The near miss: a warning to hunters

It’s the height of hunting season in Newfoundland – but it’s more than animals that are in danger.

Loading Gun
It’s the height of the hunting season in Newfoundland. Hunters are loading up their guns as they look to bag their moose. Photo illustration by Griffen Stuckless/Kicker

Griffen Stuckless
Kicker

Fall in Newfoundland goes hand in hand with the hunting season and hunters are out in full swing looking for moose.

Geared up to head into the woods, they’re hoping to bag their moose before the season ends on Dec. 31.

However, it’s more than just the moose that are in danger – it’s people, too.

Sherri Lynn Forsey Cassell and her husband, Shane Cassell, were working on their cabin on Oct. 17. After a day’s work, they finished up and relaxed by the fire with some relatives.

Their relaxation, however, was cut short.

“Stop shooting! Stop shooting! We’re down here!”

“We sat next to the fire pit, me and my husband,” said Forsey Cassell. “We heard a gunshot, there was kind of a pause, then another gunshot, [and] then another gunshot.”

Hearing gunshots is nothing out of the ordinary at their cabin in the middle of the woods and the couple simply wrote it off as somebody hunting moose nearby.

“Five minutes passed, and we heard another gunshot, but it was off in the distance. All of a sudden, when we heard that gunshot, all we heard was a whistle – like a swoosh. Then, my husband said, Duck! That’s a bullet!”

John Randell taught the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and the government of Newfoundland provincial hunting course for 20 years.

He says when people go into the woods, they need to make sure what exactly they’re shooting at and as well what’s behind their target.

“There is a safe distance,” said Randell. “One thousand metres for a school or playground or any place where kids congregate, and 300 metres from a residence. That is the minimum distance you can shoot within. You have to make absolutely certain that if you happen to miss, there’s nothing beyond that target your bullet is going to cause damage to.”

“A high-power rifle can be dangerous up to as much as five kilometres, [so] make sure there’s a good, solid background behind what you’re shooting at.”

According to Randell, animals often stand on top of ridges or hills, out in profile against the horizon.

“You never shoot at an animal that’s like that, that has nothing in the background. The old law of gravity certainly applies – what goes up, must come down. If you have no idea of where that bullet is going to land, then what you’re doing is taking an awful chance by pulling the trigger.”

Randell says what happened to Forsey Cassell and her husband happens to others, too, and sometimes in more populated areas.

“A relative of my wife’s down the coast was sitting in his living room. Suddenly, some plaster dropped out of his ceiling,” Randell said. “He picked up the vacuum cleaner, and when he went along by his chair, the vacuum made this clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. When he took the vacuum cleaner apart, it was a bullet.”

It may seem crazy that a bullet can travel all the way into town and punch through a roof, but Randell says that’s why it’s important hunters understand the power of firearms.

“A high-power rifle can be dangerous up to as much as five kilometres, [so] make sure there’s a good, solid background behind what you’re shooting at,” he said.

Forsey Cassell wishes people would be more careful about what they shoot at and make sure they’re not shooting towards cabins.

“We were all yelling out, stop shooting! Stop shooting! We’re down here, and we all took cover because we didn’t know if there was another bullet coming,” Forsey Cassell said.

After a short time, her husband crawled to the truck and began honking the horn to alert whoever shot, but nobody came to see if they were okay.

“We went around the pond to see if we could see a shooter, but we didn’t find anybody. But there was the man above our cabin who got his moose,” said Forsey Cassell. “And he said he heard the shot as well.”

While nobody has come forward to admit to the incident, it’s something Forsey Cassell won’t soon forget.

“It was kinda crazy to hear that whistle of a bullet goin’ over your head,” she said.

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