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OH: Hunter shot, loses eye

This could happen to you

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
By W. H. "Chip" Gross
Special to ESPNOutdoors.com

It felt and sounded like a firecracker exploding in my left ear. I was knocked down, but not unconscious, and my mind immediately tried to figure out what was wrong, what was happening.

At first, I thought my shotgun had blown apart. I had been turkey hunting and carrying the 12 gauge on a sling over my shoulder and thought that one of the three-inch magnum shells in the magazine had detonated for some unexplained reason.

But I had been carrying the gun over my right shoulder, so why were my left arm and the left side of my face stinging as if a thousand hornets were attacking?

I remember sitting up and seeing my camouflaged shotgun lying intact on the ground. It was then that my mind registered the terrifying and unbelievable fact: "I've been shot!"

Within seconds I could hear brush cracking about 30 yards uphill from where I lay. "Help!" I yelled in a coarse voice that didn't sound quite like my own.

"Where are ya?" came a reply from up the hill.

"Down here," I said. "You shot me ..."

A plaid-shirted hunter stepped from a downed treetop and yelled, "Where ya hit?" "I'm hit in the head. Go get help!"

"Where should I go?" he asked without coming closer, his voice now starting to quaver. "There's a farmhouse over the hill. Go get help!" I repeated.

"Oh, my Gawd ...," he said, and I could hear him running away through the woods. I could only hope that he was not leaving me for good.

It was then that the heaviest bleeding started. The leaves on the forest floor beneath my head were quickly covered with blood, and I remember thinking, "I'm bleeding too much, I might die here."

I said a short prayer - "Jesus, help ..." - and then took a handkerchief from my pocket and pressed it to my head. The cloth quickly filled with blood, but within a few minutes the bleeding began to subside.

However, it was then that my left eye gradually began filling with blood. It's a strange feeling watching your eyesight grow dimmer and dimmer until it's eventually gone.

That hunting accident happened to me May 5, 1986, in Ohio's Mohican Memorial State Forest. I was hit with some 20 pellets from the other hunter's shotgun at about 30 steps.

I still carry most of those lead shot with me today in my left upper arm, neck, and the left side of my face. The doctors said that it would do more damage to remove the pellets than leave them in.

But my left eye suffered the worst of my injuries - a pellet had penetrated the eyeball.

Unfortunately, after three surgeries over a period of several months, I permanently lost all sight in that eye.

One irony of the incident was that at the time I worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, as a certified hunter education instructor. I trained new instructors who in turn taught students hunter safety. And I always thought that if I hunted safely, I'd never be involved in a hunting accident. But now I was a statistic.

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