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PA: Hundreds of PA hunting accidents

November 26, 2009

Fundamentals the Bedrock of Hunting Safety

During the predawn hours of May 15, Shirley Grenoble hiked into the woods near Raystown Lake, in Huntingdon County, on a late spring turkey hunt. Despite the anticipation and thrill of the hunt, she forced herself to take each step quietly, carefully, so she didn't startle her quarry.

A few hours later, Grenoble was again forcing herself to take one step after another-except this time it was for survival. Her face, neck, head, back, legs and arms were filled with small lead BBs. She blindly and unsuccessfully used one camouflage hunting glove to wipe her face, and especially her eyelids that had been pasted shut by streams of warm, sticky blood.

"I just kept walking, forcing myself to take one step after another, knowing that if I didn't, I'd probably faint," said Grenoble as she recalled with vivid detail her ordeal from 20 years ago.

She had been the victim of a hunting accident-one that could have been avoided if two 40-year-old brothers had taken a few extra moments to properly identify their target. "They heard turkey calls and decided to sneak towards the noise to see what was going on. That was mistake No. 1," Grenoble said. "Then they saw something moving, a flash of color, whatever. They put these clues together and it verified at that moment in their mind that they were looking at a gobbler."

Series of unfortunate events Grenoble, a lifelong nature enthusiast, avid hunter and outdoor writer from Altoona, was no stranger to the concept of hunting accidents. Less than three weeks before her fateful hunt near Raystown Lake, Grenoble was hunting with her son, Mark, and his wife in Missouri.

"We were coming down out of the woods as quietly as we could and walked into an open green field. Someone shot, and Mark fell right at my feet," Grenoble said. "They (the landowner and a friend) heard turkey calls on top of the hill, heard something coming down towards them and couldn't see very well from a thick, brushy gully. They saw movement and wound up shooting my son in the face.

"Mark was taken by helicopter to the hospital and BBs were removed. The doctor said that four BBs were lodged in lethal places-one missed a vital spot by the width of a thumbnail."

Grenoble returned to Pennsylvania after she knew her son was safely on the road to recovery. Spring gobbler season was winding down, and so she headed out one more time before the end of the 1989 spring season.

Following a gas pipeline through the woods above Raystown Lake, Grenoble stopped every so often to do some calling, but never got a response.

Around 9 a.m., she decided to change location again and bent down several times to pick up her belongings, including a waist pack, small pillow and her shotgun. Just then, a shot rang out and Grenoble was hit in the face by hundreds of small BBs.

"It knocked me down, just like in the movies. I knew immediately what had happened and curled up into a ball on the ground," Grenoble remembered. "There were two brothers, each with 12-gauge semi-automatics, and they fired six shots at me-at least three hit me.

"I looked up and saw the two men standing on the gas line. They were in shock. Blood was running down my face, out my mouth and nose, across my chest."

Safer than you'd think

Despite the gruesome circumstances of Grenoble's ordeal, hunting in Pennsylvania is relatively safe from a statistical standpoint.

In 1980, there were more than 200 reported hunting-related shooting accidents in the state, but the numbers have been consistently declining since then.

Last year, just 35 incidents were reported, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Hunting-Related Shooting Incident report for 2008. Of the 35 incidents, 40 percent were self-inflicted injuries. According to the study, most of the incidents occurred on a clear day in a wooded setting during daylight hours.

Out of the 35 incidents reported, three (8.6 percent) were fatalities-all of which happened during the 2008 deer season.

The closest fatality last fall occurred in Snyder County along Old Colony Road, near the Middlecreek Antique Machinery Association grounds, when Kreamer resident Blain Spickler was accidentally shot in the abdomen when an unidentified man was attempting to unload his .243-caliber Winchester rifle.

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