Middle Georgia hunter mistakenly kills federal forest officer

Hunter was hunting coyotes, authorities said

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One of two men using a high-powered rifle with night vision to hunt coyotes fatally shot a federal officer Friday, apparently mistaking him for game, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources reported.

The USDA Forest Service officer was killed at the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Recreation Area on the Oconee Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Jasper County, authorities told The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer newspaper.

Officer Christopher Arby Upton, 37, of Monroe, Ga., was on patrol there about 11 p.m. The hunters dialed 911 to report the incident. State authorities identified the shooter as Norman Clinton Hale, 40, McDonough, Ga., and his observer as Clifford Allen McGouirk, 41, of Jackson, Ga., the newspaper reported.

Upton had been with the forest service four years, after serving as a game warden for the U.S. Marine Corps at Beaufort, S.C. He also had worked as a conservation officer, game warden and pilot with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. He leaves behind wife Jessica and 4-year-old daughter Annabelle,

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reb007
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reb007 03/07/10 - 09:39 am
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God bless this family.

God bless this family.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 03/07/10 - 09:41 am
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That is terrible. Prayers

That is terrible. Prayers and thoughts with the family.

getalife
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getalife 03/07/10 - 09:43 am
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God bless this family.

God bless this family. Hopefully the shooter will not be allowed to ever get near a gun again. These type people are the ones I am afraid may be carrying a concealed pistol and not have sense enough to know when to use it.

CarlosC
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CarlosC 03/07/10 - 09:44 am
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Our thoughts and prayers go

Our thoughts and prayers go out to BOTH families.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/10 - 09:47 am
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If it's that hard to tell a

If it's that hard to tell a person from a coyote using the night vision thing, that type hunting should be outlawed.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/07/10 - 10:43 am
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Prayers are with the family,

Prayers are with the family, getalife, guess your thoughts are, if you accidently run over someone in a car, you should never be able to drive again?

CobaltGeorge
160731
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CobaltGeorge 03/07/10 - 11:01 am
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God gave us the ability to

God gave us the ability to speak the word "Accident" but only he has the power to judge an "Accident". So lets not speak the words of your personal opinions nor let you be the judge. Let us all pray for and support what God has left behind.

check
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check 03/07/10 - 11:02 am
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Can't imagine how horrible

Can't imagine how horrible the hunter feels and will for the rest of his life. Certainly his intentions were not bad.

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/07/10 - 11:03 am
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getalife, just getalife!

getalife, just getalife!

getalife
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getalife 03/07/10 - 11:20 am
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Cobalt and George, I don't

Cobalt and George, I don't consider this an accident, it is carelessness. If you are using a night scope then you should be able to tell a coyote from a human. Too many brush shots from hunters. As far as running over someone with a car, you are not out hunting one type game to run over and happen to run over a person. People that hunt should be cautious and be sure of what they are shooting at.

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/07/10 - 11:53 am
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getalife, Doesn't

getalife, Doesn't carelessness in all type of situation cause accidents. I totally support your last sentence that "People that hunt should be cautious and be sure of what they are shooting at." Your opinion on "These type people are the ones I am afraid may be carrying a concealed pistol and not have sense enough to know when to use it." - was what I felt lack reason. Two different situations.

nofrills
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nofrills 03/07/10 - 01:20 pm
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Hunters who shoot without

Hunters who shoot without knowing what they are shooting? Seems to me this was an avoidable accident. Its hunters like this that gives all hunters bad names. This kind of hunting needs to be banned! Think of the family of the dead. A wife without her husband to raise kids without a father.

Papa D.
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Papa D. 03/07/10 - 02:37 pm
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I am a cousin of the wife of

I am a cousin of the wife of Mr. Hale and just recieved this horrible news,our prayers are with the Upton family and all involved in this tragedy. I don't have all of the details and at this time can only say that my cousin also has children and I cannot imagine what they too must be going through at this time. Everyone should pray for all who are suffering at this time. God Bless us all through this tragedy!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/07/10 - 02:52 pm
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Most hunters identify their

Most hunters identify their targets before firing at any game. I read nothing to indicate where ANY FAULT was alleged. There are possibly a few factors that led to this tragic accident. We will not know what they are until the investigation is completed.

Getalife, who are "these types" of people? If you want to know, there are over 66,000,000 law abiding gun owners and sportsmen who did NOT kill anyone last week, until this ACCIDENT occurred. In Georgia, hunters of certain ages are required to take hunters safety courses. They cannot acquire a hunting license/permit without the required documentation that they passed the state hunters safety program.

THESE PEOPLE, are the most responsible and safest people I know. So, before you lump THESE PEOPLE together with those you fear, just remember there are over 66 million of us, and we are not responsible for ACCIDENTS.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/07/10 - 03:07 pm
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Papa D, my heart and prayers

Papa D, my heart and prayers go out to the family. I pray that God will be with all concerned, including the man that accidently took this officer's life. He must also be suffering as well. I pray that God will give them His Grace to get through this tragic loss.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 03/07/10 - 03:30 pm
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Sargebaby, good post @ 1:52p.

Sargebaby, good post @ 1:52p. I agree.

jack
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jack 03/07/10 - 04:30 pm
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Srge, good post. I have

Srge, good post. I have hunted since I was about 10 years old and learned at a very early age that I should KNOW what I am shooing at. I have used night vision devices on wepaons to hunt two legged animals and you can tell clearly (if you look long enough) exactly what you are shooting at. My prayers are with both families. The shooter has a long life ahead of him to think about this tragedy..

