CCW in the “realtree” world
Lately a hot topic on internet forums, around campfires, and the tailgates of pickup trucks has been the practice of concealed or non-concealed carry of a handgun while hunting big game with another weapon. Much of the debate stems from the technicalities of CCW laws in general, but what most people don’t realize is that weapons regulations for hunting are a different set of rules, and what my be legal on the street could be illegal in the woods, and vice versa.
Regulations vary widely from state to state regarding CCW, as well as Open Carry. For example, the legal age for OC in most states is 18, but there are several who have raised that age to 19 or 21. However, in Montana and Alaska, the legal age to open carry is 14. And in Wyoming, where I lived for a number of years, there is no statutory age limit for open carry.
Some question the necessity of a backup firearm when you already have a lethal weapon in your hands. On the surface, this seems like a valid point, but there are a number of situations where your primary weapon may not be practical. Suppose you’ve shot a whitetail with your .30-06, tracked it and discovered it’s still alive but bedded down. You’re at very close range and you know that if you perform a coup de grace and put the animal out of it’s misery, so to speak, you will know doubt damage much of the meat. If you have a handgun, you are able to dispatch the animal with much less of a mess. If you hunt in bear, wolf or lion country, wielding your scoped rifle for a split second shot that may save your life would be difficult at best. Then you have to account for the two-legged varmints we encounter in the field. In these situations, a handgun is just more practical. If you are archery hunting, nocking an arrow, drawing and firing your bow is not a sensible form of self-defense.
There is also debate over what caliber handgun is acceptable to carry in the field. Some say that your regular carry handgun is sufficient, and in most cases it is. Anything from a .380 to a .45 ACP is plenty of power to dispatch a wounded animal or pesky varmint in most areas. If you’re hunting in bear country, you will need more knockdown power. In some states, however, you are not allowed to carry a handgun that would not otherwise be legal for hunting. This ranges from a .357 Magnum minimum to a .44 Magnum minimum, speaking only in terms of “handgun” calibers. Single shot rifle caliber pistols are a whole different breed, and generally aren’t practical for carry.
Several years ago, legislation was passed that allowed firearms to be carried in National Parks, and it was met with severe criticism from anti-gun groups. The argument was that violence and human-animal confrontations in our National Parks would increase because of “gun-toting” being allowed. As with most anti-gun thesis, there was absolutely no research to back this up, and it was purely left-wing propaganda. There has been no recorded increase in violence between park visitors or between visitors and wild animals since the institution of the law.
The bottom line in the case of either a park visitor or a hunter, is that every American has a right under the Second Amendment to bear arms to defend themselves from predators, be they two-legged or four. The “ethics police” may disagree, but as a bow hunter hunting in urban areas, I would feel much more secure knowing I had a reasonable way to defend myself should the need arise. Hunters in these metro areas can meet some resistance at times from locals who are ignorant of hunting’s vital role in the management of deer and other species. Some of these people seem to value animal life over human life, as evidenced by their tendency to ignore traffic accidents caused by uncontrolled deer herds, and their disdain to the point of threats to those who hunt.
I do realize that there are legitimate safety and ethics concerns and I do not mean to belittle them. However I do feel that those in our sport who would abuse the right are in a small minority, and would not create an issue. To me this is not an argument of liberty versus security. In this case, liberty brings security.
CWW laws are important to all of us
Whether or not a hunter takes a backup handgun into the field is their own choice. I believe we should have the right to do so, but this is going to take some clarification and standardization from all agencies involved. It’s a sad but true fact that we live in a world where not everyone has good intentions. And those who do not will ignore the laws anyway. Place the right and ability to defend oneself no matter where you are in the hands of responsible Americans.