Shootings Mar End of Mostly Safe Hunting Season
Two accidental shootings during deer hunts on Jan. 2, 2021, the last day of Virginia’s general firearms season, added a negative component to what seems to have been a mostly safe season. The shootings occurred during group hunt activities. Col. John Cobb, chief of law enforcement for Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources, said both injuries were non-life threatening.
In one incident, a New Kent County hunter was struck in the abdomen by a buckshot pellet. The second shooting, in Sussex County, involved a hunter who was part of a group surrounding a cutover. This person was hit with a 00-buckshot pellet to the lower leg below the knee.
Unfortunately, the deer season finale almost always yields some sort of accidents or incidents. Many people are off work due to the holiday season and hunt clubs and groups of friends often gather to make drives through woods and thick cover.
Without seeing the full investigation reports, it remains safe to say that situational awareness is what typically fails during these types of hunts. Hunters moving away from an assigned spot once positioned, sometimes seeking a better vantage point or wider shooting lane, can leave themselves vulnerable to another person who shoots, assuming no one is supposed to be in the line of fire.
Other lapses in situational awareness come when hunters shoot at running deer. Situational awareness is quickly lost after the first couple shots, especially for hunters using buckshot in unplugged shotguns holding five shotshells. Each load of magnum 00 buckshot carries about 12 large pellets. The shot pattern widens the further away the load gets from the muzzle. The deer is running, the shotgun is swinging. The shooter focuses on the target, sometimes failing to see beyond the target, violating a cardinal rule of firearms safety.
“Hunting-related shooting incidents are rare, but one of the most common types occurs when a deer runs between two shooters of the same party,” Cobb said. “In addition to establishing a safe zone of fire and being sure of what is beyond the target, hunters in groups should always establish a hunt plan and everyone should follow it carefully,” he advised.
An earlier shooting on Nov. 14, near Colonial Beach, Virginia, saw a youngster stuck in the arm with buckshot. Reportedly, that case is nearing the end of review. Accidental shootings – many careless, actually – often result in at least misdemeanor charges being filed. Absent felonious intent or gross negligence, felony charges are rare.