Two turkey hunters in West Virginia were shot by a “family acquaintance” last week in a remote area of Camp Creek State Park, law enforcement reported.
Two brothers, 20 and 7 years old, had been hunting in an area that borders private property when they “encountered” the acquaintance, who was apparently hunting the same section of land.
“On a heavily forested ridge mixed with White Oaks and Pines, the acquaintance mistook movement of the boys as a turkey and fired at the brothers,” the West Virginia Natural Resources Police said in a statement on Facebook.
Emergency responders were called and “the shooter assisted in the first aid and rescue of the boys and has been cooperative during the investigation,” the WVNRP said.
The 7-year-old was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he is recovering in stable condition. The 20-year-old was treated at the scene.
Law enforcement have not indicated whether the shooter will be charged, and the WVNRP did not immediately respond to a GunsAmerica request for comment.
The WVNRP cited a “judgement mistake” as the cause of the accident and encouraged hunters to identify their target from “tip to tail.”
“The excitement of the hunt, poor visual conditions and the hunter not following proper shooting guidelines can turn an enjoyable day afield into a tragedy. The WV DNR asks that you please make safety your first concern while outdoors, your wellbeing and the wellbeing of the ones you love depend on it,” they said in the Facebook post.
A 2005 study by Penn State University found that turkey hunting is the most dangerous type of hunting in Pennsylvania. The study considered hunting-related accidents from 1987 to 1999 and found that fall turkey hunters had the highest shooting-related injury rate, and that the rate was increasing over the time period considered.
The researchers theorized that turkey hunters experience a higher rate of accidents because they dress in full camouflage and make turkey sounds to attract the birds within shooting distance. If other hunters are stalking turkeys in the area, they may mistake those sounds for those of a real turkey.
It’s unclear whether that’s the situation that unfolded in West Virginia last week. The WVNRP simply indicated that the acquaintance mistook the movement of the boys for turkeys.
There’s also reason to believe that turkey hunters are becoming more aware of the dangers involved. The Pennsylvania Game Commission reported last week that, for the first time ever, no turkey hunting-related accidents occurred in the state in the spring of 2019.
State-specific topography, hunting tactics, and game laws will no doubt determine both the relative danger of turkey hunting and the changing rates of hunting-related accidents. The dangers and rates in West Virginia may not adhere to Pennsylvania’s, and western states with less tree cover likely differ more drastically. But in Pennsylvania at least, it’s never been safer to get out in the turkey woods.