Put blame on shooter, not guns

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Put blame on shooter, not guns

December 5, 2002

Fred LeBrun, Albany Times-Union

Three days into the Southern Zone gun season and Peter Ciriani of East Greenbush was out walking his property, checking buck scrapes and rubs.

Walking by his side was his soul mate and constant companion Erick, a champion German shorthaired pointer.

Peter, 61, an avid hunter, was doing a little scouting. Erick didn't care about whitetails, but when a grouse went up, he was off on a sprint. It was in his genes to do that, and these were his woods where he was safe.

Peter and Erick hunted together regularly every chance they could. Peter waited for Erick, and he waited some more, and became anxious, and later still, frantic. Erick was 11 1/2 years old, not ancient for the breed, but getting on, and he had always come right back after running off. After a sleepless night, Peter drove from neighbor to neighbor looking for his dog. He was told Erick had been around. But it had rained hard overnight, and Peter imagined his pointer had somehow gotten disoriented and so he wasn't heading home as he always had. Posters went up around town, at the supermarkets and public places. Authorities were notified.

"The worst thoughts kept going through my head," admits Peter, "stolen ... trapped ... medical labs ... coyotes ... cars ... poison ... drowned."

But an agonizing week later it took a lumberjack from Plattsburgh named Roger Denton who happened to be hunting adjacent land on Hayes Road to realize Peter's worst fears.

Roger found Erick's lifeless body deep in the woods, shot by a hunter's rifle. Peter's name and phone number were clearly stamped on Erick's rabies tag, yet the lowlife shooter did not have the decency to make an anonymous call.

"We retrieved Erick with Roger's four-wheeler. He had to do most of the work. I was just too shaken," says Peter.

On Monday, Peter buried his best friend at the edge of his back yard, with a pair of pheasant wings from a bird he had pointed the week before at Albany County's Partridge Run.

East Greenbush police investigated, and so did the town's animal control officer. Peter Ciriani is offering a serious reward for information that will lead to the conviction of the shooter. Peter can be reached at 477-9742.

Being a dyed to the bone dog lover myself, I find this heartbreaking story of one hunter's unethical and illegal behavior as disconcerting and dismaying as the several reports we've received so far this deer season of bizarre shootings of fellow hunters and civilians.

There remains a pig-brained mentality out there in some quarters that any hunter can shoot a dog in the woods, on the premise the dog is running deer. For the record, only a Conservation officer has the right to shoot a dog. You and I don't. This may come as a shock, but the DEC's Wayne Jones says this is a reasonably safe deer season we're experiencing.

That's despite news stories of a woman shot by a slug as she sat in her trailer, and a hunter shooting a teenager in the ankle over a trespassing charge, and the account of an 18-year-old near Syracuse who missed a doe and shot his mother instead.

So far, with less than a week to go before the regular gun season ends, there are 34 recorded injuries statewide, and just one hunting fatality. Last year there were five fatalities. Twenty years ago, there were nine fatalities. We're actually getting safer year by year.

Still, when you hear heartbreaking stories like Peter's, and the shocking incidents mentioned above, you just know there are people out there who should never have a weapon in their hands.

The trick is, how do we find out who those people are?

Fred LeBrun's outdoors column is published Thursdays. To reach him, call 454-5453.
 


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