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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?

Jackson hunter suffers eye injury when he's attacked by owl

October 13, 2011

By Aaron Aupperlee, Jackson Citizen Patriot

Jason Longbrake wonders if while out hunting Sunday morning, he became the hunted.

Sitting in his tree stand and waiting for the sun to rise, something slammed into his head. Whatever it was grabbed for his eye, Longbrake said. Moments later, he saw a screech owl sitting in a nearby tree.

Courtesy photoJason Longbrake's eye was bloodied after an owl flew into him in his tree stand.

“I don’t know if it saw my eye as something it wanted,” he said Wednesday.

Longbrake, 30, of Jackson routinely hunts on property in the North Adams and Jerome area. On Sunday morning, he climbed into his tree stand while it was still dark. Wearing a mask that covered his face with holes for his eyes and nose, Longbrake sat with his crossbow and waited.

He said he is certain the screech owl in a nearby tree went after him.

Longbrake hunted for a few more hours. Then, using his cell phone as a mirror, he checked out his eye. It was bloodshot — a deep, dark red where the white should be — and a couple of spots around his eye were bleeding.

Screech owls, found all over the woods of southern Michigan, are tiny among owls but “can pack quite a punch,” said Gary Siegrist, a naturalist at the Dahlem Environmental Education Center.

The owls are typically about 8 inches long and weigh about 6 ounces. They have razor sharp, half-inch-long talons and some of the best eyesight and hearing in the bird kingdom, Siegrist said.

This time of year, screech owls are setting up their nest areas and clearing out their territory. Siegrist thinks the screech owl might have mistaken Longbrake for an intruder.

“Probably a territorial dispute,” Siegrist said of the attack.

Longbrake eventually came down from his tree stand and later went to the hospital. Doctors said his eye was scratched. He has not lost any vision and said he expects the redness to go away in the time it takes a bruise to disappear.

He also plans to get back in his tree stand soon.

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