“The bird got out of the brush pile and took off away from us, made a hard left and basically he just turned around in mid-air and went right between us. He was ready to shoot that bird and I just happened to be on the other side of it.”
Those are the words of a friend describing what he last recalled right before getting shot quail hunting this season.
Like others I know who have been in this position, he really did not want his name used in part for his own privacy as well as not to cause further angst for the hunter behind the trigger. But it is an important side of the story that should be told because while hunter safety is stressed, hearing the words of a victim takes it from theory to reality.
Hunting is a safe activity. With 1.3 million licensed hunters in 2020, Texas recorded just 24 hunting accidents. One was fatal.
“It was full speed. It just happened so quick I didn’t have time to react. It was just boom and I felt it. I knew immediately it wasn’t in my stomach. I just felt it in my hand and arm.
“It happened so fast I didn’t have time to react or even know what just happened. I just knew it hurt,” he recalled.
In this case, he might have been lucky because of the speed it occurred. Because he was not able to react, he was standing sideways to the shooter. Had he been able to move, he might have turned toward him or away from him taking more of the No. 8 pellets into his torso or back.
Instead, he ended up with nine souvenirs -- three in the butt cheek, four down his left forearm from his elbow to his wrist, one on top of his wrist and another in his index finger.
“The one on the knuckle went all the way to my bone. The ones in my forearm went almost to my bone,” he explained.
Of course the million-dollar question on everyone’s mind is what does it feel like to be shot. If you have bird hunted very much, at some point you have been peppered by pellets from another hunter. Depending on the size of the pellet and the distance of the shooter, it can momentarily sting and maybe draw a whelp.
“It felt like when you barely bump your funny bone times a thousand. If felt like someone hit me with a baseball bat on my left elbow. And you could feel it, it was an immediate shock all the way to my left ear and down to my fingertips and all the way down to my left knee,” he said of the immediate sensation.
Then he experienced a lull in the level of pain.
“Pretty much after that, the pain wasn’t too bad until I got to the hospital and they were giving me the IV and I could really start to feel it throb. The adrenalin finally wore out.”
Fortunately, he was able to leave the hospital after treatment. All nine pellets are still embedded. Doctors realize in cases like this, they are going to do more damage to muscles and possibly ligaments trying to pull small pellets out than the pellets themselves cause. There is a chance some may work their way out eventually, but on the other hand he may be looking at a lifetime of setting off airport metal detectors. He does still have limited use of his hand to the point he has not been able to bow hunt this year, but should be ready next season.
After hearing his story, I have heard from several others who have been shot or were around when someone else was. It is not surprising. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, hunters swinging on game caused eight of last year’s accidents. That was by far the most for any cause category.
Christmas may seem like an odd time to be thinking about accidents, but a lot of hunters, young and old, are going to receive a shotgun or rifle as a present in a long-standing tradition. There is also going to be a lot of hunters in the field because of the number of seasons open right now. In all of the excitement, safety may not be a top priority at the moment.
But remember the words of a victim of an accident, the pain is real, not just words in a hunter safety booklet.