Sadly, at the time of writing this, it has happened yet again - a hunter being fatally shot on Stewart Island. Not much known about it at this stage, particulars are scarce and a police investigation is in progress.
In April 2014, 56-year-old hunter Wayne Edgerton (said to be an experienced hunter) got seven months' home detention and 400 hours of community service for fatally shooting 25-year-old father-of-two Adam Hill in Southland. While Edgerton was ordered to pay $25,000 to Hill's partner, this can hardly be of much solace to her and the couple's two children.
In 2012 James Dodds was shot by his hunting companion in the Paeroa Range, near Waikite Valley south of Rotorua. His death, in particular, fostered a number of Coroner's recommendations to the Law Commission - culminating in heavier/charges/fines available to the authorities.
As cynical as this sounds, reason tells me this will be unlikely to bring about a reduction in the number of fatal hunting accidents. Having said that, as with people in the wider workplace or on the roads, fatal mistakes will continue to occur and so they will where hunters are concerned and, as such, a hunting incident/accident should not be charged and/or viewed any harsher than any other human fatal mistake - they're all equally traumatic.
With deer and hunters out in force beyond the end of April, hunters should try to foster the mindset that anything perceived in the back country, be it moving or stationary, is another human being.
Next, it would behove each and every hunter, experienced or otherwise, to read and/or recite together with the other hunters in camp the firearms safety rules before setting out on the day's hunt. With the emphasis on those saying that no hunter is to shoot at a movement, a shape or a colour and to check your firing zone before sending that shot on its way. Religiously adhering to those two rules alone would guarantee that no hunter hits or kills another human being.
When hunting from camps adjacent to other ones within a reasonable walking distance, why not go over for a natter and sort your territory's boundaries and stick to the agreement. With so many hunters these days carrying a GPS there would then be no reason to stray into someone else's patch.
If you fly in by chopper, have a yarn to the pilot(s) and find out who's next door and how many there are in that party; the more there are, the more careful you have to be.
Having long been a proponent to make it compulsory being dressed in a high-viz upper-body garment when hunting on public land, any level-headed person would have to admit to the sensibility of such.
I feel it extremely disconcerting therefore that, after an initial increase of hunters abiding voluntarily to that rule, of late more and more hunters venture out exclusively in camouflage. Queried, they usually counter that wearing high-viz clothing has not halted hunters being shot. True; absolutely true.
But what about those lives saved because of being clad in Blaze Orange or fluorescent yellow? You couldn't discount that, could you? The simple reason being that you'll never hear about it.
So, let us hunters, collectively, take a vow with our mates before setting out in this year's roar, to, instead of taking human life, taking a true trophy. As to that, I've been hammering on the issue of selective hunting for more years than I can remember. Setting out for a roar trophy means that the true, selective hunter passes up anything that is not a trophy.
Everybody adhering rigorously to that, I can guarantee no hunter will lose his/her life.
While I concede a trophy being a trophy not being the same for everyone, taking calves, yearlings, hinds and spikers during the roar, does separate the hunter boy from the hunter man. It remains for me to wish you the trophy of a lifetime. Take care!