Doug Pike is a Field & Stream contributing editor who covers the outdoors for the Houston Chronicle. He wrote an article for us on Monday about reports of a so-called "Texas Protocol" suggesting that bird hunters in Texas follow different gun safety rules than bird hunters anywhere else. Here's what he has to say about the Vice President's appearance on Fox News yesterday evening.
In a Wednesday interview with Fox News' Brit Hume, Vice President Dick Cheney shouldered full responsibility for his South Texas hunting accident.
"I'm the guy who pulled the trigger," the vice president said. "That's the bottom line."
In the interview, Cheney laid out details of the Saturday-afternoon incident in which he shot 78-year-old Harry Whittington during a quail hunt.
"The image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind," Cheney said.
Cheney drank a beer with lunch. It's good that he admitted to it, but the consumption took place hours before the shooting. It's a nonissue, much as this whole incident should be soon. (For the record: Alcohol was a factor in only two of the 101 hunting accidents reported in Texas during the past three years.)
This accident was caused by poor judgment, and Cheney was right to come forward and say so. He called Saturday "one of the worst days of my life," as it would be for any hunter thrust into the same gut-wrenching position.
It's important to note that early reports putting Whittington at fault were just plain wrong. The ultimate responsibility for an accidental shooting lies with the person who fires the gun, as the vice president finally pointed out.
Compared to other sports, hunting is a safe activity. According to statistics from various agencies that were compiled by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (click here to read their report), in 2002 there were 47 hunting-related accidents per 100,000 hunters. You’re less likely to be injured while hunting than while playing golf (139 per 100,000 golfers), roller-skating (396 per 100,000), or playing softball (926 per 100,000).
Doctors in Corpus Christi say the Austin attorney is on the mend and expected to make a full recovery. His health could change, they say, but more because he's 78 than because he was hit in the face and chest by a barrage of No. 7 1/2 pellets from Cheney's 28-gauge shotgun.
Still 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).
Now that you've all heard more of the story from the mouth of the man himself, has anybody changed their opinion of situation? We still want your comments, and may still publish them in our May 2006 issue of the magazine.