Self-Defense-Against Predators: Guns NOT Recommended

Before you read this post let me make it very clear that I’m pro-gun! They are a very good tool that have many great uses. However, for some things, like self-defense against 4-Legged predators, they are a poor choice for most people.

After my encounter with the mountain lion I promised to write a post about practical ways to stay safe in the backcountry, here it is!

While I’m specifically talking about safety from four-legged predators and snakes, most of what I’m saying can also be applied to safety from 2-legged human predators. In all my time on Public Land (BLM or Natioanl Forest) numerous times I’ve been afraid of animals, but I’ve never once been afraid from humans. Not only that but I rarely hear from other people who have been afraid of people on Public Land—although I have heard one or two stories. I started to wonder how often it happened so I’ve done several google searches trying to find statistics on the crime rate on Public Land, and I’ve never been able to find any; as far as I know it’s so rare no statistics are kept. For that reason this post will be limited to animal attacks, but if you are concerned about humans, everything in it can be applied to them as well. If bear spray can drive off a bear, it will also drive off a person.

Second, it’s extremely unlikely that most of you will ever be in a situation where you need to worry about it. Predator attacks in the Lower 48 sates are rare and when they do happen it’s usually with people who spend a lot of time in the backcountry. Please, don’t allow reading this to instill more fear of the wilderness in you!!! My goal is just the opposite, to assure you that you can go into the woods safely and with peace of mind. Learning about ways to defend yourself should reduce your fear, not increase it. I find that knowing that I’m not helpless or defenseless is very important and empowering to me. I never intend to use any of the things I’m going to talk about, but neither do I intend to be without them.

Having come face-to-face with this mountain lion,  I never want to  be defenseless again.

Having come face-to-face with this mountain lion, I never want to be defenseless again.

Finally, let me tell you that this post is strictly about ways to defend yourself from an animal attack. It isn’t about prevention by keeping a clean camp or blowing a whistle, hunting or survival. Those are all extremely important but they’re a different topic for different posts. I always carry this rescue whistle on me in a necklace around my neck, get it from Amazon here: Adventure Medical Kits Rescue Howler Whistles I also always carry this Kershaw automatic opening pocket knife: get it from Amazon here: Kershaw Folding Serrated SpeedSafe Knife

While your first thought is probably going to be to carry a firearm, that isn’t my recommendation. Animal attacks happen so suddenly and so quickly that for a form of self-defense to work you must be willing to carry it with you 100% of the time, it must be foolproof and it must be very fast to bring into use, firearms fail all those tests.

This post is only about why you shouldn’t rely on a firearm and in my next post I’ll give you my recommendations for what you should carry.

Carrying a smaller pistol like a .357 magnum isn't too uncomfortable.

Carrying a smaller pistol like my .357 magnum in a shoulder holster isn’t too uncomfortable. But it’s much too small to be effective against larger game like bears.

Having lived in Alaska for 45 years, I’ve spent a lot of time in very dangerous country (everywhere in Alaska is bear country!) and because of that I’ve done a lot of research on the best way to stay safe. This isn’t going to be an exhaustive list, there are more things you can do, but based on my research and experience these are the best and most practical solutions. However, it is strictly my opinion and I am by no means an expert in any way! If you’re betting your life, you should perform due diligence and do your own research.

Start your research with this article out of the Anchorage Daily News. The author was a Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for 30 years and I consider him a legend in Alaska—he’s an expert I would bet my life on. It’s by far the most balanced and informative I’ve ever seen, and it includes many links to back up his facts and opinions:

Here are some of my experiences in Alaska, but keep in mind most of these were before bear-spray even existed:

