The Shot heard around the Cascades
I heard the tragic news late yesterday afternoon. A hiker was shot and killed on Sauk Mountain, apparently mistaken for a bear by a teenage hunter. This all happened right here in my backyard in Skagit County. The young hunter is from nearby Concrete. The hiker is from Oso (ironically which means bear in Spanish) not too far from here over in the Stillaguamish Valley. This is a tragedy in so many respects. An avid hiker's life has been cut short. She will never be able to enjoy her passion for the mountains again. A young man must live with this for the rest of his life. Assuming that he has been raised with a value system and conscious (not so common these days) he will carry this awful burden to his grave. He was out with his father who also will have an anguished soul because of this incident. The hiker's friends and family will carry the pain of losing their loved one with them for the rest of their lives and will constantly keeping asking, "Why?!"
A lot of questions will be asked. A lot of soul searching will occur. And there will be lot of wishing that the clock can be set back. And I hope that we in the outdoors community will learn something from this horrific event and begin healing. What we don't need however- which is happening in a few hiking circles in these parts, is self-righteous blaming and knee-jerk reacting.
Let's get something straight here folks. Accidents happen. Cars crash. People fall off of mountains. Teenagers do stupid things. Children drown. Adults too. Hikers die in bad weather. And hunting accidents happen too. But lets remain rational here. Hunting accidents are rare. To turn this tragedy into an anti-hunting diatribe is ludicrous. Do we ban driving after every car accident- regardless if bad judgment caused the accident? And that's what we need to learn here- was it bad judgment that caused this and how can we make things safer for hikers and hunters in the future?
Should hunting be banned from certain high use trails? Should all outdoorspeople be required to wear orange from Aug 1 to Dec 1? Should there be a minimum age for hunting? Should certain areas of public lands be closed to hiking during hunting season?
But ban hunting? Ridiculous! Most hunters are responsible outdoorspeople and good conservationists. They are great allies for protecting open space. Regulate hunting? Absolutely-but how much-and how far-and at what point must we simply just trust people to use proper judgement? After all, driving is the most dangerous thing we do and no matter how many regulations we pass, we are always in danger of being hit and killed. So the only thing that would guarantee your safety on the road is to stay off of the roads. Not gonna happen. And I'm not staying off the trails either. And I don't expect my fellow citizens that hunt to give up their rights to the woods either. And as far as banning guns- this is America-not some communist nation where only the government owns guns. Thank you Supreme Court for upholding our constitution.
So-what all this comes down to then is that this is a tragedy-a terrible accident- and one I pray does not happen again. I pray too for the family of the hiker and for the hunter. Making the woods safer for all of us is what we are left to contemplate. And we don't need any grandstanding and knee-jerking and self-righteous proclamations from left-wing and right-wing ideologues.