As hunters begin to head to the backcountry for early season scouting in preparation for approaching hunting seasons, there’s a rising concern among sportsmen about possible confrontations with armed and ruthless marijuana growers on public lands.

I blogged about the situation last month and several readers offered some disturbing personal accounts of their own experiences with clandestine drug operations in the hunting woods.

An article in today’s Medford (Ore.) Mail-Tribune notes that state and federal authorities in southern Oregon are hitting the mountain country especially hard right now, specifically in an effort to clear the area of bad guys before lots of hunters head out this fall.

Is that scary sign of the times, or what?

Just last week, about 100 officers from multiple agencies raided pot-growing operations in the Applegate Valley, an area popular with blacktail deer hunters. They arrested four armed caretakers and hauled out 42,000 plants.

“As a group of agencies, we’re trying real hard to make the area safe before the major hunting seasons begin,” said Capt. Lee Fox, a U.S. Forest Service law-enforcement officer.

And if you don’t think these operations pose any real danger to hunters, here’s a little item that might change your mind. A federal Drug Enforcement Administration affidavit issued following last week’s Oregon raid stated that not only were the gardens tended and guarded by well-armed men thought to belong to a Mexican drug cartel, one of those arrested told federal investigators that he was being paid $1,500 a day to work there.

For that kind of money, you can bet they will likely shoot before they politely ask if you’ve been seeing any deer.

It got hunter Ron Sherva’s attention.

Sherva told the Mail-Tribune that he and his fellow members of the Oregon Hunters Association often talk about what to do if they stumble upon a garden while in the field.

“The best thing to do is turn around and leave—if they give you the chance,” Sherva said, “You hear guys talk about standing there and shooting it out with them, but that’s just stupid.”

Be careful out there, guys.