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.