  1. My first long backpacking trip in the Alaska wilderness I carried a bolt action 30-06 hunting rifle with a scope. Carrying that thing was such a misery because of its length and awkward size I swore I would never do anything so stupid again—and I never did.
  2. My next trip I carried a 12 gauge shotgun with a short barrel. It was lighter and shorter so it was a big improvement. However, it was still awful to carry. The only time I saw a bear that trip was when I had carried two water bottles and my filter down to the river to get water. There was a bear walking down the bank towards me–and where was my shotgun? It was leaning against my tent 40 feet away! If the bear had charged it could cover the distance between us before I could turn and take two steps toward the shotgun. Fortunately, he was fishing and well fed on salmon so he had no interest in me. If he had, I would have been defenseless even after carrying that stupid shotgun all around the country.
  3. Finally I decided to wear a 44 magnum revolver in a chest holster. That was a big improvement in size and weight—although it was still very heavy. It was heavy and awkward enough that I don’t believe I would consistently carry it, but that isn’t why I gave up on it. If I was going to be able to use it effectively I had to practice with it, if I didn’t, I would have been more at risk from it than from the wild animal. Even worse, if you get a shot into the animal but only wound it, you are a thousand times worse off than you would have been without it. There is very little chance you can get more than one shot into a bear and most likely that will be a very poorly placed shot. Even if it’s properly placed a single shot from a 44 magnum will not kill it or even slow it down. Even if you can get all 6 shots into it he won’t die right away; he may go away and die, but not before he kills you. I tied to practice enough to be good with it but the ammo is very expensive, practicing takes a lot of time and it’s very punishing to your body. I soon gave up on practicing and then stopped carrying it. (Today there are much more powerful handguns than a .44 magnum, but all the disadvantages of the .44 magnum apply to them, except they are much worse!!–not recommended!)
As siple as a re volver is, it still requires a commitment to training and practice that most of simply won't keep.

As simple as a revolver is, it still requires a commitment to training and practice that most of simply won’t keep up. Without it, you’re more likely to hurt yourself worse than the bear will!

Requirements for Self-Defense from Predator attack

  • The single most important thing is that it must be light and easy to carry. If it’s heavy or awkward you won’t carry it consistently and even when you do, it’s a certainty that when you finally set it down, that’s when the bear or mountain lion will show up. This is a big reason I don’t recommend firearms for self-defense in the backcountry.
  • It has to be instantly available and you must be able to bring it onto target very quickly and easily. Bears and Mountain Lions are so fast that most of us can’t comprehend it; that’s why you MUST never, ever run from either one!!! Under the most common circumstances, from the moment they begin the charge toward you until when they are ripping into your flesh is usually seconds. Any fumbling or delay to get your weapon on target means it’s nothing but a paperweight. This is especially true of Mountain Lions because they are so stealthy you may have no more than 2-5 seconds warning of an attack, and quite possibly none at all. Long arms like rifles or shotguns will probably be carried slung over your shoulder and with the safety on. Getting them un-slung, safety off, and brought into position takes too long. If you are carrying it in your hands, you’ll get tired of it and set it down or stop carrying it. Handguns in a chest holster are better but take a lot of practice to use safely.
  • It has to be easy to use and not difficult, nor can it take a lot of practice to be able to use it. Firearms require  lot of practice ad training and most of us just won’t bother. We’ll start out with good intentions and they will slowly drift away until it’s been years since we practiced and we stop carrying the weapon. Firearms take a high level of commitment to training and practice that most people won’t continue. And even if they, do its fairly likely their training won’t be enough in the panicky moment of extreme duress.
  • It can’t make the situation worse. This is a critical reason I don’t recommend firearms for defense from predators. The most common bear encounter is when you come across a bear suddenly on a trail—it’s happened to me 6 times. If it’s a single bear it’s very likely to just run away, but if it’s a mother bear, everything changes. The most common occurrence is she takes her cubs and runs away. However, fairly often she will make a bluff charge at you to scare you off, then she turns at the last minute to go and gather her cubs and rush them off to safety. If you shoot her during a bluff charge, it’s no longer a bluff and she is now enraged and you’ve become a very serious threat to her cubs, she won’t stop until she thinks you’re dead! Shooting a charging bear almost always makes things worse. The only time it’s absolutely the best thing is if the bear intends to eat you and that is very, very rare.

The only thing between me and the teeth of this bear is the pepper spray in my guides hand. Although he’s taken thousands of people into bear country, he’s never had to use it.

Let me close with two quotes from legendary Alaskans. This first one is from an article by outdoor journalist Craig Medred, a legend in Alaska, who managed to kill a charging grizzly with a .454 Casull handgun, but not before it mauled him. He recommends bear spray: article is about two runners who were mauled by a grizzly bear near Anchorage (remember, all of Alaska is bear country), but as hikers we are very much like them and his advice applies to us:

Lots of people at this point can get into a nice debate about bear spray and guns. Let’s not. Have you ever tried running (I added–or hiking) with a gun capable of stopping a charging grizzly? … Nobody is running very far loaded down with a short-barreled .375-caliber H&H rifle or a sawed-off shotgun stuffed full of buckshot and slugs. And even the smallest .454 Casull handgun is a handful at 3 pounds, 9 ounces, fully loaded sans holster. (I just weighed mine.) … Bear spray weighs 10 ounces and fits easily in your hand. You can carry it like a running baton. It is there, always ready. And it is easier to use than a firearm.

