Pro Tip: Carry a Gun…Even When Bowhunting

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“I’d already hiked about three miles so I sat down to take a break before I tried to push some (game) back to (my son). I took my backpack off and sat my bow down and as I was sitting there I started looking around and … I saw a black head which I thought was a bear.” As a matter of fact, Washington state bowhunter Jerry Hause was right. That was a bear cub. Ruh roh. “Knowing…it’s unwise to come between a cub and its mother, he looked for a way to leave the area.” And that’s when a very protective Mrs. Bear charged him . . .

Hause said he knew he wouldn’t be able to pick and aim his bow, and he wasn’t confident he could drop the 250- to 300-pound animal. His only choice, he said, was to climb the tree he had been resting against.

“I knew the tree was right there, so I headed up that to get far enough up the tree that the bear couldn’t get me,” Hause said.

Hause climbed several feet up into the tree. The bear followed, but Hause said he thought he was out of the bear’s reach until he looked down just as the bear bit into his left leg.

Fortunately for Hause, the bear eventually lost interest and wandered off after it had been kicked in the snout a few times. Washington Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Weaver advises that,

“Typically bears are very afraid of people. If they know people are around, they tend to run the other way.”

Unless they don’t. As Sgt. Weaver notes, there are 25-30,000 black bears in Washington. So if you’re out wandering in the woods looking to bring home Bambi with something like a PSE DNA, it makes a lot of sense to also pack something with a little more power on your hip (where local law allows). Maybe something like Super Redhawk Alaskan for Yogi and his more aggressive pals who don’t turn tail when you stumble upon them or their cubs.

[h/t Ralph]

comments

  1. avatar jwm says:

    Not a bowhunter. My understanding is that when bowhunting in CA you’re not allowed a firearm.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      I just took the WA hunter class a few months ago, and I don’t remember reading anything prohibiting that. I’d suspect the gun friendly states are mostly the same, while the anti-gun states are more like CA.
      You couldn’t hunt an animal with a firearm during bowhunting season, but self defense is not hunting.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        I’m thinkin’ you don’t even need a bear license if he’s eating your leg!

      2. avatar sagebrushracer says:

        Oh, here in CA we can’t openly carry anything. Pistol, Rifle even if they are unloaded. Even on federal land, the CA laws overlap.

        1. avatar J says:

          How do you hunt in CA if you can’t open carry a firearm?

        2. avatar Juan Lago says:

          Unless you are hunting.

      3. avatar Jim Jones says:

        Here in Wiso, CCW holders are specifically exempt from that prohibition.

    2. avatar Travis says:

      In GA, unless you have a weapons carry permit it is illegal to carry any firearm during primitive weapons only season.

      “During the statewide primitive weapons deer season, youth under 16 years of age may hunt deer with any legal deer firearm. Additionally, youth under 16 years of age may hunt deer with any legal deer firearm during any WMA primitive weapons hunts. Statewide, except in archery-only counties and in accordance with bag limits, county-wide antler restrictions and other regulations. Primitive weapons hunters may not possess any centerfire or rimfire firearm while hunting during the primitive weapons season for deer, except that any person possessing a Weapons Carry License that is valid in this state pursuant to OCGA §§ 16-11-126(f) or 16-11-129 may carry such firearm subject to the limitations of OCGA §§ 16-11-126 and 16-11-127 except where prohibited by federal law. Scopes may be used.”

    3. avatar Juan Lago says:

      I used to be a bow hunter. You may not carry a gun while bow hunting. Even in bear country or areas with mountain lions or wild boar, even if you are hunting bear or wild boar. Stupid law.

    4. avatar B says:

      In california, you can NOT carry a firearm while hunting AO season.

      1. avatar B says:

        But during regular season, you can carry a firearm if your bow hunting.

  2. avatar Skyler says:

    I’m guessing that the game warden would not agree with this advice.

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Here’s a much more useful tip: Read your state’s game laws.

