We were hunting around Butternut lake when the Voice started to speak to me. Tom was working his way into a briar patch with Simon, his French Brittany spaniel, who was leading a few yards ahead and hot on the scent of what we hoped would be our fourth grouse of the morning I don't know why, but Tom likes to keep score with the people he hunts with and the score was Tom two, me one. I don't think it's because he's worried about harvesting over our limit, although that should always be in the back of every hunter’s mind. All in all he’s a likeable guy, but there’s this competitive nature he has that knows no bounds.
As Tom closed in on Simon, two grouse exploded from the thicket. One went my way and the other went up and through a stand of aspens and evergreens before either of us could shoulder our shotguns. As I swung on the one that went my way it was at the precise moment I heard the Voice say, “Don’t shoot!” It was a rather long offhand snapshot, but I thought I could make it.
Then the Voice said, “Sure you can hit it, but what else will you hit once you fire? (This took longer to repeat than it did to hear; I think the voice spoke in shorthand).
I wanted that bird, not because it would make me even with Tom in numbers, but the fact was I love to eat grouse. I don’t know why, but for some reason I passed on the shot. Maybe it was the clarity in the Voice?
Upon passing the shot you should have heard Tom give me the business about not shooting. Actually, I was as dumbfounded as he was. Yes, it was a marginal shot, but I’ve made hundreds of those shots before. Anyhow, what’s hunting if not missing occasionally? It wasn’t five seconds later or about the time the pellets would have hit the grouse when I saw Bob Thomas’s head pop up right where I would have taken the shot. A cold chill ran down my spine.
Bob said he knew where we would be hunting and thought he’d catch up with us. Tom explained how I had missed getting a shot off at a grouse and they both had a good laugh at my expense. I, on the other hand, wondered how the Voice knew what was going to happen and helped me avoid a catastrophe.
That trip ended with Tom getting three, Bob with two and me with only one. I never fired another shot that day; not because I was afraid to shoot, but I had this nagging feeling I needed to pay closer attention to that Voice. Some people say it’s the voice of conscience telling us not to do something that we know deep down is wrong.
Now, it wouldn’t have been wrong to shoot. We were wearing hunter orange and acting responsibly, so there was no valid reason not to shoot. It’s reminiscent of those cartoons where there’s an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other with a constant struggle between good and evil. I’ve thought about it a lot since that day; the Voice knew the heartache and trouble that waited ahead for me and rescued me from it.
Since then I have been in numerous situations just like that one, and this is what I’ve learned Even though outdoorsmen and women practice the rudimentary skills of safe hunting, such as always wearing blaze orange, being cognitive that our firearms’ safeties are on, our equipment is in good working order, even checking the weather forecast and dressing appropriately, it doesn’t always ensure a safe hunt. Sometimes it just takes more than that!
Sometimes it takes our gut instincts and years of experience to make quality decisions when it comes to safe hunting and life in general. This got me thinking, “Are we truly giving our children, grandchildren and neighborhood kids good solid advice when it comes to hunter education and safety?”
The answer isn’t all that simple. Now yes, we do teach them the basics of what do to and what not to do; but as I mentioned earlier, I did everything right myself and if I would have taken that shot I would have possibly ended Bob’s life! So aside from teaching the fundamentals of safe hunting to this next generation of hunters, perhaps we should, as well, be teaching them to listen to that still small Voice inside of them. Everyone has one and nine times out of ten, it’s right!
Perhaps I’m all wrong about this! Maybe it’s just the parent in me that wants to safeguard any child or anyone for that matter from heartache and possibly devastation. However, I do know this: Hunting and fishing isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle! It teaches us to be good stewards of game, the environment and it makes us disciplined. So, if we instill these qualities into today’s youth and show by example how listening to your conscience or the Voice in your head we can avoid tons of unwanted grief and aggravation.
Here’s the best part of all. Hopefully, they will apply this to every aspect of their lives and they’ll say no to drugs and alcohol, no to any illegal activity and yes to a higher education. Yes to an honest, outdoor lifestyle!