In my last post I explained the reasons I don’t recommend firearms for self-defense against predators, so, if guns are a bad idea, what is a good idea? These are my recommended methods of self-defense
Bear Spray: Without doubt bear spray is the best defense against bears and any other four-legged predator. If you buy the one I recommend that comes with a chest holster, it is very light, very easy to carry, takes almost no practice, and is very unlikely to make the situation worse. There are many common myths about bear spray but let me assure you they have all been disproven and in Alaska it has been repeatedly tested in real life bear attacks and it is by far the very best choice. There have been enough attacks prevented with it to be certain that you are safer with bear spray than with a firearm. This is the one I recommend from Amazon.com because the owner of the company was himself mauled by a bear so he made the bear spray for himself. I’ve been carrying them for over 8 years and even shot off a whole can to be sure it worked. Highly recommended: Super Magnum Bear Spray with Chest holster
It comes with an excellent chest holder that allows you to wear it in the best possible position for nearly instant access. The holster is large enough and is somewhat stretchable so that while wearing it you can aim and fire it from your chest without even needing to pull it out of the holster. That makes it the very fastest and easiest defensive tool to use and that’s more important than anything.
Pocket Bear Spray: UDAP, the company that makes the bear spray with a holster that I recommend is selling a small version that goes on your key chain, I’m carrying it now as well and will also be a very good thing against human predators. Get it from Amazon here: Pepper Spray w/ Key Chain This is the hottest formula we have ever found.
Knives: I highly recommend you always carry a knife large enough to seriously hurt an animal. Most of us are much more likely to be attacked by a neighbor’s dog than we are to be attacked by a wild animal and a knife is a good weapon against a dog or coyote but it’s also better than nothing against a Mountain Lion or a Bear. Bear-spray is by far better, but there will certainly be times when you don’t have it with you. Almost all of us can put a knife in our pocket (the bigger the better but it has to be something you are willing to carry 100% of your life) and have it with us whenever we have our pants on. Getting some training would be good but not necessary.
Most of us can slash with a knife instinctively and just try to remember to go for the throat, eyes or mouth. I had a small pocket knife with me when I ran into the Mountain Lion and it was in my hand the whole walk home. I usually carry a Kershaw automatic knife but that was one of the rare times when it wasn’t with me; I had changed pants and not switched the knife. It’s made by Kershaw so it’s high quality but very inexpensive. Mine is an automatic—because seconds count and my right arm is too damaged to flick a knife. They are legal in most of the states and Canada and it’s what I recommend to you. Find it on Amazon here: Kershaw Folding Serrated SpeedSafe Automatic Knife
Spears: I know that’s going to sound very weird to you, but millions of animals have been killed by spears including many predators who were attacking the spear holder. They are a tremendously effective weapon, especially against Mountain Lions! A mountain lion is most likely to leap down at you from above or come at you from behind. Your only hope is to have a weapon in your hand that can be instantly be pointed at the Lion. A spear fits the bill perfectly. All you have to do is get turned toward the leaping Lion, raise the spear toward it and let it land on the spear. As you fall under the Lion’s weight the butt of the spear will hit the ground and be pointed up. The weight of the Lion will impale itself through the spear, killing it. Sometimes ancient technology is the very best!
I told you about my possible encounter with a Mountain Lion near Yosemite and as long as I was in that area I always carried a spear with me. You’re probably wondering why I just happened to have a spear in the truck! In fact I didn’t have one, but what I did have is a Cold Steel Bushman knife. It’s a unique knife that is designed with a hollow handle specifically so it can be turned into a spear. I was carrying a dowel with me so I whittled the end down to fit snugly into the handle. The handle has a hole in it so you can drive a screw through it and into the dowel to secure it in place. I did that and it’s very strong.