    In a number of states, you are NOT allowed to carry a firearm while bow hunting. In Wyoming, you are allowed to carry a sidearm, but you may not use it to “finish off” an animal you’ve show with a bow.

    Last I knew, in Nevada you were not allowed to carry any gun while hunting in archery season:

    http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NAC/NAC-503.html#NAC503Sec144

    1. avatar juliesa says:

      Why don’t they allow you to finish it off with a handgun? That’s the most humane way.

      1. avatar Adrian says:

        so people don’t essentially go handgun hunting then stick an arrow in the game afterwords. It’s kinda bs because of the many good reasons to always carry a firearm but it also does make sense why the law is the way it is.

    2. avatar Panzercat says:

      TAAG isn’t exactly big on knowing its facts. Or the law.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Thanks for the heads up, tank cat. I’ll avoid that TAAG site and stick with TTAG.

      2. avatar LarryArnold says:

        There is no “The Law.” The federal government, fifty states, six territories, and some local jurisdictions set U.S. hunting law, and nobody knows what all of them are.

        Hunters are responsible for knowing what the law is where they are hunting.

        1. avatar Cliff H says:

          ^^^This. If Ted Nugent can get it wrong when hunting, anyone can get it wrong. (Some issue about technicalities in Alaska, I forget the details.)

    3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Oregon is the same as Wyoming. Wasn’t always that way, but I carried in a shoulder holster under the coat anyway.
      That’s how I know a .44 mag with soft points will take a 300+ lb black bear.

  4. avatar A-Rod says:

    I think we have a responsibility here to tell people not to skirt the law. Quite the conundrum.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      People lived and hunted with bow and arrow for a thousand years before they had guns to carry. It should be part of the game.

      1. avatar Kris says:

        …and those people were occasionally mauled by the prey they were after.

      2. avatar Former Water Walker says:

        And people lived to the ripe old age of 30 or 40 for thousands of years.LOL

      3. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        Except, then, it wasn’t a game. It was life or death. Now that it’s become a game, the rules are modified, as with any other game based on former life and death realities. After all, we don’t allow hunters anymore to set vast prairies ablaze so they can herd game toward cliffs to plummet to their deaths.

        1. avatar FoRealz? says:

          Yeah but we should.

  5. avatar Nick says:

    In CA, you can not have a firearm if you are hunting with an archery only tag or during an archery only season. If you choose to use a bow during the general season, there is no prohibition against having a firearm.

  6. avatar SelousX says:

    I’ll keep all this in mind if I ever hunt beer in WA. For now, it’s hiking, short walks and bicycle rides for which I’d pack my Glock 20 and some Buffalo Bore hard-cast lead rounds.
    For most other perceived carry needs it’s a G19 Gen 4 and 127 gr Ranger +P+ loads.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      I’d be careful hunting beer in WA. It’s illegal to enter the 21+ area of a bar or restaurant with a firearm here.

      1. avatar Marty the Lett says:

        I’ll drink to that.. cracked me up..

  7. avatar Ducky says:

    This year is the first year that you can carry a sidearm during archery season in Arizona, and I understand there are some states that aren’t as free as we are here.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I’m thinkin’ about 48. Like AZ and VT, followed by the rest.

  8. avatar Ralph says:

    From the cited publication:

    “Hause said . . . he also plans to carry a pistol with him when he goes hunting from now on.”

  9. avatar rictesta3 says:

    I understand why those laws are in place, but…
    I don’t bowhunt, but I think if I did, I’d carry concealed, just for the kind of emergency shown here. Even a little “pocket nine” would be better firing into it’s face while it’s chomping on your leg, than “kicking it in the snout a few times” while up a tree…do the game wardens pat you down when they come across you in the woods?

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Not without a warrant, certainly!
      /sarc/

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      do the game wardens pat you down when they come across you in the woods?

      Yes, but they appreciate a couple of cocktails first and perhaps a small gratuity after.

    3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      You have no idea of the scope and breadth of the powers of fish & game departments.

