By Glen Wunderlich
After the most grueling Michigan winter in memory, the time had come for a dual-purpose trip to visit family and to work in a bit of coyote hunting in Arizona. With desert temperatures already in the 90s, it was a radical departure from mid-Michigan’s slowly evolving spring. Snowshoes were replaced with uninsulated hiking boots, snake gaiters, a rifle over my shoulder, and a pistol at my side.
Arizona respects the right of all U.S. citizens to carry a concealed handgun with or without a permit, or to carry openly while in the state. Certainly, the cultural change is dramatic, when compared Michigan, where open carry is permitted but problematic; although legal where I come from, the only people who carry openly (other than law enforcement) seem to always be testing authority. In Arizona, it’s common for many.
Long-time resident, fellow predator hunter and my informal tour guide, Eric Ahlstrom of Apache Junction, packed his bags for Arizona after a close friend was executed by robbers in Chicago, while in the performance of his duties at a pizza joint. It scarred Eric for life, and as a result, now openly carries a .45-caliber pistol wherever he ventures.
Nobody gasps or calls 911, either. At first, I thought it might be best for me to carry my Bond Arms derringer concealed, but I wasn’t about to over-dress to hide the fact. It became as natural as sand and cactus in the desert to carry it in plain sight in a belt holster.
My sidearm was stoked with 3-inch, .410 shotgun shells of 7 ½ shot – a perfect combination for quick, close-range snake defense.
Bond Arms Century 200 .45 Colt/3-inch .410
While Eric fueled his Jeep at a convenience store/gas station, I took the opportunity to stock up on some sandwiches for the long day ahead and proceeded inside.
I watched intently, as the female clerk rang things up, all the while anticipating some type of negative reaction. Nothing other than a thank you came forth, however. Nobody else freaked out, either. And, for the first time in my life, I began to understand how natural it could be to exercise my Second Amendment rights. I was much more than a few thousand miles from Michigan; I was in the old “wild” West.
However, there was nothing at all wild about this culture – maybe snakes, lizards, and mountain lions – but, not the common, natural, day-to-day existence.
As Eric and I proceeded farther and farther into the desert, it became obvious that self-reliance was essential. While northerners prepare for cold, Arizonians prepare for heat – and, yes, it is a dry heat, but hot is hot – especially when shade is as scarce as honest politicians. With no cell phone service, we were on our own.
The old Jeep aptly navigated remote, rocky two-track trails, while we signed ledgers provided at each gate we opened and closed to confirm our presence and reason for being in the wilderness.
The long day ended without our firing a shot. But, the adventure was more than a hunt; it was a step back in time and a refreshing change of pace where freedom reigns.