I never saw or heard from the Lion again so I have no idea if it would have worked, but I felt much better carrying it. It was light and balanced enough that I wasn’t bothered by having it in my hands in the least—it became a very natural part of my walk. I even thought there was probably some way I could turn it into a walking staff. As I walked I went through in my mind what I would do if a Lion attacked and would even practice bringing it into position to develop muscle memory. I honestly believe it would have worked. The Cold Steel Bushman is an incredible knife for the price—the best available. See an astounding test of it as a spear here: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2014/06/10/knifetest-com-cold-steel-bushman-extreme-spear-test/ and as a knife here: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2014/06/03/knifetests-com-cold-steel-bushman-destruction-test/. They actually destroyed the knife but what they had to go through to do it is unbelievable. Buy it from Amazon here: Cold Steel Bushman Knife-Spear head
Handguns: While I don’t recommend carrying a gun as defense against a bear or Lion, however, I do recommend it for defense against coyotes, dogs or snakes. While I have no fear for my safety from coyotes, I do have fear for Cody from coyote and dog attacks. He could be running in the woods or desert and run into them or he could be lured out to them, or he could even chase one into a trap. There is only one thing I can do to prevent any of that, and that’s to scare them away and the best way to do that is with a gun. I never expect to be close enough to a coyote to use any other weapon against them, but they all have heard gunfire before and I bet most of them have been shot at.
My plan is to carry my .357 in its chest holster (or maybe even get an ultra-light snub-nose .357 revolver to carry in my pants pocket) and whenever I think we are being stalked by a coyote I’m going to fire a shot or two near them. It’s not a very accurate weapon at a distance, and I’m not a good shot, so there is no way I’m ever going to hit one, therefore I won’t even try. I only want to scare them away, never kill them.
Could an air horn work? Possibly, but I think a handgun would be better. With a handgun it’s a sound they know and terrifies them and then there is also the very distinctive sound of the bullet whizzing by. Finally, there is the impact of the bullet in a tree or the ground nearby–that’s truly scary! Plus, the revolver can be used as a last-resort weapon in many circumstances while an air horn is only good for making a loud noise. Oddly, a snub-nose revolver would probably even be easier to carry. Get an air horn from Amazon here: Falcon Safety Super Sound Air Horn
Snakes are another reason to carry a handgun. Numerous times I’ve come across snakes on my walks, and twice I was just a few feet away because they failed to rattle and warn me. Because all my encounters have been far from camp, I left them alone. But I’ve had two friends who had snakes set up residence right in their camps and they had to kill them for their own safety (one cooked and ate it). You can get snake shot for the .357 which is perfect for snakes.
Walking Poles: I’m a big fan of Walking/Trekking poles, especially if there are any uphills or downhills on your path because they can protect your knees and build up your upper body strength. But they can also be used for self-defense, especially against dogs if you are in the city. One common piece of advice if you are ever face-to-face with a bear or mountain lion is to hold your hands over your head and make yourself as big as you can. By waving walking poles over your head, you make yourself look bigger and less appealing to the bear or lion. As a last resort you can use it as a poor spear.
Another use for walking sticks is to swing them in front if you to alert snakes that you are nearby so they will rattle, or to poke bushes to alert snakes of your presence. Black Diamond makes some of the best, get them from Amazon here: Black Diamond Trail Back Walking Pole
Whistle: Long ago I got in the habit of always having a whistle on the necklace I wear around my neck with a spare vehicle key. If I’m in bear country I use it to warn bears that I’m coming by blowing on it often as I walk. Eliminating the chance to surprise them is the single best thing yo can do to prevent a problem before it happens. This is the one I own from Amazon: Adventure Medical Rescue Whistles
So here is what I’m trying to do:
- On 100% of my walks, if there is a chance of bears being in the area I intend to carry bear spray. It has every advantage and no disadvantages. It’s cheap, safe, effective, easy to use and easy to carry. It’s foolish to fail to carry it on every trip into the backcountry.
- I’ll always have my Kershaw folding, automatic knife in my pocket.
- If I have any reason to believe coyotes are in the area (usually you can hear or see them) I’ll wear the .357 in its chest holder or slip the snub-nose .357 in my pocket. Because I have an Arizona Concealed Carry Permit I may even try to get in the habit of carrying it more often for two-legged predators.
- I’ll start checking with the Forest Service to see if there have been many Mountain Lion sightings in the area, and if there have been I’ll carry my Bushman spear.
- I always have my whistle with me.
I think this is a fairly balanced and reasonable approach. It uses methods specifically aimed at specific animals and is very easy to use and carry—which means it is something I might consistently do long term. And that’s the most important thing of all.
Super Magnum Bear Spray with Chest holster
Pepper Spray w/ Key Chain This is the hottest formula we have ever found.
Kershaw Folding Serrated SpeedSafe Automatic Knife
Cold Steel Bushman Knife-Spear Head
Falcon Safety Super Sound Air Horn
Adventure Medical Rescue Whistles
Black Diamond Trail Back Walking Pole