First, for the entertainment part of my column: I went squirrel hunting this past Saturday using my grandfather's old J. C. Higgins bolt-action, 12-gauge shotgun. I only wanted to hunt for about three hours because the West Virginia football game was going to be on television and kick-off was at noon. I managed to get a large gray squirrel, but I wished I had stayed in the woods for the remainder of the day because of the outcome of the game.
That old shotgun of Papa's is still one of the best of the low-priced shotguns. The squirrel I got was about a 40-45 yard shot. I was using Federal High Brass loaded with #6 shot that was more than 30 years old. When I dressed the squirrel out, this mature male had shot in him from his face all the way back to his hind legs. Right now, it is in my freezer.
This past Wednesday, I cooked the liver and heart for our beagle/blue tick dog. She ate the heart, but would not eat the liver. I ended up cutting it up into smaller pieces and gave it to an old tomcat; and he pigged-out on it.
Secondly: It is my unhappy responsibility to inform readers there have been six shooting incidents involving accidental discharge or shooting at game not clearly visible. The first happened in Mercer County on January 2, 2011. The victim took a six-year-old hunting.
The child accidentally shot the victim in the foot when he turned to the victim without taking his finger off the trigger. I have strong reservations about permitting a child this young to go out with a real gun. I remember when I was seven I wanted to go squirrel hunting with dad. We were visiting a cousin's farm in Roane County. When dad started for the woods, I was alongside him. He quickly told me that I was too young to hunt. He then said, "Go back to the house and mama will take you out after while." For a few minutes, I was "crushed". I had a BB gun with me, and I very much wanted to go.
Thinking back on that situation, I can now say dad was right. Most children under ten are not mature enough to be outdoors with a firearm.
During the spring gobbler season, there were two separate incidents. The first took place in Boone County on May 11, 2011. Two adult hunters were turkey hunting. One was using a call and walked away from the shooter. The shooter thought it was a turkey and shot at it hitting the first hunter. The second took place in Harrison County on May 14, 2011. An adult hunter shot at color instead of a clearly visible turkey. He also shot his hunting companion.
This reminds me of my father's grinding lectures he gave me when, at age 11, I was learning how to hunt. "You make sure it's a squirrel. You make sure it's a groundhog. "Just because you hear something or see something move, you do not start shooting." As loud and firm as his voice was, I felt like I was getting a sharp tongue-lashing for just wanting to go hunting.
This fall, there have been three hunting incidents. On October 8, 2011, a 17-year-old sustained shotgun pellets in his left arm while hunting near his home. This mishap took place in the Coal River area of Kanawha County near the community of Tornado. The youth was shot by a 16-year-old hunting companion who had never been hunting.
From the info I have been able to gather on this incident, the shooter was clowning around with his gun. This is a clear violation of the basic rules of gun and hunting safety. This shooter needs to take the required hunter safety course.
On October 22, 2011, another adult hunter shot his hunting buddy while squirrel hunting in Roane County.
On November 5, 2011, a 60-year-old man hunting on the Cranberry Ridge of Nicholas County shot himself in the right hand while unloading his .22 Magnum rifle. He was treated at a local hospital.
All of these mishaps are simply good examples of a small fraction of a second of carelessness.
When I took the hunter safety class more than 20 years ago, the conservation officer in charge told everyone present, "If you shoot yourself or someone else, you will live with that for the rest of your life." The officer could not have been anymore "down to earth" with that statement.