Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > December 2004


By MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press Writer,
The Associated Press December 13, 2004

Four people were killed and 26 wounded while hunting deer through Saturday, the last day of Pennsylvania's two-week rifle season, the state Game Commission reported. For deer hunters, it was the worst year for accidental shootings since 1998.

The fatalities included a 12-year-old girl who shot herself in the neck while hunting with her father near Punxsutawney, a 45-year-old man shot in the chest at a Butler County campsite, a 46-year-old man shot in the chest by his father in Armstrong County, and a 45-year-old man killed in Lancaster County a half-hour before sunrise Saturday.

A fifth fatality occurred when one Amish teenager shot another with a gun he reportedly thought was not loaded following a Dec. 2 hunt. That incident, which authorities have said was accidental, occurred inside a home near Lock Haven and is not considered hunting-related for Game Commission purposes.

There have been 57 hunting-related shootings of all types this calendar year, the same number as in 2003. The 30 people killed or wounded during the state's various deer seasons represents a slight increase from last year's total of 25.

Prior to the Nov. 29 start of rifle season, a deer hunter shot himself with a crossbow, and another man was wounded when his muzzleloading rifle exploded, said Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser.

Among the recovering victims is Janet Wilhelm, a 65-year-old Sears employee shot in the leg Nov. 29 while driving a few hundred yards from her home in Winterstown, 20 miles southeast of York. Her husband said Monday she endured three surgeries and several transfusions before being released from the hospital last week.

"It's like she was out surfing and a shark took a bite out of her leg," said Lloyd A. Wilhelm.

Showing remarkable calm after being shot in the thigh by a .30-06 bullet, she drove to a neighbor's home to seek help. The shooter, a friend of the Wilhelms, has been charged with causing bodily harm and other offenses.

"He's really a fine man," Lloyd Wilhelm said. "It was just one of them things that he didn't know why he done it and he regrets it sincerely, and we don't want to see him suffering any more than it has to be."

In an Allentown suburb on Nov. 30, an apparent stray bullet hit an 18-year-old expectant mother who was sitting in a parked car in the head, leading to calls for restrictions on the types of weapons that can be fired near densely populated residential areas. Casey Burns was released from a hospital last Tuesday and her doctors expect a full recovery.

Most hunting-related accidental shootings involve mistaking a person for quarry, improper handing of firearms or failure to ensure the safety of the area behind the target, said Earle D. Robbins, a Penn State extension agent in Wellsboro and veteran hunter-education instructor.

He suggested young or inexperienced hunters follow up their mandatory safety classes by going out with a trusted, seasoned hunter.

"The role-model feature is the key thing that I see," Robbins said. "It doesn't do a lot of good to do a 10-hour training and put kids or new hunters back in an environment where somebody's demonstrating unsafe practices."

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