By JAIME POWELL
Scripps Howard News Service
February 13, 2006
Both men are regular visitors to the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch and had hunted on the terrain, which includes mesquite trees and huisache brush interspersed with tall native grasses and pastures.
Cheney is at the ranch several times a year hunting. Other high-profile visitors include President George W. Bush, his father, George H.W. Bush, Bush's deputy chief of staff and senior adviser Karl Rove, and former secretary of state James Baker.
Hunting safety protocol on the ranch is that hunters walk three abreast and move forward, said Katharine Armstrong, one of the owners of the ranch. If one of the hunters steps away, he or she announces his or her intention to rejoin to prevent accidents. "The covey flushes in front of you, and you shoot the birds," she said. "After you pick up the birds, you get in line and walk forward. The reason you stay in line is so that you know where everybody is at all times. If you drop out of line, you say you are coming up behind indicate to other shooters so you know they are there."
Whittington, 78, was within 30 yards of rejoining Cheney and another hunter, but had not made his presence known, when a second covey of quail flushed, Armstrong said.
Cheney had picked out one of the quail, followed it with his gun and shot, inadvertently spraying Whittington with shotgun pellets, Armstrong said.
"This is of course not something that you want to happen, but it does happen sometimes," Armstrong said. "It's a risk when any shooting sport is involved. Fortunately, Harry was at the right distance away, far enough away that it wasn't worse."
Medical personnel that came to the ranch with Cheney took care of Whittington until an ambulance arrived to take him to Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial. Cheney, standing nearby, was apologetic, Armstrong said.
Sunday morning Cheney talked to Whittington's wife, Merce Whittington, for an update on his condition.
"I spoke with Merce late this morning, and she reported that he's in good spirits," Cheney said Sunday. "Looks like he is going to be fine, and that is the important thing."
Sunday afternoon Cheney and former ambassador to Great Britain and Armstrong Ranch matriarch Anne Armstrong joined Whittington's family at the hospital, where Whittington was in stable condition and was reportedly sitting up in bed and in good spirits.
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