... If it's true? Well, read on.
Here's the earliest description of the episode I've found:
CASS COUNTY, TX (KLTV) — Cass County Sheriff's officials are investigating an early morning shooting in the Marietta area.It was reported by local ABC station KLTV on July 30. As it stands, it is obviously a piece of purely local news. Few in Cass County would be interested, and nobody outside.
According to officials with the sheriff's department, they are investigating a possible accidental shooting that happened just before 3 a.m., Thursday in the 27,000 block of Highway 77. The man involved told deputies he was shooting at an armadillo and the bullet ricocheted and hit him in the head.
That is, had not someone interpreted the episode like this: That the bullet had ricocheted off the armadillo. That's the headline the story got when published on kltv.com.
This made all the difference. The episode instantly turned into a top story. It made headlines, was shared and retweeted all over the world, a world that had poor Cecil in fresh memory and fell in love with the idea of an animal that hit back at the hunter. The #Karmadillo was born.
Note that the claim that the bullet bounced off the animal is not in the text but in the headline. Those are usually written by other people than the ones writing the copy.
That the idea resonated with us is more important than exactly how it came to be in the first place. Maybe someone thought about an earlier story, Man Shoots at Armadillo But Accidentally Hits his Mother-in-Law (Time April 14 2015)? Where the bullet, according to the story as found, hit and killed the armadillo, bounced off, hit a fence, bounced again, went through a door and grazed the woman.
Fact: Armadillos have excellent protection ... Against predators. A bullet that hits it's tough plates at an angle can bounce, as it did in Georgia, where it also bounced at a second target. Bullets can be deflected by most any material, and bounce around in wild patterns.
But a bullet that hits the target straight on, and is not only stopped but ricochets straight back at the shooter with force? Is there any armour on any animal that could perform that feat?
Certainly not armadillos. Bulletproof they are not.
So what happened in Cass County? I've found a single source that asked the question to the right people:
The bullet did not ricochet off the armadillo, as some outlets [an understatement] have reported. [Chief Deputy Roy] Barker said the man told police the bullet from his .38 caliber pistol ricocheted off a rock and struck him in the jaw, grazing him.- Texas Man Injured By Ricocheting Bullet While Shooting At Armadillo, Huffington Post, July 31 2015
Maybe the bullet hit the armadillo before bouncing off to hit the rock. But that's not the version that got wildly popular, where the animal reflects the bullet à la Superman.
Note that the Huffpost correction came the day after the first reports. It didn't, of course, have a chance against the funny clickable shareable erroneous version.
You could also put it like this: The true version had about as much chance against the funny satisfying myth as an armadillo has against a .38 bullet.