WILTZ: Coming close to being the victim of a serious accidentI don’t normally hunt pheasants with a large group, but a good friend invited me to join a group of his associates, and I felt honored to be there. I believe that there is always a higher element of risk with a larger group, and this hunt was no exception even though a number of veteran hunters participated.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
I don’t normally hunt pheasants with a large group, but a good friend invited me to join a group of his associates, and I felt honored to be there. I believe that there is always a higher element of risk with a larger group, and this hunt was no exception even though a number of veteran hunters participated.
Because I was one of the oldest hunters, it seemed appropriate to most that I should be a blocker. As I was also taller than the other hunters, I felt my greater degree of visibility would lend itself to the success of the hunt. It would be easier to see me at the end of the field — especially with my hunter orange hat and vest.
Early in the hunt I was blocking a field that was certainly no more than a quarter mile in length. The hunters marched from east to west in CRP that was knee deep, and there were no problems as far as seeing me. I saw a rooster rise in front of the center of the column that flew low directly between them and me. It all happened so very quickly, and when I saw at least two guns come up, I knew I was in trouble. The distance was perhaps 100 to 125 yards.
In the past I’ve been peppered by shot four times that I can recall. Two are still vivid. I was on a large group jackrabbit hunt over by Delmont when a rabbit tried to escape between me and the next hunter. I saw the rabbit, saw the gun come up and had time to turn around before the hunter fired. I was hit hard, but my heavy winter clothing saved me.
The second time I remember well occurred when I was blocking a cornfield. I saw the rooster running toward me, saw the young first-time hunter’s gun coming up and turned around in time to absorb the blow on my backside below my waist. A friend picked some of the shot from the calves of my legs.
Getting back to the incident described above, I feel that I way underestimated how quickly things would develop when compared to the other mishaps. I wrongly assumed that I would hear the shots before feeling the hit. It wasn’t so. This makes some sense as the muzzle velocity of the shot, perhaps 1,350 feet per second, was faster than the speed of sound at slightly less than 1,000 feet per second.
Before I could make more than a quarter turn of my head, I was hit hard enough on the side of my head to draw blood under the hair of my scalp in two places. I was also hit hard on my glasses. Even though my glasses were only Walmart bifocals, they absorbed the blow with no problems. I didn’t want to make an ordeal of the accident, so I told our leader to mention to the guys that there must be daylight between the bird and the horizon before firing.
It should go without saying that any hunter should wear eye protection. Whether we are talking about errant shotgun pellets or branches, eye protection is a must. Just as soon as I can get to Mitchell, I’m going to buy wrap-around protection that safeguards the sides of my eyes. I came within inches of taking a pellet in the side of my eye.
As far as the careless hunters are concerned, I don’t wish to be hard on them. A raucous ringneck rooster exploding from the cover beneath our feet is an unnerving experience. Being cool enough to look for other hunters in the background before firing requires much experience. Though I’ve hunted pheasants for well more than 50 years and killed thousands of birds while doing so, I say a little prayer that my carelessness won’t injure a partner every time that I go out.
It’s appropriate that recalling memories of the late George McGovern is in vogue. I, too, have a fond memory. I was the principal of Wagner High School, and the senator came to our school to do an assembly program. Technical problems with his mode of transportation forced McGovern to remain at the school afterward, and I invited him to spend the time in my office. He accepted. Imagine having an hour for a one-on-one with the senator!
At the time I wasn’t fully aware of his heroics as a WWII bomber pilot over Germany, or we probably would have talked about it. However, I did have concerns to share. I asked him about his views on gun control. Back then I don’t believe that gun control was a part of the Democratic platform. We also discussed the futility and injustice of the reservation system, an institution that I was beginning to abhor. George was knowledgeable and articulate. I came to realize just how gifted the man was.
After he left, I began to realize that even though we discussed and debated these subjects in depth, I couldn’t tell you where he stood on the issues. That skill with the English language made him the consummate politician that he was.
*See you next week with some thoughts on my West River deer hunt.