Saturday’s mild weather contributed to thousands of hunters taking to the woods for the opening weekend of deer season. For some, the weekend ended in tragedy.
A St. Louis area man has died after being shot in Callaway County. Two other men have been injured.
The Callaway County Sheriff’s Department says 67-year-old Bernie Breer was shot in the abdomen when his hunting partner removed his rifle from a shoulder sling and it discharged. Breer was flown to a Columbia hospital where he later died.
Tony Legg, State Hunting Education and Range Instructor for the Department of Conservation, says two other shooting victims were lucky.
“One gentlemen had not started hunting, he was crossing a fence, and his firearm fell and then went off,” Legg says. “He didn’t have the safety on, so that goes back to making sure that hey, if you’re going to cross an obstacle, do it properly, and apparently this gentleman didn’t.”
The other incident, Legg says, involved two men talking about a firearm and how to use it, when “It went off in the back of their truck and hit the trailer hitch, and then some of the bullet fragments hit one of them in the back of the leg.”
Legg says it’s noteworthy that all three accidents happend while the men were not hunting.
“We seem to be having a number of incidents that are outside of hunting, they’re not actually occurring in the field while people are hunting,” Legg says. “This comes from people maybe being a little nonchalant, not taking as much care as they are when they’re out in the field.”
The Conservation Department reports that in 2008, there were 15 firearm-related hunting accidents in Missouri. That was the fewest of any year in state history.
Legg says the department hasn’t heard of any serious falls this year, but that the department isn’t required to track those so they don’t always hear of them right away.
Tom Strother is a protection supervisor for the Conservation Department, which is recreating the accident, taking measurements and trying to figure out exactly what happened.
“Based on the findings from the Conservation agents, that info is used for hunter education classes and statistics,” he says, “So we can help identify unsafe gun skills and safety violations that can be stressed in classes so incidents like these don’t happen in the future.”
“If there is a criminal investigation, that’s done by the local law enforcement,” Strother says, But it doesn’t look like there’s anything like that in this case … the shooter was just attempting to unload his firearm.”
The other two firearms accidents on opening weekend happened in Macon and Adair counties.