By: Chuck Smick

The bowhunter approached his truck after dark, which was parked in the parking area on the public land where he was hunting. As he approached the truck, he observed two individuals attempting to break into the vehicle. He yelled for them to stop. As he got closer, the pair pulled out weapons – a knife and a tire iron. Armed with only his bow, he was in a precarious position.

Luckily for him, the state where the hunter lived allowed hunters to carry a concealed pistol while bowhunting. Remembering his pistol, the bowhunter pulled out his gun and stopped the attack before the two individuals could cause him any harm or steal his truck. A call to 911 brought the police, who apprehended the pair. The police informed the hunter that he’d been lucky. Other hunters had been assaulted and seriously injured by the pair. Other vehicles had been broken into in the same area, too.

This type of encounter occurs more often than many people realize. Criminals take advantage of any situation they can to carry on their criminal activities, and will not hesitate to prey on a vulnerable person, far from civilization.

Outdoorsmen can prepare for such unexpected encounters, whether it’s in their outdoor recreation area, or at a quick stop on the way to or from the hunting, fishing, or trapping areas. Getting a concealed carry license takes some time, effort, and expense, but could save your life, or prevent serious bodily harm in the event of an encounter with the criminal element in our society.

Training: Some states that issue concealed carry licenses require the individual to take a state-mandated training course from a certified instructor, qualified to teach the course. If your state does not require such a course, or you live in a Constitutional Carry State, I strongly urge you to take the course, if available, or seek out an NRA Certified Instructor and take the NRA Basic Pistol Course and Personal Protection in the Home Course and Personal Protection Outside the Home Course. The US Concealed Carry Association also offers several great courses that are helpful. Seek out a qualified instructor and get some training before you carry.

These courses will give you the basic skills to use a personal defense weapon safely and can give you a basic understanding of the legal requirements of self-defense. I also highly recommend continual training, as time, finances, and courses are available. You can also get together and train with an experienced partner. Dry firing with snap-caps or laser training cartridges can help to build and keep muscle memory and fine-tune your self-defense skills too.

You cannot ever have enough training for unforeseen bad situations that you may encounter. Building your self-defense skills, confidence, and awareness is an on-going process. I am a trained and experienced infantry officer and paratrooper. I have carried and used various weapons over the years, but when I decided to conceal carry (and occasionally open carry), I took the required concealed carry class and NRA Basic Pistol Course to start. Later, I took other courses to improve my knowledge and skills of concealed carry and self-defense. DON’T SKIMP ON TRAINING with your weapon of choice. It could save your life or prevent serious bodily harm to you or loved ones.

Choosing a Concealed Carry Pistol: I would recommend contacting a friend who carries or a concealed carry instructor to get the help you may need to purchase the pistol you plan to carry. Pistols come in various calibers, but I strongly suggest staying with a pistol in the 9mm-.45 caliber range. Smaller calibers than these don’t have the stopping power to stop a drug or alcohol fused thug. Larger calibers can be difficult to handle in stressful situations and difficult to conceal.

Chose a pistol and caliber you can easily and accurately handle! Also important is a gun that is relatively easy to conceal. Once you have chosen a concealed carry pistol, practice with it as often as you can (live fire), and do your dry fire dry fire drills REMEMBER: NO LOADED GUN, NO AMMO IN THE SAME ROOM. REMEMBER SAFETY FIRST!).

Practice drawing from your concealed holster, and remember: slow is smooth, smooth is fast! Practice these movements until you are comfortable with and can perform these movements as second-nature. Practice with an experienced partner if you know someone who routinely concealed carries. Have your partner watch you perform these movements and suggest improvement.

There are several good training DVDs out there, that are helpful also. Spend the money for your education and improvement. It could save your life!

ACCESSORIES: If you decide to conceal carry, you will need some accessories, starting with a holster. You will want to buy a QUALITY HOLSTER! Cheap doesn’t cut it! Both leather and Kydex work great. You will need to decide which method of carry suits your needs, body style, and comfort. There are several methods: outside the waistband, inside the waistband, shoulder holsters, cross-draw holsters, and pocket holsters to start. Most people carry outside the waistband or inside the waistband. You will need to dress “around the gun” when you carry, so plan your wardrobe accordingly.

