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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Safety First: Live to Hunt Another Day

Waterfowl hunters must keep safety in mind as they pursue their pleasures
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Story at a Glance
  • When it comes to safety, the old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Hunters must temper their zeal for good shooting with safety and discretion.
  • When a shell misfires or doesn't sound right, hunters must stop shooting to learn what's wrong.
  • An inexpensive home extinguisher will provide an effective means of quelling flames that threaten a blind and its inhabitants.

First a Pop, Then an Explosion

Gun/shell malfunctions can pose other dangers in the duck marsh or goose field. Barrels plugged with mud or snow, shells going off late, and loading 20-gauge shells into a 12-gauge shotgun are examples of problems that can result in an accident.

During the 1998 season, Dwain Ganser and Scott Nemecek of Port Clinton, Ohio, got a quick but lasting education about shots that don't sound right. These two men were hunting on the Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area. Action was good, and the hunters were alternating shots. It was Ganser's turn to shoot when a drake pintail sailed in.

He swung on the bird and fired, but the report was a "wet shell pop" instead of a loud bang. Watching the duck get away, Ganser cycled his pump and jacked another shell into the chamber. This time, when he pulled the trigger, the shotgun blew apart. The barrel ruptured just above the forearm. The forearm exploded in his hand, which was encased in a heavy glove. Nemecek was standing a few feet to Ganser's side, and he felt splinters fly against his clothes. Fortunately, neither hunter sustained injury.

Later, after thinking about this incident, it was obvious that the wad cup from the malfunctioning shell had lodged in the barrel. Then the second shell fired normally, and pressure from the blocked charge blew the gun to bits.

The lesson is that when a shell misfires or doesn't sound right, hunters must stop shooting to learn what's wrong. This is hard to do when birds are flaring and getting away. Still, hunters must discipline themselves to put safety first. Getting off another shot is no justification for placing yourself or your partners in harm's way.

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