Photo credit: Luke Dusenbury
In today's western hunting world, there is no lack of information about gear and opinions about what is essential to carry into the backcountry and what is not worth the weight. Backcountry and western hunting companies concentrate on creating quality, durable and lightweight options to meet all of your needs, which makes it hard to choose what is an essential piece of gear and what is a luxury. Despite all of the options, there is one item that I would not leave the truck without despite the weight, especially during bow season, and that is my sidearm. A sidearm has become an essential piece of equipment that I think should be on every western hunter and here are three reasons why.
The primary reason that a sidearm should be on your person every trip into the backcountry is for protection. The main concern that I have — and the main reason I carry a pistol with me — is to protect against bears. There is a growing expanse of grizzly habitat in states like Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, but there are other predators in every state. Nearly all western states have black bears, cougars or wolves — all of which generally would not attack; however, you never know. A lesser concern, but still a good reason, is to protect yourself from some people you might encounter in the backcountry. In today’s world, most hunters are respectful to other hunters; however, you may meet someone who has a short fuse or a bad day that could cause issues for you deep in the mountains and it is always better to be prepared. No matter the threat, it is always better to be prepared than not to be prepared in the backcountry.
Though the primary reason for carrying a sidearm on your next hunt is protection, having a weapon on you also gives you confidence. Confidence while hunting is a super important tool to have in your arsenal. It will not only help you hunt harder, but it will also allow you to go in deeper, stay later and have a greater chance to harvest an animal. Years ago, before I started carrying a sidearm, I used to get quite nervous during solo hunts in grizzly country. Of course, I had bear spray, but my concern was if that would be enough. Because I was nervous, I would often cut my evening hunt short, move quickly through thicker areas and not go in after a bull if I would be coming out too late. When I decided to start carrying a sidearm, my confidence bolstered. I was staying in later, hunting deeper and getting into more elk in the thick country without being concerned that every twig snapping or grouse fluttering was going to be the end of me. Confidence also changed my experience and made it more enjoyable to be in the backcountry solo.
The final reason I will never leave the truck without a sidearm and you shouldn't either is in case of emergencies. Sidearms can allow you to hunt animals in the backcountry should you be lost or injured with only a bow or no weapon at all. Hunting with a handgun will be difficult, but it still can provide much-needed sustenance to survive for an extended time while you are lost or injured. Sidearms can also signal for help. It is a well-known emergency fact that three quick bursts of anything can signify distress and be a sign that you need help. Three gunshots in a row can be an excellent indication of distress, especially if search parties are already looking for you.
Overall, a sidearm has become something I never leave the trail without for several reasons. It provides me protection against any threat, including wild animals and other people, it gives me the confidence to hunt harder and stay in later and it can aid a hunter in case of emergencies. Consider adding a sidearm to your essential gear list and increase your chances to leave the mountains safely and in one piece. GOHUNT’s Gear Shop has a lot of great options to carry a sidearm and should be checked out.