Doug Pike is a Field & Stream contributing editor who covers the outdoors for the Houston Chronicle. Here's what he has to say about reports suggesting that bird hunters in Texas follow different gun safety rules than bird hunters anywhere else.
Upland bird hunters everywhere knew exactly what had happened when word spread this past weekend that Vice President Dick Cheney shot a quail-hunting companion in South Texas, but some media reports made it sound as if the victim were to blame.
A quail flushed. Vice President Cheney swung his 28-gauge shotgun on the bird and tugged the trigger. His 78-year-old buddy, Austin attorney Harry Whittington, took a piece of the shot string in the upper body and face. Luckily, they were about 30 yards apart, far enough that pinhead-sized quail shot did minimal damage.
Reports from the owner of the ranch where the VP was hunting that Whittington violated some sort of ``Texas protocol'' requiring hunters to make formal announcement of their comings and goings in the field were a bit misleading. Everywhere that upland birds are hunted, the drill is pretty much the same. It makes sense to let other hunters know when you're moving to the left or right, or that you're back after visiting a nearby tree, but there's no requirement to do so. The onus is on everyone who carries a gun not to shoot at anyone else.
Cheney shot another hunter. Sooner better than later, he should own up to his mistake.
Think the VP's mistake will do significant damage to the public's perception of hunters? Let us know by taking the latest F&S poll on the home page (it's near the bottom left of the page).
And we'd like to hear more from you about what you think of this incident, so write in your comments below. We may publish them in our May 2006 issue of the magazine.