11/22/2004

TRAGEDY IN THE NORTH WOODS

There was terrible, shocking news this weekend in the Northern Wisconsin woods. Just outside of Meteor, a very small town in Sawyer County, Wisconsin, a man shot eight people, killing five of them.

The “attack” as it is being called, occurred on private land about noon Sunday, the 21st of November. Details are sketchy, but reports are indicating that a hunting party saw a hunter they didn’t recognize occupying a tree stand that belonged to them. It has not been revealed whether the private land belonged to anyone in the hunting party, but all sources I have read confirm that the stand which the shooter was sitting in did.

The attack began after a confrontation with the hunter. That is the depth of the details I have at this moment. They have given the name of the attacker, but I will not show that name on this blog, nor any of the names of the victims. Apparently, the hunter who had been sitting in the stand which did not belong to him shot one man, and then continued to shoot as other hunters belonging to the party showed up to try and help.

The shooter was arrested around 4:00 pm as he was leaving the forest. One of the hunters he shot and killed was a teenager.

I am saddened by this news, as both a human being, and as a hunter. Let me try to help you understand what happened here, as I am a hunter, and can understand how something like this could escalate to five dead, and three wounded.

Okay, I can’t understand how it can escalate. But, I can explain what might have happened. You see, when a hunter decides to sit in a hunting stand that doesn’t belong to him, it is considered bad hunting etiquette. That the stand was on private land meant not only that the hunter was rude, but he was trespassing, as well, if he had not received permission to be on that land for hunting purposes. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he had permission to be there.

If that was the case, still, he had no right to climb the ladder of the stand, and sit in the stand that did not belong to him. When the hunting party that owned the stand showed up, he should have apologized, and left the area. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

My hunting stand is on private land, and if someone wanted to sit in it, all they would have to do is ask me, and I would have no problem allowing them its use. However, no such report has been made that the attacker asked anyone to use the stand, or that he ever asked the hunting party if he could remain where he was. The reports I have read all state that a confrontation ensued upon the hunting party’s discovery of the man in their stand.

Maybe the hunting party did not allow the man to explain himself. Maybe they attacked him verbally before he could say anything. We have to be realistic here; people of this world would just as soon flip someone the bird for cutting them off on the highway as allow that the maneuver may have been made without intending them harm. I drove with a fellow on Sunday evening who actually flipped someone the bird because he thought that the driver was going to pull out in front of my truck, as I was driving. No harm had been done, I didn’t feel offended, yet here this fellow was, giving the man in the other vehicle the finger, merely for ALMOST pulling out in front of me. I didn’t say anything at the time, but upon reflection, I should have told him to never do that in my truck again.

The fact is, this attack escalated beyond reason at some point. But I wonder if reason was present in the first place.

I am not saying at all that the attacker had any right or reason to fire his weapon. But, I am saying that a confrontation was reported to have occurred, and confrontations require input from two sides at least.

Every member of a hunting party usually carries a high-powered rifle or shot gun. The attacker was armed with an SKS semiautomatic “assault” rifle, similar to the gun I use, which is a 30.06, only mine is a bolt- action rifle, and thus not labeled an assault rifle. Consider that the damage done by an SKS bullet is the same as that of my 30.06, and you can see why five people died very quickly.

The 30.06 penetrates the flesh a fair distance, then tumbles inside the body as it slows, ripping to shreds everything in its path, with a diameter similar to a large grapefruit. In a human being, it would completely emulsify a heart, a lung, liver, or any other internal organ it came into contact with. Any of these organs being hit would mean a fatal wound. The fact is, every deer I have ever shot dropped the moment the bullet entered, and died without moving again. That is how powerful the 30.06 bullet is, and the SKS used in this attack is its equivalent. The damage done to deer weighing in excess of one hundred eighty pounds is frightening. That is why hunters do not ever knowingly aim their weapons at another human being.

This time, however, was different. For whatever explanation, reason left the scene, and five people are dead. Three more are seriously wounded. One man sits lonely inside of a jail cell tonight, maybe even wondering how it all came to this so quickly. You see, the attacker was not a known criminal prior to this incident. Had he been, he could not have legally hunted in the state of Wisconsin, or carry a firearm of any caliber. The fact is, the authorities knew who he was before they arrested him, because one of the victims had written down his deer license back tag number, and reported that number to police when he called for help.

The attacker was a hunter, a man who could legally own, possess, and carry a hunting rifle in the state of Wisconsin. Tonight, he is considered a criminal, a murderer, and my heart breaks for him, as well as for the victims, and their loved ones.

Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I remain COMPLETELY convinced that if even one person had done that during the confrontation on Sunday that ended in the death of five people, no one would have been shot, no one would have been killed, no one would have been wounded, and no one would have been branded a murderer for life. The confrontation proves that someone had a chance to back off, and pull others with him. Someone had a chance to see reason, to see everyone at the scene with high-powered rifles, and to see that arguing could no longer resolve this conflict. Someone had a chance to prevent five deaths. I don’t care who had that chance, whether it be a member of the hunting party, or the man who shot his victims. It doesn’t matter who had the chance, because the chance passed withou tbeing acted upon by anyone present.

