View Full Version : Packing Heat in the Park

01-02-2012, 04:29 PM
I just started fly fishing two years ago and I love to read everyone's posts. I read an older post regarding those who legally carry a handgun for protection while fishing and camping in the park and I am curious how many forum members elect to carry while fishing. I realize this may be an odd "first post" but i am just starting to fish the back country waters and I wanted to see what the prevailing thought is. Thanks in advance for your replies and for tolerating me as a new by.

Don Kirk
01-02-2012, 04:42 PM
I would rather be tried by twelve than carried by six.

01-02-2012, 06:55 PM
I'll say I have been in violation of the Reg. in the past.

01-02-2012, 07:42 PM
I think that if you have a state carry permit you can legally carry in the park but I'm not certain.

01-02-2012, 10:57 PM
I carry everywhere...Fishing, church, grocery shopping... There are cazy people out there, and things are only getting worse. As far as I know, you must have a North Carolina or Tenn carry permit. I do not think reciprosity (not sure of that spelling) from other states is tolerated in the national park.

01-02-2012, 11:05 PM
If you have a carry permit from any State you can carry in the Park. You must abide by that particular states laws concerning the carry.

01-03-2012, 10:18 AM
Here is a link to the regs:

01-03-2012, 12:41 PM
I have a NC concealed carry permit and I legally carry my 1911 model .45 ACP everywhere that I fish.

Thankfully the NC Gameland carry laws recently changed. Until a month or so ago, we were limited to carrying a .22

01-03-2012, 12:47 PM
Hooked On Fly Fishing
You've opened a topic of much great debate. I "carry", also, a canister of COUNTER ASSAULT bearspray! My 12 ga. with 00 buckshot and slugs is too bulky to carry fishing (:>). I do support the right to bear arms but after working in the Shoshone Forest in Wyoming I have reservations about using them.

First I'd stick with my shotgun-Any target with probably die laughing at my accuracy and effectiveness, with a handgun. (I'm not Matt Dillon and things happen fast). The past couple summers, in the Greater Yellowstone, I've seen people making risky choices due to a false sense of security, because they are carrying. "Playing Cowboy". Studies show with Grizzly attacks, Bear spray is almost 100% as a deterant, when a firearm was used there was only around 50% effectiveness.

Second, In Montana last fall , one guy shot and killed his partner in the confusion during a bluff charge by a Griz. I like a Non-lethal and extremely effective alternative. As I was told by our NFS L.E.O., Bear Spray is extremely effective on People, dogs, etc. I know of cases where it has been used on Buffalo and Moose.

Although, again, support a person's right to carry. I, personally, just have to question the effectiveness of hand gun vs. spray in almost any scenerio we might encounter fishing in the park.

01-03-2012, 02:48 PM
i usually have bear spray---if you actually fired a large calibre handgun or shotgun in the park,not only would it deter a bear,but would also serve as a signal that would draw nearby park rangers,as well as, freak out all those classic city folks,who populate the "Quiet Walkways"in the park.

Jim Casada
01-03-2012, 03:28 PM
Lauxier--I don't know about drawing "nearby park rangers," since in my experience they are mighty scarce on the ground in the backcountry. In fact, the Park presently has what I consider a singularly misguided proposal to start charging backcountry camping fees with the questionably justification being it will fund two rangers to cover the backcountry. Anyone who knows the backcountry intimately will instantly realize that two rangers cannot come anywhere close to patrolling the whole area, checking designated campsites, or the like.
I suspect most people who do much fishing away from the main travel corridors will have an experience similar to mine; I've been checked exactly twice in the last quarter century (and both times it was on lower Deep Creek, just inside the Park, by a N. C. Wildlife guy--they have authority in the Park).
Jim Casada

01-03-2012, 03:53 PM
Strangely enough Mr. Casada, until last Fall, I had only been checked once in 34 years within the Park. Last Fall, I was checked twice in one week.

Jim Casada
01-03-2012, 04:02 PM
Kytroutman--Good, because I would like more of this. However, I bet the odds are mighty good that you were somewhere in the frontcountry or close to a trailhead.
Jim Casada

01-03-2012, 04:10 PM
You are correct. Middle Prong and Tremont

01-03-2012, 04:53 PM
They tried to check me by the road last year but I was we'll down the trail by the time they stopped the patrol car and got out.

