Archery hunting the West can take you to some pretty wild and rugged places, and many of the same landscapes we roam as archery hunters chasing bucks and bulls are also home to some incredibly efficient and deadly predators. Bears can sneak up on you while calling for elk. A mountain lion may track you while you hunt mule deer at elevation. Or a pack of wolves can show up at any time and make the hair on the back of your neck stand up as they hone in on a kill.
Woods defense can take many forms. Some rely on spray, while others will only trust their safety to handguns. If you are an archery hunter and carry a firearm for safety purposes, you should consider the potential legal issues from state-to-state.
Some states prohibit a hunter from carrying a firearm of any sort while archery hunting. Others require that you have a Concealed Carry permit or license in order to carry a handgun during a hunt, and even then you may only
carry a handgun in a concealed manner. Many states also prohibit the use of such a handgun for dispatching game.
Always remember to be up-to-date on any restrictions pertaining to the possession of handguns while archery hunting. Some states don’t allow it at all, while others impose Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) restrictions on public lands.
Take time to consider how to best carry your handgun during an archery hunt. It should be accessible in a split second, but also out of the way when you stalk an animal or shoot your bow. Consider different options. Some prefer a shoulder holster, while others may like a thigh rig. Recently more hunters are using the chest rig. Each method has pros and cons, and some are considered “concealed” while others are not.
Many hunters only trust their safety in the woods to a handgun. Make sure you know the law in your specific area and carry your weapon in a manner that is accessible, safe and legal.
For more information on specific state handgun laws during archery season and the pros and cons of the different methods of carrying a handgun during archery season, there's a good article in Eastman’s Bowhunting Journal Issue #78.