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Thread: Hiking with a Gun

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    Member DrSpartacus19's Avatar
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    Default Hiking with a Gun

    I have been reading the different threads about which handguns people should take when they are hiking and its raised a couple of questions for me.

    What are the rules on carrying a handgun or a rifle while hiking? Do you need a permit/license?

    If I am hiking alone anywhere in Alaska, is a gun recommended? I would prefer bear spray, but is that sufficient?

    Also, if I were to get a gun - what are the odds I would be able to sell it when I return home? I live in Canada, and we have strict gun laws. Besides, I have no use for it here.

    Any suggestions? Thanks!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Bear spray is adequate for most. A recent study was released showing that bear spray is effective 98% of the time. That being said, I carry a gun. I have more faith in it than bear spray, especially with an angry or aggressive bear.

    No permit is needed to carry a gun except for in National Parks. Our National Park laws may be changed, but currently one may not carry a firearm in parks unless they are unloaded and inaccessible. In other areas of the state, carrying is perfectly legal.

    Selling a firearm here is easy. I have no idea about Canada, though I do know the regulations for taking firearms across the border are intentionally difficult.

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    Member DrSpartacus19's Avatar
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    Wow, so no permit required outside the parks and no gun licenses? So its as easy as walking into a gun shop and picking one out?

    Sorry if this sounds ignorant - the concept just seems very foreign to me.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Basically it is that easy for US Citizens (a background check is required, but gun ownership is guaranteed by our Constitution), but I have no idea what the restrictions are for Canadian citizens visiting the US. You'll get better responses in the shooting forum, as those guys really know their gun laws and some are licensed dealers.

  5. #5

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    If you have no firearms experience, you will never be proficient enough to defend yourself with a firearm vs. a man or beast. Despite what lots of people like to believe it takes years to learn to shoot well. Skip the gun buy the bear repellent.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by springer View Post
    If you have no firearms experience, you will never be proficient enough to defend yourself with a firearm vs. a man or beast. Despite what lots of people like to believe it takes years to learn to shoot well. Skip the gun buy the bear repellent.
    Actually, that is really solid advice. Thanks for chiming in, springer.

  7. #7
    Member DrSpartacus19's Avatar
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    Yeah, my initial thoughts were to just stick with the bear spray. I have shotgun and rifle experience through some grouse hunting and Air Cadets, but I have never even touched a handgun. Thanks for the advice guys.

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    Member AK_Trekker's Avatar
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    Default Knowledge is your best defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Bear spray is adequate for most. A recent study was released showing that bear spray is effective 98% of the time. That being said, I carry a gun. I have more faith in it than bear spray, especially with an angry or aggressive bear.

    No permit is needed to carry a gun except for in National Parks. Our National Park laws may be changed, but currently one may not carry a firearm in parks unless they are unloaded and inaccessible.
    Most of my experience is in Wrangell-St. Elias where you can certainly carry a firearm. Some folks do carry them in the backcountry there.

    Personally I feel fine with spray. To do any good against a bear you need a large caliber firearm that is accessible in seconds. Firearms are really heavy and to be accessible it has to be slung over a shoulder or a handgun strapped to your leg. Neither solution makes for very comfortable hiking in my opinion.

    I have spent the last 6 years guiding in the backcountry all summer long and have never even had cause to pull out my pepper spray, let alone use it. Brian sounds pretty experienced with firearms but the average Joe is likely to end up shooting an animal when there is no need and either killing or more likely simply injuring a bear which then runs off to die a miserable death. A lot of bears get shot that didn't need to be shot simply because the person substituted deadly force for some knowledge about bear behaviour. Knowledge is always your best defense. There is however a lot of misinformation about bears out there - do this if it's a black bear, do that if it's a brown.

    There is an excellent video titled "Staying Safe in Bear Country" which was created by the leading experts in bear behaviour. Everyone heading into backcountry where there are bears should get this DVD. Check out the store on this site to see if they carry it.

    As Brian says, forget firearms unless you are very experience in their use.
    ___________________________________________

    Guided Alaskan Backpacking Adventures

    Author of Hiking Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
    published by Falcon Guides

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    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    The single most important thing you can do is keep a clean camp. No smelly foods. Store your food away from where you sleep and/or keep it in a bear proof container. Next, be sure to make noise when walking. Most incidents happen because people accidently sneak up on bears. I agree with the spray over a gun. If you must have a gun, may I suggest you get a simple flare gun? It *might* help in an attack, they are light weight and easy to use, and they can be more helpful if you get lost or hurt...just an idea, but I would go for the spray and keep it attached to your belt or chest strap at all times. That said, bear incidences are few and far between. Take your camera and have fun...a digital camera with an 8 GB card will hold 3,500 photos taken in a RAW format, even more jpeg
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK_Trekker View Post
    . Knowledge is always your best defense. There is however a lot of misinformation about bears out there - do this if it's a black bear, do that if it's a brown.
    Another great point. I didn't carry a gun until I got married, and I still don't plan to use it. I have only unholstered my handgun twice due to a bear encounter, and only fired it once into the ground to scare off a particularly precocious young black bear. No matter how loudly we yelled or how many rocks we threw, he didn't get the hint that he shouldn't keep approaching. When he got to about 6 feet away, I unloaded a bullet into the ground. He ran away. 99% of the time bears are not dangerous as long as you make wise decisions.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrSpartacus19 View Post
    If I am hiking alone anywhere in Alaska, is a gun recommended? I would prefer bear spray, but is that sufficient?
    DrSparacus, A lot of folks think that handguns are a better defense against bears than bear spray. I believe the facts state otherwise. Here's a good article to read.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0325171221.htm

    I dont know of anyone who has been able to clear and discharge their spray who has been badly hurt or killed. On the otherhand, there are many cases of folks who have fired at a bear in defense who have been mualed and killed and/or the bear is wounded or killed. To me it's a no-brainer.

