Friday, March 14, 2014

Hiking, cougars & guns

One lady voiced a concern about a cougar where she hikes and thought that she ought to carry a gun but then thought that if she did she might shoot her foot.  If I had to shoot a Cougar I would wish I had my 357, however the chance of that need ever occurring is pretty remote.  Also, I don’t really carry a 22 in order to shoot a coyote.  If Ben got in trouble I would shoot into the ground hoping the noise would discourage whatever it was, and in the meantime I would run toward whatever the trouble was.  The only time something like that actually happened was shortly after we moved to San Jacinto.  Trooper may have been nine or ten and there were feral dogs at the river back then.  I didn’t know what to expect and so carried a S&W Model 19 357.  I had just finished getting my knapsack on when I noticed that Trooper had run into the midst of a feral-dog pack.  There were quite a lot of them, perhaps 20 or so.  Some of the larger ones were trying to get behind him, and he was whirling to face each one as it did.  I hurried toward them.  My other dog was a German Shorthaired Pointer who was perhaps 12 at the time and nearly deaf and blind.  When she got a whiff of the dogs she got behind me.  As I got closer to Trooper the dogs began veering away until only one dog remained, a dog that looked like a cross between a malamute and an Akita.  Finally when I was a few feet from Trooper the last dog ran off after his pack.   Trooper apparently thought that was great fun and wanted to chase them.  I told him we were going hiking in a different direction and he reluctantly followed me. 

From what I’ve read the dogs that are most at risk from coyotes are back-yard dogs, dogs that don’t get walked much and so aren’t in very good shape, and dogs that can’t get into the house to escape a predator.  I worried a bit about Duffy when he was growing up – not because of coyotes but because of owls and hawks.  I’ve seen evidence in my back yard of birds, usually pigeons, killed by something.  And also down at the river when Duffy was younger I’ve seen hawks flying above him checking him out – whether as prey or not I don’t know. 

As to guns, yeah, if you get one you should spend enough time with it so that you are comfortable and know how to use it.  I was a rifle instructor in the Marine Corps years ago and then later in Engineering at McDonnell Douglas used to go out once a week to a police pistol range for target practice with a couple of other engineers.  I don’t really practice any longer since I’d rather hike or take photos, but I’ve practiced so much in the past that hopefully I won’t be totally inept if I ever have to use one.  On the other hand even if one is extremely well-practiced things can go wrong.   People very experienced with guns sometimes make mistakes.

We are perhaps entering more the realm of psychology than the true danger of guns, coyotes, and cougars.  People have relatively different views of risk, danger and prudence.  I used to ride a motorcycle back and forth to work when I worked at McDonnell Douglas and later Boeing.  I would ride on the San Diego Freeway down between the lanes day after day rain or shine.  I had countless people warn me of the risk I was taking.  Some assured me that I would definitely die on the freeway.  I gave my last motorcycle to my son when I retired.  He road for a few years but lost his after a divorce.  Now he drives an SUV and I drive a Jeep.  But if I collected all the articles about motorcycle deaths people put on my desk while I was riding I could have filled a very large scrapbook.  Does this have more to say about me, or the people who clipped out the articles for me. 

To avoid shooting your foot, just remember not to pull the trigger until you get it out of the holster and are aiming at something you really want to hit. 

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