Please stop calling poachers ‘hunters.’
And stop calling these deaths ‘hunting accidents.’
OPINION | HEADLINE HEALTH – Mistaken-for-game is one of the leading causes of death in the woods this time of year.
One such death was reported recently by The Brunswick (Ga.) News on October 8 –
Man who fatally shot friend on deer hunt behind bars
The man who fatally shot a teenage hunting companion whom he mistook for a deer while hunting out of season in western Glynn County on Sept. 28 is now behind bars …
The first thing a real hunter learns is to positively identify their target, and to do so when their finger is not on the trigger.
A hunter does not use their gun-mounted scope to identify their target because you do not point your gun at anything you do not intend to destroy.
You cannot form an intent to destroy something until after you have identified it.
A real hunter uses binoculars – or the naked eye if they are close enough – to positively identify their target before taking aim (though you certainly want to reconfirm your target through the scope before squeezing the trigger).
Shooting another hunter mistaken for a deer or other prey animal is not an ‘accident’ … it is reckless discharge and it is manslaughter.
These are crimes, committed by criminals. These reckless criminal acts should not be reported as “hunting accidents.”
In fact, this report should not even have included the word hunting, because hunting was not involved.
Attempting to take a game animal out of season is not hunting; it is poaching. Poaching is theft of a public resource.
The Brunswick News report goes on:
The shooter “told police he heard footsteps and rustling in the brush, the county police report said. [He] allegedly told police ‘when he looked at it, it looked like horns,’ the police report said. ‘But it was a tree branch and he shot at it and he hit Lane by accident.’
News flash – deer do not have horns. Sheep and cattle have horns. Deer have antlers.
However other game species also have antlers – moose, elk, mule deer – and it generally takes a different hunting license to shoot them. (Shoot a moose because you saw antlers and “thought it was a deer” is going to land you in hot water in any state.)
The presence of either horns or antlers is not a way to positively identify game. A hunter does not shoot at something because “it looked like horns.”
Discharing a gun with fatal consequences while committing a crime (in this case poaching) can and should be prosecuted as murder.
Below is the Associated Press story on this highly regretable crime … every mention of hunter or hunting this this story should be replaced with poacher or poaching.
In addition to attempting to take game out of season, the shooter did not even possess a hunting licence … clearly a poacher.
Georgia hunter [sic] charged with shooting teen he mistook as deer
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man is accused of fatally shooting a teenager he mistook for a deer while they were hunting illegally [poaching].
The Brunswick News reports 32-year-old Hector Romero-Hernandez and 17-year-old Bobby Lee Lane were hunting [sic] out of season last month when Romero-Hernandez said he thought he’d seen a deer in the woods.
He told Glynn County Police he heard rustling and shot at a branch that he thought was a deer’s horns. Lane was hit in a nearby tree stand.
Natural Resources Law Enforcement Capt. Chris Hodge says the investigation is ongoing. Romero-Hernandez was charged with misuse of a firearm resulting in serious bodily harm as well as hunting with an unlawful weapon and two license violations.
Additional details from The Brunswick News:
Glynn County Police arrested Hector Romero-Hernandez, 32, on Monday, charging him with misuse of a firearm while hunting resulting in serious bodily harm, according to Glynn County Detention Center records.
He remained Tuesday in the county jail, held without bond on the felony charge.
Additionally, Romero-Hernandez is charged with hunting with an unlawful weapon, hunting without a big game license and hunting without a license, all three of which are misdemeanors, according to jail records.
Bobby Lee Lane, 17, was shot around 6:45 p.m. in woods near the 500 block of Myers Hill Road, located off U.S. Highway 82 in western Glynn County, police said. [Sunset in this area on that date was at 7:15 p.m.; shooting half an hour before sunset makes positively identifying the target even more difficult. – Editor]
Romero-Hernandez and a third person on the illegal hunting [poaching] trip drove Lane to a nearby Friendly Express to meet county paramedics, who took him to Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital.
Lane was pronounced dead at the hospital. Read more.