    I spend a lot of time in griz country and almost never see hikers or backpackers carry guns. Most carry spray if anything.

    I also have to agree with the statement that if you are new to handguns it would definitely be best to carry spray.

    I am not at all against handguns and I used to carry in bear country, but not anymore. If I carry anything, which I rarely do, I carry spray.

    I basicaly have my guns for fun and I am grateful for the priviladge of owning them. I fortunately live in a location where there is no threat of violence.

    Hope this helps.

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    Default Clarification on National Park rules

    "No permit is needed to carry a gun except for in National Parks."

    Brian -- Most of what you said (and everyone else's contributions) were spot on, but this one sentence (above) is incorrect.

    In most NPS-administered lands in Alaska loaded and/or fully operational firearms are legal to carry without a permit. This is the case in the parks & preserves established by the 1980 Lands Act (more than 44 million acres). In the "old" parks, such as along the Denali park road or in Katmai park, firearms must be as you described (unloaded, no easy access).

    Sport hunting is permitted in NPS-administered national preserves under state law.

    There is some additional information on park web sites, but if in doubt we suggest a call or e-mail to a park prior to heading out. Also, the park web sites have information regarding bear-resistant food containers, bear spray and other suggestions on avoiding encounters where a firearm or spray would be needed.

    John Quinley
    NPS Anchorage

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Thanks for the correction, John.

  14. #14

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    It sounds like people have already made the important points I can think of. I like guns, but any handgun that stands a decent chance of stopping a bear will be very large and heavy, and that makes them no fun to carry after the first day or two. My choices of bear defense are, in order:

    1) Get in touch with fish & game to see what the bear situation is where you're going.
    2) Use the oft-mentioned methods of avoidance: use a food canister, make lots of noise, don't camp in a berry patch, etc.
    3) Use spray/throw rocks/yell if a bear is too close & too curious.
    4) Don't shoot unless you think you're in immediate danger and nothing else worked; a lot of people shoot when they don't need to.

    That said, I think I'd sooner trust spray over a handgun if a bear were charging me, but if a bear was already chewing on me I'd rather have a gun. I think ideally people would be traveling in groups, and each person would have some sort of defense that they're proficient in, be it spray, a rifle, or a handgun. I think spray is the best bet for the average person.

    I grew up hiking in the Southeast, and for some reason I've never seen a bear. Some bear sign, but no bear, no matter how hard I look... I think if one chooses to hike in the right areas, they just aren't a real danger.
    Tsimshian tribe, wolf clan, the house of Walsk.

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    Let me chime in here because I have experience with exactly what Spartacus is talking about. I'm a Canadian from Calgary, and I've had two separate work terms in Alaska. The first one was four months long, so not enough time to hassle with the red tape of bringing my own guns up there. When I arrived in Alaska, I stopped by at a private seller I previously met at a gun show and bought a revolver for bear protection. I was in and out in 5 minutes. I don't think you could do the same at a Walmart or other retailer, being a Canadian citizen. I don't know, I never tried. So I packed it all summer in the backcountry and sold it back to the guy 4 months later on my way out of Alaska, for $50 less than I paid.

    My second term in Alaska was a full year, and I actually went through the paperwork of legally importing my guns from Canada. If you intend to do this, go to the ATF website and download the "Form 6". You'll have to fill out the serial numbers etc for all your guns and the length of time you intend to be in the United States up to a year (this is most commonly used by hunters from Canada - a period longer than a year requires a different form) and then mail it to the ATF office address specified. If you have difficulties, call them up at 304-616-4550; they're very helpful.

    Upon receipt of your paperwork, you can cross the line with your guns, unloaded and trigger locked of course. I wouldn't know how you'd deal with that at the airport - I always drove the good old Alcan...

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    By the way Spartacus is that Roche Miette in your avatar picture?

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    Member Tight Lines's Avatar
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    Talking

    I would recommend two cans........if you have to use one then what do you do on the rest of your trip?


    TL

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    Member DrSpartacus19's Avatar
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    Thanks northernalberta - good to know. I think I will be getting bearspray since I have no experience with handguns, but your info is useful for future/longer trips.

    And yes! That is Roche Miette. Good eye! Although if you've ever been to Jasper, its hard NOT to recognize huh?

  19. #19

    Default dont you love it

    i love the constitution it guarantees gun ownership haha


    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Basically it is that easy for US Citizens (a background check is required, but gun ownership is guaranteed by our Constitution), but I have no idea what the restrictions are for Canadian citizens visiting the US. You'll get better responses in the shooting forum, as those guys really know their gun laws and some are licensed dealers.
    Ron Paul 2008 RESTORE OUR CONSTITUTION

    TRY JESUS

    ILY

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    You're welcome. I love Miette Hot Springs. Only other thing I'll add is, if you're flying up, you'll have to buy the bear spray in Alaska and I guess toss it out at the end before you fly back. Obviously that stuff is off-limits on the plane because the pressure changes can cause it to go off.

    And yeah, lucky boy, NEVER take for granted some of the freedoms you have...

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