I've grown up in and around the woods my whole life. I've never personally had a close encounter, and neither have any of my friends or family...until deer hunting season two years ago. We hunt up in northeastern Washington in very remote areas. One of my good buddies was hunting with a small group and contacted the others on his two way radio that he thought there was a cougar stalking him. A few minutes later they heard a gunshot. Less than 30 seconds later they heard him on the radio saying he just shot the cougar and it fell less than 10 feet from him. A rifle saved him from a potentially fatal encounter. On the flip side of the coin, my roomate is a forester and spends at least 40 hours of his week on remote mountain sides and refuses to carry a gun saying, "just be aware of your surroundings." To each his own. I choose to carry a mossberg 8 shot pistol grip shotgun loaded with a couple of slugs. It fits into a nice side pocket of my backpack that I can access in 2-3 seconds. I've never had to use it and I hope I never will, just like my car insurance. It's mostly for when I'm on the trail or in my tent, because it's not easy to function with while fishing.