If you go past a bear in the bushes, and you’re maintaining a steady course and speed, there is an argument to be made that the bear won’t pay any attention to you. But if you’re alert, and you spot the bear, and you stop. … Well, then the bear has just been warned that it has been spotted by what could be a predator, and it needs to make a decision: fight or flee. Most flee, but I had one that came running to me when I saw it and stopped last summer. … I yelled, loudly. It stopped. It was a 2- or 3-year-old bear. We played the sort of games young bears play. It would approach. I would yell. It would back off, then approach again. … The game went on until the bear finally got bored and wandered away. I probably should have sprayed it, but a can of bear spray costs almost $50, and I’m cheap. Plus I know some bear biologists in town who might have made fun of me upon learning I had to spray a young bear. The only thing more embarrassing would be getting chewed on by one.

Which is why I carry bear spray all the time when running or mountain biking in Chugach State Park. I’ve never used it on a bear, but it’s better to haul a can around for years and never use it than to need it and not have it.

Bear spray works! This is the one I own and the only one I recommend because it comes with a chest holster, get it here from Amazon: 13.4oz Bear Spray with Chest holster
I also recommend walking poles because they dramatically help when hiking and can be used as a weapon in a pinch. Just waving them around may scare off a bear. Black Diamond makes some of the best: Black Diamond Trail Walking Poles

The second one is from Rick Sinnott who was a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for 30 years and has since retired: When I grew up in Alaska, Rick was a legend and anything he suggests pertaining to the outdoors is what I would do because he’s been there many times and lived to tell the tale. This is what he says about carrying a firearm for defense against predators:

Because when a bear attacks and you have two seconds to react … and it’s raining … or dark … and you can’t see 10 feet into the brush … and your shotgun is leaning against a tree … or your rifle’s scope makes it difficult to acquire the bear … or you short-stroke your 12-gauge and jam it … or you empty your .357 magnum and the bear keeps coming … or you’ve never shot a gun before … and the ground is slippery … and your partner steps between you and the bear … or the bear straddles you, pinning your long gun in the present-arms position … you might be wishing you had a can of bear spray.

The bottom line is I don’t recommend that the average person carry a gun for animal defense and in my next post I’ll discuss much better options.
13.4oz Bear Spray with Chest holster

The movies make shooting a handgun look simple--it isn't!! The thing is surprisingly heavy, the trigger is hard to pull, then it's going to explode in your hand, try to jerk back in your face, and belch fire.  For some people it's fun, for most it isn't.

The movies make shooting a handgun look simple–it isn’t!! The thing is surprisingly heavy, the trigger is hard to pull, then it’s going to explode in your hand, try to jerk back in your face, and belch fire. For some people it’s fun, for most it isn’t. That’s why most people close their eyes, jerk the trigger and flinch whenever they shoot. It’s also why it’s a very bad idea to carry one if you aren’t dedicated to practice.

Bear spray in a chest holster is your very BEST CHOICE for these reasons: It's light, simple, effective, easy to get out and shoot and won't make the situation worst.

Bear spray, on the other hand, doesn’t explode, doesn’t try to jerk your hand off and slap you in the face–nor does it belch fire. You won’t close your eyes, jerk the trigger or flinch. Bear Spray in a chest holster is your very BEST CHOICE for these reasons: It’s 1) light, 2) simple, 3) effective, 4) easy to get out and shoot and 5) won’t make the situation worst. In this picture you can see that I’m ready to shoot the spray without even taking the bottle out of the holster. That saves seconds and seconds make the difference between life and death.


I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

59 comments on “Self-Defense-Against Predators: Guns NOT Recommended
  1. Calvin R says:

    Bob, I believe this is the best discussion I’ve ever seen of firearms as civilian self-defense. I agree that this also applies to situations involving predatory humans. As with four-legged predators, dangerous humans are actually pretty scarce unless a person seeks them out, as in police work or illegal activities.

