Kenneth Kieser: Make sure to use safe hunting practices this fall
Deer season was winding down and someone decided that a walking drive might push out the big buck that had gone nocturnal.
Many had viewed this monster throughout the summer and fall while feeding in row-crop fields, only to disappear when hunters entered the woodlots. The year was 1983 and I, too, wanted a shot at this whitetail buck with antlers that made it trophy status, possibly one for the record books.
The idea was to take turns driving out timber strips while two sat up ahead watching possible escape routes. We had enough deer hunting savvy to know the buck would angle ahead of the crowd, then stop to look back, the exact moment when a one-shot harvest was possible.
A running buck in brush was almost impossible to drop, with a better than average chance of wounding this great creature to crawl in the brush for an agonizing death – an unacceptable scenario. We agreed to wait for it to stop before shooting or not shoot if it kept running.
The drive started in an area where the big buck was likely hiding. A couple of young hunters joined us and six started slowly walking through a long strip of thick cover that included vines and bushes scattered between hardwood trees. My cousin sat about 60 yards across from me and I was positioned with a good view of several escape areas, including an open field. We had deer rifles with good scopes sighted in at about 150 yards.
A commotion broke below us in the strip and someone yelled, “There he is.” The sounds of what turned out to be two does and the big buck crashing straight toward my position. I tensed up and then tried to relax, knowing that I would only get one shot. My eyes strained for a view of the trophy buck quickly moving toward me. Then it happened.
One of the younger hunters saw a glimpse of the buck and took a quick shot. “BOOM!” Then a chilling sound similar to a locomotive train engine screamed past my head. The frightful sound of that bullet passing will never be forgotten, the moment my life almost ended.
I would have died that day had the bullet been angled inches closer. The shock of this epic incident made the long-gone buck seem unimportant. I informed the young hunter that his bullet almost took a fair portion of my head and he looked sick. Hunters on that drive should not have fired straight ahead where the blockers were positioned – no matter how big the buck.
That was my last deer drive. I no longer allow drives on my property and encourage others to avoid doing this potentially dangerous act, although some are well organized with veteran hunters. I would rather target a buck and then shoot it from a stand.
Today I am a certified hunter’s education Instructor and a board member of the Missouri Hunting Heritage Federation. We teach firearms safety with the intension of saving lives or serious injury. I was shocked to learn a many of the teachers have been shot – including me.
I was showered by shotgun pellets while blocking on a pheasant hunt in the early 1990s. A bird jumped up in front of a novice hunter and he fired a load of No. 6 shot that caught a fair portion of my back and left shoulder.
My saving grace was that he was about 60 yards away, but the impact knocked me sideways to the ground. Eventually the guide was able to pry out three shotgun pellets from just under the skin of my upper back and apply Neosporin. Fortunately, most of the pellets seemed to glance off my heavy hunting jacket.
The shooter that outweighed me by about 40 pounds actually laughed, so my old boxing days kicked in and I decked him before anyone could stop me. He wisely stayed down for a few moments while I cooled off.
My two close calls were probably our fault for putting novice hunters in the position in which they could make a fatal mistake. Most experienced hunters would not have made those shots while remembering where the blockers were positioned.
The 2021-22 hunting season has arrived and it’s time to use common sense. Here are some tips:
The National Rifle Association’s rules for safe hunting:
• Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
• Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
• Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
• Know your target and what is beyond.
• Be sure the gun is safe to operate.
• Know how to safely use the gun.
• Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.
• Wear eye and ear protection, as appropriate.
• Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting.
• Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.
• Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.
There should be no excuse for firearms accidents, especially after graduating a hunter’s education course. No game animal or bird is worth risking human life or property. Make sure you have a safe shot before touching the trigger. Shooting another human is a tragedy that would haunt you forever.
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.