Careful pointing that firearm

A decade started with the Y2K computer crash flash in the pan has ending with the H1N1 — swine flu — flash in the pandemic.

A decade started with the Y2K computer crash flash in the pan has ending with the H1N1 — swine flu — flash in the pandemic.

I recall my trepidation as I fired up my computer on New Year’s morning 10 years ago, then amazement when it all came up as usual, correct date and all, and wondering how the little men in my desktop’s tower do that.

So, 10 years later we still have 100-plus messages overflowing the in box and readers still stop me in the street, or phone. It is time to clear the decks of the old decade to be ready for the new.

Recently, as writers sometimes have to do, I have been telling irate readers that I do not write the headings for my columns.

I do not necessarily regard paid hunting as immoral, as one heading recently asserted; rather, as the column I wrote said, I regard the hunting of fenced-in, closely — confined critters as immoral, and that would be whether paid for or not.

Most reader feedback has been thoughtful and approving of the views of the column on the recent fatal hunting “accident” near Bentley and the criminal charges arising from it.

But I have been ambushed and surprised by several gents expressing strong disagreement with my general view that pointing a loaded rifle to peer through its scope at something you can’t identify with both your naked eyes, (not saying the Bentley shooter did that) is, at best, careless use of a firearm and, at worst, criminal negligence.

This is not my idea.

When my dad, the Guv, was training me afield so many years ago, any “minor” transgressions resulted in ammunition confiscation and my carrying an unloaded shotgun for the rest of the day.

But if the Guv ever caught me letting the muzzle of my firearm cover any human — including myself — or dog, that was all she wrote, he would take me home immediately — to this day I am proud he never had to.

Several decades later I attended the Federal Firearms course in Red Deer as taught by Ward Robinson, Jr. and Vinnie Chocholacek, not because I had to, but because I wanted to see if it was as amazing a course as many who had taken it were telling me.

It was, and, because of the Guv’s training, I was not surprised, was pleased in fact, to hear both instructors warning the class that if, during any of the handling sessions of unloaded firearms, a student covered any other human with the muzzle, then that student was out of there, now, and no refund.

In the big game field you just cannot look at something through your firearm’s scope without also pointing your rifle at it, a rifle that, in most cases will have live ammunition in the magazine, if not actually up the “spout” — loaded in the chamber.

As a too-many-time scopee, I can tell you the experience is chilling.

“What’s a man to do?” one gent wondered.

He must not have read the whole column.

The answer is simple: binoculars, excellent modern models of which can now be had for about the cost of two or three boxes of quality centre-fire ammunition.

Many readers have been curious about the precise dimensions of his deer of a lifetime taken by my old friend, Don Hayden, while he was hunting with me south of Rocky Mountain House in mid-November.

A while ago Don reported that the quarters of this big white-tailed deer, meticulously skinned and hocked, bone-in, weighed 150 pounds when delivered to his meat cutter.

Various sites on Google and several books in my library show that the live weight of this deer had to be between 250 and 300pounds, no wonder three gents — all over 70 — had to use guile and experience to load the field-dressed carcass into Don’s rig.

Now Don has had the antlers measured by Wayne Norstrom of Pincher Creek, after Wayne’s return home for Christmas from a job in Saskatchewan. At a glance Wayne pronounced it a fine, balanced 10-point rack that would probably score well over 150 Boone and Crockett points, which totally agreed with my immediate on-site “eyeball” score, but I am self-taught and inexperienced, not well-trained and experienced like Wayne is.

Wayne scored the antlers at a gross of 150 and, after deductions, the antlers scored 142 5/8, nearly 18 inches of antler below the minimum score of 170 required for entry into the Boone & Crockett Club’s records of North American big game, all of which, once again, shows how far out of “the book” a superb animal, a man’s buck of a lifetime, can be.

None of which discourages Hayden. This is the first head he has had scored and says: “maybe measuring should be encouraged to get hunters more interested in some day getting a lifetime trophy.”

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.