You will need several other accessories that will prove helpful in a life or death situation. A good, high lumen flashlight, either hand-held or attached to the gun will prove useful, especially in low light conditions or darkness. A good laser sight or combo light and laser on the gun are great assets when you carry, too. Remember, you will need a holster that will fit the gun and accessory when you buy it and attach it to the pistol.

Another option is upgraded sights. High-quality fiber optics/tritium combination sites are another great asset, especially if you have poor eyesight, are aging, or have difficulty with night vision.

A cell phone should be on your person at all times, especially if you are carrying. If you have an encounter or must use your gun in self-defense (even if no shots are fired), call 911 immediately and tell the dispatcher what happened. This could alleviate legal issues later. You want always to be the first to call!

AMMO: Quality ammo is critical in a self-defense situation. You can get by with cheaper ball ammo for practice, but you will want good, name-brand hollow point, self-defense ammo when you are carrying your self -efense gun. You should purchase a variety of self-defense ammo and test it in your gun. Once you determine which brand and style works best for you and your gun, buy 10-15 boxes and shoot this ammo to insure it functions smoothly in your gun, with no hiccups. You don’t want any miss-feeds or jams in a dynamic, critical incident/self-defense encounter!

Shooting and practicing can be a lot of fun and enjoyment. Take the time and effort to practice as often as you can. Introduce your wife, girlfriend, or significant other to shooting. Women are the fastest growing segment of society getting into the concealed carry/self-defense and shooting arena today.

SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Last but not least is mastering situational awareness. Situational awareness will help you spot trouble and avoid it if possible. Staying alert and vigilant is critical in protecting yourself and others. LTC Jeff Cooper came up with the Cooper Color Code of awareness. Most quality instructors will teach this in their concealed carry/ self-defense courses.

Here is a brief synopsis of the code:

White: Totally oblivious to their surroundings and what is going on around them. Most people with their face stuck in a cell phone, texting, reading e-mails, and searching the internet in public fall into this category. I see it all the time…unfortunately, some are even driving vehicles. Put the cell phone away and be alert! Criminals pray on unaware and unalert people.

Yellow: You are in a relaxed state of awareness, not paranoid, but searching your surroundings and aware of what is going on around you. Criminals read people before they attack, in most cases. If you appear alert and aware, you can avoid becoming a target in many cases.

Orange: Something has gotten your attention, or “just doesn’t feel right.” You have a potential perceived threat – someone approaches you suddenly on your blind side asking for money, suspicious activities are occurring nearby, or any other activity or action, or person who may cause serious concern to you. Your senses are on high-alert, and you may even decide to put your hand on your concealed firearm. DON’T! unless the threat is real. This could escalate with you having to pull your defensive firearm, but hopefully the problem never materializes, and you can go back to condition yellow.

NOTE: This has occurred four times with me, but thankfully I never had to pull my defensive firearm. The presence of my firearm under my shirt did prevent me from getting assaulted when the thugs realized I was armed on one occasion!

Red: The threat is REAL! You have to pull out and present your defensive firearm. This could deescalate once you pull the gun, or you may have to shoot the thug assaulting you. No matter what happens, when it is safe, call 911 immediately and inform the dispatcher what has happened. Ensure the scene is safe and do not approach the assailant if the person is down. Wait for the police to arrive and call your lawyer.

I hope this information will prove to be helpful to outdoorsmen. The threat could be 2-legged or 4-legged. A good self-defense firearm is a great backup tool for a variety of situations.

Take the time to get training and get your CCW permit. This may well save your life or prevent serious bodily harm to you or loved ones.

Chuck Smick is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, NRA Certified Firearms and Personal Protection Instructor, and is a U.S. Army Veteran and service-connected disabled veteran. Chuck enjoys hunting, fishing, and trapping in Western Kentucky, and shooting as often as possible. Chuck Can be reached at