Labrador Retriever insists, “I didn’t know it was loaded”

Ha HaIn Los Banos, California, last Saturday, a hunter waded into the water to retrieve his decoy ducks and almost found himself in Davy Jones’ Locker. (Well, alright: the bottom of a pond hardly qualifies as Davy Jones’ Locker, but I just love the expression and would like to see it return to common usage — or enter it for the first time — whether used appropriately or not.) The hunter had left his loaded shotgun on the ground, apparently, and his female Labrador stepped on it. The story (which I suppose only the hunter and the dog can fully vouch for) is that her stepping on it caused the safety to disengage and the shotgun to fire, hitting the man, who was about 45 feet away. From the Fresno Bee:

Authorities acknowledged that the report on the incident is public record, but refused to release it, discuss details about it or identify the hunter. All that Merced County Sheriff’s spokesman Tom MacKenzie would say is that the 53-year-old man was hit in the upper back with No. 2 birdshot from a 15-yard distance.

“The guy was pretty adamant about [not releasing his name] because he’s usually very big on gun safety,” MacKenzie said. “He doesn’t want to talk to anyone about what happened, and I have to respect his wishes.”

The man may not want to talk to anyone, but many in the central San Joaquin Valley hunting community are talking about him.

Much of the talk revolves around the lapse in judgment of leaving a loaded shotgun on the ground and walking away. The hunter did just that after exiting his blind to retrieve his decoys, authorities said.

“Anytime that gun leaves your hand it has to be unloaded — period,” said Susan Turner of Fresno, a longtime hunter safety instructor. “That’s one of the first things you’re taught.”


And the very first rule of gun safety is never to point a firearm — whether you believe it’s loaded or unloaded — in an unsafe direction. Did the hunter leave his shotgun on the ground pointed right in the direction in which he was walking? Or did his remarkably dexterous Labrador first point it at her owner’s retreating figure before then disengaging the safety and firing it? Man’s best friend, indeed.

Still, thank God that the man will apparently be OK. And either get that dog down to the range to learn some safety rules, or into an anger management class, quick.

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