Avoid a Disaster, Check Your Gear

Over the years I have had my fair share of outdoor mishaps. I’ve broken equipment, broken bones, sank boats, and sank four wheelers. I’ve had hooks stuck in my hands and in my face. I’ve nearly chopped an entire finger off with a machete trying to construct a minnow trap. I’ve even been in a boat that essentially submarined 60 miles off the coast of Louisiana (we’ll get back to that in a minute), and I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit in emergency rooms across Mississippi. The one thing that I’ve never had an accident with, until now, is a firearm.

Two weeks ago, against my better judgement, I decided to hunt in a downpour in hopes that the rain would let up and the deer would move. The radar on my phone was about as reliable as I am at knowing when the rain would stop, and I ended up getting soaked to the bone. The rain never stopped before dark and I never saw a deer. It was my last hunt of the weekend and I returned home to Hattiesburg wet and without any meat. It rained so hard that even the clothes that I didn’t wear got wet. Everything in my pack was soaked. My rifle was also mostly unprotected during the hunt and took a beating as well. At the end of the hunt I quickly packed my bag, loaded my truck, and made the long drive home. When I got home I was so tired from the day that I didn’t unpack anything that night. All of my clothes and my gear were still wet and remained that way through the morning, which wasn’t too big of a deal. The one thing that I should have made sure got cleaned up that night was my rifle, and I didn’t.

The next day I unpacked and cleaned my rifle up. I had removed the magazine from the rifle following the hunt and put it in my backpack. The problem is, I never removed it from my pack that next day. The magazine stayed in my damp backpack for almost a week. This is where my problem begins, or so I believe. Fast forward two weeks to this past weekend. I returned to the camp with every intention of shooting the first mature deer I saw, doe or buck, to get my wife off my back about bringing some meat home. I hunted Thursday evening and only saw a doe that still had a yearling with her. If I shot the doe and my kids found out they’d probably not talk to me for a while, so I passed the opportunity. Once again, I returned to the camp house with no meat and had to figure out what to do about dinner. Fortunately, my good friend, Chris Coulter, came up to the camp from Hattiesburg and brought steaks for dinner. He knows me well enough to know not to depend on me for deer meat for dinner.

Speaking of Chris, remember when I mentioned submarining a boat off the coast of Louisiana? Chris was the one driving the boat. We left early that morning out of Venice trying to get out to a hot spot to catch yellow fin tuna. We were headed out in six foot seas that were stacked in pretty tight. I was sitting next to Chris on the bench seat when we took a wave over the bow that blew that windshield of the boat out. Chris ducked, I didn’t. For my late reaction time I received 15 stitches in my face, ear, and left hand. I also lost my sunglasses and had my contacts knocked out, or washed out of my eyes. We pointed the boat back toward the coast, and I rode the rest of the way blind and bleeding all over the place. Chris is still mad that I wouldn’t let him super glue my face and ear back together so we could continue heading out to fish. I’m still angry that I lost a $200 pair of sunglasses and a pint of blood, but we still hang out. I’m just not letting him drive my boat, but he did cook the best steak I’ve had in a while.

The next morning we woke up early and hit the woods. The moon was still very visible as I settled into my stand on a hilltop overlooking a large bedding area. The morning air was crisp and the wind was almost nonexistent. It was almost the perfect morning for deer movement. It wasn’t long after the sun came up that I had two mature does feeding under an oak tree just 80 yards to my left. Even with the pre-rut beginning at our camp I made the decision to harvest one of the does to keep my wife happy. I slowly lifted my rifle, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. There was a click then silence. Shocked, I figured I had a bad shell and began to lower my rifle to bolt in another round. Just as I let the rifle down, the gun went off, sending a 7mag round screaming through the sky. It scared me so bad that I almost fell out of the tree. I sat there for about 20 minutes trying to figure out what had just happened and how fortunate I was to not have been seriously injured. That’s when both does came back to the oak tree to feed again. I repeated exactly what I did 20 minutes prior, and once again, the rifle clicked. I didn’t move much this time out of fear, but as soon as I moved my head the rifle went off again. That’s when I remembered leaving those wet shells in that magazine. After sitting a while longer I climbed down and went back to the camp, somewhat angry and somewhat thankful to not be bleeding.

I put new shells in the rifle and fired it into a target positioned 100 yards away. The rifle fired like it was brand new, aside from the scope being off (of course). I let Chris shoot it first in case something bad happened that I wouldn’t get maimed. I try to be a good friend. After this weekend I’ll be sure to check all of my gear, especially my rifle and ammo before each hunt, and I encourage you to do the same.

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