Be Careful You’re Not Stepping Into Trouble

I think most of us would agree there is no room in the sporting world for folks mixing drugs with carrying guns.   It’s a bad combination no matter how you look at it.   But how aware are you of possibly walking up on a meth lab the next time you take to the woods?   Worse yet, would you even recognize the potential signs and dangers associated with such an illegal operation?

Fact is, the production of methamphetamine is a growing law enforcement concern nationwide.   Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it couldn’t or isn’t being produced where you live and hunt.   Chances are you would be terribly wrong and and being ignorant of this insidious drug crisis could mean some dire consequences for your health and well-being.

Having worked in the emergency medical field for several years I do have some first-hand knowledge of the prevalence of these drugs.   I also have worked closely with law enforcement officials who must deal with the problems created by these substances on almost a daily basis.   The problem is real…and it behooves ALL sportsmen to have at the very least a fundamental understanding of the dangers and the threat.

Just last Thursday I was driving home from a trip to my local Cabela’s when I decided to go on some back roads that are not frequently traveled.   As I was driving I glanced way up in the distance and I saw a glint of flashing emergency lights.   My first impression was…oh great!   I suppose there’s been an accident and I can’t get through now on the roadway.   As I approached I could see the commotion was not confined to the road…rather, it was at a farmhouse near the road that was encircled with yellow crime scene tape.   Immediately I concluded this can’t be good…I wonder if there possibly has been a murder or something?

As I slowly inched past the area around what I first thought was a rescue truck parked on the road…I glanced up and noticed this truck said Bloomington Bomb Squad.   YIKES!!!   What the hell was I doing anywhere close to a scene that would involve a bomb squad??!!   I quickly accelerated past the area wondering later if the law officers might have wondered why my truck sped from the area.

Actually, that bomb squad truck answered my questions…there likely was no murder at this house.   Nope, it was the scene of a drug bust that involved a methamphetamine lab.   You see, the chemicals and the process for “cooking” or reducing down the drug is so dangerous that even the sheriff’s department relies on professionals experienced with deadly explosives.   Consider this…what would happen if you and your hunting partners entered a woodlot and unknowingly walked into such an operation?   Fact is, a meth lab can exist virtually anywhere and everywhere.   They don’t have to be confined to a home or a building…and often times these labs are found in a remote wooded area where the criminals who have set up the site may also have “booby-trapped” the area to cause harm to any intruder.

So yes, if you want to consider yourself a savvy sportsman who is aware and on the look-out for dangers…you now must be observant for the tell-tale signs of meth production.   Here’s a synopsis of what danger signs to watch for when taking to the woods:

Used as designed, these household products are generally safe.  Mixed together, they can become explosive and/or give off toxic fumes.


  • Acetone
  • Alcohol (isopropyl or rubbing)
  • Common cold pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Drain cleaner (sulfuric acid)
  • Engine starter (ether)
  • Iodine
  • Heet/gasoline additives (methanol/alcohol)
  • Lithium batteries
  • Matches (red phosphorous)
  • Muriatic acid
  • Anhydrous ammonia
  • Red Devil lye
  • Salt (table or rock)
  • Sodium metal
  • Trichloroethane (gun cleaning solvent)
  • Toluene


    • Aluminum foil
    • Blender
    • Bottles
    • Cheesecloth
    • Coffee filters
    • Funnels
    • Gas can
    • Hot plate
    • Jugs
    • Paper towels
    • Propane tank/thermos
    • Pyrex dishes
    • Rubber gloves/tubing
    • Strainer
    • Tape/clamps
    • Thermometer

Also keep in mind that the people who manufacture these drugs also have a big investment in the operation.   These are folks who have proven they would risk their lives to either continue their habit and/or sell these highly addictive drugs.   Don’t lose sight of the fact that methamphetamine is one nasty drug that will often kill the serious user within five years.   These folks will act irrational and truthfully have little to lose in life.   If an unwitting sportsman happens to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time the trouble could escalate quickly.

If you suspect you have seen signs of a potential meth lab…get out of the area quickly!!   Don’t touch anything as it could explode.   And above all…carefully retrace your steps realizing that the area could be rigged to cause you harm.   Finally, immediately call local law enforcement officials or the conservation officer for the area to disclose your concern.   The best way to put these operations out of business is for law officers to deal with the dangers and the criminals.

Personally, I can’t emphasize enough that sportsmen need to understand that methamphetamine is not your ordinary recreational drug…unlike marijuana or even cocaine.   Meth kills, ruins families…and can quickly ruin your day, too, if you don’t accept the fact it can be found anywhere in your travels.   Last Thursday I was shocked to see the sights at that farmstead…especially since I’ve driven by the house dozens of times in recent months.   It did, however, reinforce in my mind that we live in a different world where dangers are ever-present and need to be better understood by all of us.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.