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Bowhunter’s SOS gunshots backfire in wrong part of deer season

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Maryland bowhunter who accidentally shot himself with his own unregistered gunthought he'd help rescuers locate him in the woods by firing off a couple of shots — a signal not appreciated by the helicopter trying to find him.

"The dispatcher told him, 'Please, stop,'" said Officer Rebecca Innocenti, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department.

The 45-year-old Derwood man was bowhunting deer alone in McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area on Tuesday when he shot himself with a 22-caliber pistol in the left calf.

County police headed to the wildlife area, along with a Maryland State Police helicopter to help search the heavily forested area from above, Officer Innocenti said. She said the man called 911 at about 12:21 p.m. and was located within a half-hour of his emergency call. He was taken to a hospital for surgery.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources police also responded because it was a hunting-related incident. DNR police spokesman Sgt. Brian Albert said by the time his officers arrived on scene, the man had already been taken away by an ambulance.

Sgt. Albert said his officers were still investigating how the man shot himself in the leg, but one thing is for sure: Hunters "are not allowed to carry a firearm while archery hunting."

Sgt. Albert said hunters may use guns to hunt deer, but only at certain times during the season. This week, between Dec. 9 and Dec. 14, is an off-time for firearms, he said, so only bowhunting was allowed. Usinga gun at the wrong time during hunting season carries a maximum fine of $500.

Sgt. Albert said that in general, a hunter's excuse for carrying a gun is that "they're hunting other game."

"More than likely, they are taking the deer illegally, but checking it as a bow kill," he said.

The hunter not only was carrying a gun when he shouldn't have been, Sgt. Albert said, but he also didn't have a gun permit. He speculated that the hunter was most likely carrying the gun as a concealed weapon.

"If we really got down to it, technically we could charge him with carrying without a permit," Sgt. Albert said.

He added that the natural resources department handles between five and 10 shooting accidents a year.

Last month, a man hunting rabbits in Dunkirk, Md., was shot by a juvenile member of his hunting party, according to a list of hunting accidents recorded by the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting. A hunter in Charles County, Md., died in October when he fell more than 20 feet while attempting to climb into a deer stand in a tree. And at the beginning of the year, a Clinton man was shot by a fellow hunter in Prince George's County. The shooter was charged with a number of infractions, including negligent hunting and hunting without a permit.

This latest shooting accident in Maryland is one of nearly250 hunting-related incidents this year from around the country, according to reports compiled by the committee. These incidents range from a Missouri teenager shot in the foot while raccoon hunting, to a New Hampshire man gored by a wounded buck, to Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum being shot in the ear while quail hunting in Nashville, Tenn., with former teammate Robin Yount.

Wayne East, executive director of the International Hunter Education Association, acknowledged the seriousness of such reports.

"It's always upsetting when something like that happens," Mr. East said. "But the vast majority of these incidents are preventable if you follow the basic rules of hunting."

Mr. East said a hunter will use a rapid, three-shot signal in case of an emergency, but a shooter should always know where his target is and what the bullet could hit if he were to miss it.

Along with pointing their guns in a safe direction, Mr. East said, hunters should treat every gun as though it's loaded and keep away from the trigger until ready to shoot.

And while he understood that "anytime somebody gets shot, whether it's hunting or game-related, it gets reported," Mr. East said, the actual percentage of injuries is quite low, given the millions of people who go hunting each season.

A report issued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation showed that of the 16.3 million people who went hunting with firearms in 2010, about 8,100 were injured -- or roughly one per 2,000 hunters.

Compared to the sport shooting federation's tallies of one injury in 77 people playing baseball, or one in 19 people hurt playing tackle football, the federation ranked hunting as one of the safest activities.

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