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GA: Hunting accidents call attention to safety

November 14, 2009

Hunting accidents call attention to safety

Thomaston’s Anthony Wilson was driving the rental company’s delivery van on the northwest outskirts of Warm Springs when a bullet came through the passenger side window.

It missed his co-worker and hit him in the upper chest.

“He died on the operating table,” said Fred Coggins, who handled Thursday’s funeral of the 27-year-old Aaron’s worker.

Investigators haven’t yet pinpointed where the bullet came from along a stretch of Whitehouse Parkway.

The shot rang out just after lunchtime one week ago today.

Meriwether Vindicator publisher Johnny Kuykendall said in happened about 1 p.m. between Leverette Hill Road and Pine Knoll Drive.

There were deer stands off the road, said Meriwether Sheriff Steve Whitlock.

“It looks like a hunting accident,” Whitlock said. “There was a power line right where the bullet hit the vehicle. We found three deer stands there but haven’t been able to determine whether anyone was hunting on that property. We’re looking for a needle in a haystack right now.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is assisting in the investigation, Whitlock said.

If Wilson was hit by a hunter’s bullet, it would mark the second fatal hunting accident in Georgia this fall.

A week before hunting season began, 11-year-old John Wayne Corcoran of Dawsonville accidentally shot himself in the head Oct. 9 while hunting with his grandfather on a DNR specialty hunt at the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.

This firearms deer season got off to a tragic start in Crawford County where two hunting accidents happened a week apart. Both victims survived.

“A lot of times it doesn’t work that way when you’re dealing with a high-powered rifle,” said Crawford County Sheriff Lewis Walker.

The very first day of deer season, 30-year-old Kevin Knighton of Byron was shot in the abdomen while hunting in Crawford County.

Gregory Wade, 46, accidentally shot him at a hunting spot off Ga. 128 west of Roberta.

Wade was taking a rifle from his pickup when it fired. The bullet passed through the passenger door and hit Knighton, who was standing outside the truck.

“He had a loaded weapon,” Walker said. “If it hadn’t have been loaded it wouldn’t have happened.”

One week later, a Miami man accidentally shot himself in the leg while hunting off Dixon Road.

Jose Antonio Ortega, 58, was coming down from a deer stand when the rifle discharged and hit him in the right calf.

The sheriff said both accidents could have been avoided if the hunters had taken proper safety precautions.

“A lot of them don’t load their weapons until they get to the stand and unload it before coming down,” Walker said. “It’s best to disarm it so there’s no chance it will discharge.”

If the weapon is loaded it can fire if the hunter accidentally drops it or catches the trigger on a tree limb.

Georgia is considered a top destination in the country for non-resident hunters, according to the DNR.

State law requires hunters born after Jan. 1, 1961, to complete a hunter education course before getting a season license.

There are no requirements for one-day passes or three-day passes for hunters from outside Georgia.

During the last firearms deer season, nearly 289,000 licensed hunters harvested over 320,000 deer in Georgia. While those bullets hit their targets many others do not.

Hunters must wear at least 500 square inches of fluorescent orange above the waist to hunt legally during firearm season.

“Ultimately, each hunter is responsible for keeping themselves and others safe while pursuing deer this hunting season,” Lt. Judd Smith said in a news release from the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division. “This includes respecting all firearms and being absolutely certain of their target.”

The DNR suggests following the “Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety” to reduce accidents:

One: Control the direction of the firearm’s muzzle. Keep the safety on and fingers off the trigger at all times until ready to shoot.

Two: Identify the target and what is beyond it before shooting. Know the identifying features of the animal being hunted and be absolutely certain that what you are aiming at is that game.

Three: Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

Four: Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and only use the proper size ammunition in the firearm.

Five: Always unload a firearm when it is not in use, leave the actions open, and carry empty firearms in a case to and from shooting areas.

Six: Never aim a weapon at anything that you do not intend to shoot. Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.

Seven: Never climb a tree or fence, or jump a ditch or log with a loaded firearm. Never pull a gun or rifle towards you by the muzzle.

Eight: Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or at water. Make sure backstops are adequate during target practice.

Nine: Store firearms and ammunition separately and beyond the reach of children and irresponsible adults.

Ten: Avoid all alcoholic beverages and drugs before and during shooting.

These safety tips are covered in all DNR hunter safety courses and should be reviewed each season.

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