      If you’re in hunting season, in a hunting area, they can stop you, search your car for game if they have reasonable suspicion that you’re poaching – or are wasting game, or were using an illegal weapon for hunting, or you went over bag limits.

      They can stop and confront hunters at will and demand ID, as well as all hunting licenses, permits, tags, conservation stamps, etc. In many states, they can seize guns used in illegal hunting activities, and in some states they can even get a warrant to search your home for over-limit takings of fish and game.

      When you get a hunting license in some states, you’re opening yourself up to some very extensive police powers – including, in many states, regulations against carrying loaded long guns in your car. Loaded long guns in your car are outlawed by F&G regs, because they’re seen as evidence of poaching.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        And usually very broad powers in pursuit of you.

  10. avatar Jim says:

    I have been told in hunter safety classes that in PA, you may NOT carry a sidearm while bowhunting, even with a CC permit.

  11. avatar Kevin says:

    The simple, legal and more effective solution to self protection in bear country is pepper spray…

    1. avatar John M. says:

      Unless it’s raining. Or you’re the one downwind.

  12. avatar Kyle says:

    I would think one should always carry a firearm or bear spray or whatnot when out hunting with a non-firearm weapon, because just-in-case.

  13. avatar Larry says:

    Ya,we can’t carry in my state while bow hunting either. Yet almost every bow hunter I know,and that’s aplenty , do.

    Trespassers ,poachers,treestand thieves ,coyotes who,seem to think the fresh killed deer are theirs ,not to mention driving to and fro ,arriving home after being gone all day,lots of good reasons to carry.

    Honestly we got like a handful of game wardens per zone,a zone can cover a few counties ,then they don’t search you they look at your tags and license .

  14. avatar Kris says:

    In my state it was made legal to carry a handgun while bowhunting only a few years ago. A friend of mine was bowhunting moose and found himself being charged by a bull and no way out. Came within a few feet of being gored except he filled the bull full of 165gr Hornady. The game wardens didn’t give him any grief. They packed out the bull and donated it to a food pantry.

  15. avatar chip says:

    Two words….”Bear Mace”, it’s pepper spray on steroids. It’s cheap, legal to carry and it works.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Check your local laws on carrying mace. Some require permits.

  16. avatar Mark says:

    I always carry a Smith, 629 in the woods. When hiking I go for the Model 24, 4″ round butt but the 6.5″ goes with me when I hunt.

  17. avatar Southern Cross says:

    I know someone you used to bowhunt (note past tense). He told me he would always carry a 12-gauge coach-gun in the quiver as a backup. The deciding moment was when after having several pigs run off with $30+ arrows stuck in their sides, one of the wounded pigs charged him. He grabbed the coach-gun and fired twice. The first shot was when the pig was about 25 feet away. The second shot was when the pig was literally running between his legs!

    He then thought $30 for hunting arrows versus 30 cents for ammunition? 30 cents wins.

  18. avatar Out_Fang_Thief says:

    Just to brush up: Never bring a bow and arrow to a bear fight. Hunting with a bow and arrow? Well, I guess if you enjoy making the easy look hard, or rather, making the difficult even more difficult, then why not forgo the bow and arrows altogether and go hunting with a wooden spear with a flint lashed to the end of it? Or would that be making it TOO difficult? Only a bored, prosperous country could turn hunting into a recreational sport.

    1. avatar SteveO says:

      Sorry, I can’t let this one pass.

      I respectfully, but strongly, disagree. People hunt for many reasons. I do so because it restores my spirit, puts food on my family’s table, and brings me closer to nature in the most fundamental way possible. I hunt with a bow because it greatly extends my time in the woods, and because it permits me to take more deer than I could with a rifle alone. In my state, archery season begins in mid-September, and runs until January (except for firearms season, which is only a week and a half in November). Resident landowners with more than 5 acres are entitled to free tags, so archery hunting effectively doubles the number of deer I can put in the freezer (if I can manage to get them). I also believe archery hunting makes me a much better hunter, period. Because hunter success is so much less during archery seasons, state conservation/fish & game departments can have archery seasons lasting for months, rather than weeks, meaning that public lands are less crowded, and more hunters have a better hunting experience. While it’s understandable you might think of hunting as a “recreational sport” if all you know of it comes from some of the ridiculous hunting shows on cable/satellite TV (the primary purpose of which seem to be soliciting revenue from advertisers), I assure you the vast majority of the people who hunt find this characterization both uninformed and insulting.

