It was a sight I will never forget.
A snarling, enraged pit bull busted forth from the brush and headed right at me. A guttural growl and intense, focused eyes told me this dog was out for blood, in particular mine.
I was at my deer lease before the season to repair a stand with no rifle in tow. For a second panic set in, until I realized I had the .45 my concealed handgun permit allowed me to carry.
I quickly drew it, clicked off the safety, aimed at the dog and fired. It stopped, spun around and walked back into the brush.
I pondered following it to put an end to the threat once and for all but decided to enter the lease from another location and avoid trouble until I was better armed.
Looking back, I have no doubt I would have ended up another statistic had I not possessed the handgun the state of Texas grants me as a licensed, responsible citizen the right to carry.
There is much discussion on concealed handguns as protection from human predators, but what about threats of the animal kind?
Protecting ones life and family is equally important whether the threat comes from a parolee or a pit bull and if you look at the numbers the latter and their kind are a real and growing threat.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year, 20 percent of which require medical attention. In 2006 alone, more than 31,000 underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of dog bites.
One study shows that between 1989 to 1994 of 109 dog-related fatalities, 37 percent were inflicted by pit bulls and Rottweilers. Others factoring in U.S. and Canada statistics show pits, Rotts, Presa Canarios and their mixes inflicted 65 percent of dog attack deaths.
Before you start shooting arrows at me, I am not for banning these breeds but the fact is of all dogs, pits are the most likely to kill and for outdoors lovers they are becoming increasingly common to encounter.
On my deer lease alone, I know of two other hunters who had encounters with pit bulls, including a bowhunter who had to scramble up a tree and stay there several hours until the dog left.
Pits and other potentially aggressive breeds are often used for fighting and for use as catch dogs in hog hunting. Fighting dogs not deemed worthy are either killed or dumped onto the public and some catch dogs get loose and become feral.
The area I hunt is home to an unfortunate new trend of using only a single pit or pit/mastiff cross and allowing them to trail, catch and often kill the hog. If it’s a good little pit and does what the owner want that is one thing but what about the ones that escape?
That leaves unsuspecting people like you and I to encounter them. And this is obviously not just a problem in the woods. Most attacks occur in cities when people are checking their mail or out playing in the yard.
I would argue a person has a better chance fending of a thug with a switchblade than a strong, aggressive dog, hell-bent on destruction. But how are we to defend ourselves?
If you do a Google search you find all kinds of methods offered to fend off attacking dogs, bears and other dangerous animals.
One article entitled, “Defending Yourself Against Animal Attacks” recommends using pepper spray and says, “Even if you are carrying a gun with you, do not try to shoot at the animal.”
If I had taken this advice I might not be writing this article and at the very least would have scars with me the rest of my life.
The concealed carry debate has been virtually solely focused on prevention of criminal attacks but there are other equally dangerous threats lurking out there. Dog, bear, mountain lion and even coyote attacks are on the increase in urban areas throughout the country.
And for those of us who frequent the woods and wild lands of this great state, the chances of a dangerous animal encounter are even greater as I know from my experience.
Although you might carry your concealed handgun religiously at the gas station, mall and other public venues, think seriously about toting it in the woods as well.
You might not get carjacked but a feral pit bull or a hungry mountain lion might just size you up and I hope you are ready to respond with proper firepower, not a flesh and bone.