    What blurs this simple set of facts in my experience is that people rely on a macho/fearful understanding of reality. The whole “conqueror” mode that comes from that attitude leads, in cities, to stolen firearms, accidental shootings, ease of suicide, and other ills.

    Thank you specifically for pointing out the necessity of thorough training and frequent refreshers for those who would use firearms. The only group I know that does that training is police officers, and even they cannot perform in reality as they do on TV. Firearms are useful for hunting, but not for self defense.

    If I can figure out how to do it, would you let me re-blog this?
    Calvin R recently posted…Emerging El Niño weather event is California’s biggest since 1997My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Calvin, you are welcome to re-post it. But I must say I don’t agree that firearms are not good for self-defense. The reason I keep a .357 is to use for self-defense in my home–which happens to be a van. I own an AR-15 “assault” rifle for self-defense. In my next post I’m going to recommend a snub-nose revolver in your pocket. They are great tools for self-defense, just not for animals. Human predators are entirely different.

    • Don says:

      I agree to disagree Calvin! As a current CCW holder in California, I feel that firearms are the smartest tool law abiding citizens can use for self defense. Also firearms here in America are a civilians last line of defense when it come to government fascism. I am well trained and carry wherever I travel, not because I’m insecure about my surroundings but because being prepared is SMART.

  2. raz says:

    pepper spray has a shelf life. 2 years for mine.

    ice cream. raz

    • Bob Bob says:

      Raz, yes, that’s true. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

    • sushidog says:

      I had no idea. I guess I’ll have to replace the 10 yr old can I have. Thanks for the info.

      I’ll tell you what though, I wouldn’t want to be hit in the face with the contents of a 20 yr old can, would you?


  3. sushidog says:

    Thanks, Bob.

    It’s a well written article that I agree with completely. UDAP is the best. I carry both, but my gun (a small .22 mag. derringer) is more of a noise maker to discourage a 4-legged predator. I would never be foolish enough to try to shoot a bear with one, unless I had exhausted my bear spray and the bear kept coming – an extremely unlikely circumstance. Then it would be at very close range – most likely the bear would be eating me, and my only hope would be a spine shot.

    Very many years ago, while bow hunting deer, I stopped a charging boar with a spine shot from my bow. It was pure luck, as I was aiming dead center at his head. But by the time my arrow crossed the 40 ft or so to the moving target he had advanced slightly. The arrow struck his spine at the shoulders and severed his spinal cord. He went down immediately, skidding not 10 ft from my feet like in the movies where Bwana Jim kills a charging elephant or rhino. Nevertheless, I would not recommend a bow for defense, as had I missed my only shot, I wouldn’t be here today. He would have surely torn me to shreds, as I had no other means of defense. This is the only time I have been attacked by an animal in the woods.

    I have even been in the water with alligators several times and never felt threatened (as they are rather docile creatures that more or less ignore you – unless you are a dog or a child, the size of their natural prey). Except for one time, when I got caught between a momma gator and her nest full of chirping chicks – in the pitch dark of night in a Louisiana swamp. That is a very dangerous place to be, but luck was with me and I quietly escaped without alerting momma of my presence.

    My tiny derringer is more to ward off predators of the 2 legged kind. It fits in a special “wallet” which has a finger hole allowing it to be fired without removing it first. The idea is then a mugger says, “Give me your wallet!”, you do so. Coming out of your pocket it appears to be a wallet, before you give him both barrels. A .22 mag may not seem like much, but it’s got the energy of a .38 – small hole in, big hole out. I don’t carry it this way anymore, because when placed in the shoot-through wallet it has been ruled an “other” firearm by the NFA, making it illegal unless properly licensed.

    It was bequeathed to me by my uncle at his passing. He purchased it after an incident he had while fishing in the Louisiana wilderness. When returning to his camp with his DW he was attacked by a mugger. The deranged druggie robbed them both, forcing his DW of 50 years to the ground and pistol whipping my elderly uncle. The mugger had him on his knees pleading for both their lives at gunpoint before deciding to spare their lives and only inflict minor harm. The psychological scars of that encounter persisted though, causing him to always be armed whenever we went out after that. I learned from his lesson and won’t be caught similarly off-guard, as an encounter such as this could easily go the other way, with no witnesses as the goal.

