The accidental discharge of a gun is one of the most common. The shooting of another man whom the shooter cannot or does not see is rare and is about the easiest to excuse, although there is no valid reason why such an accident should occur. The most reprehensible type of shooting accident is the one in which one man shoots another in mistake for game. This is the type of accident which arouses the most public indignation and is the most detrimental to the sport of deer hunting.
All of these troubles are caused by negligence, carelessness, or ignorance and they could be prevented if each hunter would see to it that he is propertly trained in gun handling and that he is woods-wise enough to recognize game when he sees it. Others may teach a man these things, but only the individual can determine how well he has learned the lessons, and only the individual can recognize potentially dangerous situations and evaluate his actions and reactions when these situations occur. If he should find that he is continually encountering situations where luck has prevented accidents or if he finds that it is difficult to hold his shot until his game is in clear view, he should hunt without a gun or keep out of the woods.
If I were a young man preparing for my first deer hunt, I would get one of those pictures of deer that are printed on sportsmen's calendars or on the covers of the November issues of hunting magazines and I would study that picture until I could remember every line and feature of the animal. They are beautiful pictures with the deer either standing in glorious splendor or stretched full length in straining flight, perfectly outlined against a contrasting background with the sun reflecting from polished antlers and burnished hair.
I would fix the image in my mind so well that when I saw anything like it in the woods or fields, I could look at it and state with perfect assurance: "That is deer." Not that I would expect to see anything which faintly resembles the picture, for that is a sight which a hunter sees once in a blue moon. But when I saw a farmer's cow, horse, sheep, pig, chicken or perhaps his hired man, I would know that it was not the game that I was seeking.
It is surprising to find so many hunters in the woods each season who have only the vaguest idea of what a deer looks like. These men kill a surprising amount of domestic livestock each year because of this lack of knowledge, and such ignorance is excusable with all of the sources of information that are available to anyone who will go to the trouble to seek it. Occasionally there is some slight excuse for killing live- stock in mistake for game, such as the time that a hunter was following a fresh deer track late in the season. He had every right to expect that all domestic animals were safely housed for the winter, but he shot and killed a wild heifer which ran from a thicket that the deer tracks indicated might be the hiding place of a deer. There was no excuse, except ignorance, for the man who stopped his car at the sight of a heifer in a pasture, shot the animal, loaded it on his car and carried it to an inspection station as a deer.
The accidental discharge of a gun is one of the most common. All of these troubles are caused by negligence, carelessness, or ignorance and they could be prevented if each hunter would see to it that he is propertly trained in gun handling and that he is woods-wise enough to recognize game when he sees it.