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GA: Deer hunting fatalities nearly double this year

December 13, 2009

Falls from tree stands, shootings -- even a rattlesnake bite -- have contributed to seven hunting fatalities investigated by Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division so far this season. The deaths are among 26 incidents reported during the 2009-2010 hunting seasons -- and represent a marked increase from four deaths reported during the 2008-2009 season.

Two fatal shootings have been investigated, said Melissa Cummings, the division's spokeswoman.

- On Nov. 9 in Dawson County, 11-year-old John Corcoran died from a gunshot wound to the head while hunting with his grandfather. According to an incident report, they were sitting together on the ground and the child decided to lie down. The gun, a single-shot rifle with a hammer that had to be cocked, was lying nearby. The rifle discharged, killing the child.

- On Oct. 17 in Ware County, 12-year-old Michael Hurst, Jr. died from a gunshot wound to head. A witness hunting nearby heard a shot, and a second shot 20 minutes later. The witness went to check on the victim and found him dead.

The investigation concluded he had fired at a deer using a lever-action rifle. When the spent shell was ejected, the action chambered a new live round and would have cocked the hammer. "When he started climbing down from the stand the rifle discharged striking him in the lower right jaw and exiting the crown of his head," the report said.

Two deaths involved falls from deer stands.

- On Sept. 30 in Oglethorpe County, 55-year-old Ronnie Jordan died from a broken neck after falling 25 feet.

- On Nov. 7 in Richmond County, 66-year-old Donald Sammons fell and was killed.

The snakebite death occurred Oct. 10 in Oglethorpe County, where 68-year-old Richard Rupert was bitten by a rattler on his calf after stepping away from his deer stand. He died at the scene.

The recent deaths also included two natural causes cases: a Nov. 19 stroke in Ben Hill Count and a Nov. 20 heart attack in Talbot County.

Other non-fatal accidents reported so far this year included a 58-year-old Crawford County man who shot himself in the leg while climbing into a stand; a 12-year-old Baker County child who shot himself in the left foot; and numerous deer stand falls.

By comparison, Georgia's 2008-09 hunting season yielded 34 hunting accidents with four fatalities.

Two of those cases involved heart attacks and two were due to falls from tree stands. There were no fatal shootings, but state authorities did investigate six hunters who were shot by other hunters in cases where people were mistaken for game; and six cases of accidental self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

During the 2007-08 season, there were five shooting fatalities, of which four incidents involved children or teenagers. During 2006-07, there were no fatal shootings and the single reported fatality involved a fall from a tree stand.

Typically, about 350,000 people hunt in Georgia each season.

SUBURBAN VENISON: Deer struck by motorists on Mullikin Road and Chalice Circle on Wednesday pushed the number of car-struck whitetails in Columbia County to 606 this year, setting what emergency services director Pam Tucker said is a new record.

"We still have over three weeks left in the year and are picking up several deer each day," she said. "Please drive with caution."

The previous record was 604, set during 2008.

GEORGIA HUNTING ACCIDENTS

2009-2010: 26 accidents with seven fatalities*

2008-2009: 34 accidents with four fatalities

2007-2008: 21 accidents with five fatalities

2006-2007: 22 accidents with one fatality

2005-2006: 28 accidents with three fatalities

2004-2005: 16 accidents with two fatalities

2003-2004: 17 accidents with four fatalities

*Through Friday Source: Ga. DNR .

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