November 27, 2012

Editorial: Worst tragedy of the day


---- — Imagine if you’re a hunter out in the woods doing one of the things you like best. You’re communing with nature on a brisk but pleasant afternoon, awaiting with great anticipation the appearance of that coveted prize.

Suddenly, it ambles into view ... into range. Your senses all snap to attention, as you size up the prey and slowly, carefully, quietly raise your weapon into place and shoot.

Then, imagine the desperate despondency you’d feel as you realized the deer you’d just shot was instead another hunter. From the mountain top to the deepest valley of emotion in the time it takes for that round to exit your rifle barrel and enter the human shoulder.

That was what happened in Orange County recently, but it’s hardly a new story. It’s a tragically old story with a new set of characters. And we can’t help but wonder why hunters don’t take every step possible to avoid that horrible conclusion.

We’ve often wondered why anyone would go out into the woods during deer-hunting season dressed to look like a tree — or another deer. Why wouldn’t any sensible hunter want to take every precaution and not look like another deer? Why don’t they all wear hunter orange when in the woods?

This particular shooting occurred around 5 p.m. — dusk, this time of year, when silhouettes are hardest to define.

We would speculate that some hunters — especially the macho, overconfident ones — believe it could never happen to them. They are far too skilled, far too acute to have such misfortune or such a lapse in judgment befall them.

Or perhaps they discount science, which says deer don’t recognize the orange color. Some hunters may still insist on their own intuition, which says that if orange sticks out like a sore thumb to me, it must to the deer. Those hunters don’t want a perceived disadvantage in this lethal game in the woods, and they don’t want to acknowledge any weakness.

But it happens. Every year, we run stories in our paper of friend shooting friend, brother shooting brother, hunter shooting stranger. Certainly, for the survivors, life will never be the same, and what they wouldn’t give to be able to relive that afternoon that started out with such promise.

Ego and misjudgments aside, why take the chance? At least accept the one precaution afforded by bright orange clothing.

Once that shot rings out, it can never be reclaimed. Don’t you owe yourself and everyone else the chance in the woods to walk out as happy as when you walked in?

May the worst tragedy of the day be that you didn’t walk out with a deer.