Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2007

AZ - man killed by own rifle in hunting accident

By JON JOHNSON - Eastern Arizona Courier

KLONDYKE, Ariz. -- A Millersburg man was shot and killed by his own high-powered rifle while varmint hunting in the Cedar Springs area on Monday.

Milan M. Hershberger, 24, of 2789 County Road 600, was declared dead on arrival by an emergency response crew from Pima.

Hershberger had been hunting with his traveling companions Matthew Miller, 27, and John Mark Yoder, 16, also from Millersburg.

The group first arrived to bow hunt javelina on Dec. 31, according to Graham County Undersheriff Dave Boyd. After killing their limit of javelina, a type of feral hog, they proceeded to hunt varmints such as coyote or fox.

"This was our first time out there," Miller said. "Some friends had been out two-three years ago and had a good time, so we decided to come."

Hershberger was out on an outcrop of rocks when he noticed a fox coming his way. He was carrying a 25.06-caliber rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun. Hershberger could not get a shot off with his rifle so he laid it down and switched to the shotgun.

As he raised the shotgun, the rifle fell off the side of cliff and hit butt-first at the bottom of the 12-foot drop. The impact caused the rifle to go off, and a round hit Hershberger.

The bullet entered under his right arm and exited out the top of the shoulder, shattering the shoulder and his brachial artery. Hershberger attempted to return to where his companions were and shouted, "I'm hit!"

Yoder attempted to apply first aid while Miller climbed up a hill to get reception on his cell phone and call for help.

By the time response crews from Pima arrived, Hershberger had bled out and resuscitation efforts were in vain.

"It was just one of those freak accidents," Miller said.

Boyd said everything at the scene was consistent with Miller's and Yoder's statements.

"There was nothing to indicate that it didn't happen any other way than described," he said.

Police retrieved the rifle and shotgun and noted one spent round from the rifle.

Miller's and Yoder's guns had not been fired.

Boyd said Hershberger's mistake was trying to handle two long-barreled weapons at the same time.

"When the animal you're hunting comes up on you, it's hard to be able to handle two long guns in that situation," he said.

The age of the gun might have been a factor as well, Boyd said.

"It is a pre-1964 model 70 Winchester, and the trigger appeared to be very sensitive," he said. "If he had put the safety on when he put the weapon down, it probably wouldn't have gone off."

An obituary for Hershberger appeared in Thursday's Daily Record.

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