In reading a recent article about the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard and the number of duck hunters who lost their lives, I thought about a great-uncle of mine who survived it.
From the stories I have been told, farming was almost a sideline for him when the hunting season opened. He was on South Ten Mile Lake guiding a group of duck hunters when the beautiful fall day turned into a raging snowstorm.
Half of the lives lost in Minnesota on that fateful day 80 years ago were those of duck hunters.
Anyone who has hunted for any length of time will have a close call or two before they take up the rocker. Those who hunt come to realize the terrible power of guns and their ability to turn a life upside down.
Hunting snow geese with a party of friends in Canada 30 years ago on a sunny October morning I was getting to my feet to open fire on some decoying birds when a blast near my ear told me I had just had a very, close call. The guy to my right had pulled the trigger. A second later and I would have lost a lot more than just my cap.
Safety is really the cornerstone of hunting. It has to be taken seriously.
When a pal of mine realized a good friend and hunting companion was careless with the safety of his shotgun he called it to his attention. When his buddy laughed him off their hunting trips came to a very abrupt end.
So many traffic accidents can be avoided by slowing down and watching the road. Yet even that is no guarantee. Two people were killed Thursday north of Moorhead in a head-on crash. Your driving might be impeccable but what about the person coming toward you?
My dad traveled for his work and was a member of one airline's million mile club. He also did a lot of driving and was well into his 40s before he had his first traffic accident — the result of a woman panicking and taking her hands off the wheel.
His advice to me when I started driving was blunt — "Drive like everyone on the road is out to kill you."
That very earthy piece of advice has to be extended to hunting because no matter what you do — any accident around a gun has the power to end a life instantly.
It ended instantly for a member of a deer hunting party some years ago at my brother-in-law's farm. They were standing in a group when they saw a deer running across a field. They all opened fire at it. They were very excited, just as so many deer hunters have been when a big animal is flushed from cover. When one of the younger members, who had been kneeling in front of the others, jumped up to shoot it was over for him very quickly.
I think of an Ashby hunting guide who lost his life when he bumped into another hunter who did not have his gun on safety.
The brother of a pal of mine was shot when his brother-in-law’s shot at a crippled deer ricocheted and got him in the hip. It could have just as easily been the heart.
There was the deer hunter who was shot and killed by a bullet fired by another hunter on the other side of the hill — a complete stranger who had fired at a deer and missed.
I brought up the fact that deer hunting produces the most deadly of the gun sports each year in the office a couple of weeks back. A fellow writer corrected me. Wild turkey hunting is the deadliest sport he said and he was right. Hunters who go after deer with a gun are required to wear blaze orange. Turkey hunting involves going into woods sometimes green with foliage and dark in camouflage clothing and calling for toms and jakes. A pal of mine just about bought it when he went down to Missouri and started calling birds because his calling was a little too convincing. The next thing he knew someone had thrown a shotgun blast his way.
Be very careful out there — and even a little afraid. It could add years to your life and someone else's life as well.
Brian Hansel is a reporter for the Daily Journal.