Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Camping with the three bears

Indian Boundary Lake photo by Liston Matthews
I went camping in the Cherokee National Forest last weekend. a friend and I went to the Indian Boundary Campground (35.40167, -84.10722). We set up camp Friday afternoon, and within a few minutes we were talking to the campground hostess. She had come to welcome us to the campground and let us know that Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear had been spotted in the area. Note that we were on the back side of nowhere, and even if our cell phones had worked, we could be an hour or more from first responders.

We had prepared for this little outing by gathering up the usual camping supplies - tent, bedding, food, cooking equipment, etc., etc.,...

We had also each brought a handgun*. What we didn't bring was bear spray. Terry over at the Glacier National Park Travel Guide opined recently that one should not depend on a handgun for stopping a bear, unless one were "a trained cop." He recommended bear spray. Terry got some negative feedback on that, and admitted that he could be wrong.

Now, I have no experience with bears, but I know that there are those other than police officers who can be and are trained in the use of firearms. Police are not the only ones with the ability to make good use of them.

Bears generally avoid human contact, but they like what we eat, and are attracted by our garbage. Coming into camp and looking for food can lead to close encounters. Some literature recommends making loud noises in order to scare them away. Given time, I suppose a .45 ACP discharged into the dirt might fulfill that recommendation.

Given time, also, a pepper blast in the face might make the bear give quarter. So, I will say, take one or the other, or both. Police officers usually don't limit themselves to one weapon. Why should we?

Predators that attack humans usually do so because either we are just too close and they feel threatened, or they are suffering from some ailment which limits their ability to hunt their normal prey (Of course, if you are in Alaska, and get too close to a Grizzly while he is fishing, you might start to look like a Salmon).

For me, though, the prospect of a two-legged predator is of greater importance. These critters will use every ruse in the book to take advantage of you, and do whatever they desire to you. There are cases of them torturing, raping, and killing. Case in point, two Arizona escapees are suspected of killing two Oklahoma campers this summer.

The odds of any one of us having a close encounter with one of these human predators is low --- but, for those of us that do, it becomes a very serious matter. So, whether you are going to the wilds, are strolling in the neighborhood, or watching TV at home, your first line of defense is YOU.
*Handguns???  - - From the Forest Service website:

May persons possessing handgun carry permits possess their handguns while in the Cherokee National Forest?

YES - Recent State legislative changes provide that individuals who possess a carry permit may possess their handgun while on Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) wildlife management areas, public hunting areas, or refuges open to hunter access. Because the Cherokee National Forest is managed under an agreement with the Forest Service, USDA and TWRA as a Wildlife Management Area this legislative change applies to the Cherokee National Forest. The handgun may not be used for taking game unless specifically permitted by TWRA regulation. For more information regarding this legislative change and related TWRA information please contact the TWRA at begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-332-0900      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit their web site.1-800-332-0900

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Disclaimer: The information and ideas presented in this column are provided for informational purposes only. Gun rights, like all other Constitutionally recognized rights, must be exercised responsibly. Firearms, like cars, kitchen knives and life itself all can be dangerous. You should get professional training as part of any plan to use firearms for any purpose. I have made a reasonable, good-faith effort to assure that the content of this column is accurate. I have no control over what you do, and specifically accept no responsibility for anything you do as a result of reading my columns. Any action or lack of action on your part is strictly your responsibility.

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