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MS: Mother, Child (and horse) SHOT In deer hunting accident

November 23, 2009

Mother, Child SHOT In deer hunting accident

A deer hunter was ticketed for hunting from a public road in a shooting that wounded a woman and seriously injured her child in north Harrison County.

Evan Joseph Kane, 24, of Perkinston, was deer hunting with dogs in DeSoto National Forest when the accident was reported around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, said Jim Walker, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

A 10-year-old girl suffered a punctured lung and was placed under intensive care at a hospital, family friends said Monday. Her mother was treated and released. A horse in their traveling party also was wounded.

The mother and child were among several horseback riders who were on Big Foot horse trail, a 21-mile stretch through piney woods. The trail is designated for horse riding and hiking. Much of the trail is near public roads, where shooting is prohibited. The shooting occurred along Forestry Road 434, accessible from Airey Tower Road north of Mississippi 67 and Bethel Road.

The accident was the day after the season opened for hunting white-tailed deer with dogs and guns. It also was the second hunting accident reported Sunday, when a 32-year-old Maben man was fatally shot in the chest in Oktibbeha County. [NOTE: in this second incident, it was a hunter who was killed, not an innocent victim. Read the story at: http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20091123/NEWS/911230330/Miss.+man+dies+in+hunting+accident]

Wildlife and Fisheries has not released the victims’ names, but said more details from its investigation should be available in about a week. Walker said more charges could be filed. Investigators on Monday were reconstructing the accident scene and interviewing the alleged shooter and witnesses.

The wildlife agency requires toxicology tests to determine whether drugs or alcohol were involved in hunting accidents, Walker said.

State law requires Wildlife and Fisheries to investigate all hunting accidents. However, the area where the accident occurred is on land under jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.

DeSoto National Forest, which sprawls across five counties, was under jurisdiction of the state wildlife agency until 2007. Forest land except that designated as a wildlife management area is now overseen by the federal agency.

Walker said Wildlife and Fisheries had banned hunting around trails on Sundays as a safety precaution. He wasn’t sure of the Forest Service’s policies. Walker said the most important safety precaution for hunters is to identify their target before pulling the trigger.

A district forest ranger for the federal agency referred comments to its office in Jackson. A phone call to the Jackson office was not returned.

Horseback rider Terry Hayes of Vancleave said area horseback riders are asked to ride along Big Foot today starting at 9 a.m. as a sign of support to prohibit hunters from using the area.

“There’s so much land available for hunting but not much else available for horseback riding,” Hayes said. “Except for Big Foot, we have to ride two or three hours to find a designated trail.”

Hayes said his wife was with a riding party on the “yellow trail,” which is where the accident happened. The yellow trail is a 5.2-mile route that makes a loop around designated camping areas.

“It’s close to the road and a more visible area,” said Hayes, whose wife helped take the injured horse to receive medical treatment.

Hayes said hunters typically line the roadside near the trail during hunting season.

The injured child was probably sitting maybe 6 feet above ground while on a horse, Hayes said.

“The way I see it, a hunter has no business shooting at a deer that high regardless of where they’re hunting,” said Hayes.

Hayes said the girl’s mother was treated for buckshot that went through a leg. The girl also has a pellet lodged in a muscle in her back, Hayes said. The family could not be reached for comment.

Fran Stanovich, who has ridden Big Foot for 24 years, had never heard of a rider being shot. Stanovich was in a riding party on the trail Sunday along with a nurse who gave emergency assistance.

“Why they have to hunt so near the horse trails endangering (others) is way beyond my comprehension,” Stanovich said. “I understand the legal hunters’ sport of hunting, but I am afraid the mistakes of a few have really put them, it you will excuse me, ‘under the gun.’ Hopefully no more riders will be put at risk.

“I understand that this was an accident,” Stanovich said, “but it probably would not have happened had the hunter not been shooting on the road, closer than 150 feet from the riding trails.

Authorities didn’t say whether the riders were wearing orange. State law requires hunters to wear orange but it’s not a requirement for horseback riders.

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