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Zumbo on Cheney and Hunter Safety
Hunters received a colossal black eye when Dick Cheney shot his companion during a hunting accident. The press predictably went into a feeding frenzy, and every day we’ve been treated with copious amounts of nasty press, bad jokes and outright idiocy. One re-occurring question is: how could this happen? How could anyone be so careless so as to shoot his hunting pal?
I understand precisely how it could have happened. Hunting accidents will not go away. Some forms of hunting are more dangerous than others, and I understand that turkey hunting has the worst safety record of all. Upland bird hunting is especially perilous for obvious reasons. There can be chaotic moments when flying birds present all sorts of targets, requiring the shooter to make split-second decisions.
I was almost involved in an accident 40 years ago that duplicates the Cheney incident. I was hunting woodcock with two buddies in a dense alder thicket. We all wore orange hats, and we called out frequently or whistled to signal our location. I was in the middle of a thicket, and my companions were on either side of me. At one point, a bird got up and my buddy to my left knocked it down. He walked up in front of me to retrieve it, and I assumed he went back to his position beside me since he walked off in that direction. He didn’t. At that time we entered a stand of thick cedars, and I didn’t know he was walking directly in front of me. A bird got up, I shouldered my gun, and was tracking it when suddenly I saw orange directly behind the bird. It was my pal. I jerked up the unfired gun and realized I could have shot him. I sat down on a log with the shakes and took awhile to compose myself.
What About the Beer?
Having said that I understand how Cheney’s accident could occur, I cannot abide with the beer he drank at lunch. I heard one argument that the accident occurred several hours after he had the beer, but do we know if he went hunting shortly after lunch? Whether he did or not, the consumption of alcohol anytime one is hunting or about to hunt is absolutely a bad deal. I don’t believe there are laws that say you can’t hunt with alcohol on your breath, but this is a matter of hunting ethics and safety, which is, of course, the primary reason we don’t drink and hunt.
Now then, I’ve had more than a few beers in my life, and I still enjoy a libation around the campfire when the guns are cleaned and put away. I’m not on a pulpit here, just expressing my disappointment. The Vice President should have known better. He should have stood by the moral code that all of us hunters subscribe to. And to add fuel to the fire, he was cited for not having the proper bird stamp. I can understand this, too, because nowadays most states require stamps for just about anything that runs, flies or crawls. But he should have been diligent enough to at least have had someone check for him.
This will blow over, though I’m not sure where Mr. Cheney’s political career will go. At the very least, I’d like to see him apologize to America’s hunters.>> Back to OutdoorLife.com