Bobby Cole | Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine. To subscribe, click here.
I am not a pistol nut. I know some guys, you know some guys…that love high-end handguns. I spend my free time lusting after rifles, scopes and shotguns. I do; however, think that every gamekeeper should have a pistol and that every time they go on their property and he/she is not hunting, they should have it with them. You never know when a wild pig, coyote or some other vermin will need to be dispatched. How many times have we all been in the woods checking cameras or doing some other work and wished for a pistol? Make it a part of your routine. Make it easy. A good comfortable pistol and holster just becomes part of your “gamekeeper uniform.” When you get out of the truck grab it and it will always be there. Don’t and you’ll eventually have another “wish I had” story.
So, what works best for most gamekeepers? I asked a few to get their response. Mark Thomas of the Birmingham Alabama area is a "man’s man” and is as tough as they come. He tells me he doesn’t go to Sunday school without his Glock 9mm and two extra clips so it’s certainly with him each time he strolls in the woods. He likes this pistol and caliber because it’s simple and he can easily carry 50 rounds of ammo between the pistol and two clips. He also carries a Derringer- style Davis double pistol in an ankle holster. Just in case.
Austin Delano works for BioLogic and traps coyotes with a passion - that borders on neurotic. While the rest of us dream of big bucks or ducks dropping into decoys, he thinks about song dogs and eliminating each and every one. You won’t find Austin without a Browning .22 pistol on him and if it’s a property with hogs he’ll trade up to a Colt .357.
Kenny Thompson has been featured on several Gamekeepers television shows and spends all his time outdoors. He carries a Sig. 40 and a Smith & Wesson .38 hammerless loaded with rat shot for snakes during the summer. You don’t want to know how many water moccasins he kills every year.
Gary Davis spends many hours checking roads, patrolling properties and encounters wild hogs on a regular basis. For this mission he depends on a Smith & Wesson .357 for pigs. When he is in an area where he may encounter snakes he carries a Judge, loaded with a .410 shell and number 8 shot. He is very happy with this weapon’s performance.
Jeff Lindsey, of the new television show "The Lindsey Way," carries a Sig and his dad David Lindsey carries a Sig 40 cal. David likes the “40” for more knock down and Jeff prefers the weight and cheaper shells of a 9mm.
Editor in Chief, Todd Amenrud, has his “Concealed & Carry permit” and loves to shoot handguns. He has a Glock Gen 17, 9mm that he carries in the open glove box on his John Deere Gator that he uses for varmints. Todd says, “A handgun is a “tool” that every gamekeeper should have.” He also carries a Ruger Mark III .22 that is mainly used for varmints and trapping. He continued, “The Ruger also makes a great gun for youth to learn with and my kids, nieces, nephews and neighbors have enjoyed plinking with it.” Finally, he carries a Taurus PT92, 9mm either on him or on the floorboard of his vehicle between his feet for any “problems” that may arise.
In the past I have been that guy who found himself in a situation where I needed a pistol and recently had an encounter that proves my point. After a recent business trip I arrived back at the office with about an hour of daylight left in the early November afternoon. Curious to see if I had any ducks using a planted wetland, I left in jeans and dress shoes to sneak in and see. It didn’t take long to hear a pig rooting and finally see the big black hog. Tucked into my waistband was a Smith & Wesson 686 in .357 caliber with only five shells (I keep the chamber the hammer rests on empty, it just seems safer).
Putting the wind in my face I started into the tall bull reeds around the duck impoundment and headed toward the grunts of the feeding pig…which had eaten all the Guides Choice I had planted for waterfowl. You just can’t have anything nice. He was content and feeding heavily so I was able to sneak with fifteen feet until I could see the top of the pigs back. This is where I started smiling. Long story short, it was a giant sow, close to 300 pounds and several 80 to100 pound accomplices.
After I killed it with the second shot, pigs were running by me left and right and finally a total of three lay motionless and me standing there out of cartridges. A quick phone call to the office and Jesse Raley quickly arrived with more ammo and a pair of rubber boots for me so I could retrieve the dead pigs. The whole incident reminded me that as gamekeepers we always have to be prepared. Everybody has a style and size pistol they prefer. Some like revolvers and some like semi automatics. Find something you will carry with you and that you can shoot accurately at a reasonable range.
I am not advocating that you become a guy with a pistol on each hip and a bandolier of ammunition, actually far from it. I’d like to just see us prepared for what Mother Nature brings our way. Be sure to check and follow your state regulations. You may not be able to carry a pistol during the bow season for obvious reasons. It’s also a good idea to go ahead and apply for your Conceal Carry permit even though you may not ever “carry.” They aren’t expensive and it could keep you out of some hot water in the future. The point is, today’s environment is constantly evolving and it would be better to be prepared and be smart when it comes to carrying a sidearm.