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A number of other statistical pieces dovetailed into the picture. Why was it that in 219 cases of mistaken identity, 95% of the shooters were familiar with the firearms they were using; 80% were familiar with the country in which they were hunting; 86% had shot deer before and were familiar with deer hunting conditions?
Marsh was convinced that all these facts had a definite correlation. What makes a good hunter is quick visual perception. And, unlike the greenhorn who must think his way through a new situation, the seasoned hunter has developed, through years of practice, a fine set of conditioned reflexes. Such gunners think they are being deliberate but, gauged by normal standards, they hear, see, and fire with deadly speed and accuracy.
Add to this, says Marsh, the fact that almost three-quarters of Maine's woods accidents occur in areas of light hunter density, and the picture sharpens. Hunting in territory where the hunters are thick, a motion or a sound in the brush is most apt to flash "man" into the mind of the shooter. But in country where the hunter feels he's alone, such signs say "deer."
Questioning a confessed killer in the woods one day, Marsh asked: "You've hunted for twenty years, you've seen hundreds of deer in the woods. How do you explain this accident?"
The distraught hunter blurted: "I can't explain it. I saw that deer. We had just jumped three deer and I figured they'd head for the bog. We went in after them?and there was that buck..."
And there Marsh knew he had tacked down a most significant factor. In so many instances the shooter was psychologically prepared to see deer. In most cases this seasoned hunter, firing almost automatically, gets his deer. But in enough cases to constitute a real problem he gets his fellow hunter.
In this new light, Marsh was convinced there was only one answer to the question of what must be done?red clothing and more of it.
Marsh believes that everything possible should be done in the way of youth educational programs and he considers it no more than common sense that the mental defective should be denied a hunting license, and that the boy under 16 should wait for one. But he is also convinced that the death toll taken by the "seasoned" hunter won't be appreciably reduced until the wearing of red is made mandatory in every state. And by red he means a good solid expanse of the new fluorescent red (see pages 57-59).
Asked if he didn't feel a bit uneasy about letting his wife and young sons go into the woods in the fall, Maynard Marsh grinned wryly. "What makes you think it is safe in the house?"
The question was asked for a reason. Not long before, his wife, making up the beds, had been narrowly missed by a bullet that came crashing through the window. Marsh dug the bullet out of the baseboard and identified it as a .35 Winchester, rather rare. In fact, he thought he owned one of the very few such rifles in the region. Investigating, he came upon a local dealer who carried that caliber ammunition. "I've had one box around for years," the dealer said, "but never could get rid of it." He reached over for the box and found it missing.