When Non-Hunters Feel Qualified To Analyze Our Sport

Ever since Cheney’s unfortunate accident I’ve been closely monitoring the media coverage the story and hunting has received as a result of the mishap.   I’ve seen the issue turned and twisted just about every way possible…and almost without exception the opinion writer will either take a pot-shot at Cheney for his failed actions (usually with some political under tones discernible)…at the sport of hunting in general for being inherently dangerous and unnecessary…or sometimes loathing both Cheney and hunting.   No doubt about it…during the weeks since the accident it has been good fodder for those water cooler discussions.

J.R. Absher in his Outdoor Weblog pointed out a good article recently that hit it on the head and I think should be a must read for sportsmen.   In fact, you may want to read the story on that link sort of as a preventative dose for the total insanity I’m about to expose below.

I suppose it was bound to happen that people would use the Cheney incident as a catalyst of sorts to drive home their agenda that both Cheney and hunting is bad.   But the manner in which these folks purport to be some kind of expert on things leaves me about ready to gag.   Consider these excerpts from a recent opinion writer in the Salem, Oregon StatesmanJournal.  (click on the excerpts to read the piece in its entirety)

“…from a legal point of view, the precedent that matters here may not be Cheney, but rather a hapless Maine hunter named Donald Rogerson.

Rogerson, like Cheney, shot someone while in search of game. Mistaking a 37-year-old housewife for a white-tailed deer, Rogerson shot and killed her. Locals insisted the victim (who had recently moved from Iowa) was to blame because she was wearing white mittens during deer season. A Bangor, Maine, jury cleared him of manslaughter….

…Cheney and Rogerson share the ignoble distinction of succumbing to what hunters (and lawyers) call “buck fever.” It is a phenomenon as old as hunting, defined by the Random House dictionary as the “nervous excitement of an inexperienced hunter upon the approach of game.”

Okay, let’s stop right here for a moment.   Correct me if I’m wrong…but “buck fever” usually is an excuse why a hunter doesn’t bag his/her game…I’ve never known it to be a credible legal defense argued by lawyers to avoid prosecution in either a civil or criminal trial explaining why a shooting took place.   Furthermore, “buck fever” is not synonymous with a causation of “victim mistaken for game” or the concept known as pre-mature closure, which often best describes accidental shootings.   In Cheney’s case the victim was suddenly “in the line of fire.”   It was an accident…pure and simple.   Accidents happen to folks whether they’re hunting, shopping, walking the dog, crossing the street, etc.   But let’s not equate Cheney or most other hunting accidents with the phenomenon known as “buck fever.”   Doing so only shows the opinion writer’s blatant ignorance of our sport.

“…most cases of accidental shootings are viewed as reasonable mistakes by hunters and often it is the victim who is blamed for failing to give a hunter a wide berth. Even in the few cases where criminal and civil charges are brought against hunters such as Cheney, they are often tried by a jury of their peers: jurors from communities where hunting and hunting accidents are a way of life.”

Sometimes the best facts to substantiate a person’s belief are the ones they make up without the inconvenience of fact-checking.   My guess is a jury made up of a shooter’s hunting peers would likely be more critical of those actions rather than being lenient and sympathetic.

“…In areas ranging from vehicular accidents to corporate misconduct, individuals routinely face criminal charges for reckless conduct. In hunting, however, gross negligence is often refashioned as mere “excitement.” Indeed, criminal charges can be downgraded when the killing was done in sport.”

And to think people actually believe this stuff…incredible.

“…Cheney’s is a classic case of buck fever. There was nothing particularly confusing or unexpected about an individual rejoining a hunting line, as Whittington reportedly did. Rather, it was likely the euphoria of seeking and shooting game that blinded Cheney to the fact that he was aiming at a 78-year-old attorney rather than a six-ounce bird… Given Cheney’s heart condition, hunting would seem a poor recreational choice.”

Can you believe an editor of a major Oregon newspaper allowed this nonsense to go to print?

“…Cheney’s case reflects a troubling de facto immunity given to negligent hunters. Because of our tradition of hunting, we view people who make lethal use of a firearm as less culpable than those who make lethal use of objects like cars.”

Is it just me…or is this crap starting to get under your skin a bit, too!

“…At least Whittington knows who shot him. Frequently, the culprits in hunting manslaughter cases are never identified. With the expansion of suburbia, it is increasingly common for people to unwittingly enter a line of fire.”

This comment sure says a lot about the capabilities of our law enforcement officials.   Quite the contrary, it is a rare case where the shooter is not identified…but, of course, why let those facts get in the way of an otherwise good story.

“…Even in the crowded Washington area, hunters are permitted to hunt game and fowl.   Joan Manley, a federal lawyer, was shocked during a morning walk with her dogs on the Potomac River in suburban Alexandria, Va.: Alongside the heavily traveled path that runs next to the river, two hunters sat with loaded shotguns in a boat resting on the shoreline. They were after ducks. Two police officers confirmed they had a proper license and were expected to avoid joggers and bird watchers.

If they had failed, they could have expected no worse punishment than Cheney has received….”

Alright, I think most reasonable people would agree these comments are being made by someone who is terribly confused by reality.   Well, guess what…they were made by a nationally recognized law scholar from George Washington University named John Turley.   In fact, this opinion piece didn’t just appear in the Oregon newspaper that I linked to…nope, these comments were printed originally in The Washington Post and reprinted nationally in any newspaper that wanted to pick up the feature.   Isn’t it truly wonderful to see trash like this written and our sport smeared by the likes of a law professor from whom you would expect a much more accurate accounting of the truth.   I sure would…or perhaps I did.

Nope, instead the Cheney incident only served as a catapult to encourage the likes of the John Turley’s of this world to indiscriminately take shots at a sport they know absolutely nothing about.   His bio claims he’s a gun owner who shoots skeet and clays…so I guess having touched a gun once upon a time makes him some kind of a national expert on the subject of explaining hunting accidents.

Along those same lines…did I mention I bought some thong underwear to give my wife once for a present?   Certainly the 10 minutes I spent in Victoria’s Secret must qualify me to write in Ladies’ Home Journal about the finer points of purchasing lingerie and the upcoming undergarment fashion trends to expect.   I’ve gotta go now…I’ve got something much more exciting to write about than dwelling any further on this pathetic topic.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.