01-04-2012, 10:03 AM
Never been checked anywhere in all the years I've been fishing! Just wait- I'll accidently do something wrong and officers will come from the four points of the compass!
The fee for two backcountry rangers- Let's see- two rangers and 500,000 acres leaves each ranger with 250,000 acres to cover. Piece of cake! Just hope they can walk fast.

01-04-2012, 12:01 PM
My wife and I hiked the Chimneys on New Years Eve and on our way down we came across a group of people where a lady had fallen on the the slick ice and apparently broken an ankle. Her situation was compounded by the fact that they laid her down in the snow and ice and so they had to wrap her in an emergency blanket and even then she was shivering badly. By the time we got back to to the trailhead we had passed (in order) 2 rangers walking solo up to the accident, a group of 5 rangers with search and rescue and a stretcher on a a giant wheel, followed by a pair of two more rangers. At the trailhead there were at least 7 park service vehicles, an ambulance, and at least 4 or more rangers manning the parking lot.

The whole thing reminded me of the guy who broke his ankle in 2 places on deep creek (was that last spring) and walked out 5 miles with his 50 pound plus pack without any additional help...

Anyway the whole thing seemed like a waste and overuse of resources. I mean, they didn't need all of those people there to get the one lady out. nevermind the fact that there were a ton of people hiking on the trail that day, and very few seemed prepared for the fact that about .8 miles of the 1.1 miles up from the Road Prong trail (the steepest portion) were covered in ice. Very few people were wearing footwear that would protect or at least somewhat support their ankles, many were in shorts and shortsleeves with no outerwear, and I even saw one guy walking up the icy portion with a baby in a baby carrier on his back!

Yet it is the back country campers who need to be paying more?

01-04-2012, 12:22 PM
Yet it is the back country campers who need to be paying more?

NDuncan...my wife and I hiked the rich mtn loop on the 30th, and for the short period of time we were in cades cove, I counted 8 different rangers, most of which were dealing directly with auto-traffic.

Once again...."Yet it is the back country campers who need to be paying more?"

Sorry for getting off topic. I had wanted to share that for several days.

01-04-2012, 12:27 PM
NDuncan, your post reminds me of the family portrayed on a Hunter Education video. Mom, Dad, Junior, dog went hiking for a distant mountain peak. Totally unprepared! Hikers told them to watch the weather as some dark coulds were moving in. To end the story- below freezing temps, deep snow. Only the dog survived.

01-04-2012, 12:45 PM
The fee for two backcountry rangers- Let's see- two rangers and 500,000 acres leaves each ranger with 250,000 acres to cover. Piece of cake! Just hope they can walk fast.

They will most likely stick to the trails so it's really only 450 miles per ranger. With that ranger breaking that new record of doing the whole Smokies in 17 hours or something they might be breeding new super rangers:eek:

450 miles is only 17 marathons:biggrin: - they should have that knocked out by noon, so should have plenty of time to stop poaching of wildlife and resources;)

I really think the extra rangers are really only being staffed to help combat the dwindling numbers of people in the backcountry:smile:

01-04-2012, 12:58 PM
NDuncan, your post reminds me of the family portrayed on a Hunter Education video. Mom, Dad, Junior, dog went hiking for a distant mountain peak. Totally unprepared! Hikers told them to watch the weather as some dark coulds were moving in. To end the story- below freezing temps, deep snow. Only the dog survived.

As the afternoon went on, I started telling people that were just starting up the trail what they were in for, and some decided that they were going to do the hike another day. I wouldn't start a 4 mile round trip hike at 3:30 in the afternoon when the sun sets at 5:30 and I know there is going to be about .8 miles of ice to hike on and I have no jacket, no long pants, nothing but a bottle of water, etc.... but that's just me. Some people were going to do it anyway and some turned back. I don't know if they made it all the way up, but I bet some ended up hiking in the dark or at least semi-dark.

Instead of a backcountry fee for camping, there should just be a large fee for needing to be bailed out in the backcountry. And an 'idiot tax' on top of that.

