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Tunnel Vision And Trigger Fingers

I've read some of the more conspiratorial thoughts on the left, and find them largely unpersuasive. Take for instance this from John Aravosis, accusing Cheney of lying about the details of his shot:

If you could see him the split second AFTER you shot him, then you could see him the split second BEFORE you shot him. So either Cheney could see the guy, and shot him anyway (which completely contradicts what Cheney's people have been saying for 5 days now), or Cheney couldn't see the guy and he's now lying to the nation in order to incur our sympathy.
I've met John and he seems like a genuinely decent person, but clearly he's no hunter.

Anyone who has ever raised a shotgun to track a quail or pheasant would understand how the eye and the trigger finger are operating in different planes of space and time. When swiveling to track flushed game the information being processed by the eyes and the operation of the gun lag each other. With experience hunters learn to compensate for this disconnect (as well as for the physics of hitting a moving target) by leading the shot.

I find it perfectly reasonable to believe that Cheney may have seen a flash of Whittington right as he was firing or even a split second before - past the point where the brain can recall the impulse it has already sent to the hand to fire. Once the shot is fired all sorts of visual information from the periphery - information the brain had been blocking to concentrate on the flight of the bird - comes rushing back into the hunters view.

Steven Hunter, in The Washington Post, looks at the story from his own perspective as a hunter who made a similar mistake.

For one thing, the vice president has selected his bird and his mind is busy solving the geometric problem of lead and flight time. Second, he is boring in on the target itself, which is accelerating. Wing shooting alone demands that a gunner concentrate on the target, not the sights. The art of the shot is in mastering the mount so that as the gun comes up and is placed to the shoulder, head, eye, arm and hand are in perfect synchronism and the shot pattern goes where the eyes are looking. If you take your eye from the target to divert to the sights, the whole elegant choreography falls apart and you miss. That's apparently what Cheney was looking at -- he saw only the bird, its wings whirring as it drilled through the air, everything else was blur. Whittington, orange vest or not, was invisible to him.

Some may say of Cheney: He was really unlucky.

I say: He was really lucky.

He was lucky to be so superb a wing shot that he carried a shotgun in 28-gauge rather than 12-gauge. That probably saved Harry Whittington's life. The 28 is for advanced bird hunters who've killed their thousands with a 12 -- the common hunting shell of America's shotgunners -- and want something more refined, lighter, more beautiful. With the 28 you have to get closer, shoot faster and more accurately. The little pieces of shot break their cluster sooner, spray more widely, lose velocity faster.

None of the above is offered to deflect responsibility from Cheney, just to give the perspective of those who have been in similar situations.


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Comments (17)

Sigh...I've heard ... (Below threshold)


I've heard people talking about how "the BUCKshot missed his heart by a fraction of an inch", to he was hunting illegally because he did not have a hunting license. The misinformation is mind boggling. I'm surprised the moonbats aren't calling this an 'assault weapon' attack.

Why is this still news? The media and democrats have had a field day making asses of themselves. Cheney is genuinely upset. I believe that if he had put the story out sooner, there would have been just as much hysteria in the news, just for different reasons.

Aren't we at war or something?

Kevin: while I certainly ho... (Below threshold)

Kevin: while I certainly hope that I'm not a member in good standing of the conspiratorial left, I too question the circumstances under which Cheney could claim to not have seen Whittington.

As I posted, if (1) Cheney was looking at the bird, and (2) Whittington was, as reported, some 30 yards away from Cheney, then how could Whittington have been outside of Cheney's vision as he was tracking the bird but still inside the range of the birdshot?

Nobody describes the mechan... (Below threshold)

Nobody describes the mechanics of shooting more accurately than Hunter. Bob Lee would be proud.

Mr. Sturm (above), take a minute to read Hunter's piece. He's right. You're dealing in fractions of a second, and you tunnel in or you miss the bird.

I think the real point ever... (Below threshold)

I think the real point everyone is missing about the accident is that the girl in the "Those Shirts" Conservative T-shirt ad to the left is super-hot.

Why wasn't the WH press told about THIS?!?

As a hunter for over 20 yea... (Below threshold)

As a hunter for over 20 years now, I can say without a doubt that the account by Steven Hunter is right on. As youare swinging to the left you make a decision to shoot in the next second, not right then. You lead your shot anticipating where the bird "will be" not "where it is now". Unfortuantely for Whittington he was right where Cheney was leading the bird.

