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Carrying a Handgun
Sep 26, 2013
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.

Even in WV where we have a open carry law, you must have a CCP to carry during hunting seasons.
Posted by Andy Wiseman on Oct 22, 2013 1:21 PM
Would really appreciate it if we could get ATTs up here in Canada to carry a sidearm for protection while hunting during bow season.
Posted by Kevin on Sep 27, 2013 2:28 PM
Here is more for Washington State:

WAC 232-12-054
(1) The following rules apply to all archery hunting seasons:
(a) It is unlawful for any person to carry or have in his possession any firearm while archery hunting in the field during an archery season specified for that area, except for modern handguns carried for personal protection. Modern handguns cannot be used to hunt big game or dispatch wounded big game during an archery big game hunting season.
Posted by Andi Schwartz on Sep 27, 2013 7:42 AM
As an archery hunter here in SW Washingtion, I carry when hunting. I've tried a thigh rig, but hiking around our steep (and very wet) coast range for elk, it was not ideal. I just use my Blackhawk belt holster for my S&W M&P. I have my CWP for WA (and OR, AZ & UT). I'd like to hear someone's experience with a chest holster though. As a woman who will often hit the woods without my husband, carrying my pistol gives us both peace of mind!

Here is Washington's:
Chapter 9.41 RCW
(8) Any person engaging in a lawful outdoor recreational activity such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, or horseback riding, only if, considering all of the attendant circumstances, including but not limited to whether the person has a valid hunting or fishing license, it is reasonable to conclude that the person is participating in lawful outdoor activities or is traveling to or from a legitimate outdoor recreation area;
Posted by Andi Schwartz on Sep 27, 2013 7:10 AM
Here in Arizona you can carry a handgun but it can't be longer then a 6 1/2" barrel but when archery deer opens up its hot and snakes are out I carry a black hawk 357 with snake shot in it
Posted by Troy Towell on Sep 26, 2013 7:31 PM
Good food for thought for anyone stomping around in the backcountry. Nice work Peak.
Posted by Luke Johnson on Sep 26, 2013 7:15 PM
Well done Peak. Esquire has spoken.
Posted by Chad Bell on Sep 26, 2013 7:00 PM

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