Today's Bowhunting Gear Often Includes a Handgun

by J.R. Absher

Whether today's well-equipped archery hunter is heading to a woodlot treestand just a few miles from home or to a remote meadow high in the Rocky Mountains, there is a good chance he or she carries a standard piece of equipment that would have been unusual-and illegal in some states-just a few years ago: a handgun.

Dangerous people and dangerous places are simply an American fact of life these days-even for those hunting in locales that were once among the most crime-free in the country. That's why an increasing number of state wildlife agencies and lawmakers are addressing the safety needs of bowhunters and others who have previously been restricted from carrying handguns for personal protection while afield.

For many, the argument for carrying a handgun while bowhunting is simple one, particularly in regions that hold grizzly and brown bears, wild boars, mountain lions or other potentially dangerous game. Beyond that, there's the increasing likelihood hunters may unintentionally discover clandestine methamphetamine labs or hidden marijuana-growing operations on public land-along with the ne'er-do-wells who occupy them.

From Mexican drug cartels operating marijuana-growing operations in the Southwest and West, to methamphetamine-cooking operations in the rural Midwest and South, there are a disturbing number of ruthless characters inhabiting the exact places we prefer to hunt and recreate in the outdoors.

With early archery deer seasons already underway in parts of California, bowhunters there are again being warned to be especially vigilant when in remote areas notorious for illegal pot-growing plantations. Just last week authorities with the California Department of Fish and Game discovered and removed 10,000 marijuana plants on the Cosumnes Wildlife Management Area in Sacramento County and arrested a shotgun-toting Mexican national.

Last year, Alabama bowhunters were permitted for the first time to carry handguns for personal protection during archery-only seasons. Effective Oct. 1, 2011, North Carolina regulations allowed archery hunters "to carry, but not hunt with, a concealed handgun with valid concealed carry permit or an open carry handgun, as long as it is not in conflict with any other regulations in that jurisdiction."

In addition, the 2011 archery season marked the first time bowhunters in Missouri were allowed to carry handguns. In 2010, Tennessee and Kentucky each liberalized handgun-carry regulations for archery hunters.

Rules regulating handgun use for bowhunters vary by state, with most simply allowing those with valid concealed-handgun permits to carry while hunting. Still, at least 17 states continue to prohibit bowhunters from carrying a firearm for any reason.

And while no national archery or bowhunting organization stands out as a clear or outspoken advocate of "bowhunter carry," the National Rifle Association has actively lobbied for the hunting archer's right to personal protection for most of the past decade.

"For many years, the NRA has actively advocated for the right of bowhunters to carry firearms for self-defense while in the field," said Darren LaSorte, Manager of Hunting Policy for NRA-ILA. "We know that bad things can happen to good people anywhere, anytime. There is no reason that bowhunters should be forced to surrender their right to self-defense every time they enter the field."

Republished from The Outdoor Wire.

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