Friday, November 15, 2013

Game Warden Files--More on Loaded Guns

The issue of a loaded gun in or on a vehicle is a twofold issue: There's the matter of fair chase--driving down the road with the gun loaded while looking for a quick shot; and there's the matter of safety--carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in a car or truck is inherently unsafe.

My very first opening day of the North Zone, I stopped a slow moving car on Hope Falls Road. There was an old Winchester 1894 between the driver and the passenger, the action was closed--usually a good indicator of a loaded gun. I had the driver get out of the car and reached in for the rifle. I opened the action and removed a live round from the chamber, then cycled it and removed a couple more rounds before it appeared empty. I placed the rifle on the floor of my back seat and instructed the hunters meet me at the judge's house a bit later in the morning. Much to my surprise, when I got to the judge's house, I found a couple more rounds in the magazine. The gun had been so poorly maintained that the magazine spring hadn't fed the rounds and I'd been unaware they were even in the gun.The bouncing around in my car dislodged them and I was able to fully empty the rifle.

One very cold Thanksgiving morning, I was working with Cathy Maloney checking the hunters who braved the cold that morning before going home to a turkey dinner and a football game. We came up on two guys sitting in a pickup truck drinking a cup of coffee after a cold early morning watch. The first thing we saw was a rifle--another Model 94 Winchester--in the bed of the truck, action closed and pointing directly at the driver's position of the truck. While Cathy started to interview the hunters I removed the rifle from the truck, and opened the action--not surprisingly, it had a round in the chamber. As I recall, the hunter really didn't understand why we were making such a big deal out of it. I'm sure the judge was able to make him understand.

Later that same morning Cathy and I decided to check "one last spot" before heading home for our own Thanksgiving plans. We found a bunch of hunters coming out of a woods road, some walking, some on ATVs. The looks on the faces was pure guilt. On the back of the ATV was a very small deer, either a doe or a button buck--but either way illegal. While Cathy was dealing with that, I was checking other tags and hunters and got to the operator of the ATV. His gun was in a case strapped on the machine...and it was loaded. Some folks just can't get anything right.

Sportsmen who are unable to walk can get permits to have a loaded gun in or on a vehicle. This allows them to drive off road or down a logging road, load up and take a shot at a deer or bear should one come along. It's a good way to allow some of our aging sportsmen to continue their sport, even when their mobility is impaired. Though it allowed hunting from a vehicle, it did not allow having a loaded gun while the vehicle was moving. Most of them get it right; but some do not.

One permittee rode an ATV, but got a bit sloppy and decided to leave his rifle loaded while going to and from his hunting spot. I happened to run across him one afternoon and it was clear he had a loaded magazine still in his gun. I had a rather extended argument with him about it; and in the end wrote him a ticket for it. I met him in court to offer him a civil compromise--if he was civil--and was pleasantly surprised to get a rather nice apology. When he got home after our encounter he was so mad that he decided he was done hunting for the year. He started to clean his rifle and hit an obstruction in the barrel. Somewhere in his travels, he'd hit a mud hole and some mud had made its way down the bore. He realized that if he'd not been stopped and had fired the gun it might have blown up on him. In an odd way, he was thankful to me for provoking him to clean his gun.  It's great to have satisfied customers!

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