Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tragic Hunting Accident Affects Youth Hunting

© By Othmar Vohringer

Pamela Almli, 54 went hiking in the Skagit Valley, Seattle, what started out as beautiful day ended in a deadly tragedy when a young 14-year old hunter shot Pamela Almli in the head. According to reports the hiker bent over to retrieve something from her backpack and got shot. The young hunter, so the report, had mistaken the victim for a bear.

The 14-year old who cannot be named successfully completed a hunter education course at age nine and was accompanied on that tragic day by his 16-year old brother. It is legal in Washington State for 14-year olds to go hunting without parental supervision.

Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich said the boy would be charged as a juvenile with first-degree manslaughter because he acted recklessly when he fired the fatal shot. If convicted, he could face nine months in juvenile detention. While I do believe that the kid should receive some form of punishment, and so are his parents for not doing their job, first-degree manslaughter sounds a little harsh to me. Regardless of all circumstances it was an accident and not the intentional killing of a human being. Even the family of the victim thinks that this is too harsh. Could it be that the prosecutor rides on the anti-hunting bandwagon? It wouldn’t be a first!

Hunting accidents are not common as some special interest groups want us to believe. In fact hunting is one of the safest recreational activities we can pursue. Authorities said that hunting accident was a rarity in Washington - Almli is the first nonhunter killed by a hunter in the state in more than 25 years - but that doesn't make the accident less tragic for the families involved.

The unfortunate thing with such accidents is that each time such a tragedy occurs authorities look for solutions to appease public anxiety and special interest groups. Capt. Bill Hebner of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said he and his colleagues would like the state to re-institute an age restriction for people who go into the wilderness with a gun.

While other voices demand an end to hunting on public land period, and others want more restrictions for firearm owners. Then there are voices that suggest that hunter education and proficiency tests should be repeated every few years.

What I can’t understand is why so many people and authorities seem to loose all logic when something like this happens. That special interest groups jump at this like hyenas to further their extreme agenda has become unfortunately a sad reality.

As a hunting education instructor and a person that has been hunting all my life I know that no amount of education and restrictions ever can eliminate accidents from happening. The only way accidents could be eliminated is if all people where looked up in their houses 24/7 and all vehicles, cutlery, tools and furniture is removed. Part of been human and living in what is deemed a free society carries risks and accidents.
However I do believe that letting a child go hunting without adult supervision is irresponsible, even if permitted as in this case by law. I don’t agree however to raise the age for young hunters as recommended by Democratic Rep. Brian Blake, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

What I would recommend is to use commonsense and make it illegal for a minor to be out hunting by him or herself without supervision of a parent or responsible adult. I went hunting at the age of eight and up to the age of 17 my father or mother where always on my side making sure that I obey all the safety rules and act resposibly . When I lived in Illnois we always hunted on public land where hikers had access during hunting seasons. All hiking trails and parking lots where posted with big signs, letting hikers know that hunting is in progress and cautioning hunters to be aware of hikers. It really is that simple to improve safety without making new laws.

I find it sad that every tragedy has to end up becoming a bandwagon for more restricting laws that wont do anything but restrict the enjoyment and life of those that use logic and commonsense. As my dear mother used to say, “Making new laws to prevent idiocy does not work because they just invent new idiots.”

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bear hunter said...

well said, I agree completely.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thanks for your comment bear hunter. I visited your blog and like it. Keep the good work and hunting up.


SimplyOutdoors said...

Very well said Othmar.

I wrote my take on this subject as well, and it is right along the same way of thinking as your post.

I guess great minds think alike:)

Terry Scoville said...

I fully agree that manslaughter charges are to harsh for what was a tragic accident. I too, wrote this week about "At What Age" do you begin to teach children and allow them to have a firearm? Life is full of risks and dangers and unfortunate things do happen. That is part of the human condition.

Tom Sorenson said...

A tragic story. I have no answers - but I like the way you think.

I love the quote from your mother - that's just plain funny - and true!

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