By JENNIFER GISH
Daily Record/Sunday News
Sunday, December 5, 2004
Jason Plotkin - YDR
Sean Erik Wolfe looks over the shoulder of his mother, Kristen,
as she shows photos from five years ago, when she was hit in
the head by a hunter’s errant bullet. She was pregnant with Sean
Erik at the time.
Five-year-old Sean Erik Wolfe had never seen the pictures of his
mother with her head shaved and a long scar running along her skull
where surgeons went in to remove a blood clot.
He was in her belly then, she told him. Kristen Wolfe was five
months pregnant with Sean Erik on June 26, 1999, when she was shot
in the head by a groundhog hunter while riding along a rural road
in Manheim Township.
The Glenville woman and a friend were returning from a trip to
the store at about 4 p.m. when Wolfe heard a cracking noise and
saw a hole in the passenger side of the windshield, right in front
of where she was sitting.
Then she felt warm and realized there was blood running down the
left side of her head.
Within an hour, doctors at a shock-trauma unit at a Maryland hospital
were operating on her.
She was one of 83 people in Pennsylvania injured that year in
“Mom, was it a rifle that shot you?” Sean Erik asked last week
as the 29-year-old Wolfe pulled out a collection of photos and
newspaper articles she had saved about the incident.
The hunter was found guilty of firing too close to the road and
received $1,200 in fines and 18 months on probation. He was forbidden
from possessing a weapon during that 18 months.
“I never talked to the hunter,” said Wolfe, a homemaker, student
and mother of three boys. “You feel bad for them because you know
they didn’t intentionally try to do that, but at the same time
you’re mad because you think he could have killed me, things
could have been a lot worse.”
Kristen Wolfe of Glenville saved photos taken after doctors operated
on a blood clot in her head that was the result of being accidentally
shot by a hunter.
Recent news of hunting-related shootings has triggered memories
of the incident for Wolfe, who ever since the shooting has been
nervous when driving during hunting season.
On Monday afternoon, a hunter shooting at a deer across a Winterstown
road hit a woman driving back to her North Hopewell Township home
in the thigh.
The day before, a 16-year-old boy was on the first floor of his
Stewartstown home showing two others his Marlin 30-30 hunting rifle
when he inadvertently shot a 35-year-old man who was in bed on
the second floor. The man was wounded in the leg.
And on Tuesday, a pregnant woman in the Allentown area was shot
in the head and critically injured, apparently struck by a stray
bullet from a hunter as she was leaving her driveway.
Since January, there have been 50 hunting-related shootings in
Pennsylvania, said Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the state Game Commission.
“These types of incidents are very rare,” he said. “However, each
and every incident is unfortunate, and if you look at it, in most
cases, it’s preventable.”
Hunting-related shootings drop
State game laws outline the buffer zones for hunters. Most are
just common sense, Feaser said. Hunters are not permitted to
shoot across public roads when a vehicle could pass through the
of fire. It’s also illegal to shoot, trap or pursue game within
a 150-yard area around homes, camps, farm buildings, businesses,
schools or day-cares. Hunting on hospital, institution or cemetery
grounds is illegal.
Hunters violating the law face misdemeanor charges and related
penalties. The Game Commission can revoke hunting privileges for
anywhere from two to 15 years.
But game officials say preventative measures are what have led
hunters to be more careful in the woods, rather than fear of fines
or license suspensions.
Feaser said hunting-related shootings have dropped 80 percent
since the state began offering hunter-safety courses in 1959.
The number fell even further after the state mandated hunter-safety
training for all first-time hunters in 1982 and required hunters
to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange in 1988.
Last year, 57 people statewide were injured or killed in hunting-related
shootings. That’s down from 85 incidents 10 years before.
But Wolfe still gets nervous when she hears gunfire. She spent
three days in the hospital recovering from her injuries. Wolfe
didn’t incur any long-term physical damage, but she’s thought
about what would have happened if her head had been turned just
She doesn’t hold any anger toward the hunter who shot her.
Still, when she leaves to attend college classes at night, her
oldest son, Austin, who was 5 at the time of the shooting, gives
her a hug. He’s afraid of dangers he wouldn’t have otherwise
“Who thought in the middle of the day you would go to the store
and get shot in the head?” Wolfe said. “You know it’s an accident,
but, still, it’s careless.”
For instructor, a personal tale
Last week, Lloyd Wilhelm was called back from a hunting trip
when he learned his wife, Janet, had been shot by a hunter as
driving home along Swamp Road in Winterstown. The bullet pierced
the driver’s side door and hit her in the thigh and sending
her to the hospital, where she arrived in serious condition.
The hunter is expected to face a misdemeanor charge of causing
serious bodily injury by shooting and four summary offenses — shooting
within 150 yards of an occupied building or dwelling; shooting
across a road; damaging property by shooting; and causing bodily
injury by shooting, according to the game commission.
Causing serious bodily injury is a second-degree misdemeanor,
punishable by up to six months in jail, a $1,000 to $5,000 fine
and revocation of hunting and trapping privileges for five to 10
years, Feaser said.
Ironically, Wilhelm has also taught the state’s hunter-safety
course for the last 36 years. When he teaches the classes again
next July, he said, he’ll stress even further the importance
of being careful.
“Definitely make sure of your target, what’s around it, and what’s
beyond it. And be aware of where you are hunting — that you’re
not hunting in a safety-zone area,” Wilhelm said.
He said he understands the adrenaline rush that sometimes comes
with the sport. “You’ve got to be able to control your thoughts
. . . You can’t call it back.”
Typically, Wilhelm invites a man who was wounded while groundhog
hunting into his class as a guest speaker. Now, he said, he’ll
have a more personal cautionary tale to share.
Still, Wilhelm said he hates to see hunters get a bad rap because
of the careless actions of a few. He said he feels safer in the
woods during hunting season than he did in the hospital parking
lot, where he almost got into a fender-bender while visiting his
wife last week.
“The majority of hunters out there are really safety-minded and
ethical, and it’s one of the safest sports that you can get into,” he
Wolfe’s dark hair has long since covered her scar. And you can
only see the small mark under her eye, the one left when a
fragment of the bullet grazed the apple of her left cheek, when
Sean Erik, who experienced no ill effects from the shooting
as he was in his mother’s womb, keeps her busy as he chases after
the family’s new puppy.
Wolfe hopes what happened to her might serve as a reminder to
hunters to be careful.
Just like Sean Erik provides a little reminder to her about how
fortunate she was to have survived the shooting five years ago.
Reach Jennifer Gish at 771-2090 or [email protected] .