01-04-2012, 01:49 PM
There is a group of folks who have started a site and a blog about the backcountry camping fee and are actively working to try and stop it over here:

There has been a lot of stories about it here in the Knoxville area. One fellow has filed a freedom of information act to try and get the park to produce the results of the 1500+ public comments they got. I don't think the park wants to do that it is a good bet the vast majority were major negative on the whole thing. There is also a site here which has links to people folks can contact if they oppose the fee:

Jim Casada
01-04-2012, 03:35 PM
Adam and a number of others have done stellar work in fighting this onerous fee proposal and in making an effort to enhance public awareness. As a number of you obviously realize, it is misguided at best as well as being based on a false premise (that the backcountry is overcrowded). In truth, backcountry camping declined quite dramatically after peaking many ago and has remained pretty much level now for over a decade. Outside the AT shelters, and to a lesser extent camps where horses are permitted (and that's a whole 'nother can of worms), backcountry campsites are anything but overcrowded.
Jim Casada

01-04-2012, 04:46 PM
Nathan I really enjoyed the story about all the resources used to "rescue" the lady with the broken ankle. Seems like a lot of overkill. I have a friend who I hike with from time to time that was lost in the park several years back for 4 days. He ended up finding his own way out and back to his car but by then it was a big news story and the park had towed off his car so he had to hitch a ride to the nearest ranger station. Once there the media and all the park reps were waiting for him. He asked the nps personnel if he could change clothes before talking to the media and they told him they would rather he didn't clean up before talking to the media. Obviously a dirty ragged looking rescue victim makes for better news coverage.

01-04-2012, 06:18 PM
Not sure, but if memory serves me correctly, when the back country fees were originally proposed, it had something to do with the terrible condition that some folks were leaving their campsites, as in refuse on the ground, small trees chopped down, and that sort of thing. Don't remember where I read that. It might have been on the GSMNP website.

Don't really think a fee would stop people from doing those stupid things, but it might help offset the costs of having someone else come in and clean it up, if that indeed was the intent.

Jim Casada
01-04-2012, 06:56 PM
Whitefeather--While that was an sort of subsidiary part of the justification, the Park's primary contention was an outright falsehood; namely, that the backcountry was overcrowded. Their own campsite reservation data readily disproved that claim, and they further compromised their position, at least in my view, by basing this on apparently undocumented "complaints" as opposed to hard evidence observed by rangers. The simple truth is that rangers of today seldom venture into the backcountry, a sharp contrast with those of yesteryear.
As for messy campsites, it has been my experience, stretching over a lot of years in the Park, that when you see a really messy campsite it almost invariably is linked with the horse crowd. I'm not condemning all of those who use horses in the backcountry, but I do firmly believe that two things are obvious: (1) Horse camps are messier, smellier, and generally less appealing that others and (2) Horses do a great deal of environmental damage to trails, plants, and in general.
However, the horse "lobby" is apparently a powerful one, because I've written to four or five superintendents over the years on this issue and invariably get a response couched in "they use the Park too" terms without any response whatsoever to environmental concerns.
Jim Casada

01-04-2012, 07:01 PM
As far as the original post, Packing Heat In The Park, I will add these comments. First of all, I do take my .45 or 9mm with me when I go to the park. I usually camp at one of the front country sites. If I hike into the back country to do some fishing I take one or the other with me, not so much for protection against wildlife, but for protection against wild people. I've met a few, but managed to avoid them. Best policy, I think. I also carry bear spray, which I think would be more effective than a firearm under sudden surprise by a bear. Carrying a firearm, if you've been trained, and smart about it demands a high degree of situational awareness. Unfortunately, that runs very contrary to my reason for being there to begin with. I want to absorb myself with the sights and sounds of the forest, the stream, the smell of the trees, and all those good things. I am there to get lost in nature and focus on trying to remember what to do to get Mr. or Mrs. Trout to strike my fly. I don't want a dreaded scenario processing in the back of my mind about what I would do if I meet a bear or a methmaker back in the woods. So that thought process automatically diminishes my concentration and enjoyment of fishing. I don't always take my firearm with me. Maybe I should, but the added weight of a fully loaded .45 1911A1 on my hip is a huge physical reminder that doesn't let me slip fully into that place in my mind, I go when I trout fish.

