Do you know what a ďhunting accidentĒ is? A hunting accident is when youíre hunting and a volcano blows up behind you. Poof. Youíre gone. Nothing to be done. An accident pure and simple.
A hunting accident is when youíre under a tree and a branch chooses that moment to snap and level you.
Again, just one of those times when the stars align against you.
Those, and similar events, are hunting accidents.
It isnít, however, an accident when one individual shoots another while hunting.
Sorry, but when that happens, some very basic rule was broken and what youíre now dealing with is a completely preventable tragedy.
Last week, Pamela Almli was out hiking. As she bent over to put something into her pack, a young teenage boy mistook her for a bear and shot her. Pamela Almli died and two families have now been permanently harmed. One through the needless loss of a loved one and the other because a 14-year-old boy - no matter the legal fallout - will, for the rest of his life, endure the pain of knowing that through some combination of inattention, inexperience, excitement, negligence, or what have you, he killed another human being.
Want to know how long it takes to positively identify a target when youíre hunting? Simple. It takes every bit as long as you need to answer every darned question that had better be in your mind before you bring that firearm to your shoulder. In other words, you can never, ever shoot at ďIím pretty sure itís this.Ē Nor, for that matter, can you even consider shooting at movement or sound.
As a good friend has said to me on many occasions, ďI donít quite know the sound or movement that identifies something as a game animal, but Iím sure Iíve made that noise or movement while Iíve been out there.Ē
So to be safe, hereís a suggestion that I borrowed from another hunter more than 30 years ago:
When you see something, hear something, or notice movement while hunting, train your mind so that your first thought is that what you see, the noise you hear, or the movement you notice is the one person that you love the most coming out to be with you. Do this and your first instinct will never be to aim a firearm at something you havenít positively identified.
The bottom line in hunting is always this: If youíve made up your mind to shoot, then you need to be somewhere well beyond certain that what youíre about to shoot at is precisely what you think it is. And here, a point needs to be made. The scope that sits atop many rifles and shotguns is not an identification tool. It is an aiming tool.
When you use that scope to look at something, you are also pointing your muzzle at that same thing. And if you justify this particular type of foolishness by saying that you have the safety on, then you could be hanging another personís life on a mechanical device thatís been known to fail.
So, if youíre going to take up this sport, spend the money to buy a set of binoculars. When you buy those binoculars, make it a rule to use them religiously because you can never - absolutely never - aim a firearm at anything that you do not intend to kill.
If you canít make this kind of commitment to identifying your target, then forget about hunting. You arenít mature enough for this sport and we donít need you out there.
Ms. Almli didnít die because of an accident. She died because someone didnít take the time to properly identify her. Further, no matter how much time was taken, it wasnít anywhere near enough because someone is now dead - and if that sounds harsh, itís because itís meant to.
There are no ďdo-oversĒ once you pull a trigger. That bullet that you fired is now on a ballistic path and it will hit whatever it was pointed at no matter how badly you wish to call it back. That one, very simple point has been set in stone more times than I care to count.
Unfortunately, too many of those stones are found in cemeteries where theyíre used to mark the graves of those needlessly gone.