U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- It’s a funny thing, sensitivity. Years ago, my biology professor explained sensory overload and the first time I was sprayed by a skunk, seconds after I sent a mess of shot through it with a semi-auto 12-gauge, her message made sense; as quickly as the spray overwhelmed me, it disappeared. I couldn’t smell a thing. Unfortunately, my wife’s senses are world-class and she locked me out of the house. After a solid hour of bathing in a concoction my wife threw together, the stench dissipated. I still couldn’t smell it but my wife suggested it was at least tolerable.
While desensitization worked great for me in that particularly shameful event, the consequences of my ill-planned attack on the skunk played out rather harshly on my wife. It reminds of something my Pop always said, “Life is full of choices; however, the consequences are clearly defined.” So there I was, years ago, a witness to the consequences of poor planning and becoming desensitized.
Like most lessons, I internalize each and every one… and somehow, good or bad, assign them roles in governing virtually every aspect of my life. Fitting then, as a hunter, how a similar chain of events can impact outdoor pursuits, change lives, ruin them forever, and even erase them from existence here on Earth. The finality of this reality should be both jaunting and haunting. Prospect of the tragic latter should always rest squarely on our minds, not occupying our every thought but ever present and never desensitized; after all, bad things happen when we live life on auto-pilot, including on the hunt.
Years ago, but years since the skunk incident, I was reminded of this lesson with more serious consequences. My shot shattered the eerie silence of early dawn on the edge of the slough – nothing but the crack of the shot, followed by consequence.
Bitter cold bit at my cheeks as we trekked the half-mile to our favorite marsh in the back corner of a public wildlife management area. My buddy’s young retriever, Daisy, lit out ahead of us and disappeared into the night but not terribly far, we could hear her heavy breath and the pads of her paws running through the brush; she was in high spirits. Once we arrived, we donned our waders, set the decoys and settled in to wait for shooting time.
We laughed and joked for a short spell and let Daisy explore the bank until darkness began to loosen its grip. With shooting light upon the ducks were increasingly easy to spot. The setup was perfect, nestled in the trees, knee deep in water, wind at our backs and decoys set in a clear cove just yards in front of us. They dropped in quickly and often, in the first half-hour we had three ducks between us. Then it happened.
A lone mallard drake flew dropped in and my buddy folded his wings just 30 yards away. Always itching to go, Daisy lit out after the floating duck. As she did, another teal slid in low and to my right. I mounted, tracked and shot. The shot cracked loudly, seemingly louder because it was one I thought in the last millisecond, I shouldn’t take but had already committed, physically, to action. As quickly as the shot rang out, I was sick; I couldn’t take it back. Feathers burst in every direction and Daisy thrashed in the water. We were stunned but watched, sickened by the turn of events in an instant.
What seemed to take forever to unfold in front of us, truth be told, only took a couple of seconds. Daisy found her footing and started back, my buddy’s mallard in her mouth and unscathed. Somehow, I had shot over her, perhaps missing by mere inches… or several feet as my buddy would tell the story; he’s probably right. But the meat of the story, the takeaway, is this: I had duck hunted for years and become a bit too comfortable. I flew on auto-pilot in the marsh, desensitized to the dangers waiting for me to let my guard down. When the guard went down, it happened. I was lucky but the consequence was quit real and impactful – what I felt during and immediately after the shot. I wished something would have stopped me sooner… my senses or perhaps, simply, an enhanced awareness. I also couldn’t help but think how it could be, someday, another hunter – stranger things have happened.
While the thrill of the hunt continues to tug me off the grid where great things happen but danger remains, I’m glad to see forward-thinking, high-tech innovation finally put to incredibly honorable use. SafeShoot has defined a first-of-its-kind system dedicated to saving lives on the hunt. Wearing SafeShoot devices and mounting them on firearms allows the system to warn shooters anytime another hunter or four-legged friend has wandered into a line of fire.
As it relates to my personal experience. SafeShoot also recently released the Defender. The SafeShoot Defender is specifically designed for hunting dogs. Check out their website before you head back into the woods. Somethings you just can’t take back; a bullet and No. 4 steel shot to name a couple.
About Kevin Reese:
Kevin is an award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, speaker, host of Global Outfitters TV Show’s GO Tips and a Marine Corps veteran. He owns and administers www.mainbeammedia.com and Main Beam Blog at blog.mainbeammedia.com. The Main Beam Blog offers great articles, press releases, outdoor industry news and reviews.