    That being said I am far more likely to be accosted in an urban area – merely because of the number of bad guys present. I was accosted once on the streets of New Orleans. Had I not had my gun, it I would have surely been beaten, robbed or worse. I was attacked from behind by a big, young black dude. He grabbed my shoulder and spun me around to face him, drawing back his fist as if to strike, but fortunately I had my hand on my gun at the time, (as I often do when in dangerous, crime ridden N.O. areas) and quickly drew it to discourage the attack. Seeing the weapon, he threw up his hands and backed off, ending the incident quickly and decisively. Fortunately, no one was hurt. As Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”


    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Chip. Oddly enough, in my next post I’m going to recommend people carry a snub-nose .38/.357 in their pocket mostly as a noise-maker but also as a last line of defense against predators.

      The ultralight ones are not a whole lot bigger or heavier than a derringer but more shots and more power. But the derringers are smaller and lighter so that is a very good thing.

      • sushidog says:

        For years I carried a 5 shot Charter Arms .38 Snubbie in an Uncle Mike’s ankle holster. I carried it everywhere, even to church. Then I switched to a Detonics Pocket 9. Both were loaded with Glaser safety slugs.


        • Bob Bob says:

          Sounds good sishidog. I solved the problem by not being were the bad guys were. I’d much rather have a bear every so often than the worst of humanity every day.

      • Lucy says:

        Bob, I have a question it may sound stupid though, but… would a mountain lion or a bear attack U while you are in your van, motorhome etc , or will they only try ‘ to get you ‘ when you are in the open, in their territory ??

        My regards, Lucy.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Lucy, I’m no expert on Mountain Lions but I’m sure they wouldn’t. They are a very reclusive animal, seeing one is very rare. Like all cats they rely on stealth and surprise in attacking their prey. A direct attack is much less likely than a surprise attack from above.

          Bears however, have been taught that ice chests hold food and their are stories of bears ripping cars open to get the ice chest. If you are in your van, and a bear is acting like he is going to start tearing it up–drive away fast!

          Bears very rarely pursue humans to eat them. It does happen but it really is very rare. Nearly all encounters are accidents where you just happen to run into each other and the bear has to decide right then if you are a threat to fight or flee. They almost always run away, but there are two times they might not:

          1) The bear has a kill-pile, he probably won’t leave it.
          2) A mother with cubs. Most likely she will gather up her cubs and run, but sometimes she will bluff charge to scare you off and every so often she will maul you–but that is a very low percentage.

  4. WalksLikeWolf says:

    If you did some research, you would find that the animal responsible for the most deaths, and injuries, in the US and Canada, is man’s best friend. Fear-mongering about wild animals is rather silly.

    • Bob Bob says:

      WalkslikWolf, what you are saying is true if you live in the city, but I spend 365 nights a year in the backcountry and 0 nights in the city. I’ve stood face-to-face with a mountain lions numerous bears, coyotes and rattlesnakes. I lived 45 years in Alaska where numerous people are killed or mauled every year by bears.

      I am at very low risk from dogs but at a very real risk from predators.

      One of the main goals of this website/blog is to encourage others to live the way I do and it would be very irresponsible of me how not to tell them how to stay safe doing it.

  5. Dave says:

    Bob – great post. I too am a big fan of bear spray for backcountry hiking. It’s (relatively) cheap, is lightweight so you’re more likely to actually have it with you when you need it, it’s proven to be effective on just about anything nasty you might encounter in the woods up to and including 2-legged predators, and easy to deploy in those few seconds you have available to react after you realize you’re in trouble. And, unlike a firearm, a can of spray is safer to have around if there are children present who might be inclined to play with it.

    But my favorite thing about bear spray is that it doesn’t kill or permanently injure the animal. After getting a snoot full of bear mace it will leave much wiser for the encounter and will be less likely to mess with others in the future. It’s all around better for people *and* the animals whose homes we are a guest in. Unlike using a gun, everyone gets to live!
    Dave recently posted…Photo Friday: Atlantis FritillariesMy Profile

  6. Canine says:

    I grew up 10 miles from the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Montana. My backyard was the woods. As a child I played out into the woods literally filled with Grizzlies, Mountain Lions, moose, and all sorts of scary critters. Instead of fearing wild animals, I have a great respect for them and enjoy sharing the wilderness with them.

