While I will be waiting for a flock of mallards to float down into my decoys on opening morning, at some point during the hunt, my thoughts will flash back to a few days ago when someone who loved the sport of waterfowling met his tragic death. That someone was Jocelyn “Josh” Leger.
At the age of 12, Josh was introduced to waterfowling by a school friend and by his father, with whom he hunted with until his sudden death. Like so many of us, he was hooked and went on to pursue waterfowl some 100 days per year, eventually ending up as a waterfowl guide in four Canadian provinces.
In addition to guiding, he was an avid angler and hunting dog trainer and mastered every aspect of waterfowling. He was so knowledgeable, passionate and devoted that he joined the pro staff for Memphis-based Avery Outdoors in 2005.
On Oct. 10 of this year, while guiding some clients on a snow goose hunt in Sainte-Flavie, Quebec, a remote area along the Saint-Lawrence River, Josh was killed. He was part of a group of six hunters, hunting out of layout blinds with a large decoy spread. A man not associated with the party saw the decoy spread while driving down the road. He pulled over, crawled toward the decoys and fired a single .22 bullet.
Josh's partner heard the whistling of the flying bullet and then a tiny impact. He reflexively asked Josh if he had heard it. When no answer came, he turned around and realized Josh had been hit just above the eye.
Those hunting with him immediately began efforts to resuscitate him. Nevertheless, he died a few hours later at the hospital despite their valiant effort to save him.
The unidentified 59-year-old man (I would certainly never call him a hunter) from the nearby town of Price fled the scene but not before members of Josh's hunting party got the license plate number. He was arrested at his home a short time later and was arraigned on the charge of negligent use of a firearm. He was released on a promise to appear.
There are many lessons to be learned from this tragic event. One of the basic tenets of shooting safety is never to pull the trigger until you are sure of the target and what is beyond it.
Furthermore, what sport is there in shooting game from the roadways? It's illegal and dangerous and it could be deadly, as this case points out.
Unfortunately, as this shooting illustrates, there are people out there who choose not to follow the rules. Hunters must always keep this in mind: some will not follow the rules, making it dangerous for everyone.
As decoys and camouflage becomes more realistic, they (and us) are more attractive to people looking at them through binoculars or through a rifle scope… people who are willing to violate hunting laws or the rules of hunting safety. You must do everything you can to protect yourself.
If goose hunting, make a sign and post it at the road, stating that you are hunting in the field. Or put out a warning flag made of hunting orange. If a truck stops on the road, jump up and shout or fire your weapon into the air. Do whatever it takes to get their attention!
This is a horrible and senseless turn of events, and a poacher has taken a life. All because someone wanted to cheat to kill a snow goose.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Josh's family and friends as they struggle with this tragedy. Josh spent most of his life promoting ethical hunting, so let us all think of Josh when we are out in the fields and swamps this hunting season. Maybe we can prevent something like this from happening again.