In my decades of hunting and guiding hunters, I have observed many ‘almost accidents’ and even some unfortunate accidents. I don’t like to think about them most of the time, but I thought that maybe I should mention a few of them so that hopefully someone can either learn something or be scared into being more cautious and safe while hunting.

I took a 19 year old kid with me one year to go jump shoot some ducks at local logging ponds in western Oregon. I knew the kid and trusted him as he was an experienced hunter of all sorts of animals. I made an almost fatal mistake that day of trusting him so much that I was not being diligent in keeping our hunting endeavor safe.

We both had shotguns that were loaded as we headed out on foot for a small pond. Every hunter I know automatically puts their shotguns on ‘safe’ when in transit so I assumed he did too. Never assume. As we walked across a small wooden bridge, he stumbled and started to fall backward. I instinctively reached out with my free hand to keep him from falling, but he kept both of his hands glued to his shotgun as he fell on his butt. As he landed, his shotgun shattered the silence of our walk and his #4 birdshot traveled in a tight pattern right by my belly with one millimeter to spare. Some of his shot even tore through my shirt but not my skin. I looked him in the eye and we both chose our own way to deal with the reality of what happened.

That was the closest I had ever come to being killed while hunting just more one inch in my direction and I would have been gutted like a fish. We ended the hunt that day and I have not talked to that guy very many times since. I’m sure he and you understand why.

Another incident that should have resulted in instant death turned out to not cause any injuries, but it still haunts me. I was with two other friends walking with shotguns after jump shooting some ducks and we had to cross a fence. The crossing was not a typical fence crossing as my friend had built a wooden ramp on both sides so we could just walk up the ramp and down the ramp for an easy crossing. Before we all crossed, we slid our pump actions back and left our breeches open. This was to ensure that no shell could be fired since the firing pin was four inches from the barrel. I was first over the fence with no problems.

As buddy #2 headed over the ramp, buddy #3 started up the ramp behind him and tripped. As he tripped, the motion jerked his action closed and in the haste of trying not to fall, some clothing hit the trigger and BOOM. I instantly turned around to see who had shot whom. We all froze. The shot from buddy #3’s gun had blown the hat right off of buddy #2’s head. I watched the hat hit the ground.

We were all extremely close friends so no hard feelings were had, but we also realized that we made the near fatal mistake of not unloading our weapons. Never take a short cut for safety. 

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