UPDATE: The victim, Harry Whittington, had a heart attack caused by one of the pellets.
The White House blamed the 78-year-old man whom Vice President Dick Cheney shot during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas for the incident, as officials struggled Monday to explain why they waited nearly 24 hours before making the news public.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan tried to absolve Cheney of blame for shooting wealthy Austin lawyer Harry Whittington, saying that hunting "protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington when it came to notifying others that he was there. And so, you know, unfortunately, these types of hunting accidents happen from time to time."
Fortunately, the excuse ain’t flyin’.
Several hunting experts were skeptical of McClellan’s explanation. They said Cheney might have violated a cardinal rule of hunting: Know your surroundings before you pull the trigger.
"Particularly identify the game that you are shooting and particularly identify your surroundings, that it’s safe to shoot," said Mark Birkhauser, the incoming president of the International Hunter Education Association, a group of fish and wildlife agencies. "Every second, you’re adjusting your personal information that it is a safe area to shoot or it’s not a safe area to shoot."
Safe-hunting rules published by the National Rifle Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department echo Birkhauser’s advice.