Selfishness, and unwillingness to back down caused this tragedy. The human condition caused this tragedy. The guns were present, but they didn’t kill anyone. No, a gun can’t kill unless someone pulls its trigger. And before that trigger was pulled, someone had a chance to stop it, and refused.

If only the attacker had just removed himself from the stand, as he should have, none of this would have happened. If only the hunting party could have seen that this attacker was not going to back down, if instead of continuing to argue, they had left, and just said, “it’s not worth it”, would they be alive right now?

A hunting stand is not worth five human lives. No deer, no matter how big, is worth being labeled a murderer. The attacker was not looking to kill people when he set out to hunt in that stand, I am convinced of that. No confrontation would have taken place at all, had he been predisposed to kill without reason. He would have simply shot anyone on sight, had that been his plan.

No, he is a murderer because he shot and killed five people after the confrontation had escalated. And now, because of the actions of one man, the left wing liberals will attack hunter’s rights once again, using this story as further ammunition to tell people that guns are dangerous, and no American should own one.

Guns aren’t dangerous, I know, I have used two of them for many years. Ninety-nine percent of the time, my guns sit unloaded in a locked case, completely harmless. The other one percent of the time, they are loaded for hunting, with the safety to the trigger locked right up until the time I squeeze the trigger to kill a deer. They are never, ever, aimed at anything else, save maybe a target for practice. But what is inside of my guns can kill instantly, and there is never a moment when I am handling them that I am not fully aware of that. It seems this one fact was forgotten during the confrontation. It seems that pride and tempers reigned, and all caution was thrown to the wind.

If I ever run into a man holding a gun who I think I have a beef with, I will try to reason with him. But, if he does not see my reason, I will acquiesce, and allow him his space. It’s just not worth it to argue when two people are holding loaded guns.

But we in this world hold loaded guns every day, with our words, our deeds, our thoughts. It doesn’t take a bullet to kill someone. It takes a human heart. We kill people every day with our words, and some words on Sunday doubtlessly caused a reasonable situation to escalate into a deadly one.

UPDATE
It has just been reported that the death toll is now six, as one more has succumbed to death. God have mercy.

5 comments:

Null said...

You voiced everything that I've been feeling about this so accurately. It's so sad, and such a waste.

It wasn't worth it.

SteveW said...

So sad Tom. It sure illustrates how the heart of man is so very wicked and how much we all need the Spirit of God dwelling in us.

Technidiva said...

Hi Tom,
I'm going to cause a little controversy here. I was raised by liberal parents who, as I was growing up, was against hunting and having guns around. Moving from California to Idaho this year, where hunting is *the* thing to do, I've had several hunters talk to me about the joy of the sport, giving me the pro's to counterbalance the con's I was raised with.

My husband and my 10yo son are curious to try it. But knowing that people are going out "in the woods" with an intent to kill, and that man has this raging sinful nature in him anyways, I still don't think its a safe sport! Man is the unknown in this situation, you are right, its not the gun, its man that isn't safe. Of course they will take hunters safety classes and go with "experienced" hunters. My husband uses that analogy that hunting is just as safe as driving a car, its not the car or gun that kills people, its who is weilding it.

Anywho, anything you can tell me to alleviate my fear? I am really trying to understand the mindset!

Tom Reindl said...

Well, Technodiva, I don't know if I can alleviate your fears. I think a hunter's safety depends very much on his attitude. The case I reported about here did not start with a hunter, as far as I know, who entered the woods with an intent to kill people. I can't recall anything like this ever happening in Wisconsin hunting.

Is your husband fairly even tempered? Does he get easily insulted? Can he back down? These are the qualities that are necessary for any hunter, that he be able to always see reason before him.

Hunting can be a wonderful sport, but I don't look at it as a sport. But, it can also be very dangerous, as eight people just found out. Yes, I am sure there are evil people in the woods, as we all have some evil in us. But the fact is, your husband is right. Evil is found wherever you look, you don't have to go to the woods to find it.

I see this situation as one in a billion. Nevertheless, it happened, and we have to be realistic about it. Men get bucky if their hunt is unsuccessful, when they enter the woods thinking bagging a deer means a successful hunt. But to me, a successful hunt is time finding silence again, and seeing the face of God all around me. It's a time to eliminate the garbage of this world, to literally vomit it out, and take in clean, fresh, deep woods air and peace.

It may be cold in the woods, but it is colder in men's hearts. So, if your husband can swallow his pride in a confrontation, he can easily hunt for the rest of his life without ever facing any danger. Not that he'll run into more confrontations in the woods than in the world, but the fact is, he might run into one, and one is all it takes, no matter where you are.

I know a lot of men who talk about how strong they are, about how good they are with their fists. This is all image mongering, and really, it makes them sound like fools to me. A real man looks like Jesus, and allows himself to be crucified when the world says stand up for your rights and fight. Hope that helps.

Technidiva said...

Hi Tom,

Thankyou for your remarks. My husband is an even tempered man and,like you, I am sure the solitude of coming face to face with God is what he will define as a "successful" hunt. He loves backpacking and being surrounded by nature so being out in the woods is not a stranger to him!

His~
Trish