By Tank Hoover
I’ve always said you can learn just as much from a bad example as you can from a good one, sometimes even more so. The bad example is a prime illustration on how not to do things. I was reminded of this just the other day while I was seeking adventure, hunting on public ground. Unfortunately, the adventure wasn’t from a ginormous 10-point buck, but rather a fellow hunter.
I was nestled against a huge oak tree, on a steep ridge, second bench from the top. I had a good view of the top bench where the frisky deer like to convey back and forth chasing each other. Around lunchtime, I hear the unmistakable crunch of leaves to my rear, causing my body to release jolts of adrenalin throughout me. As the crunching of leaves gets louder, I hear a cough. Damn. Since the deer in my state don’t have Chronic Wasting Disease, I know it is a human.
Turning around, I see a camouflaged clad, red-faced hunter approaching. Limping, he has both hands in his pockets, with a Montgomery Wards shotgun resting in the crook of his arm and a friendly smile. As he approaches, I can’t take my eyes off of the 12-gauge barrel pointing at my face. Slowly moving my face out of the line of fire, I greet my fellow hunter with a smile and say, “You need to clean your barrel. It looks dirty.” Taking a second for it to sink in, he finally understands and says, “Sorry.” He then lowers his shotgun and plants the bore-end on his right boot top and casually uses the butt-end of his stock to rest his crossed arms, “Seen anything” he asks? Pondering this loaded question, much like the shotgun he’s pushing through his hunting boot, I chuckle, realizing I have solved the riddle to why he was limping in the first place — and say “no.”
My .375 JDJ Thompson Center contender remains sitting in my lap, displaying good muzzle discipline, not pointing at anyone or anything. I’m just glad he had his hands in his pockets as he approached me with his shotgun pointing at me. For that surely would have upped the ante from my response. How? I’m not sure, but am glad I didn’t have too.
A few hours later I run into my “buddy” again, drinking a beer while sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the public ground. “Thirsty?” he asks, as he offers me a cold one. I politely refuse his brewed beverage as he tells me he just needed to warm up a bit before the afternoon hunt. And my daughter wonders why I won’t take her hunting on public ground.
They are out there, folks. Most are harmless, but would you risk your precious commodity by exposing them to those lacking even the most basic gun handling skills? How would you handle such a situation?
Here’s another scenario all too common at public shooting ranges. The line is hot. A cease-fire is called for changing the targets. The range is cold. As people are down-range, some nimrod decides he wants to handle a gun he has been eyeing on a neighbor’s bench and picks it up. It’s unloaded right? Should be no problem, eh? Wrong! Nimrod goes on looking through the telescopic sight pointing the rifle, not down range, that would be unsafe with people resetting targets, but directly to the left of down range, where anyone can walk into the path of the muzzle — let alone handling another’s gun without permission.
When the range is cold, no guns are handled, ever! If you observe such negligent gun handling, approach the offender and educate them. No need to be nasty, but remind them of the reason for safety rules. There’s no such thing as being too safe when it comes to firearms.
Same range, different scenario. Nimrod’s kid is shooting dad’s handloads and a squib load blocks the bore of the handgun. Nimrod Jr. knows something isn’t right, so he turns the gun towards his face so he can check the barrel. WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! Happens all the time. Make the gun safe! Unload it. Inform a range officer of the situation. With cylinder opened, check the bore and then remove the obstruction.
Here’s the toughest one. You bring a good buddy or family member to the range and they do something stupid. You gotta confront them. No need to be a jerk about it. But just go over the basics in a lighthearted manner. No need to be a range Nazi. Hell, yelling at someone during the infraction is liable to startle and have the offending party really do something stupid.
Don’t worry about being redundant! Whenever I go to a professionally run range or hunting camp, all shooting is done after a safety meeting. Before you start rolling your eyes, listen. This is a good warm-up for live fire. It instills confidence in me this is a professionally run outfit. You can never be too safe or careful! It’s why we carry guns in the first place, right?
So be observant of your surroundings, be it a shooting range, public hunting ground, a busy shopping center, or a lonely alley. Spotting unsafe gun handling, or any threat, is the first step to preventing a mishap. As Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud! Nip it, nip it, nip it…!” And don’t add to the chaos by being a jerk about it.
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