EDITOR’S NOTES by Chester Moore

The Most Dangerous Thing in the Woods

I T WAS THE PERFECT SETUP for the mission.

That mission was to try out our new night vision goggles and to record night wildlife sounds in the stunningly beautiful mountains near Willow Creek, California. When I tell you this was in the middle of nowhere it might be hard for you to imagine just how far unless you’ve been to that part of the world.

My father and I were running late and pulled up a few minutes after the sun set. We planned to set up camp and stay through the night.

As Dad started taking out the equipment, I walked over to a good viewing spot to look down into the valley with the night vision goggles. There was a full moon. If anything came into the clearings below we should get a glimpse, I thought. Then I saw it.

A beam of light shot up toward our position. “Dad did you see that?” I asked as I pulled off the goggles.


“A light beam just shone toward us,” I replied.

“I didn’t see it, he said.” Neither did I now that the goggles were off.

I put them back on, and a few seconds later I could see the light beam moving up toward us. I took them off and couldn’t see the light.

Immediately I knew that someone was below, traveling with night vision goggles and using an infrared light only visible with night vision goggles. I had been warned this area was a favorite of drug traffickers, so it didn’t take long to put two and two together.

Just as I shouted for Dad to throw the gear back in the SUV, headlights of a vehicle came on about 3/4 mile ahead of us.

We were on one side of a logging road that cut across a mountain. This was on the other side of the mountain road. Someone had been signaled.

We shoved our gear into the SUV and sped out of there, but by the time we hit the road so did the truck from the other side. Tthey were headed straight for us. At one point I was going 80 down the mountain, and they were just a few feet away—literally an arms length from hitting us. I knew that was their goal.

We had disturbed some sort of illicit activity. After what seemed like forever we got to the base of the mountain on one of the main roads going toward Willow Creek. As soon as we turned back toward that little city, they turned back up the mountain.

Had I not been aware that something was wrong and known about the activity in those areas, we might have been killed or at least gotten into a very tense situation. Well, being chased down a mountain is pretty tense isn’t it?

Over the years I have learned a few things about staying safe in the woods from people with bad intentions. Please share this with others. It could save their lives.

#1. Bad Vibes: If you feel bad about going into an area don’t go. I am a follower of Christ. I believe sometimes this is the Holy Spirit telling me to stay away. You may not believe that, but just call it a “gut feeling” and go with it.

#2. Never Alone: As much as I love to be in the distant forest alone with my camera—don’t you do it. Always bring someone with you. Preferably someone who is experienced in the woods. You are far more likely to get hurt by evil people if you are alone.

#3. Pack Heat: If it’s legal where you are then use your Second Amendment right, and carry a firearm. Make sure you are trained in its use and be prepared to do what is necessary.

Better you defend yourself against a maniac than become a statistic. Also carry a large knife with you. In close quarters it could save your life.

#4. Study the Area: The Internet is a great tool for studying areas. If you find out an area is a high drug trafficker area for, example; avoid it like the plague.

Stay away!

I have several areas I no longer frequent because of this issue.

#5. Stay Calm: If you do encounter people in the woods who seem uneasy or a bit shifty, stay calm.  Getting angry or showing fear is a good way to trigger someone who has violent tendencies.

#6. Travel Plan: Leave your spouse or close friends a travel plan and let them know the points you plan to explore. Give them a time frame. Let them know to call for help if you have not returned by a certain time or day.

#7. Strategic Parking: Always park your vehicle facing out of the area as you check out. Iin a tight spot, you don’t want to have to back up and turn around during a retreat. Also park in a spot in a clear area that you can see from a distance. If someone is waiting on you or has moved into the spot, it will give you a chance to assess the situation and prepare.

#8. Don’t Try to be a Hero: If you see strangers poaching in the woods at night, don’t be a hero and try to stop them. They are armed and probably will use their weapons on you if you try to stop them. Call and report activity to local game wardens and get out as quickly as possible.

Seeking wildlife in the forest is one of the most exciting things a person can do, but it has its share of dangers. Keep these tips in mind and you should be available to avoid any serious trouble.



Email Chester Moore at cmoore@fishgame.com


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