Be mindful of your shot before pulling trigger

I tend to lead a fairly active lifestyle. I’ve bouldered and climbed mountains and rock faces. I’ve bungee-jumped, parasailed, jet-skied in the waves of the ocean, and zip-lined through the rainforest of Costa Rica.

There are gobs of people who will not even think about doing some of those things because of the risk factor, but if it’s an adrenaline rush, I’m generally on board.

I say this not to brag, or to gain attention, but rather to bring attention to a particular issue. In all the years I’ve been participating in semi-dangerous, “all about the thrill” activities, the closest I’ve come to near death was in the deer woods.

I’d already pulled the trigger on a nice sized doe and was simply sitting in the same spot I’d been in for only half an hour or so. My dad and I decided on a spot that’s always produced many deer for us located just 20 minutes from my house here in Virginia. He was hunting a 60-acre tract of private land on one side of a small country road and I was hunting on the other side on a smaller, 40-acre piece.

Then, all of a sudden, a shot rang off that made me jump from the stone wall I had propped myself against for the evening hunt. The next two to three minutes of my life were perhaps the most terrifying I’ve ever experienced. That shot was followed by six periodic shots and after the first two I had realized by sound from the gun barrel and bullets zipping through the trees, that they were all being fired in my direction, and the direction of the property owner’s home. By “my direction,” I mean buckets hitting trees and underbrush within several feet of me.

Speechless, horrified and not able to make a sound to yell, I am not embarrassed to admit I quickly made my way to my belly and waited for the shooting to stop. My heart pounded and I began to wonder if this might be intentional. After all, I had shot just moments earlier, so whoever it was had to know I was there.

I stayed put through the remaining shots until I was certain it had stopped, jumped up, grabbed my deer I had not yet field dressed, and headed 400 yards to the property owner’s house, where I figured I’d be safe. I didn’t even consider walking in the direction of the shooting to confront the shooter. They’d already shot seven reckless shots in my direction, so who knew what state of mind they’d be in should I have found them if I went looking.

A little shaken from the experience, it took me a few months just to piece this article together. I wanted to offer perspective in this article, not fear. So let’s break down a few things that can help you and your hunting counterparts be safer in the woods this season.

¯ First is something that has always bothered me. Whomever it was firing those shots were right against the boundary line of the property I was hunting. Seeing as I always do my homework, that 250-acre piece of land next door does not warrant hunting that close to the neighbor, especially with a house not far away.

¯ Second, if we as hunters need to fire seven shots for any reason, we need to rethink whether we’re making smart choices and ethical shots.

¯ Third, this person had no backstop. The land I was hunting is totally flat and as visible as it can possibly be. One shot strategically placed into the body of a deer in this scenario is one thing, but flinging shot after shot in the direction of an animal when houses and other hunters are present is indeed reckless.

So today, I write to ask you to please be safe in the woods in upcoming seasons. I and many others have let game animals walk away on many occasions because we were not comfortable with the shot. The way I see it, if you have any doubts whatsoever, it’s not worth pulling the trigger.

After all, you can’t ever take a bullet back.

Hunt hard, HUNT SAFE, and shoot straight, friends.


John Knouse writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.


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