"Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot" is Still Good Advice

Buffalo National River

The Buffalo National River in Arkansas has some outstanding scenery. NPS photo from Buffalo N.R.

A recent report from the Buffalo National River in Arkansas confirms the validity of the old expression about shooting yourself in the foot, although in this case a would-be hunter's miscue had both a literal and figurative outcome.

On the afternoon of November 4th, rangers received a report of possible hunting accident in the Lower Buffalo Wilderness. They responded to a boat ramp that provides access to that area and learned that a 31-year-old man had been hunting from his johnboat on the Buffalo River.

The hunter had attempted to remove his high-powered rifle from its case while he was standing in his boat, and the weapon accidentally discharged. The good news is that no vital organs were struck. The bad news is that he did shoot himself in his right leg near his knee, rather in in the proverbial foot.

The man fashioned a makeshift tourniquet from a bungee cord and was able to pilot his boat to the take-out point on his own. Prior to the rangers’ arrival, the hunter had been transported via air ambulance to a trauma center in Springfield, Missouri. Local sheriff's department deputies, along with the victim's brother and several bystanders, were still at the boat ramp.

Investigation revealed that the bullet had lodged in the fiberglass hull of the boat at the transom. While inventorying the boat, rangers also located and seized 11 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The boat, rifle, spent casing, clothing, and several other items were impounded as evidence, and rangers conducted an interview with the man the following day.

During the interview, the hunter admitted to possessing a loaded firearm on his boat, his intent to shoot a wild pig from the boat, and possessing marijuana in the park. He received a violation notice for possession of a controlled substance, but only a warning for the loaded firearm on a boat. Rangers felt the erstwhile hunter's injury was sufficient deterrent against similar future violations.

The best news from the incident is that surgeons believe the man will be able regain use of his leg after extensive physical therapy. The report was silent on whether there had been more than 11 grams of marijuana on hand prior to the incident—and whether or not this contributed to a classic example of how not to handle a firearm.