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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2003

Hunter carrying elk’s head killed

October 22, 2002

By MARK FREEMAN
Mail Tribune

An Eagle Point hunter carrying an elk’s head and antlers on his shoulder was shot dead Saturday by a hunter who mistook him for a live bull elk lumbering through the brush in Douglas County, authorities said.

Thomas Russell "Rick" Peabody, 42, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 3:45 p.m. shooting, which occurred on the opening day of the general bull-elk season.

Douglas County sheriff’s deputies said Leslie Baker, 39, of Medford, fired the fatal shot from his 300-Winchester Magnum rifle and never saw Peabody, who was wearing camouflage clothing.

"It truly did appear to him like he was shooting an elk that was walking in the woods," sheriff’s department spokeswoman Pam Frank said. "It really is one of those tragedies that just makes you shake your head."

Baker was interviewed by police and not arrested, Frank said. Police reports will be forwarded to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office without any recommended charges, she said.

The shooting occurred off Mowich Road on Umpqua National Forest land about 10 miles west of Diamond Lake off Highway 138.

Peabody reportedly was hunting alone and near his vehicle parked on a nearby roadway when the shooting occurred, Frank said.

Baker told police he could not see the vehicle or Peabody from his vantage point, said Frank, who did not know how far apart the two men were at the time.

Frank said the outcome could have been different if Peabody was wearing the blaze-orange clothing that is recommended, but not required, of big-game hunters in Oregon or if he had fastened a bright flag or tape to the antlers before he began packing out the elk.

And, if Baker had waited "a few more seconds" before he shot, maybe he would have noticed Peabody, Frank said.

"But you can’t fault a guy for seeing what he’s seeing," she said.

In state-run hunter-education courses, students are taught to wear blaze-orange clothing and to use red tape or flags to mark the animals they shoot, said Tony Burtt, who runs the program for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"The most important thing we teach is that, before they shoot, hunters should be absolutely clear what they’re shooting at, what their target is and what’s behind the target," Burtt said.

That doesn’t make Saturday’s shooting a crime, he said.

Saturday was the opening day of the Cascade bull-elk hunt for rifle hunters in Western Oregon. The Saturday and Sunday of the seven-day season draws more than 15,000 hunters to the west slopes of the Cascades every year.

Peabody is the second hunter to die this fall from a gunshot while hunting.

On Sept. 29, the first weekend of rifle hunting for deer, a Hood River County man in black clothing was shot dead by a hunter who mistook him for a bear, Burtt said. Police are still investigating that case, and no charges have been filed, Burtt said.

Burtt said he could find no incident in at least 15 years of a hunter getting fatally shot while carrying the head and antlers of a deer or elk.

About 300,000 people hunt Oregon’s woods annually, and there have been only five hunting fatalities in the past nine years, according to ODFW statistics.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com 

 

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