by Jim Tankersley
Republican Mike Huckabee took his presidential campaign for a quick pheasant-hunting expedition in Iowa on Wednesday, and at one point, a reporter asked why he hadn’t invited sporting enthusiast Dick Cheney along. "Because I want to survive all the way through this," Huckabee replied, in a chuckling dig at the vice president’s accidental shooting of a quail-hunting partner last year.
Any good sportsman, though, couldn’t miss a distinctly Cheneyesque moment in the press accounts of the former Arkansas governor’s morning hunt: At one point, Huckabee’s party turned toward a cluster of reporters and cameramen and, when they kicked up a pheasant, fired shotgun blasts over the group’s heads.
This, friends, is dangerously bad hunting form.
Your Swamp correspondent, the son of a longtime hunter education instructor, grew up plying the corn rows and stream banks of rural Oregon with a Labrador retriever and a Mossberg 20-gauge pump shotgun. On our hunts for pheasant, grouse and quail, merely swinging a gun barrel in the general direction of another person was grounds for day-long banishment to the truck (which smelled like wet dog).
Suffice to say, if any of our hunting mates had pulled a stunt like Huckabee’s yesterday, we never would have invited them back. It’s the sort of behavior that drives safety-conscious hunters up the wall, because it reinforces a reckless, gun-totin’ stereotype.
My colleague James Oliphant reports that Huckabee’s party was about 75 yards away from the press corps Wednesday when a pheasant jumped up and flew toward the reporters, drawing several shots. “That was too close,” he reports a cameraman saying.
Perhaps Huckabee missed hunter’s safety classes – Arkansas only requires them for hunters born after 1968 – but the etiquette on this point is clear.
“Never point a firearm at yourself or others,” the International Hunter Education Association declares in its Basic Safety Rules. Later, it adds, “Never point your firearm at something you do not intend to shoot. Make sure you positively identify what you are shooting at and know what lies in front of and beyond it.”
Huckabee emerged happily from his hunt, three dead pheasants in tow, Oliphant reports. Asked for a metaphor to describe the hunt, he replied, "Don't get in my way. This is what happens."