This is a sad story that doesn't end well. If you don't want to have your day ruined then you may want to pass.
My dad bought me my first gun when I was 12. It was a Remington model Nylon 12. A .22 caliber bolt action that shot pretty straight and was almost indestructible. There was one stipulation. I couldn't take it without permission and I had to take hunters safety. Both terms were easily accepted.
I took hunter's safety in the fall of 1974. I met two brothers. One would become my constant hunting companion and best friend throughout high school, Jim Craig. His older brother Clyde would hunt with us as well.
There are three rules from hunter's safety that you must remember on your final test. They are not multiple choice answers. You must write these out at the very beginning of your exam. They are:
1) Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
2) Always point your muzzle in a safe direction.
3) Be sure of your target AND what is beyond it.
If you miss one of these, you fail and wait a year to take your test again. I passed, so did Jim and Clyde.
I shot my first dear when I was 15. I was at Jim Craig's ranch. It was a 3x3 mule deer. Big and fat and made lots of jerky as well as some good steaks and burger. I would shoot a deer every fall for the next 7 years, all but 2 with Jim Craig.
As we grew up, almost every weekend that was free was spent at Jim's ranch. We would work hard getting our asigned chores completed so we could go hunt. Whether it was rabbits, coyotes or deer, we hunted and had our rifles with us constantly. Once I became 16, permission to take my rifle was no longer needed which made life even better. When we gathered cows in the fall, we had our rifles with us in case we saw a deer while riding. We spot-lighted rabbits in the winter until we were so cold our fingers could barely pull the trigger. Where ever we went, Jim and I had our rifles.
Jerry was another friend I would hunt with on occasion. Not often. We would walk the canal looking for rabbits, hoping to see a fox or coyote but mostly just using it as an excuse to take out our .22's. Malta was cool back then. You could be riding down the street with a .22 on your back and wave at the cops as you drove by. Kids had guns in gun racks in their rear windows when they drove to school in the morning. Different times.
No, Jerry wasn't my true hunting partner. Jim Craig and Clyde were. The first day of deer season was like Christmas. Funny thing, I haven't shot a deer in 15 years. Jim and Clyde still hunt. Jerry does too. Taught is son Logan to hunt as well.
Jerry and I didn't hunt together but we were great friends especially in junior high. We spent more than our share in dentention after school. Jerry more than me. I don't know if I was a faster learner or if Jerry just didn't give a shit. Either way, we did manage to raise some hell. Drank some beer with Jerry back in the day as well.
He was, and is still, a big smart ass. Didn't get off to probably the best start in life. Married a woman he shouldn't have. We all make mistakes. Liked the bottle a little more than being married but we were young and I'm the last guy to throw that stone. About 20 years ago Jerry was re-married. I'm sorry here, but I've only met her once and can't remember her name. I do know they had a son together, Logan, to go with Jerry's older daughter. Life made a turn for the better.
Jerry found a nice job with Burlington Northern and because of it was able to move back to Malta. His mother and father are there as well as one of his sisters. I don't brag about Malta for nothing. The town has a quality about it. There's really no better place to raise children. It's a nice agricultural community, they support their local athletics and other activities. 15 miles from some of the best walleye fishing in the state and lots of places to hunt.
Lot's of things to hunt as well. Upland birds, ducks, geese, turkeys, antelope, deer, elk, bighorn sheep and more. A real paradise if you like to stalk game.
I hadn't seen Jerry in quite a few years. I think the last time was when my dad died in 1994. I might have ran into him once since then but if I did, I can't remember. I did see him at the all-class reuinion last summer though. It was Saturday night. The small streets were packed with over 2,000 people but you could find someone you were looking for if you looked hard enough.
Jerry did. He found me Saturday night about 11:00. He look old in the street light. Much older than he should have. Hard living and two-packs a day will age you faster than normal I suppose. He sounded great though. "Chip, I've been looking for you all night. I want you to meet my wife." She was a very nice woman. Told me she'd heard all about me and some of our adventures. "Jerry's been looking for you for two hours. I told him I didn't want to stay late, he told me that we weren't going home until I met you." Kind words indeed.
That's the way this town is. That's the way lifelong friendships are. You go to an event like this and you want to see and old friend and get caught up. He might have looked a little older than his years, but he sounded better than ever. Was so glad to be home. Happy his boy was going to grow up in Malta. Told me I needed to get out and see his house on one of my trips. I told him it was hard to see everyone, that Mom and the kids were my priority but I would get up there on one of my trips home.
We visited for about a 1/2 hour and then someone else had to say "hi". Jerry told me it was good to see me and went on about his business of seeing other old friends. It was great to see him.
Hunting rifles are powerful weapons. They are meant to kill large animals from great distances. In contrast, assault weapons are meant to kill humans at relatively close distances. I do know this, from 50 yards, if I was shot in the leg by an AR-15 assault rifle, my chances for survival are probably 50/50 or better and I might end up with some or are all of the use of my leg. If I'm shot in the leg at 50 yards with a .30-06 deer rifle, if I survive, there will be nothing left of the leg to save. Like I said, for big animals at long distance.
Two guys at work started hunting last year and love it. Both are grown men. Both are from Chicago and moved out to Bozeman a few years ago. They both shot their first deer last year and are happy that deer season started here on Saturday. No one has asked me to take them to Malta for a deer hunt yet, but I have a feeling that time is coming.
Opening day was Saturday. It's the first time I can remember a Saturday opener. The traditional opener in my life has always been the last Sunday in October. Not only was the opener on Saturday, it was early. The early thing wasn't as much of a surprise. That has happened on occasion. The country is swarming with deer and the longer the season, the better the odds at thinning the herd.
I went to the Bobcat game. Jerry was working around his house. Logan went hunting with a couple of his friends.
16 may be too young to do things without adult supervision but hunting isn't one of them. When Jim and I were deer hunting we always had Clyde with us. He was an adult but we really didn't look at it that way, so in a way, I never hunted with an adult until I became one. Hell, in Malta it is just something else you do with your buddies on the weekend. No one really thinks twice about it.
I'm not a parent. I don't know the anxiety of wondering if you kids are alright when they take the car for the first time or are a little late getting home or leave the house with a powerful weapon. I don't know that sense of worry.
Saturday was beautiful here and in Malta. Almost too warm to hunt if you ask me, but then, I don't do it anymore so what do I know.
No one knows for sure what happened and I'll get more details when I get home this Friday. Logan and his friends split up and planned to meet at a certain spot. Logan never showed up. Upon the search, his friends discovered his body. The first report is that somehow his rifle discharge when he was climbing over a fence. Nothing is confirm yet but his weapon did accidently fire and he was killed instantly.
A young man dying is always sad. When it's in such a tragic manner it is even more so. Things like this rock a town like Malta to it's core. I was talking to Delm when I got the news Saturday. We finished the conversation and I called as many of my old classmates as I could bear to with this horrible news. My heart weeps for Jerry and his wife. It is something I cannot even begin to relate to.
This community will rally around Jerry's family. I hope that will matter and ease the pain of this horrific loss.
I'm sorry I never knew you Logan. Dan says you were a fine young man so that's good enough for me. 16 isn't too young to hunt but it is certainly too young to leave. Rest in peace Logan.