By Chuck Nottingham
According to a poll conducted by an outdoor writers association, most readers of outdoors sections prefer columnists who live in the newspapers circulation area. Next, readers want writers who participate with a fair bit of knowledge in the activity they write about.
But readers dont always get want they want.
For one thing, canned columns often involve fewer hassles. By nature outdoor writers tend to be individualists. Many of us are opinionated know-it-alls in our fields of activities. And more than a few think ardent pursuit of our favorite pastimes excuse missed deadlines.
Then theres politically-correct point of view.
But outdoor editors appreciated most by their outdoor readership put up with the migraines and understand freedom of the press is a two-way street.
They realize their readers may want global and national news, but most turning to outdoor section want up-to-date facts about where they hike, backpack, ski, 4-wheel, camp, fish and hunt. They also expect experts to generate facts and opinions from within their areas of expertise.
My editor suspects I might wrap a night-crawler around a Royal Coachman, and is ready to red-pen any wild opinion I might hazard on fly fishing.
But some tend to believe a broader readership automatically means a broader base of knowledge.
Not true. Gear Guys syndicated Q and A column is a Thursday regular in a Montana newspaper or two, even though Gear Guy mostly covers a more populated west coast. On September 2, asked about carrying a gun while camping, Gear Guy took most print loudly establishing his currently politically in anti-gun bias, although his vague advise was actually pretty good for a guy whose gear doesnt include guns: Only carry a gun if you have proper training.
On September 9, one of the newspapers local columnists rambled outside her field of expertise to berate Gear Guy for not telling more about what he didnt know about guns legal issues.
The local writer pointed out how carrying uncased and assembled guns in Yellowstone and Glacier Parks is illegal, as if the two national parts were all Montana has to offer for hiking and camping.
Since park administrators chose to limit our safety options, many of us choose to let tourists feed the carnivores and have opted to hike and camp Montanas thousands of other miles of other trails and other wildernesses equally challenging and beautiful.
In Montana back countries outside the two parks, hikers and campers 14 or older may legally and morally carry rifle or shotgun in the open on their person, strapped to their backpacks, or on their horses. Open carry of handguns is quite legal for adults.
The outdoor writer cited concealed weapons laws, but those city laws dont apply outside cities and off public roads. Instead of a city police officer, the writer should have checked with a game warden. She would have learned that in Montana back-country, a rifle or shotgun fully covered by a scabbard or a handgun in an adults fanny pack or under an adults jacket or coat is not illegal.
Also,law-abiding Montanans who dont want any question about concealed carry may obtain permits from their county sheriffs. Simply put, adult citizens having no felony convictions or record of violence who feel the need to carry concealed may present proof of safety training to their sheriff departments. Most accept military DD-214 forms, state hunter education cards, or other safety training such as NRAs Home Firearms Safety or Personal Protection courses. After a background check, a concealed carry permit is issued.
Why carry a gun? Like any survival tool, our needs are for in case possibilities. We dont plan having to navigate out by map and compass. We dont plan separation from camp and companions after dark, but may need a flashlight or emergency fire. Granted, protection needs from two and four footed predators are remote, but small-game camp meat and traditional three-shot signals for help are other excellent reasons to have a gun along.
The writer says shes comfortable with pepper sprays for protection, but her heightened sense of security may come more from product promotions than field evidence. I keep a spray canister handy, too, but heed cautions that blacks bears may be more attracted than repelled by some sprays. Ever-present Montana winds are also critical factors, with potential to disable users and bystanders at crucial times more than aggressive animals. As with any weapon, realistic confidence comes from training.
As many of our current gun laws are made up by people who dont know much about guns, lots of advice is similarly offered by the same kind of experts.