      BTW, while hunting (during all seasons) I always carry a pistol, because predators come in different forms, both four-legged and two-legged.

      1. avatar Out_Fang_Thief says:

        I understand your point, and have nothing against bow hunting. I can only point out that people who hunt for the sake of providing food are a very small percentage of all hunters. Mostly because hunting is difficult, even if you’re doing it with a gun. I know a few bow hunters, and they say they do it mostly for the challenge, and the meat they take is not their main source of food. Unless you live in rural areas, hunting costs considerable money in permits, travel, and a host of incidentals, which is not an insignificant matter. A gun only helps to improve your ability to bring home the bucks. I will add that I don’t watch much TV, and hunting shows aren’t even on my list of programs to watch, so I don’t know about the issues you have with them.

        I tend to speak about the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is, the native Americans saw the advantage of the gun over their traditional bow and arrow. And that’s what progress(ii.e. guns) affords you. An advantage over more primitive methods of hunting. I read somewhere that hunters who hunt primarily for food purposes are 3% or less. We’re just not a hunter-gatherer society anymore. We are a consumer society. If you live in an area that is rich with deer, that’s a wonderful benefit for you, but everyone doesn’t live in such places. They have to drive a fer piece to get the benefit of the bounty that a rural life provides. I guess my point is, most people dream of success when hunting, and unless your shit is wired for rambling around the woods for a deer, choosing a tool that makes your effort even harder than it already is, is not what most people choose. They are going to choose the method the offers them the best chance for success. That choice is not a bow and arrow, it’s a bang stick with a scope. Check your Gander Mountain or your local hunting store. How big is the bang stick section? How big is the bow and arrow section? There’s a reason why the bow hunting section encompasses two aisles, and the gun section is a tenth of the entire store. You are indeed fortunate to live where you do; where the bow hunting season is long, and the deer are plentiful, but that is not the reality for most. The reality is, you are the exception, not the norm. Which in most parts of this country, that makes hunting with bow and arrow more of a recreational/personal choice, than one born of necessity because nothing else exists. But guns do exist, and are by far, the preferred choice for hunting. Even the American Indians knew this. I realize that it’s a tad anecdotal, but the now famous picture of Geronimo is him holding a Winchester, not a bow and arrow. So I stand by my assertion that hunting with a bow; for a majority of those engaging in hunting, and those not living in a deer paradise, is a largely recreational endeavor of choice, not a matter of need.

    2. avatar Juan Lago says:

      Funny you should say that about the spear. I once went hunting with a group of guys that use dogs and spears or just really big knives to hunt boar. I killed one with a spear. The hunt had very little to do about getting food and a lot about burning up youthful excess testosterone. I rank it high on my list of “stupid things I’ve done once and lived to tell about it.”

  19. avatar Scrubula says:

    If you aren’t hunting, you generally won’t find archaic laws on bringing a self defense weapon hiking.
    I have heard 10mm hard cast is good for animal defense…

    1. avatar SteveO says:

      I don’t know about hard-cast vs. full-power defensive loads, but I switched from a .44 magnum to 10mm for woods/outdoor carry because it more than doubled the number of rounds available, with increased accuracy (under stress I’d probably be firing the revolver double-action) and only slightly less punch.

  20. avatar Jamie in ND says:

    No bears where I hunt in North Dakota but there are Mountain Lions. I always carry my 9mm while bowhunting.

  21. avatar Rich says:

    Ohio law allows CCW while bow hunting and I do carry.

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