With many archery-only deer hunting seasons underway across the country and bowhunters by the thousands heading afield, more and more men and women who opt to hunt with bow and arrow are carrying something additional with them these days: a handgun.
The desire for personal protection is a growing concern for more Americans than ever today. One need only consult the sales figures for firearms purchases and for those who apply for permits to legally carry a concealed weapon.
For many, the argument for carrying a handgun while bowhunting is a simple one, particularly if you hunt in regions that hold bears, wild boars, mountain lions or other dangerous critters. Beyond that, the likelihood of bumping into clandestine methamphetamine lab operatives or Mexican cartel members protecting marijuana plantations in public land backcountry is, unfortunately, a growing possibility.
That’s why some state lawmakers and wildlife agencies are addressing the need to revisit and update laws and regulations relating to concealed and open carry by bowhunters. Beginning with this fall’s archery deer seasons, bowhunters in Alabama and Missouri may legally carry handguns for personal protection for the first time. And in 2010, Tennessee and Kentucky each liberalized handgun-carry regulations for archery hunters.
Still, at least 18 states continue to prohibit bowhunters from carrying a firearm for protection.
State-by-state regulations vary, with most simply allowing those with valid state concealed handgun permits to carry while bowhunting. Others are more specific, like Arizona, which recently revisited its long-standing restriction under pressure from bowhunters who were concerned about their safety in remote areas near the sometimes-dangerous United States-Mexico border.
As a result, the current Arizona bowhunter/handgun regulation reads: “Hunters participating in an archery-only hunt may carry a non-hunting handgun for personal protection and safety. As a guideline, a non-hunting handgun shall be defined as a handgun with a barrel length of 6 inches or less that does not have a scope or any type of electronic device. Handguns meeting this definition may be carried during an archery-only hunt for personal protection only. They may not be used to take any species of wildlife while participating in an archery-only hunt.”
(10/6/2011 Update: Effective this week, new North Carolina regulations allow 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.” The change is not reflected in the 2011 North Carolina Hunting Regulations Digest, as it was printed before the law was passed.)
Do you carry a handgun while bowhunting? Would you if it were legal in your state?