    I prefer Counter Assault brand. It is way easier to use than a gun and more effective. I also don’t need to worry about my background or anything else around me. All I need to do is point and spray. I’m a staunch supporter of self defense including handguns yet strongly prefer bear spray.

    Another great benefit is when a bear is sprayed, it learns that humans can defend themselves smartly; future encounters will be more favorable. A sow will teach this to her cubs. If you shoot a bear and it dies, the next bear that takes over the territory does not have the knowledge of pepper spray. An educated bear will cohabitate much more safely with you. Not a lot of people appreciate teaching your bears well, but it is a great practice. Better to do that than have the authorities shoot or relocate problem bears.

  7. david says:

    Great post, Bob! Carrying a firearm in the woods can give a false sense of security. As you indicated, be alert, be prepared, don’t panic.

  8. Ming says:

    great post, and very good points. In Canada, we don’t have as many handguns as in the US so I wasn’t aware of the need for constant practice to use them safely and effectively. It does not come as a surprise though, as I’ve played around with bows and slingshots and those certainly require lots of practice.

    Martial arts have taken care of my human self-defense needs over the years, and I haven’t met an aggressive bear yet (several skittish or polite ones), and never met a cougar. I’ve had run-ins with aggressive dogs while biking, and once scared off a Rottweiler that was biting on my partner and going after my dog with a mighty kiai (yell) back in the martial arts days.

    There have been a few stories of bear maulings in BC this summer, and what struck me was the speed at which attacks happened. You have to figure that the shock factor will affect your reaction time in such situations.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Sounds good Ming! If I spent most of my time in cities I would also be more afraid of dogs than anything else.

      • Ming says:

        they were country dogs, which can be a real problem to road cyclists. I’m just saying that there are different options for self-defense that one can look into, depending on inclination and availability. I look forward to your next post to learn more from your experience.

  9. David wakefield says:

    Lots of x military and meth addicts like wilderness and are crazy also if u kill a animal for any reason u will be arrested if I dissapear so will your van and no one will care don’t trust younger strangers they are good at taking your stuff or taking I out

    • Bob Bob says:

      David, I know you are right, and I know one place in the National Forest that is known to have some mentally ill people.

      However, the number of them is tiny!! And the size of “wilderness” is huge. The odds of my running into them is so tiny, I don’t even take it into account. I’m much more concerned about being hit by lightening and am doing the same thing about both. Ignoring them.

      I’m not going to live in fear of things that are so extremely unlikely.

    • Bob Bob says:

      David, if you are poaching you will be arrested. If you are acting in self-defense you will not be.

  10. JimS says:

    I’ve heard that in the Quartzite area during the winter, a lot of fulltimers let their dogs run off-leash. Is there much truth to that and has it ever posed a threat?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jim, that is true, in fact as the RTR has grown we have quite a pack of dogs running free.

      The only problem we have had with it is with dogs peeing and pooping. But I am not aware of anyone being afraid of dogs.

  11. Very timely information for me, thank you Bob.

  12. Omar Storm says:


    Good post, thanks. Off topic, sorry. I’ll be heading to Grand Tetons NP tomorrow. If you’re around it would be great to connect.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Omar, I’m sorry, I just left! I’m in the Custer National Forest right now on my way to Sturgis, SD and the Black Hills.

  13. jackal says:

    Excellent post, as well as the two following, too.

    For what it is worth, when I flew my airplane to Alaska in the 80s, gun-control Canada required me to have a firearm on board, for survival purposes.  If I survived a crash landing, they also wanted me to survive a bear attack. Handguns are not allowed, however, a 12 gauge shotgun is the preferred weapon recommended by Canadian officials. An RCMP that I have met along the way told me that I could throw away my slugs but keep the birdshot, which is the best ammunition for blinding a bear. Just aim for the face and unload as many rounds as possible, is what he told me. I don’t know what the latest regulation is today. Perhaps they allow bear spray as substitution for a gun now. Still, I would never be comfortable in the backcountry without my Remington 870.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jackal, you can still take a long arm across Canada as long as you fill out their forms and pay them a fee. They are also now allowing you to carry bear spray. When we went through the border last year in to Canada I had a bottle setting on the dog house and when he asked about weapons I picked it up and said “Just bearspray.” He said that was fine.

