In our last installment, we talked about pigeon and ducks decoying to the blind and offered some tips on how to become more proficient when hunting incoming and decoying birds. Two weeks after we sent the article, I got a call from one of our clients who had been on a duck and goose hunt in Canada and, well, let’s just say all involved are lucky to be alive to tell the story.
There was a group of hunters on this trip. Some were very experienced (our client) and some were not as experienced. They were using the lodge’s guns and hunting three in a blind and the blinds were next to each other. As so often happens in situations like this, no one in the blind where the accident happened talked about either standing or sitting when shooting and the dangers of someone not standing next to someone who was standing. If you will remember in the last issue we included a photo of two customers in Pennsylvania who agreed to show what could happen if two hunters were shooting at the same birds in the same blind with one standing and one seated.
We’re including that photo again just to be sure everyone knows and understands the importance of communicating in the blind about shooting seated or standing. In this photo, the shooters are demonstrating a situation where two hunters are shooting at the same birds. What happened on the Canada trip was two hunters were shooting at different birds with one standing and one seated. The shooter standing was tall and moving on birds coming from left to right and the shooter seated was moving on birds coming from right to left. There were three shooters in the blind and the tallest was in the middle, which creates a big problem if all don’t stand to shoot.
The shots rang out and the guide and our customer realized instantly something was not right because the sound was not what it should have been. After the shots, it was eerily quiet in the bind where the accident occurred, and our client and the guide ran to the blind to find all three hunters pale white and speechless. Our client asked loudly if anyone was hurt and the answer was “no,” thank God. What happened was the seated shooter’s barrel touched the standing shooters barrel as the seated shooter pulled the trigger. The shot blew a hole in the side of the standing shooter’s barrel, the shot exited the shooters barrel and the wad was stuck in the hole in the side of the barrel!
There were so many things that could have happened to create a much worse outcome. Thank God all came away from the incident unwounded and with all fingers hands and toes still intact and with a memory that will be with them forever!
The magazine tube was blown off the receiver and the mechanism was badly broken up, but look at the hole in the side of the barrel. You can see the wad still stuck in the hole where the seated shooters shot penetrated the outer wall of the barrel and his shot then exited the barrel. If I had tried to do something like that intentionally, I don’t know how I would have approached it, and I definitely would not have thought the shot would have penetrated the side of the barrel and then gone out the end of the barrel, but that is what happened.
Mother nature is a pretty tough teacher. She gives the test first and then the lesson! So what are the takeaways from this incident? In visiting with others about it we realize that this is not the only time this has happened, which gives us the courage to say to all who read this column, regardless of who you think you are going hunting with, going over simple safety procedures before the guns are loaded just makes perfect sense!
Understanding all the safety protocols that we talk about at every range we go to goes a long way to imbedding them into the brains of all those who enjoy shooting a shotgun! As you can imagine, we have seen a lot of accidental discharges in our line of work over the past 25 years. No one has ever been hurt thankfully, but we have seen enough of them to understand the benefits of all safety protocols. At the range, always have your muzzle pointed out the front of the cage downrange before you load the gun. I can’t tell you how many times we have seen nervous shooters close the gun with their finger on the trigger and we all were so glad they had practiced the protocol of muzzle downrange before you load the gun!
Always knowing where your muzzle is pointed without having to look at it is a must, and it must be a habit so it happens every time without thinking! Here is something you probably have not thought about; our research shows that shooters who have practiced their move and their mount enough so that is happens consistently all the time don’t have to look at their muzzle to know where it is pointed. Shooters who have to think about mounting the gun rarely know where their muzzle is pointed without looking at it, which, if you know anything about shooting a shotgun, is not a good thing.
As we have been discussing this incident, several instances have been relayed to us that have actually happened and, because the muzzle has always been pointed in a safe direction, no one got hurt.
Another client shared with us something that has happened to him twice. In a duck blind with a guide where he was the only shooter, the guide called the shot and for some reason he did not like the shot so he sat back down, gun butt between his feet and muzzle pointed straight up in a safe direction and Boom! He had forgotten to put the safety back on when he sat back down and the trigger had been jarred by something in the blind.
Twice in Gil’s career as a professional coach he has witnessed a “hang-fire” where the trigger is pulled and you hear the click of the hammer but the gun does not fire right away. We were taught the safety procedure for this in our certification courses and he followed them to a “T.” That saved him and his client from an ugly end to a lesson. He tells the story every time it happens, and let me tell you when it happened to him the first time, when he got home he was still shaken and pale.
He was teaching a high school-aged girl with a 20-ga. semi-auto on a skeet field. It was her second lesson and she was not all together comfortable with the gun, but you gotta learn sometime! She calls pull and swings on the target and they both hear the click of the hammer. Gil immediately grabs the gun and begins to tell her how the gun could go off and before he could get the explanation out, “Boom!” the gun went off.
It was his first time to face this, but he became so thankful that day for his training of the proper safety protocol for a hang fire or a delayed detonation of the shotshell. If you ever hear the click and nothing happens, keep the gun pointed safely down range for 30 seconds. If a semi-auto, keep the muzzle pointed downrange and, with your index finger coming from in front of the bolt, pull the bolt back in one move and let the shell hit the ground.
If an over/under or side-by-side, keep the muzzles pointed downrange, wait for 30 seconds and then open it quickly with the muzzles pointed down and the breach pointed up away from your face and let the shell hit the ground. In both instances pick up the unfired shell after a few minutes and put in the trash and leave it behind you.–Gil & Vicki Ash