I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase how first impressions often leave a lasting impression. Quite honestly, first impressions can make such an indelible impression in one’s mind—both consciously and subconsciously—that it can be damn near impossible for another person to ever overcome those first few minutes of contact, especially when the interaction goes less than positive.
I first studied non-verbal communication in college when I took a senior-level class called the “dynamics of face to face communication.” It was in that class I discovered that during most job interviews it was not what you said that often times landed you the job. Nope, it was the behavior and actions that most often accompanied the spoken words that made or broke the performance.
As my failing memory recalls, it usually takes a job candidate the entire interview (or longer) to convince the personnel director they are worthy of employment. Yet, it often takes less than 90 seconds for most hopeful interviewees to fail miserably by a less than favorable combination of their dress, posture, attentiveness, and other observable characteristics of body language.
Okay, so you ask me what does any of this have to do with gun safety? Well, my friend…let me draw some parallels for you with the job candidate and the new hunting partner.
Let’s take a scenario where a bunch of guys are going out on a pheasant hunt. Maybe I’ve hunted with Pete, Charlie and Sam before. But on this particular day there are two new hunters with our group. I suppose I should qualify this statement just a bit. John and Adam are not necessarily new hunters lacking experience, but they are new in terms of I have never hunted with them before.
In this situation both John and Adam do not realize it but they are under careful scrutiny by me. To some extent it is no different than the personnel director observing for qualities in the right job candidate. John and Adam must prove to me they are adept at carrying a firearm and by actions are safe at what they do. In other words, when you hunt with new people it is imperative to conduct your due diligence and observe for possible safety issues.
Of course, now that doesn’t mean that Pete, Charlie and Sam automatically get a free pass here. Each of them must also prove to me they have no mental lapses and continue to practice safe gun handling at all times. Why? Because my life and those whom I care about depend on such safe gun handling behavior.
All right, enough with the pheasant scenario. Let’s assume you are hunting with someone and they inadvertently point their gun’s muzzle at you or another person. Do you speak up? Do you blow it off as a one-time occurrence that probably won’t happen again? Do you want to say something but for some reason lack the courage to disrupt the fun?
Let me tell you…I don’t care if a hunter is 20 years my senior and they somehow violate any of the cardinal rules of safe gun handling…they will be quickly corrected in their actions in a polite, yet firm manner. I have absolutely zero tolerance (as well as respect) for those who take their gun handling skills lightly. I figure my life is way too important to be around such a person.
It was the firearms gun season here in Minnesota back during 2007 and I had just shot a small buck. A couple of hunting partners heard the commotion and eventually wandered over to check out the action. I was kneeling on the ground preparing to eviscerate the deer…when I happened to look up at a 20 year old hunter walking towards me pointing his gun directly at my body. The gun was still loaded which made matters even worse. That was the most blatant and careless gun maneuver I had ever witnessed in the field…I was quite upset. Suffice it to say, the careless hunter will never step foot on my farm carrying a firearm ever again.
Was I too harsh? You would have a tough time convincing me otherwise. The way I see it such a safety indiscretion carries with it a heavy price if you’re going to hunt around me. The problem is if fellow hunters don’t make a statement by taking a stand against unacceptable gun handling behavior, the problem only continues to fester until something terrible eventually happens.
I realize talking about gun safety is not a very sexy topic. I also realize correcting the behavior of a hunting partner is not something easy or fun to do. But as you enter this upcoming hunting season it is important to give this topic the careful consideration it deserves. After all, if you pride yourself on being a respected sportsman then helping to police our ranks for safety violators is a pledge you ought to make.
The problem is if you overlook any safety violations that occur by your hunting partners it only shows how complacency could well be creeping in to how you practice safe firearm handling techniques. Don’t allow that to happen.
Remember, a person seeking a job can have a miserable interview and consequently lose out on the opportunity less than a minute into the performance. A hunter, on the other hand, can lose a life in a split-second if those same non-verbal communications are not properly observed (and corrected from re-occurrence).
This fall be sure to watch those with whom you hunt and, if necessary, elevate the level of acceptable gun safety performance by everyone. Granted, it might not be easy to do…but you can take pride in the fact it is the right thing we all should be doing for the positive future of our shooting sport.
©2010 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.