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Tragedy in the Outdoors Can Be Avoided

Tragedy in the Outdoors Can Be Avoided

By: Ben Smith - December 6, 2023

Columnist Ben Smith urges his fellow hunters to stop being stupid with guns in the outdoors so we can quit giving the government more reasons to take them away.

It never fails. Year after year after year you can’t read the news without some tragic story of a hunting trip gone horribly wrong. Obviously, there are going to be more hunting accidents now than any other time of the year due to the number of people in the woods. Yet, each year I’m somewhat amazed at how some of these accidents occur. 

I recently happened upon an article that I don’t believe you could make up if you tried. A 76 year old man from Pennsylvania recently died from smoke inhalation when his treestand caught on fire. His wife had recently brought him lunch to the stand and was apparently there when it happened. According to her, the fire happened when her husband tried to light a propane heater and flames shot out of the bottom. Due to mobility issues, her husband was rendered unable to exit the stand and died from smoke inhalation, according to the article.

After reading the article, my mind went all different directions. My first thoughts were of how avoidable this could have been, but how easy it could happen more often. I think the longer most of us hunt, we go one of two ways. We either recognize the dangers around us ahead of a disaster and make wise choices, or we grow far too comfortable and lose sight of things that could hurt us, or others around us. The article stated that the most likely cause of the heater malfunctioning was that the gas line had been chewed on by wildlife. In a recent article that I wrote, I talked about the importance of checking all of your gear before you use it. Given the facts of the incident, checking the heater ahead of time may have prevented this from happening. 

Another thing to take into consideration was the overall health of the hunter. It was stated that he was unable to get out of the stand due to mobility issues. Possibly one of the most difficult things for some of us as we age is realizing that we simply cannot do some of the things we used to do. For goodness sakes, please don’t be stubborn and try to do things you cannot physically do. Know your limitations in the outdoors.

While that incident seems about as far fetched of a hunting accident as you can come up with, one that happens every single year, and multiple times a year, is a hunter shooting another hunter. You can do a quick internet search and read stories all day long about hunters being mistaken for game by other hunters. According to national records, hunting fatalities of this kind have decreased tremendously over the years, largely due to hunter’s education programs. However, I’m of the opinion that this is something that should never happen no matter what the circumstances are. There is simply no excuse for ever shooting another hunter and saying you thought it was a deer, turkey, or other quarry. 

Honestly, I don’t even see how this even happens, especially during deer season. I’ve been hunting for a long time, and I’ve never seen a human that resembled anything close to a deer. What if they are wearing camo with no orange vest? Have you ever seen a deer wear camouflage? Have you ever seen a deer walk on two legs? I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a hunting accident in Mississippi end with a murder charge. That blows my mind. As painful as it might be to the shooter, I’m of the opinion that any person that shoots someone mistaking them for an animal while hunting should serve some sort of punishment. At the very least, they should never be allowed to go anywhere near a firearm for the duration of their life. We should have a zero tolerance policy for these type of incidents. It’s simple, if you do not trust yourself to be able to control your emotions enough to take careful consideration of your target, you do not need to be in the woods with a firearm. Period.

I’ll end my rant with possibly the most painful of situations involving hunting accidents. Children. Our community is recently dealing with the tragic situation of a child shooting another child during a rabbit hunting trip. The two children were being supervised by another young person, a nineteen-year-old. Folks, I know a lot of us used to go out in the woods with guns and hunt long before we could legally drive. But just because we did it back then didn’t make it right then, and it doesn’t make it right now. Children should never have access to a firearm while under the supervision of another child. 

Never in my life have I been an advocate of gun control, and I mean never. I’ve always believed in the right to own firearms, and to use them as intended. And I’m still not an advocate for gun control, but I’m warming up to the idea that there are a lot of people walking around us that probably shouldn’t have access to a firearm. Every time I read an article about a child getting shot while hunting makes me wonder if we are missing something. Being a believer in the 2nd Amendment and being a believer in having the right to exercise our rights in the outdoors, let’s try something out: stop being stupid with guns in the outdoors so we can quit giving the government more reasons to take them away.

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.
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