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OL Editor Responds to Quail-Gate

By Todd Smith

Since the news broke about Dick Cheney's unfortunate hunting accident in Texas, the media has been nothing short of ravenous. Reporters are having a field day, using this story as an opportunity to take cheap shots at the Vice President and the Bush administration. Give the poor man a break!

This is an unfortunate sporting accident. People are injured in sporting accidents (hockey, baseball, football) every day. What makes this story so irresistible to the press is that it happened to the Vice President and it involved a firearm. Is it news? Of course, and the press has an obligation to
cover the news. But reporters also have an obligation to get their facts straight.

Why does the press use words like "weapon" instead of "shotgun" or "firearm"? Because weapon sounds more sensational. Same thing with interchanging "buck shot" for "bird shot." Who's fact-checking this stuff?

What happened is a hunter's worst nightmare and we certainly wish Mr. Whittington  a speedy recovery. But despite all our efforts to stress safety, accidents in the field do happen. I just wish the press would stick to the facts and leave the politics out of it.

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I agree entirely with your sentiments about sports. But for Cheney to initially blame his fellow hunter was just an embarrassment for all sportsmen. First thing I learned in gun safety class was to take responsibility for yourself and your tools. To do otherwise is just plain irresponsible.

Mark Nichols

If the circumstances of the shooting are as described, how could an unimpaired hunter have made such a misjudgment? It is beyond my comprehension that anybody who claims to be a hunter could possibly defend his behavior by suggesting (and allowing others to claim) that the victim was in any way at fault. I have the strongest sympathies for people who love hunting and shooting sports, however this man should never hunt or use a firearm again. Could you, if you had done such a thing? No hunter I know could.

On two related items:

It appalls me that so many people can find amusement in this incident. It was dispicable how "humor" was used in the first few days to both attack and defend Mr. Cheney. What is worse, we let them get away with it.

From watching the coverage on all the news stations and from looking at "news channel message boards" (where viewers post their thoughts to news articles,) I was struck by how deep the trouble that we as hunters are in. I had never imagined the depth of the misinformation and outright falsehoods about hunting that are now the norm. Why weren't hunters and sportsman effectively speaking out about factual errors, explaining hunting ethics and normal hunting behavior in the national media? We should be ashamed. With the exception of one Outdoor Life editor, no sportsman's group did a effective job speaking up for us on television.

Mark Nichols
966 Brewer Lake Road
Orrington, ME 044774


Hank, Mark:

Thanks for responding.

I agree with both of you that it is always the responsibility of the person behind the trigger to know where everyone is in his or her hunting party. And from what I saw of his interview, the Vice President has taken total responsibility for his actions.

What I find interesting is that both in news reports and from several radio interviews I’ve done in the past few days, reporters are finally beginning to ask questions regarding the technical aspects surrounding this incident (what exactly is a 28-gauge, how does it different from a 12-gauge, how many pellets in a standard load, etc.). This is a far different from some of the far-flung reports we heard just a few days ago, so somebody’s paying attention.

Without fail all have asked me “what went wrong.” And my response has been the same: “I don’t know.” I wasn’t there. None of us were. And anything we might say is sheer conjecture on our part. The one thing I’ve continued to stress is that incidents like this remind us of just how important hunter safety is. We stress it in Outdoor Life all the time and I make it a point to mention it whenever I’m talking to anyone who isn’t familiar with our sport.

What the reporters fail to see is that firearm-related injuries are at an all-time low! Moreover, the stats show that more people are injured playing football, baseball and basketball than are injured hunting, so all the nagging about safety is paying off.

Mark, you’re right. Hunters do need to speak up about factual errors to mainstream media. The question is: will they stand to be corrected?


I really enjoyed reading your blog while trying to figure out how to get a change of address for your magazine. Some of the high-notes of your brief write-up:

1. Give the poor man a break!
I hope you weren’t talking about Mr. Cheney’s wealth which is estimated between $30 and $100 million.

2. But reporters also have an obligation to get their facts straight.
I believe everyone would concur with this one. The question as to was it Dr. Pepper or “a beer” before hunting will surely be unknown. Why wasn’t a Breathalizer test given as required by law or was it even required? Yes, what are the facts? Why didn‘t the sheriff‘s report reflect Mr.Wittington’s peppered/sprayed face? Et al,et al.

3. What happened is a hunter's worst nightmare and we certainly wish Mr. Whittington a speedy recovery. No, the worst nightmare is killing someone with firearm. Luckily, this didn’t happen.

4. I just wish the press would stick to the facts and leave the politics out of it. If the facts are greatly unknown, there isn’t much to stick to. Has a Teflon sound, doesn’t it. The reason for the politics is the lack of facts available surrounding the most powerful Vice-President in American history’s hunting incident.

5. Who's fact-checking this stuff? Perhaps this is a good chance for Outdoor Life to do some fact -checking concerning this issue. Suggested title: “Just the Facts.” Not do sound too iconoclastic, but I think you will find the familiar line - “When celebrity comes in the front door, justice or the facts flee out the back.

Finally remember, whether it is a firearm or weapon depends if you see a sight or the end of a barrel.

Four-Hoofed Rodent Hater in Ohio but not clipped and caged (yet),
Ron - Proud Owner of Browning Automatic - Weapon or Shotgun - depending upon where the plug is.

Greg Russell

I find it very sad, as well as annoying that other supposed hunters are so quick to attack the Vice President. The reality is, something like that could happen to any of us, and your smug remarks notwithstanding, were you to be in the Vice Presidents shoes, I would hope people would try to be more supportive and understanding of you. I wasn`t these either, but I pheasant and quail hunt often, and with several hunters in the field and birds flushing, it IS work to keep track of everyone and know which shooting lanes you have. Hopefully, none of you "holier than thou`s” will ever have the misfortune of being involved in an accident. But if you are and I get to read about, hmmm. Maybe I’ll just crack open a beer and chuckle about the moron’s who shouldn’t be handling firearms.

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