01-04-2012, 07:15 PM

I've seen first hand the damage that has been done by the horseman and their steeds. Some parts of the trails I observed, especially the ones that cross creeks, stand out. There was as much damage to the creek beds, creek banks, plants, and trees, as if a dozen wild boar had just visited, rooting up the place. Not to mention people resting their horses in the larger streams during the warm months, presumably allowing them to drink, and urinate, and poop in the streams. I have found though, on many occasions, these were rather inexperienced people who had rented their horses at the liveries in the park. And I have seen my share of horseman's camps and I understand exactly what you are talking about. These rude practices could be minimized by people, but most just don't seem to care.

I really am wary of any management that includes deceit in their reasoning process, no matter what the subject. The whole idea of back country fees did not appeal to me in the least, not so much because of the money, but because of the hassle and future possibility of escalation into something more undesirable in the future.

01-04-2012, 08:26 PM
I have been checked once in 30,or so,years.I was not aware the ranger numbers were so low..I am a pro firearm person..I suppose it comes down to that great scene in the movie "Unforgiven"(Clint's awesome western)...
Clint blows away "Skinney" (a guilty lowlife)
The Sheriff can't believe it,He says "That man was unarmed!!"
Clint.."Well that man should have armed himself".......(Now that's entertainment)

Jim Casada
01-04-2012, 08:45 PM
Lauxier--I don't have numbers on rangers today as opposed to say two or three decades ago, but I think much of the seldom check issue focuses on decisions out of Sugarlands. The rangers patrol the frontcountry, period, and you see Crown Vics rather than what was once commonplace, a ranger on foot in remote areas.
I have mentioned this to both Steve Moore and Matt Kulp and they both would love to see more anglers checked. I just don't think it is a priority, and I really don't think backcountry campsites are either.
Maybe I'm seeing hobgoblins where they don't exist, but like Whitefeather I'm "wary of management that includes deceit in their reasoning process" and I fear this backcountry camping fees proposal is but one step towards bureaucratic extraction of a lot of money. I hope I'm wrong.
Jim Casada

01-05-2012, 10:28 AM
I also have a carry permit. I was happy when they allowed carrying in the park because for me it meant I no longer had to always remove my firearm from my car if I planned a trip in or through the park. Now I don't have to think about it. I don't often carry in the mountains because in the backcountry I rarely see any people.

However that said, this past Saturday my wife and I were doing a 12 mile hike (some off trail too) up to Mt. Cammerer fire tower. We started out at Davenport Gap 8 am. Anyone who hikes a lot in the Smokies knows this can be a questionable area to park. We were the only car there. We made it up the AT about a mile when we ran into 2 dirty looking fellers coming around a bend and wearing backpacks. The thing that surprised me was they were both carrying huge 5 gallon buckets with lids on them lined with plastic that I could see coming out of the lids. Looked very heavy. One guy was wearing a headlamp too even though it had been light for an hour by then. It all happened so fast my street smarts slipped and I very stupidly said something like "must be hard hiking with those heavy buckets". Now after it came out of my mouth I wanted to kick myself. They said they were hiking from newfound gap and they had extra food in the big buckets. They sure sounded like they were local to Cosby area to me. We talked briefly and went on up the trail. I couldn't help but wonder if they had marked some ginseng and were just harvesting or something. Could have been food but they sure didn't eat much of it hauling those heavy buckets all the way from Newfound gap they looked full still. I didn't have a firearm but that was one time I wish I had one although luckily they went on about their business and we went on up the mountain.

01-05-2012, 01:09 PM
Poachers? Or bucket biologists?

01-05-2012, 02:41 PM
John they could have been just carrying tons of extra food but I personally don't think know. They were on the AT near Davenport gap and there is no real trout streams in that area that I know of so I don't think they were bucket biologists. And I didn't hear water splashing in the buckets. Just kind of a scary situation.

01-06-2012, 03:03 PM
Poachers? Or bucket biologists?

Or meth mules! You just never know! Adam, glad and your Mrs. were able to go ahead and enjoy yourself on your hike without incident.

