By Ann McCreary
A fundamental rule of firearms safety — knowing your target and what’s beyond it — was apparently broken when a hunter sustained a non-fatal gunshot wound in an incident that occurred in the Little Bridge Creek area on the final weekend of deer hunting season.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) police are investigating the incident as an assault, said Capt. Mike Jewell. “It’s not considered a hunting accident,” Jewell said.
The incident involved two parties of hunters, all from the west side of the state, who were hunting near a spur road off Little Bridge Creek Road in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 20, Jewell said.
“One group of three hunters, that the victim was part of, was sitting in brush waiting for legal hunting hours to start,” Jewell said. Legal hunting time on Oct. 20 was 6:50 a.m., a half-hour before sunrise.
“They saw another group coming in, walking on the road,” Jewell said. That group included three hunters, he said.
“For whatever reason, the group the victim was in were moving the brush around and making what the shooter believed was a growling noise. So he drew a handgun and shot in the direction where the noise was coming from. The victim was struck along the side of his head,” Jewell said.
Two hunters, one from each group, left the scene to get a cell phone signal and reported the incident a few minutes before 7 a.m., Jewell said. Emergency responders arrived, and the injured hunter was flown by helicopter to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. Jewell said this week that he did not know the victim’s condition.
Investigators interviewed all the hunters present at the incident, Jewell said. “It looks like the initial report was that somebody was shooting at what they believed to be a cougar and the bullet ricocheted,” Jewell said. “That’s not what our investigation has determined.”
The investigation has confirmed that the group that included the victim was “sitting in brush and moving the brush around and making noise,” Jewell said.
At the time of the shooting, “it was too dark to see” the source of the noise, Jewell said. “Our message of firearm safety is you always know what your target is. We adamantly discourage people from shooting at sounds or noise without knowing what you’re shooting at. It’s illegal to aim a firearm at somebody, but the rest is common sense rules to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.”
An investigation is continuing, and no charges have been filed in connection with the incident, Jewell said. The incident took place on Forest Service land, but WDFW is conducting the investigation because it is related to hunting, Jewell said.