Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2006

Hunting tragedy near Edith mars fall turkey season

By Will Brumleve - Lake Sun
October 10, 2006

CAMDEN COUNTY - A 59-year-old St. Charles man died Saturday after a family friend accidentally shot him in the head while hunting turkey, authorities said.

Bob Staton, education field chief for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that Russell Ermeling was hunting turkey on a private property near Edith Saturday morning with a family friend, Andrew Mittelbuscher, 22, also of St. Charles, when Mittelbuscher inadvertently shot Ermeling with a 12-gauge shotgun.

"The shooter claims he saw a turkey run behind him and he turned and shot and struck the victim in the head," Staton said.

"The shooter had sat down at the edge of a field after he had seen a turkey fly across the creek bank," said conservation agent Eric Smith, the lead investigator in the case. "At some point in time, the victim had sat behind him, about 28 feet, and the shooter said he saw a turkey off behind him to his right and he went around to his left and shot one time, striking Ermeling in the top of the forehead."

After Camden County sheriff's deputies and conservation agents were called to the scene at 8:35 a.m., Ermeling was transported by helicopter to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, where he was pronounced dead.

No charges are expected to be filed, according to Capt. Gary Bowling of the Camden County Sheriff's Department.

In the wake of Saturday's incident, conservation agents are warning hunters to use caution to avoid accidents during the fall turkey hunting season, which runs through Oct. 31. Staton said hunters should be sure of their targets before they shoot. He said Mittelbuscher violated that safety rule.

"The first thing everybody has to remember is that hunting is exciting, but there's not an animal out there worth a human life or injury," Staton said. "So you've got to be able to control your emotions and use common sense; you've got to identify your target for sure; you can't be 99 percent sure it's a turkey you're shooting, you have to be 100 percent."

Staton said the state averages about three to five hunting-related accidents during fall turkey hunting season.

"A few years ago, before (we began requiring) the mandatory hunter education (course), we used to average 12 to 15 turkey hunting accidents," Staton said.

Smith said accidents are common during the turkey hunting season because hunters are not required to wear blaze-orange vests. Instead, they are typically fully camouflaged, sometimes wearing gloves and facemasks, Smith said.

Contact this reporter at [email protected] 

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