Carrying Concealed While Hunting

by Trent Marsh

It's dark. You're alone.

You hear a noise to your left, not far away. It sounded like a footstep.

Are you in some dark alley, or a vacant parking lot behind the mall?

No. You're on your way to your tree stand.

Hunting typically requires getting off the beaten path. Accessing remote areas without much foot traffic is perfect when in search of game. It's also a highly desirable area for meth labs, marijuana grow operations, and in some parts of the country, illegal whiskey stills.

While you may find such an operation vacant, and be able to move on from the area, it's also important to account for the worst-case scenario. For some people these illegal operations aren't simply a hobby that provides weekend recreation, they are major moneymakers and a way of life. Any threat to those operations is a threat to them, and one they may defend violently.

During firearm season in your particular state you would always be carrying, just a long gun rather than a handgun. However, bow season may present a problem. In many states, possessing any firearm, even a properly licensed defensive handgun, may be prohibited. Some states may also have regulations that disallow carrying a round that is below the state minimum for a legal hunting rifle, even if it is your defensive handgun, not your hunting weapon.

Pressure from Second Amendment organizations is making headway against these draconian and nonsensical regulations, but in many areas, they remain on the books. As is always the case, study your local regulations to ensure that you are legally allowed to carry while hunting. In researching this article, I tried to find a comprehensive list of state-by-state regulations as they pertain to concealed carry and hunting, especially bow hunting. I was unable to find any such list, so it is important that you study your local regulations carefully, or consult your local conservation officers when determining the applicable ordinances.

If carrying while hunting is legal in your state, carrying while hunting has some special considerations you will want to keep in mind.

Most of the time, hunting clothes are considerably different than the clothes you would normally wear while carrying a concealed firearm. Multiple layers, heavier layers, and the addition of a hunting pack and hunting weapon make carrying more difficult. It will take some experimentation to find a carrying method that works for this situation. Don't wait until the last minute. Start testing carry methods now. Make sure that the weapon is carried safely, accessible, and your drawing action is repeatable and practicable.

Not only is the clothing different, so is your activity level. Safely carrying concealed can be a challenge doing normal, everyday tasks. When you start climbing tree stands, hiking through briar patches, or packing game out of the field, things can get even more complicated. It's not enough to work out a carry method with your hunting clothing, you need to get out and do hunting things while trying to carry. You're going to find things you thought worked, don't work any longer when in the field.

Carrying while hunting is no different from everyday carrying, in that the first consideration is to make sure you are first doing so legally. Once you've checked that box though, establishing a carrying method that works while hunting can be an extended trial-and-error process.

Trent Marsh is a husband, soon-to-be-father, and lifelong Hoosier. An NRA member and marketing professional in the shooting sports industry, he also serves as the Gear Editor at WildIndiana.com and as a freelance writer for titles such as Whitetails Unlimited and Shooting Sports Retailer.