I usually make this type of statement, but if you don't know the mechanics of upland bird hunting (which is incredibly fast paced) then you really shouldn't try to offer an opinion on what should have happened.

Here is a post I made last year when I went on a similar "pen raised" hunt.


"I usually make this type o... (Below threshold)

"I usually make this type of statement, but if you don't know the mechanics of upland bird hunting (which is incredibly fast paced) then you really shouldn't try to offer an opinion on what should have happened."

Sorry, meant to say "I usually DON'T make this type of statement..."

I could buy the fact that C... (Below threshold)

I could buy the fact that Cheney got lost enough in the shot not to see Whittington, but there is one thing that no one has mentioned: dogs. No way in hell those guys went out there without dogs to flush the birds, yet there has been absolutely no mention of them. That's a problem, because if Whittington had downed a bird, a least one dog would be retrieving it, not Whittington. And unless they had 10 dogs they probably would have waited for the dog to bring the bird back before letting the other dogs continue on to find coveys. Something just doesn't add up.

Why didn't Cheney get a fin... (Below threshold)

Why didn't Cheney get a fine for not having a bird stamp? He claims he didn't know he needed one, come on. How can a bird hunter not know he needed a stamp? Like Cheney I've been hunting over 20 years and I've always needed a stamp. Did HE alone not need one the last 30 years either? I'm sure as hell that I would have been fined, why is he above the law?

Your're right, Mark. The r... (Below threshold)
Master Shake:

Your're right, Mark. The real story is that they were hunting aliens that escaped from Area-51. In the confusion, Cheney shot what he thought was a replicant (the aliens are metamorphs, you know) but it was actually the REAL Whittington. Of course, the case of beer he drank immediately prior to the incident, the crack he also smoked, and the super-soldier serum he injected may have affected his judgment.

Milkshake, you're hilarious... (Below threshold)

Milkshake, you're hilarious. And I'm not some conspiracy theorist whack-nut who thinks that Cheney did this intentionally. However, I want to know why not one recount of this story mentions the fact that they were hunting with dogs. If someone comes out and says they didn't have dogs then I will shut up, but until then it sounds like part of the story is missing.

Hmmm.1. *shrug* I ... (Below threshold)


1. *shrug* I didn't read about dogs at all. Normally I'd agree with you about hunting quail with dogs, something I haven't done more than a decade, but who knows how this is set up. Maybe they only had a couple dogs. Maybe the dogs couldn't find the bird and this gentleman went looking for it himself.

2. Cheney's office asked for all of the necessary paperwork. The stamp wasn't included. So someone, either in Cheney's office or whomever they asked, screwed up.

*shrug* it's a $7 stamp. It's not the end of the world.

The stamp is a new addition... (Below threshold)

The stamp is a new addition to the area fish & game laws. Hence, the warning and not a fine. The department is giving hunters the benefit of the doubt with a 'grace period' of sorts.

Whittington didn't have a stamp either. I suppose some one should be down at the hospital writing a citation...

Ok, there were dogs with th... (Below threshold)

Ok, there were dogs with the group:


The dogs may not have been trained to find downed birds or Mr.Willington took it upon himself to get his own birds. Either way, I'm satisfied.

Maybe Josh's eyes don't mov... (Below threshold)

Maybe Josh's eyes don't move. Mine were rolling!

Oops, make that John.... (Below threshold)

Oops, make that John.

As for the dogs non-issue. ... (Below threshold)

As for the dogs non-issue. Remeber Whittington broke form teh group and most likely the guide kept the dogs under shi command as the "group" continued on to where the covey was.

As for the stamp, I seriously doubt Cheney goes down to the hunt shop himself to secure these things. I can only imagine there is a staffer somewhere sweating bullets (no pun intended) over his/her job for not getting the right stamps. They could ahve simply erred on the side of caution and grabbed every stamp required for about $40.

>>If you could see him the ... (Below threshold)
Robert Durtschi:

>>If you could see him the split second AFTER you shot him, then you could see him the split second BEFORE you shot him.

Just finished the book "Animals in Translation : Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior" by Temple Grandin (Highly recommended). She points out that the human brain has a great talent in blocking distractions. Tells of an experiment where people were asked to watch a video of a basketball game and track the number of shots by a particular player. Midway through the video a woman in a gorilla suit came out on the court. When asked after if they had seen it Half of them had no recollection of the event.






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