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VA: man shot by his son was 'mistaken for game'

October 28, 2009

Scott County man shot by his son was 'mistaken for game,' authorities say

DUFFIELD - A Scott County man was accidentally shot by his son early Tuesday afternoon while turkey hunting in the Fairview community near Duffield.

Authorities said Billy Joe Sturgill, 69, of Fairview, was shot in the chest with a .22-caliber rifle from approximately 40 yards away by his son, Bill Sturgill, 34.

An incident report filed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said the victim was "mistaken for game by the shooter."

VDGIF Lt. Rex Hill said preliminary reports indicated several factors that could have contributed to the shooting.

"It's my understanding that they had seen evidence where turkeys had been scratching leaves, or had seen turkeys in the area," Hill said. "They split up and went around and were going to try and move them toward each other.

"I don't think they knew exactly where the other was going to be because I think the hillside was too steep or something changed from what they originally told each other they were going to do."

Billy Joe Sturgill was wearing a camouflage jacket and dark pants at the time of the shooting, with no bright colors to make him stand out in the woods.

"It's good especially for walking to wear a bright orange hat or something like that," Hill said. "It's not required at this time, but we recommend they do that. Also, you've got to be sure of your target."

Tuesday's rainy weather also could have played a role in the accident, he said.
VDGIF officers are handling the shooting investigation, Hill said.

"It's still under investigation," Hill said. "We'll do our investigation, and then we'll turn our report over to the commonwealth's attorney, and he'll make the determination if anything needs to be done."

Hill said investigators will return to the actual place where the shooting occurred to reconstruct the scene.

Immediately following the incident, Billy Joe Sturgill was taken out of the woods to a residence at 3115 Fairview Road, and emergency personnel were notified.

He was transported from the house by MedFlight to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, where he was treated and released.

The shooting occurred on private land the Sturgills had been given permission to hunt on.

Hill said he wasn't sure if the house the call to 911 was made from was the exact location where the men were hunting or just the first residence they came to where they could get help.

Hill said it was the first hunting accident involving a shooting to happen in Scott County in a number of years.

"This is the first one I can recall, at least in the last four or five years," he said.

"We've had tree stand accidents - we have one or two of those a year - but this is the first accident like this we've had in several years."

Fall firearms season for turkey opened Oct. 24 in most of Virginia, including Scott County.

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