Rog 1
01-06-2012, 04:27 PM
The whole system in the Park has gone 180 degrees....when I first began fishing there more years ago than I care to admit protection of the resources and enforcement of the rules were of primary concern...my relatives always drove home that you always had a license and an infraction of the regulations would surely lead to a fine, confiscation of my equipment and even being banished from the Park for a year...I would always bump into a ranger while fishing the back country and whenever I did see one I would have my license checked as well as my creel. I have been camping both in the back country and the campgrounds for 50 years without any problems. Then last summer my buddy and I got a note that we had left an empty 6 pack cooler under our trailer....this while the camper next to us was dumping dishwater on the ground after every meal. The next day one of the camp hosts paid us another friendly visit to inspect us for further violations. The following evening two uniformed enforcement rangers pulled up to our site and "informed" us that a problem had been reported to them about violations at our site...they proceeded to "eye" our campsite and peer into our car....then this past fall I reported to the "rangers" in the office at Elkmont that there was a bait fisherman just above the bridge...instead of walking down to the river all three of the "rangers" began a debate about whether they should call in an enforcement ranger...and the list goes on...once again common sense seems to be a commodity of the past.

Jim Casada
01-06-2012, 05:22 PM
Rog 1--"The Park has gone 180 degrees." Amen, brother, tell it like it is.
I've fished and backpacked in the Park for a full 60 years. For the first four decades or so of that period I regularly saw rangers in the backcountry. Men like Bill Rolen, Buford Messer, Joe Ashley, and Bud Cantrell. They were hardworking, common sense guys and fellows who had roots in the region. They cared about the Park and they understood how to deal with people.I suspect forum participants from the Tennessee side with roots in the area can name similar individuals.
Sad as it is to say, I think a lot of today's rangers have lost that "feel" for how to deal with people, and there's no doubt whatsoever that the backcountry is pretty much off the radar (other than on Ditmanson's spread sheet as a source of money from campers).
Like you, I have pointed out obvious violations and have either been ignored or a bystander to a debate aong the lines of "Can I do anything?" It's perplexing and by no means a good sign. Crown Vic cowboys just aren't my kind of ranger. I prefer a man or woman with feet on the ground, a willingness to venture off of asphalt, and a good dose of practicality. Having local roots doesn't hurt, I might add.

Jim Casada

01-06-2012, 05:27 PM
Being a ranger in the GMSNP: Go to the Y and check for fishing licenses and treble hooks. :rolleyes:

01-22-2012, 01:56 PM
I am a Law Enforcement Officer in my state. I can tell you that I do not venture very far with out my Firearm, nor would I if I were civilian. I do not carry my firearm in the back country to ward off wildlife, I have a cook pot for that. I carry it to ward off evil, there is way too much of it out there and the percentage of seeing it in our everyday lives keeps getting higher.

On a side note, I am the guy who walked the 5 miles on Deep Creek with a double ankle fracture on Deep Creek. If I would have stopped and let my wife go for help, by the time the needs were gathered it would have been dark. It was better for me to tough through it rather than take a chance of taking resources from another possible emergency. We made pretty **** good time but I paid for it with 3 months of convalescence.

Jim Casada
01-22-2012, 04:21 PM
Drugcop4--Thanks for input from a professional on the gun matter, and your Deep Creek experience touched a responsive chord. I think I tell the story of a similar experience in my book on the Park, but whether or not that is the case here it is.

A good many years ago my wife, daughter, and me were camped at Bumgardner Branch, which is about three miles or a bit more from the lower trailhead. We set up camp in late morning and once everything was shipshape I headed out around Bumgardner Bend for a day of fishing. As those of you familiar with the stream will know, this involves the better part of a day's fishing.

I got back not long before dusk and was surprised not to smell food cooking or see a fire going. I jokingly said, as I entered the campsite, "where's supper?" My daughter, who was 10 0r 12 at the time, came running out and yelled "Mommy's hurt."

Sure enough Ann had slipped on dry pine needles and, as it turned out, broken her ankle. We had a decision to make. I could head out for help, knowing it would be 10 or later by the time I reached the ranger station and almost certainly after midnight before help got back, or we could spend the night and assess things in the morning. I left the decision to Ann and she opted for the latter.

I helped her hobble to the creek about every hour and soak the ankle in the cold water until she couldn't stand it, then would help her back to the tent. The next morning she decided she would give it a try at walking out. I shaped a rough crutch for her and was able to draw on local knowledge to make things a bit easier. Rather than taking the trail which makes a pretty decent climb out of Bumgardner Branch and thens drops down to the old turnaround, we took the old trail which involved fording the creek twice but was flat, easy going. I would carry my pack a couple of hundred yards, put it down, and come pack and get her pack and help her along. Our daughter carried her own little pack and lent moral support.

