At a recent convocation of hunting geezers, one of my fellow fossils, whom I shall call Orest, because that’s not his name, regaled me with the following tale of woe and folly, which I pass along to you.
Orest, who is a highly experienced hunter and shooter, found himself in a camp in Alaska that was dedicated to bears, and their demise by firearm. Among his peers was a brand-new hunter and completely inexperienced shooter whom we shall call Dmitri, since that is not his name, either.
Dmitri was very wealthy, and had decided to start hunting at the top. The gun that he had built expressly for this trip was a .375 H&H double rifle, made by hand by a hand-picked gunsmith. It cost a fabulous amount of money; Orest guesses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When Dmitri took it out of its case to show it off, he put it to his shoulder, and Orest saw that the ocular-lens bell of the scope was touching his brow.
Orest pointed this out, and that you need 3½ to 4 inches of clearance between your eye and the scope, and asked of Dmitri had actually shot the rifle to see if it was sighted in.
No, said Dmitri, with some indignation; my gunsmith did that. He did everything. Why should I bother?
At this point, Orest was really worried, and went to the camp boss, and said, look, we’ve got a situation here. You better get this guy to shoot his rifle because he’s never done it before, and do something about that scope before it cracks his skull.
The camp boss, who was lackadaisical about things, argued with Dmitri, and finally got him to test fire the rifle, but no dice about the scope, because, after all, the gunsmith had done everything, and he had paid a fortune for the gun.
So, Dmitri, who had never shot a heavy rifle before, held the double loosely, aimed it with the scope mashed up against his eyebrow (You wonder what kind of sight picture he had.) and pulled the trigger. As Orest described it, “his eye vanished in blood.” Dmitri had actually cracked his eye socket. He was medevaced to a hospital, but the eye could not be saved.
The moral of this wretched incident is, if you think something very bad is about to happen, something very bad probably will happen, and you are obliged to point this out, forcefully. You may not be able to prevent it—some people are born stupid, and work at it all their lives—but that does not relieve you of the responsibility.