Kelly Bostian: Tragic accident a reminder of gun safety importance
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
11/20/12 at 5:23 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Tragedy a reminder of gun safety
While email and phone requests through the weekend focused on requests for deer and duck reports, and I should be reporting on the Grand Lake Fish-and-Chips tournament outcome (I put it in my blog), my mind can't seem to pull away from the sad news of a fatal hunting accident Saturday night in Ottawa County.
So, briefly on deer, all local reports I've heard about the opening weekend of rifle season for deer were pretty good. The rut is in full swing, but in some areas hunters are finding that the big bucks are in what Outdoor Pro Tips contributor Jack Morris likes to call "lock-down mode."
"Lock-down" means those big bucks have a hot doe corralled into some heavy cover while she is at the peak of estrous and neither of them will be going anywhere for about a 48-hour period. Never fear, however, once he's done with her he will be out on the prowl again.
Briefly on ducks, some hunters have had luck on gadwall, teal, geese and a few mallards, near the big lakes, but the bottom line is we need rainfall and we need cold. Sure it snowed in South Dakota last week, but then it warmed up, melted and covered the Ag fields with sheet water.
The more important topic of discussion here in the middle of the rifle season focuses on safety.
Most hunters by now are aware of the accident Saturday that took the life of Robert Chesnutt, 41, of Fairland. A hunting party that included his young stepson was back at their truck after hunting and the boy's .357 magnum Rossi SRG lever-action rifle discharged as they were unloading their guns, sending a bullet into Chesnutt's upper left chest.
As family and friends mourn the loss of Chesnutt, I extend my condolences, and most especially to the young man involved in the accident. Nothing in this column is meant to second-guess the accident that took a fellow hunter's life. Each of us has had our scary moments in the field and can empathize with the young man whose gun accidentally discharged.
As the saying goes, "there but for the grace of God, go I."
While the event is in the minds of hunters and because we are just days into the 16-day rifle season, however, a discussion of gun safety beyond the basics is warranted.
The No. 1 rule to always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction and always treat it as if it is loaded is paramount.
We all know that rule, but as a photographer in the outdoors I see that rule violated more often than I care to recall. It's because we are human, because we are sometimes absent-minded, distracted or unaware. Sometimes, we just mess up.
Everyone practices shooting (or is supposed to), but how often do you practice safety and actually talk about the act of being safe? Ever practice just handling your firearm? I see some hunters who are experts at handling their firearms and others who fumble.
The better and more familiar you are with the workings of that gun, the easier and more quickly you unload before crossing a fence and before approaching your vehicle.
Game warden Jeff Brown offered a good tip in that it's always a good idea to unload your firearms before you return to your vehicle. "When you get back to your vehicle you're putting stuff up, relaxing, and you tend to drop your guard a little bit," he said.
When I'm around a hunting party, I like seeing actions that are open as people move from place to place. It tells me the gun is safe, rather than trusting the hunter to have the safety on.
Just remember while you're out there to wear your hunter orange, stay aware, keep that muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times, and to not be shy about correcting other hunters around you when you see unsafe behavior.
Just be careful out there.