By great good fortune about the time we got to the upper end of the old Jenkins Fields (last bridge crossing the stream) we met my parents out for a walk. Dad would have been close to eighty at the time but he was amazingly fit. He hefted Ann's pack and carried it the rest of the way out.

A couple of visits to the hospital (one in Bryson City and a second after we returned to our home), weeks in a walking cast, and the healing hands of time told the rest of the tale.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

01-22-2012, 09:19 PM
380 KelTec here, light weight.... cheap.... and packs a good punch.

I like to look around every so often, animals and people can be on top of you before you know it, due to the noise of the water. A lot of would be wrong doers will back down once eye contact is made at a distance.

2 cents worth. ;)

01-23-2012, 12:01 AM
@ Jim; Thank you for the story and I wish I would have known a better path out. I can tell you that up and down those hill on that "Horse Trail" with all of the loose rocks and snags had me hollering expletives often. I opted to not soak my foot when we were near the stream (not often) for fear that it would worsen the pain. I was right because when we arrived at the trail head I soaked it and pain started to become unbearable. The 1.5 hour drive to Mt. Leconte Hospital was unbearable.

@ Knik; I am more worried about people than wildlife. I don't see many bear attacks on prepared people. Not to mention the .380 would just piss off a bear. All I can tell you is to make sure you are well trained in shooting in stressful conditions. I tell you this from experience when it comes to exchanging gunfire.

01-24-2012, 02:32 AM
Because I have a Commercial Use Authorization for guiding in the park, I cannot carry a concealed weapon. Even though, more likely than not, I'll be in the backcountry, and as my luck goes, will need the dang thing. I don't carry now as I don't wish to be caught in violation and loose my permit. I wish that the park service would allow us to carry a concealed weapon like everyone else.

A couple of times I wish I would have had a weapon, I would have felt better about the situation.

Most recently was a few years back on Deep Creek. I'm sure you guys recall Gary Hilton. Apparantly he stayed on Deep Creek for a few weeks. At the time no one knew there was a guy like this running around. I was guiding a woman and her two teenage kids and this creepy fellow kept watching us fish, no big deal, people do that all the time, but this guy was way different. We would move, and he would move along with us, just kept staring down the lady and her daughter. He would holler out questions from across the creek at us from time to time, I answered the first couple of them, but after he started staring at them I didn't. Some folks you just know are bad news, and this guy reeked of it. I insisted that we move to a different location all together, and the lady agreed. Once back to the vehicle, she said he was giving her the creeps. I told her I thought he was a bit strange too.

Many months later I was watching the news about a fellow the authorites had caught who was a suspected serial killer, and had killed several people in the backcountry. When they showed him on the news, it was that same creepy guy from Deep Creek.

My folks taught me not to fear any man, and I don't, but to be leery of every man. I've always been told when you gut is telling you something to listen to it, it's not really your gut, its the good lord talking to you. My gut was giving me pretty good tug that day.

After the news broke on Hilton getting caught, and pictures of him all over the news, reports of encounter with him started popping up everywhere from all over the place.
My wifes dad had him hanging around their church in Franklin and at one point the church gave him some money. After a few days of him hanging around and living in the church parking lot and creeping people out, Shannon's dad and his brother confronted him and ran him off.

You never know who is lurking around out there.
I may not be allowed to carry a gun in the park right now, but I bet you I have the next best thing.

01-24-2012, 02:11 PM
I legally carry my 1911 model .45 ACP everywhere that I fish.

Nice choice... :biggrin:
Good to know in the event that I can make it over to those unfamiliar NC woods this spring...

01-24-2012, 06:15 PM
"Bad guys don't make appointments." That goes for National Parks, too.

02-02-2012, 09:24 PM
I have guns and could carry in the park but don't bother I'm there to fish or backpack not try to be a hero. Bottom line danger lurks everywhere be vigilant and use good judgement. To many people think they know how to handle a firearm then wind up shooting them self.....prime example gun dealer at gun show on Sunday shoots self with own gun.....I like to live dangerously I'll take my chances without one.