Drug bust reveals why concealed carry is a must for outdoor enthusiasts

By Larry S. Moore

It was just a few years ago that Buckeye Firearms Association, along with support from the NRA, led the effort to obtain the ability for concealed handgun license holders to carry concealed while hunting. Working with the law enforcement side of the Division of Wildlife and with a major effort at the spring open house events by Buckeye Firearms supporters and volunteers, we were able to accomplish the goal without additional legislation.

A recent story from Ohio Outdoor News, entitled "Rabbit hunters stumble onto massive marijuana grow," provides yet another example of why this right is so important.

At that time emphasis for protection centered on the explosion of meth labs and the use of remote locations and wildlife areas as dumping grounds for the waste by-products of meth production. Since hunters were likely to be the ones out early and in remote areas, we felt they were at the most risk of surprising meth lab operators dumping or of bumping into a wanted felon. Since the hunting firearm could not legally be loaded before or after hunting hours, hunters were effectively disarmed while leaving or returning to their vehicles.

A more direct personal connection was an escapee from the Ross County Jail. John W. Parsons was accused of killing a police officer during a gas station hold up in 2005. He escaped from jail on July 29, 2006, and was not recaptured until October 19. The Ohio State Patrol had issued warnings to be on the lookout for this individual, who was described as armed and dangerous. It was believed that Parsons was hiding in thickly wooded areas. It was reported that one hideout along a thickly wooded area near the Scioto River was dismantled. That description fits most of the better deer hunting habitat. Fortunately he was recaptured without incident.

Because of the concern that those convicted of poaching (at that time it was still a misdemeanor) could legally obtain a CHL, the Division of Wildlife proposed a remedy to the Ohio Wildlife Council. The Council agreed and the ability to legally carry a concealed defensive handgun so long as it was not used to harvest game was implemented. Since that time, we've encouraged all hunters to obtain a CHL.

Now, as Jane Beathard reports in the January 1, 2010, issue of Ohio Outdoor News, there is a new threat to hunters. Certainly hunters and hikers discovering marijuana is nothing new. That has happened many times. I've been there – done that. However, the situation Beathard reports, and the comments from the Madison County Sheriff's office, reflect a greatly increased scale and threat possibility to hunters.

The area, north of London, Ohio, was described as a grove of over 4,000 plants. Neighboring farmers had not noticed any suspicious activity. The area contained a tent, cooking facilities, clothing and other items. Beathard notes, "The whole operation was so artfully disguised with brushy barricade that it was virtually undetectable from just a few feet away."

The story continues, "It's a threat that's growing in the rural and remote parts of the state," said Ted Hart, spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General's office. Hart said the Madison County bust marked the fourth large-scale outdoor marijuana growing operation uncovered in Ohio in the last two years. Two were found on state wildlife areas frequented by hunters, birders, and other outdoor enthusiasts." Others were a 16,000- plant operation at Mackey Ford State Wildlife Area in Pickaway County and a 5,100- plant field at Salt Fork State Wildlife area in Muskingum County.

Whether this is a result of increased problems transporting marijuana from Mexico into the US; local dealers trying to bypass a middle-man in their operation; or increased Mexican or Latino gangs in Ohio may not matter. The fact is they are here. Several have been discovered. The unanswered question is how many have not been discovered? I wouldn't expect the growers to be unarmed and I don't want to be the one to stumble onto their camp. Early season hunters and fall hikers are the ones most likely to find the stands of marijuana before the fall frost. The law enforcement advice to simply retreat and call law enforcement is good. But what happens if you stumble into the marijuana and the camp before you can back off? I don't want to trust to luck while I retreat, especially if the drug gang happens to be in the camp.

The threat to those enjoying all forms of outdoor recreation is increasing. It is no longer solely a carjacking on the highway or a robbery at the gas station. It may be a bigger threat than either of those. It is important that we be able to carry on all our outdoor activities. Concealed carry is legal in Ohio in wildlife areas, natural areas and preserves, state forests and state parks. The only exception is any government buildings were business is conducted.

It used to be that identifying poison ivy and carrying calamine lotion was all that I needed for safety in the woods. Those days are long- gone. Now my CHL and concealed handgun may be the required protection for that day of bird watching or rabbit hunting. I've got mine. Do you have yours?

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award and 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year. Mr. Moore also serves as Greene County Republican Central Committee Member.

Additional Information:
Suspect Arrested for Alleged Cultivation of Marijuana on Public Land

Marijuana bust said to be one of Ohio's largest

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