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VA: Bedford man dies in hunting accident

Bedford man dies in hunting accident

By Carrie J. Sidener
Published: March 31, 2009

A Bedford man was killed in a hunting-related accident Tuesday afternoon, adding to an already deadly season for Virginia hunters.

Elisha Coleman Cheek, 71, left to hunt groundhogs with his shotgun around 8 a.m. but never returned, said Major Ricky Gardner with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office.

When Cheek didn't come home, his wife went looking for him, Gardner said, and found his body near his home on Oregon Trail about nine miles southeast of Bedford.

"This was a total, horrible accident," Gardner said.

It appears that Cheek was climbing a fence when the gun accidentally went off and shot him in the head, Gardner said.

This year's hunting season, which started in October, has been one of the deadliest in years.

Statewide, 10 people have died in hunting-related accidents. Three of those deaths happened in the Lynchburg area, said Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It is the highest number of hunting-related fatalities in Virginia since 1995.

The death toll does not include Brookville High School principal Jim Whorley and retired Lynchburg engineer Terry Reid, who died Dec. 27 after their boat capsized in Buggs Island Lake, where the two men were headed out to duck hunt.

This season, five of the 10 deaths in the state were a result of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Three involved falls from a tree stand and two were hunters shooting at what they thought was a deer or turkey and hitting another hunter instead.

Two of those fatalities happened in Campbell County.

An Appomattox man was shot in the head in January when another hunter mistook him for a deer while the group was hunting off of East Ferry Road, about two miles south of Rustburg.

Another death happened on Nov. 21, when a Halifax man accidentally shot himself in a homemade deer stand near Red House.

That accident came on the heels of the fatal shooting of a Gretna man who was climbing through brush while rabbit hunting in Pittsylvania County.

The increase in deaths has alarmed conservation police officers. They are scrambling to figure out why - and what they can do to keep more people from dying.

"These six self-inflicted gunshot wounds all boil down to the safe handling of a firearm," Dixon said. "Treat it as though it's loaded. Only point it at what you intend to shoot. When you are walking in the woods, driving in your car, or climbing over a fence, don't carry a loaded firearm."

Dixon is concerned about the high number of deaths at this point in the season, particularly since the popular spring gobbler season is still to come.

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