      Canada has a bigger bear problem than the US or even Alaska so they allow it.

  14. Caddo Mounds says:

    Concerning bearspray: recently returned from Yosemite and Ansel Adams Wilderness. Grizzlys are no longer in Califirnia, only black bears which have become a nuisance. When I picked up my permit the ranger asked me specifically if I planned to carry bearspray and earnestly encouraged me not to do so, it being considered now to be a “weapon”. I got the impression that a person could get in real trouble for the misuse of bearspray, especially if a human is injured.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Caddo, I know this sounds weird, but in my experience Rangers are often miss-informed. That one was very dangerously wrong. Carrying a gun on your hip is perfectly legal in all National Forests and National Parks so the idea that bear spray wouldn’t be is ludicrous.

      There was just a case in Glacier NP where a guy shot a bear in self-defense. The feds charged him with unlawful discharge of a weapon. Eventually he won and the case was dismissed. The law of a “reasonable man” got him out of it and it is totally legal to carry a gun in a NP. But I’m sure he spent thousands of dollars on lawyers fees.

      Hopefully they learned their lesson and won’t do it again, but I think the idea of charges being brought for using bear spray on a bear in self-defense is extremely unlikely. On a human it’s a whole other story, but the odds of that are astronomically low.

      • Manx says:

        Hi Bob,

        Just found your site. Very informative. Not vandwelling yet, but doing research.

        As for carrying in National Parks (and NWR, National Seashores, etc.), I believe that in order to carry, you must be able to carry in the state the Park is located. In many states, that would mean having a concealed carry license. Quite a few states allow unlicensed open carry, and if that’s true for the location, you would be good to go. California would be pretty restrictive because you would have to be a CA resident to get a permit and they don’t recognize any other state’s permits.

        National Forests seem a bit more complicated. Feds have no restrictions, but some state limit carrying in NFs. I haven’t researched that enough.


        Cheers, keep up the good work!

  15. Tommy says:

    Wow, totally blown away with those photos – especially the mountain lion

  16. Jermaine English says:

    Great article! This post is very informative and the tips are really helpful. Great photos as well!

  17. Great post! Very informative. Thanks for the tips!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Kenneth, my pleasure!

      • TCDave says:

        Hi Bob. I’m new to your blog and your videos. I like them both. I was glad to see that you started the self-defense article stating that you are pro-gun. I have been wondering what folks living similar lifestyle to yours think about firearms. Do you find that your circle of friends and folks you meet tend to have similar views as yours regarding firearms? I don’t talk much about my own thoughts on the subject except to close family members. I do believe that the first and second amendments are just about two of the most important rights we have. Thanks for the great website and videos.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Thanks for writing Dave!! I would guess the majority of us are pro-gun and carry one, but of course there are many exceptions people who would never carry one. For the most part, I think we are just an average slice of America.

  18. Lee says:

    Another option to consider is a safety flare. Road flares would probably work but getting them to light on the first strike can be difficult and you won’t likely have time for a second. The marine safety flares with a simple pull string to light is best. Last summer I spent some time in Katmai National Park and was in very close proximity, 10-20ft of large grizzlies. Even a couple moms with cubs. We were with a guide and all they carry is a flare. They know the behaviors, teach about keeping eye contact and taking a knee if a bear starts to approach. It was quite an experience. I’ve spent a lot of time all over Alaska and have come across bears on trails numerous times. Never had trouble with an aggressive bear but will be keeping a flare with my on future excursions.

  19. Colin says:

    Hey Bob, do you run into any legal issues with your guns? I’m not sure how vehicular laws apply to say a pull-behind RV in a full timer situation. I’d hate to get locked up by straying into Kalifornia with a handgun in my trailer.

  20. Hey Buddy,

    Nice Post…!
    I totally agree with you….Prior training of equipment is very important. Self Defence had been a serious since long time….whether it is from animals or from criminals roaming free in our society. In both cases, awareness is the first thing that can help us.
    Your article was very well written and describes in detail the importance of self defence against predators and related issues. I am glad I came across such an informative post..!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  21. Very nice post, Bob, thanks a lot! Still, I don’t believe the only options are sprays and carrying a gun. I’m sure science has come up with some other ways to protect from predators. Do you know any?

  22. A gun offers quite a number of security benefits despite the fact that it can be quite a frightening thing.

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