Leaning against a maple tree, I felt I was camouflaged well. As a seventeen year-old, my mind was going through several scenarios of which way the trophy buck would likely appear from and I must be ready to take him when he showed. I waited. Checking my wristwatch, I was sure my cousins had made it to their selected standing sites by now. I felt the warmth of the late autumn sun working its way from the tip of my blaze orange knit cap to my shoulders. Anytime now a shot will surely ring out across the river bottom.
The shotgun’s firing echoed from a direction I didn’t expect it to. Not from one of the hunters in my group. As I was trying to figure out who else may be in the woods with us, I heard a whizzing sound and tree branches snapping several feet above me. By the time I realized what that sound was, two more slugs were flying above my head. I never discovered who it was that nearly claimed my young life because of careless gun handling. I went home that night with a ‘close call’ story to tell.
About twenty years later, whizzing bullets again passed within a few feet of me. I was busy staining the deck on my log home, trying to finish up my chore list before the rut came into full swing and the steelhead begin to run Lake Erie’s tributaries. Several gun shots rang throughout the surrounding woods, coming from a neighbor’s backyard nearly 200 yards away. This was not surprising as the neighbor and his friends occasionally partake in target shooting one weekend a month or so. The only thing different this time was I heard a familiar sound following the shots coming from two handguns; the sound of lead blazing through leaves and branches, flying wild as an out of control fighter jets.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A sense of self-defense ran through my mind as I was deciding to go inside and call the neighbor, hoping to stop the careless shooting before it hit my home or worse, my wife or one of my children. Then I heard it coming. Seeming to be in slow motion, the sound of a rotating projectile cutting its way through the tree tops was coming at me. As the bullet neared, it zipped through a few small branches, passing only a few feet over my head. I exploded with emotion. Screaming angrily as loud as I possibly could for the shooters to stop. They did. I received an apology from the neighbor for the careless shooting coming from his property. It wasn’t him, but two relatives who began shooting without asking or confirming their bullet’s final destination.
Yes, nobody was hurt or nothing damaged except for my sore throat, strained from screaming threats to the negligent shooters. But the ending of both experiences could have been much worse and for some hunters, and innocent bystanders, their shooting stories are their last. According to ODNR’s Ohio Injury Incident Report of 2008, 8 of the 17 intentional discharge accidents were caused by “failure to indentify target” and “victim out of sight of shooter”. Unnecessary tragedies. Accidents do happen, but these results represent neglect. Can you imagine what anti-hunters and anti-gun advocates think of these results and what fuel that is to their causes? Even worse, the lives that are changed on both sides of the fired gun involved with an accidental shooting.
As the hunting seasons get busy, remember, no matter how many hours you have spent carrying a gun safely in the fields and forests, please be sure of your targets and beyond. And if a youngster is in your presence, stress often the importance of knowing where their shot will end up and the route it will travel. There is no wild game worth a risky shot. Neither for the animal in your sights or for your fellow hunter who will drop over lifeless from a slug flying reckless. Be sure of your target and beyond, or be prepared to apologize to a family member of the person you may injure – or worse.
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