is a reasonable possibility that your coyote is sick and will continue to grow more aggressive over time, spreading its disease and possibly leading to an attack and infection of someone’s child or pet. If it were me, next time I would take the shot.

    • You passed judgment on that coyote very quickly with very little information. Likewise I will pass judgment on you. You seem like a very pleasant person with lots of self control who isn’t just dying to find some reason to shoot something. I think Eric handled the situation well, with perhaps the only exception of not having pepper spray or bear spray with him. (I don’t know that there was a reason for him to think he needed it.)

      Perhaps this was a coyote who had seen enough people and was just curious, but not dangerous. Sure, a coyote coming close to people may be a sign of future danger to future people, and I have no qualms with shooting an aggressive animal if need be, but I am not nearly as quick as you to shoot something in the situation presented.

  4. As a formerly avid mountain biker who spent a lot of time among the ‘yotes, there was often a pack or group of young coyotes that enjoyed running alongside me, not more than ten yards away. If I stopped, they stopped and gave me a look that I can only describes as puzzled. When I took off, so did they. The pack seemed to be having a great time, and I never felt threatened.

    Animal behavior is often unpredictable, and a wounded or sick animal can be a real danger. “Your” coyote did not have distemper. If he did, he probably wouldn”t even know you were there. Rabies is also unlikely although possible. More likely — if the coyote was a he, then he just killed a rodent and you rode up on him before he could bury, carry away or eat his kill. He was just making sure that you weren’t trying to steal his lunch.

    • “likely” being the active term. Just like with mikeyb’s poor arguments, there is no way to KNOW, that is why we have guns. As a mugger does not necessarily ramble down the block obviously plotting your demise for you to see and prepare for, so too can a wild animal behave uncharacteristically and with great spontaneity. Maybe it didn’t happen, but suppose one of that pack swerved in and went for your ankles? Unlikely, out of character, but I’ve seen a bear dance a jig.

  5. I second the notion of carrying bear spray when you are out in the woods. Regular pepper spray is fine for anti coyote or cat defense. I would not let any wild animal get within ten yards of me if I can help it. A coyote is faster than a greyhound and can close 30′ in about a second. If a coyote gets within spray range I am going spray it. It is better for both you and animal if it learns to run away from humans.

  6. “I had every opportunity to kill that thing with a fairly easy shot but we both ended up happily going our separate ways. All’s well that ends well.”

    That is until you hear from his lawyer ! You REALLY forgot the first rule of DGU…STFU…and here you go post the story ! LOL

  7. I once had an encounter with a very large German Shepard when I lived in the southern Virginia mountains. We had trouble with feral dog packs so I was usually armed when I went outside. One day I wasn’t and the dog showed intense interest in my neighbors tied up goat. I tried to scare it away, but it wasn’t leaving. Just as I got between it and the goat, it lunged, hit me, and we all rolled down the bank into a little brook. I thought I was in big trouble until it assumed an “I want to play” posture. Turns out, he wasn’t feral and lived a mile or so away. I’m glad I wasn’t armed but I wish he had let me and the goat know he just wanted to play.
    I’ve seen coyotes play in the wild and they have the same indications as my dogs. He probably was just having fun.

  8. I think you did just fine. Coyotes are closely related to dogs, and can exhibit some of their same behaviors. They are curious, and can be playful. A perfectly healthy coyote can eat a small irritating dog out of your neighbors’s back yard, or it can go right on being a coyote. I’ve seen coyotes use crosswalks – they manage traffic better than most humans. Unless it showed an obvious aggression, hold your fire.

    When you don’t shoot, there’s a lot less explaining to do, and a whole lot less CYA (cover your ass). Shooting situations need to be in response to an obvious aggression, although you may have been justified based upon your circumstances. Know your local and state laws, and give your local LEO agency a call. They would be the ones documenting the incident if they discover it, and would likely ask specific questions regarding the incident. For the record, I’m an LEO who could have shot a dog of two, but I’ve found that pepper spray works very well on dogs. I don’t regret holding fire.

    Other mountain bikers can defend themselves – a healthy biker is unlikely to be coyote bait.

  9. Dumb question: did you leave your biking gloves on, and how did the gun feel/point with them on? Or did you rip them off prior to drawing?

    At 5 yards it might not matter, but I’ve never attempted to see what happens to my aim when I have bulky gloves on.

    • I left the gloves on. Taking them off would take a bit of time.

      I don’t notice gloves when aiming, but they can get hung up in the trigger guards of some pistols, so if you wear gloves, it is worth training some with them on.

  10. Well done on all accounts.
    I think you drew without thinking, which is good. Next you started thinking which is also good. The dog was not lunging at you, and you monitored the situation and went from there. In this case it all worked out. And everyone went home that day as it were.

  11. When dealing with a possible animal attack it’s basically unheard of for anybody to get charged with “brandishing” if no actual gunfire is necessary. Pulling your gun doesn’t escalate the situation the way it can when dealing with an aggressive human.

    The other thing is, IN WILDERNESS AREAS ONLY, warning shots can make sense when dealing with critters. A lot of critters turn tail at the sound of a gunshot…domestic or wild doesn’t seem to matter much.

  12. Coyotes are predators, if they aren’t scared of humans, they will look at humans as potential food, especially small children or your dogs or cats; we have coyotes out here in NM that regularly attack the calves of the range cattle, they also regularly eat dogs or cats if they are left outside after dark.

    They don’t normally show themselves to humans because they are looked at as pests and are shot on sight by the people out here. I agree with this type of response, they are also called prairy wolves for a reason.

  13. After watching the video, I thought that a show that interviewed people that have had a DGU came out on the winning side would be awesome. It would provide ammunition to rebut anti-gunners and others and educate gunnies. Then posting them to youtube.com for a permanent record. Of course, these would have to be done after all post-DGU legal situations had been ironed out. I’m pretty sure there is nothing like that already.

    • Bogus advice. It’s also a violation of Federal law to use wasp spray in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. You’re not spraying someone with OC spray; which was designed for use on humans and to provide a less-than-less response. You’re spraying someone with a toxin. Good luck with that.

  14. ‘being a “coyote” is reason enough to kill it’

    That’s it for me. We shoot them on sight, and actively hunt them on our farm and all hunting clubs I’m a member of or invited guest. They are unwelcome & dangerous; just like feral hogs, there are no seasons or limits for coyotes in most southern states. They need to be severely curtailed.

    I find it irresponsible that the author didn’t shoot.

  15. I wasn’t there to see what you saw, so I’ll say that you made the right decisions for your situation. But allowing a coyote to get within 5 yards of me would have been really REALLY close to my threshold for shooting the critter. A coyote, feral dog, wild boar, even a drug crazed human can cover 5 yards in an instant bringing all kinds of misery to you. Again, I wasn’t there when your encounter happened, but I probably would have killed the coyote. I’ve drawn on a neighbor’s Rottweilers at distances of more than 10 yards, and they seemed to sense that they had reached the “line of death” as they never got closer. Thankfully for me, that neighbor left and took his dogs with him.

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