Many of your children received their first gun for Christmas. Now it’s time for their education to start.
Over the years I have shared tips for introducing a child to firearms and hunting. This year I am going to give you examples of firearm accidents from reports received over the past 40 years:
• Two brothers found a pond loaded with mallards. They decided to crawl toward the pond and sneak up on the ducks. The rear boy’s shotgun muzzle was pointed forward. Somehow the trigger caught on some brush and the shotgun discharged, shooting the lead boy. He just lived long enough to make the hospital.
• Two boys in a northern state were hunting rabbits. The oldest boy had a bad habit of poking brush piles with his shotgun to flush out rabbits, grouse or quail. For some inexplicable reason he turned the gun around and poked it with the gun butt. Somehow a limb caught the safety and then another caught the trigger. The blast took most of the boy’s heart and lungs.
• A man was quail hunting in Missouri and decided to lean his shotgun against a wire fence. Metal on metal is unstable, the gun slid down and discharged, blowing a fair portion of the man’s lower leg off. He survived but went through a lot of pain and sadness from this loss.
• A quail hunter was kicking brush with his dad. He decided to cross the fence with his gun, instead of handing it to his dad. The gun discharged and killed his father. How would you like to live with that?
• An outdoor writing colleague of mine was pheasant hunting with two professional baseball players and their coach. One of the players was apparently not well-versed with shotguns and was snap shooting birds instead of taking his time to make sure of a clear shooting lane. He shot at a pheasant and almost shot the other player’s head off, actually putting a hole in his cap. The coach had to pull the almost shot player off the shooter that received several well-placed punches.
• Bullets shot in the air eventually come down. I heard a lot of this on New Year’s Eve at midnight. What goes up must come down, and sadly a little girl was recently killed over this stupidity. Guns should never be shot for celebration.
My personal close calls:
• I once watched a man haul a loaded deer rifle up to his position in a tree stand by rope. The barrel was pointed straight at him as the deadly firearm raised higher. He managed to secure the gun without incident. His reasoning – to avoid loading in the tree to not frighten deer from the noise. Many have been killed by a gun going off in this circumstance.
• My buddy, 17, assured me of a lifetime’s hunting and shooting experience. He did not have a deer rifle, so I loaned him my 30-30-caliber rifle. I sighted the rifle in and on opening morning assured him that the gun was dead on – my first mistake. He took the gun without any questions and we started walking.
We had only taken a couple of steps from the pickup when the ground literally exploded around my feet. The so-called experienced hunter had loaded the rifle as we walked, then pulled the trigger to make sure the safety was on. The 30-30 round would have blown my leg or foot off it had been pointed a couple of inches to the right or left.
• Deer drives are common in this region. I was a blocker on a drive through heavy cover. The drivers were experienced hunters and shooters. A buck jumped up and ran straight toward me. The shooters apparently lost track of my position and opened fire on the deer. I dove for ground cover and could hear the bullets whizzing over my head, one close enough to sound like a passing locomotive. I assumed they knew where I was located, an assumption that almost got me killed.
• Many years ago, several of us were hunting ducks on a Missouri River oxbow. We set our decoys out and cut surrounding brush for our makeshift blind. We were well hidden. About midmorning I heard a bullet whiz past my head and then another. Two boys on the surrounding bluff were shooting at our decoys or what they thought were wild ducks, the bullets passing through the brush and inches from our heads. One of our guys finally got their attention by yelling many obscenities. They ran away and we managed to survive their stupidity.
These are just a few cases of poor gun handling. Sadly, many of the victims were family members or close friends and that is often the case.
Here are some gun safety tips for you to use:
• Always point the gun in a safe direction. Every gun should be treated like it was loaded.
Firearms safety begins when your child first touches a toy or real gun. Explain exactly how to safely handle the rifle, shotgun or pistol first, and then let your child hold the gun. Be very aware where the gun’s barrel is pointing, especially if the child bends over to pick up something or even when they are carrying the gun.
• A trigger should never be touched until it is time to shoot. Walking with a finger on a trigger is a good way to have an accidental shooting.
• Practice with your rifle or shotgun. Only hunt with others who are familiar with their firearms.
• Make sure you know exactly where your bullet or shot might travel after hitting or missing the target. Shooting at a target or wildlife with no backstop is a dangerous act.
• Learn to control your firearm during a fall. Be conscious where the muzzle is pointing at all times.
• You can kill another human with a BB gun, so no firearm should be carelessly handled.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.