October 22, 2002
By MARK FREEMAN
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
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
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
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
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail