By DOUG SCHMITZ
DES MOINES, Iowa — The close of the first shotgun deer hunting season last week in Iowa left five people injured from self-inflicted gunshot wounds on just one day – incidences which have dramatically increased this fall, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stated.
“If you think about who we go hunting with – our friends and our family – it is important to practice safe hunting techniques to make sure we all get home at the end of the day,” said Megan Wisecup, DNR recreation safety program supervisor.
The DNR estimated 100,000 hunters were in deer hunting fields on Nov. 27, before the Dec. 1 opening day of the first shotgun deer season, which ended on Dec. 5. The second shotgun season is Dec. 8-16.
According to DNR, in 2011 there were 19 deer hunting-related incidents in Iowa: 13 from personal injuries and six from property damage, with no fatalities reported. So far this year, there have been a total of 12 personal injury hunting-related incidents reported to the DNR. Five people were injured in shotgun gun-related incidences on Dec. 2 alone.
The latest incident occurred Dec. 5 when a Cumming man suffered a serious hand injury, after the muzzleloader he was firing at a deer exploded. Theodore Larsen, 69, was hunting from an elevated stand south of Truro when the muzzleloader exploded in his hands while he was trying to harvest a deer, severing his thumb. Larsen was airlifted to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines.
On Dec. 2, a rural Mason City man was hospitalized after sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot while deer hunting. Jeffrey Esser, 29, was moving through heavy brush southeast of Nora Springs in Floyd County when the 12-gauge shotgun he was carrying discharged, hitting him in the right foot at about 4 p.m.
He was transported by private vehicle to North Iowa Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, where he underwent surgery that evening.
That same day, another hunter was injured in an incident that occurred at around noon southwest of Blakesburg in Monroe County. Clint Morgan, 48, of Saucier, Miss., was hit in the elbow by a deer slug fired at a deer by someone else in his seven-member hunting party.
Morgan was taken to Monroe Hospital in Albia, and then transported by ambulance to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. The DNR said diminished view due to fog conditions around the state wasn’t considered to be a factor in that incident.
Also on Dec. 2, a Red Oak man was injured while hunting deer west of Indianola in an incident that appears to have been fog-related. Miles Sagen, 58, was hit in the shoulder/upper chest area by a deer slug fired at a running deer by someone else in his nine-member hunting party, at about 8:30 a.m. He was transported by ambulance to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines.
Allen Crouse, DNR recreational safety officer, said the slug traveled approximately 144 yards before striking Sagen. During the preliminary investigation of the incident, he said it was impossible to see someone more than 100 yards away because of the dense fog, even if the person was wearing blaze orange.
“I would strongly urge hunters to reconsider hunting in these conditions with such dense fog,” he said. “It just isn’t safe.”
A Cedar Rapids man was also injured on Dec. 2 after his gun discharged while deer hunting near Victor in Iowa County. In a separate incident, a Halbur woman was hunting north of Arion in Crawford County at about 3 p.m. with someone in her group, when a bullet from a high-powered small-caliber rifle penetrated her boot while she was sitting, but didn’t penetrate her foot.
On Nov. 27, two Guthrie Center men were charged with multiple counts after one was injured while pursuing deer on Nov. 10 near Guthrie County. The injured man was taken to the Guthrie County Hospital and then transported to a Des Moines hospital.
Both men were cited with having no hunting license, no habitat fee paid, spotlighting and no deer tag. The uninjured man was cited for attempting to take deer.
The DNR stated all personal injuries and incidents of property damage so far this fall are currently under investigation.
With the increase in shotgun-related injuries and property damage, Wisecup said hunters need to remember basic firearm-handling rules in the field, starting with always pointing the muzzle in a safe direction.
“Treat every firearm as though it were loaded,” she said. “Unload the firearm and open the action, especially when crossing obstacles, until you are ready to shoot. Keep the barrel clear and choose the proper ammunition.” She added that hunters shooting at running deer is the No. 1 cause of deer hunting incidents.
Wisecup said hunters should also wear plenty of blaze orange and discuss the hunting plan with every member of the group. “You want to be seen from all sides in the woods,” she explained. “It is also important to discuss the hunting plan that will outline the role for each person and where they will be during the hunt.
“Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. It is critical to communicate with your hunting partners to ensure everyone knows where each other is at all times.”