I first heard the quote, “Wolves travel in packs,” many years ago from a member of a gang task force in a major city in the Midwest. My vagueness regarding his identity is intentional; though now retired, he has more than his share of enemies among the “associates” of the many gang members he incarcerated over his career.

His reference undoubtedly came from the fact that he was also an avid hunter, and he couldn’t help but notice the parallels between four-legged and two-legged “packs” of predators. He pointed out that not only do they both “travel in packs,” they also tend to target prey that appears weaker or slower or those who are not paying attention to their surroundings.

Wolves even have a diabolically effective technique of using a kind of misdirection to set up their prey for attack. The wolf that is visible is purposely coming out of cover, usually in front of the intended victim (or victims), causing their attention to be concentrated on the visible threat. Meanwhile, the rest of the pack is quietly maneuvering into position behind the prey.

Note that while wolf attacks against humans are rare, with the populations of wolves rebounding in many areas, fatal attacks on hunting dogs have been increasing proportionately. It was after experiencing this tactic personally that he began carrying a handgun while hunting.

OK, good advice for hunters, but most of us who carry firearms for self-defense, especially if we don’t spend a lot of time in wilderness areas, are more concerned with two-legged predators. However, we should point out that even in well-developed residential areas, residents have their own problems with things like bears, mountain lions, feral hogs and uncontrolled dogs. Just another reason to carry 24/7.

As always, being alert and aware of our surroundings is essential; being armed will do little for you if you are watching only what is happening in front of you and fail to notice the two guys walking behind you, such as in a dark parking lot. Some years ago, this happened to a young co-worker of mine in Minnesota. “Dave” was a truly decent young man, but not as “street savvy” as those of us from more urban environments.

One lunch hour, he went to his car in the parking garage across the street. As he left the garage elevator, a 20-something-looking male asked him what time it was. By reflex, Dave glanced down at his watch … and woke up several minutes later, dazed and bleeding from a vicious whack on the back of his head, with his watch and wallet gone. Thankfully, he recovered fully.

But others have not been so lucky. You may recall the legally armed Good Samaritan who intervened in an attack in a Wal-Mart … and was shot in the back by the suspect’s girlfriend. He simply failed to consider that there might be more than one attacker.

In his defense, during a high-stress incident, it is normal to experience “visual exclusion” (“tunnel vision”) and focus only on the threat in front of you, unless you have trained extensively to compensate for this tendency. One of my favorite instructors, a former Ranger, teaches his students to do a “360” sweep EVERY time they practice drawing their firearms. I whole-heartedly endorse this technique.

As always, constant vigilance, backed up by good training, goes a long way in staying safe. Remember, wolves travel in packs … and so do rats.