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Rep. Pat Fleagle gets a clear shot at his knapsack

December 16, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

For today's episode of American Sportsmen in the News, we head to the hills of Pennsylvania, with our special guest guide, State Rep. Pat "Grizzly Adams" Fleagle.

We will be stalking the wily and feared quarry, known in scientific circles as "Knapsackus Reddellicious."

Seems that the senator, who recounted the story with good nature (which frankly is more than I would have done), awoke before dawn last Monday and headed with a friend into the woods for his first-ever deer hunt.

At first, it seemed luck was on Pat's side, because early that morning he heard a rustling and saw six deer bounding through the woods about 75 yards away. He hoisted his rifle and disengaged the safety, but was unable to get a clear shot through the trees.

After more waiting, he stood to stretch his back and the gun - with the safety still off - discharged in spectacular fashion, hitting his knapsack. This was one of those weapons loaded with the highly controversial ammunition known as "apple piercing bullets" - known in the street as "York killers" - because it instantly turned a piece of packed fruit to sauce. An apple. I've heard of aiming for your core constituency, but this is ridiculous. If he tells you you're the apple of his eye, hit the floor.


Luckily for Pat, he got it with the first shot; as any big-game hunter will tell you, there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded apple.

"When the gun went off, it scared the stuffing out of me," he recounted.

Yup, unplanned weaponry discharges will do that. For the senator's sake, I hope the deer weren't still around. It's got to be embarrassing to be standing there in the woods with an empty chamber, watching six bucks rolling on the ground, holding their stomachs with their hooves in fits of laughter.

Give him credit, he bagged the apple. William Tell would be proud. Might even inspire a Pat Fleagle Overture.

The story didn't say what happened to Pat's friend. Probably remembered an urgent appointment he had to grout his tub. Nothing like being in the woods and hearing "KAA-BOOOOM!! - Oops, sorry; ha-ha, my bad. BOOOMM!! Sorry, sorry, entirely my fault, won't happen again. BOOOMM!!..." to cause a man to develop a lively interest in being in some other county.

I mean, what if the friend had a knapsack containing a banana? "Don't shoot! The mango is unarmed!"

Anyone who has been following these politicians' ongoing War on Fruit has to be concerned that it's gone too far. Might be material for Tom Clancy, though: "The Hunt for Red Delicious."

What is it about P-A and firearms? It was at Gettysburg, remember, as I recount in my book of classic columns called "Petrified Fact" available at (did you like the seamless way I worked that in, with only a trace of shameless self-promotion?) that a Gettysburg Civil War re-enactor from France packed a live round into his musket and wounded a fellow soldier.

I'm not in favor of gun control, but in Pennsylvania, I might be in favor of bullet control. All ammo should be tied with a string, so if you don't mean it, you can pull it back.

But don't feel bad, Pat, embarrassing hunting episodes can happen to anyone and by "anyone," I mean "me."

On my first deer hunting adventure as a boy, my friend Johnny armed me with a .12-gauge pump shotgun and we waddled off into the bush. Excitable boys on their first hunt want to shoot at the first thing that moves, and when the first thing that moves is a bunny rabbit and you're packing a weapon that can take down a moose - well, you can probably average the rest.

So the moral of the story, aside from being sure to always reset your safety, is that when Pat and I are in the woods, the deer can rest easy. But if you're a rabbit or a knapsack, watch out.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at

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