Tuesday, January 08, 2008

When Tragedy Strikes

© By Othmar Vohringer

I’m not usually someone to write about hunting accidents – I don’t want to give the anti-hunting and anti-gun lobby another opportunity to exploit a tragedy that they can abuse to spout off their one-sided agenda – but today I feel that it is necessary to break with that rule. Kristine writes on Hunt Smart, Think Safety about the tragic accident of a boy accidentally killing his father.

The story originated on the website of the 12WMAZ radio, titled “Man Killed While Hunting”.

According to the article a 12-year old boy shot his father while hunting. Sergeant Joel Hanson from the Dodge County Sheriff's Office in Georgia said:
The father and son were hunting, and the father went to retrieve the son out of the stand, and that was about dusk, and the son mistook him for an animal and shot the father."
Initially the father was still alive and went to the hospital but then died on the way to the Medical Center of Central Georgia. Why the accident victim John Peacock was transported form one to another hospital and what injuries he sustained has not been released yet. Neither is there any mention in the article what exactly led up to the accident.

There is only mentioned that the Sheriffs Office turned the investigation over to the Department of Natural Resources and that Georgia law regulates how old a child has to be to go hunting. The law says that:

"Any person who is age 12 through 15 shall satisfactorily complete a hunter education course as a prerequisite to hunting with a weapon in this state."
It also says "A hunter education course is not required for a child age 12 through 15 years who is hunting under adult supervision by a licensed adult hunter."
Furthermore the law states clearly that a supervising adult, the father in this case, has to be within sight of the minor at all times.

What laws where violated, if any, is not known until further investigation results are published.

As tragic as this accident is, the poor boy has to live for the rest of his life with the memory of shooting his father, and so has his family. We need to remind ourselves that hunting is one of the safest recreational activities, safer than ice hockey, jogging, skiing/snow-boarding and basketball. Sadly, while the latter rarely make headlines, hunting accidents do. Not only locally but nationally and even internationally.

Each time we hear of such tragic accidents people are quick to point fingers at the hunter education standards or demand tougher laws. Then of course there are the politically motivated groups and organizations which, like bloodthirsty hyenas, jump at such tragedies and use them as examples of why firearms and hunting should be outlawed. It is them that make sure the news is spread all the nation.

While it is true that every single hunting accident is one to many, it is also true that many times over more people get killed by drunk drivers, speeders and road hogs on a daily base. As well, there are hundreds that get killed and injured each day by careless co-workers or people in authority- think of the hundreds that are killed in hospitals through malpractice by doctors. In the recreational sector more people per month than hunters in a year get killed while hiking, mountain climbing and paragliding. Yet nobody would remotely consider asking for more education and more restricting laws in these cases.

It is a fact of life that despite all specialized education we may receive for a particular activity and despite any laws there is still the human factor of making mistakes and errors or that emotions got in the way of rational thinking. Nobody is perfect, we're not robots, more education and more restricting laws will not eliminate accidents. It’s a sad fact of life we have to live with and be aware of it at all times in everything we do.

In hind sight of this tragic accident we can ponder the questions of why, what and if. We do not know but perhaps the father could have carried a shining flashlight and hollered as he came close to the stand where the boy was sitting so he could have recognized his father. Why did the father have to walk to the boy’s stand? Had he gone away or did he even leave the boy alone to hunt? We do not know yet.

What about the boy? Did he or did he not take part in a hunter education course? If he did then he should have known, even at the age of 12, that he is not supposed to shoot at anything that he has not clearly identified as a legal target. I am not making excuses for the boy, or any hunter for that matter. Despite all education and hunter safety courses, once a person is alone surrounded by nature and in anticipation of the hunt it is easy to get tunnel vision and forget the world around. We hunters have a word for it. It’s called “buck fever”.

Some hunters get buck fever so badly that they see in everything that moves a deer. But hunters are not the only ones that get buck fever; non-hunters can experience what is known as a “rush”; athletes get a rush, so do some car drivers speeding down the road and many others. It’s a tragedy when other people get hurt or killed because of someone else. It shows us how fragile life is and that it only takes one careless moment or a second of absent-mindedness or a simple mistake on the streets, at home, at leisure or work to end a human life and to alter that person’s family forever.

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5 comments:

SimplyOutdoors said...

It definitely is a sad, sad story and I'm curious to see what actually happened as more and more facts are released.

That poor kid having to live with that the rest of his life.

It is also a shame that every anti-gun/animal rights organization will get ahold of it and spin it to your point of view.

Truly a tragedy.

Albert A Rasch said...

OV,

It is a tragedy. One that could easily have been avoided by sticking to basic gun handling rules. Unfortunately "Buck Fever" and foolishness can't be legislated out of existence.

A sad day for hunters, fathers, and sons.

Albert A Rasch

Kristine said...

Othmar,

This is a wonderful post and I'm glad you wrote it. You make a lot of good points.

This was truly a tragedy and, like most tragedies, there is a strong element of human error to it. My heart just breaks for this family.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thank you all for your valued comments. This is definitely a very tragic event and as Albert said neither education nor more laws will prevent such tragedies from happening. Over the past seven days we hear on the news of people that got killed or badly injured skiing. Despite warning signs and even some fencing people still go into areas were they shouldn’t. In one case a father and son went snowboarding in an avalanche area and promptly created a big snow slide that killed both of them plus two others.

The best we can do is to learn from others mistakes and advice others where ever we may see a unsafe situation and then hope for the best.

-ov-

The Hunter's Wife said...

These are great points to be made. It is so sad to see things like this happen. As you and the other state, you just can't be too careful. It is so important that families that take their children hunting use every possible precaution there is.

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