I know this is coming nearly 8 years after the first comment, but here is my take on carrying a sidearm while hiking and the accounting of three nearly deadly encounters where I had to use a firearm. My upbringing and life experiences have molded how I go into the bush here in Oregon. I no longer hunt, at least not since my last combat tour.
I have been stomping around the hills, forests and mountains of Oregon since I was old enough to walk on my own, or nearly 60+ years. When I began hunting with my father in the early 1960's, I began carrying a sidearm. We usually carried them as a weapon to use to give a wounded animal the coup de grace. As an young adult, after spending nearly 27 years in the military (1967-1994), with one combat tour, where my issued weapon was either the Colt M-1911 .45cal or the Beretta M-92 9mm pistol. Since then a sidearm has just been part of my hiking kit, along with the first aid kit, extra food, water and other survival items needed for an extended period in the bush.
During my years stomping around the wild-lands, I have had to use my sidearm during three near deadly encounters with the big predators found here in Oregon. My first experience with a big predator, was when I went out with my father, a state game officer and a group of hunters to track down and kill a bear that and been wounded by an out of state hunter. A hunter who did not track and finish off the wounded animal. The party was made up of three police officers and 11 hunters, counting me. The bear had mauled the state hunter who went out to track it down after the bear killed some livestock. The hunting party cornered it and we shot it. With a severe systemic infection and gangrene already set in, the meat could not be salvaged and used.
So, here are the accounts of my encounters with the big predators of Oregon:
First was when a wounded black bear charged the group I was with near Ten Mile Lake in 1974. A bear had stepped into a 'coon trap and when we crossed up wind of it, it charged us. We were forced to kill this animal at a very close range, about 25-30 feet, if we had hesitated one of us could have been mauled or worse. The weapon I was using was a revolver in .357 caliber. We did not let the animal go to waste by leaving it where it fell, one of the group members had a valid bear tag, so we tagged the animal and divided the meat amongst us. After the encounter I was shaking like a leaf
The second encounter was during a hike to Cat Mountain in the Umpqua National Forest. This encounter was with another black bear. This one was a mature male and it began a threat display and did several short mock charges. I had a hill to my rear and no climbable trees near by. The trail was lined by thick salal and rhododendron. My weapon on that day was my revolver, the distance from the animal was nearly 100 yards at first contact. When the bear came to within ~50 yards I fired my first shot, placing it into a stump by the tail. The next mock charge I placed a round into the dry debris in the trail in front of it, spraying dirt and wood splinters into its face, it then broke and went down into the canyon on the south side of the trail. A side trail, on the north side, led down to the road, before dropping down to the road, I checked the area for blood, to insure that I had not hit the animal.
The third and final encounter in the wild was during a hike near June Mountain, this hike I was alone with my dog, as we were following a road back to my p/u, we came upon a rock overhang. If it had not been for my dog's growl and my sudden alertness, I might not have noticed the movement on top of the big rock. A large male puma was getting ready to pounce. I assumed that the target was my dog not me, as he was ahead of me by a couple of yards. I was carrying a Beretta M-96 .40 caliber pistol as my emergency weapon. I stepped back, drew my pistol and placed a round into the face of the rock. The cat came off the ground and did a 180 and was gone back into the brush south of the road. I like to say, when I tell people of the encounter, that the cat did not stop until it reached Douglas County to the south.
I have had two big cats in my yards both in Drain and Roseburg. The one in Roseburg was of the most concern, as there were a bunch of kids playing basketball in the cul-de-sack in front of the house. It was after dark and I had just returned hoe from grocery shopping. I carried a coupe of bags in, then turned on the porch light. I then noticed the puma laying in my yard about 15-20 feet from the porch. I went back in, and got my magnum, I first picked up a big rock that was by my rock saw and threw it the cat yelling at it to scram. It just rolled back and stared at me, the second rock hit the animal, a Tom, it got up and lazily walked across my yard and the neighbor's, then disappeared in the overgrown stream bed on the other side of her property. At least I did not have to fire on that cat.
As for bear sprays, I found that the 2% capsaicin did not work all that good or at least on the bear we sprayed with it. It licked its muzzle off and acted like, it liked the stuff. The only deterrent spray that I have used with effect was the can of MACE that my father gave me. This was the old MACE that was made with the CN gas component, as used by the police back in the 1960's and 70's, during the antiwar and race riots. It took just a brief shot and the bear was stopped as if it had run into a brick wall. It went crashing through the brush away from us, could not use a sidearm during that encounter, we were visiting Yosemite NP at the time.
Have yet to have an untoward encounter with other human forest users. While on my log cross country bike rides (30-50 miles), I have defended against feral dogs and one pack of coyotes. Have only had to kill a feral dog once and it was charging me. Of the encounters that I have had, there were probably a dozen or more times these big predators where nearby, but I never saw them. I am now just shy my 70th B'day and I still get out as I can, I still carry a sidearm when in the bush, the biggest threat near where I live is more from the feral dogs, than the big tree predators in Oregon.
Thank you for letting me share these experiences. If you are contemplating carrying a sidearm during hikes, you need to be extremely alert to your surroundings, you need to be well trained in its use and in marksmanship, I qualified as an expert in my issued weapons. If you need to fire such a weapon, you need to be sure of the surroundings, where are all the members of your party, a bullet can travel nearly tree quarters of a mile and still be potentially lethal. During an encounter you cannot dither, you have to act 'right now.' You have to act as if it is second nature, an extension of your consciousness, so to speak. My initial firearms training was by our local Chief of Police, then the ongoing training in the military and refined during my last combat tour.
//es//An Avid Outdoors Lady.