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/07/10 - 04:46 pm
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You're welcome, Cliff and

You're welcome, Cliff and Jack! I hate it that this happened, but I hate worse that someone would use this tragedy to jump on law abiding gun owners. Every year, hunters are killed and wounded, because of misidentification of their targets. Hunting at night is extremely dangerous, as shapes and shadows are often mistaken. That's why it is a requirement to wear reflective vests/jackets while hunting in Georgia.
I would wait until the investigation is complete before I commented further on this tragedy, but I would almost bet that the absence of the reflective vest or jacket contributed to this accident. Even with night- vision scopes, the reflections are highly visable. I'm waiting to hear a follow-up report.

devgru1
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devgru1 03/07/10 - 04:54 pm
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Sometimes one needs to keep

Sometimes one needs to keep his trap shut until all of the information is gathered. Opening ones mouth too soon makes one look ignorant. So, turn off the jet engines on your monday morning quarterback chair and let them cool down until we know all of the facts. Oops, did I mention that someone needs to "get a life".

suddenleesam
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suddenleesam 03/07/10 - 06:01 pm
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Sargebaby, the last I read in

Sargebaby, the last I read in the relegulations was that 500 square inches of floresent orange was required to hunt deer only during deer season. If you are hunting ducks, turkeys, or dove, you wear cameo clothing. It is a tragic accident that this happen, but let's wait until the investators file a report before passing judgement.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/07/10 - 06:48 pm
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Is hunting coyotes at night

Is hunting coyotes at night legal? I thought hunting was for game [food], and sport, not just killing animals at night using night vision. I mean one cannot eat coyotes [can they?]. Is hunting coyotes legalized for population control? [I am obiously not a hunter] In any event, this a tragic loss for the families!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/07/10 - 07:54 pm
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good question nat the

good question nat the cat...it IS legal to slaughter MANY types of wildlife in this country. coyotes were villified as soon as the wolves and wild cats were all but killed off. predators are a vital part of any ecosystem and they are widely misunderstood. many hunters feel they deplete and impact game animal populations and the only ones who should be killing animals are hunters...NOT natures predators. (makes no sense huh?) it's the old "save'em to kill'em" process at work. coyotes are NOT eaten. as for the ACCIDENT viewpoint. as you can see it's mostly hunters who call it an ACCIDENT, because they are protecting their own. if i discharged a weapon and ACCIDENTALLY KILLED another person at a gun range, i'd be charged with reckless homicide/manslaughter/etc. and hunters would be the FIRST to say i was IRRESPONSIBLE AND NEGLIGENT. there is NO EXCUSE for killing someone while hunting. any hunters who argue differently are a threat to others in the woods! they could be the next to ACCIDENTALLY KILL an innocent person, and they would IMMEDIATELY beg forgiveness and say they did not mean to kill someone. why should they be protected or defended? if you KILL someone due to NEGLIGENCE...which is what this is...since the killer did NOT see a coyote...he THAUGHT HE DID...you should face severe penalties! what he saw was a human. whcih is a FAR CRY from a coyote. even if they were hunting BIGFOOT a human looks SIMILAR to bigfoot...BUT before the trigger is pulled, you gotta make sure it's NOT just a big ole hunter or wildlife officer! this hunter should never be allowed to own/use another gun, and he should face criminal charges for his reckless and deadlly behavior. he deserves no more protection than a gang member who ACCIDENTALLY kills an innocent person in a driveby shooting! although they did not MEAN to KILL someone...more importantly they did not mean NOT TO KILL an innocent person by making SURE of their target! GETALIFE keep holding the simpeltons to a higher standard than they hold for themselves. your observations are dead-on...unlike theirs which are DEADLY! HUNTERS LIKE THIS ARE THE REASON ANTI-GUN FOLKS GET CONCERNED ABOUT THE LAWS THAT REGULATE FIREARMS IN THIS COUNTRY. i like my guns and enjoy target shooting, i don't need "hunters" like this making it more difficult for me to use them responsibly, and i WILL NOT DEFEND actions like these to protect my rights to own/use guns like so many other hunters will do in this forum.

amyk
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amyk 03/07/10 - 08:08 pm
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I have hesitated to post a

I have hesitated to post a comment here, because I am not interested in mudslinging or debating the logistics of what happened. Bottom line is the investigation is still pending, and I feel everyone should refrain from speaking out of context of something they know nothing about. That being said, I felt like something should be said about the real tragedy here - the victim!
The loss of Chris' life has left a gaping hole in our family's heart that will be everlasting. We are grieving the loss of a man who was a great friend, husband and father. His beautiful wife and precious daughter now have to face a future without him in it. You have never seen a man more in love with his daughter than Chris was- she was his world. The thought of her growing up without her Daddy haunts me.
However "accidental" the shooter may claim the incident was, the fact remains that a moment of recklessness cost a dear man his life.
I do feel for the shooter, and I have prayed from the moment this happened for God to give me mercy and compassion in my heart towards him. I have prayed for his family as well. I hope in the deepest part of my heart that this was truly unintentional, but that does not absolve anyone from accountability. We all must be held accountable for our actions. Years of being a "safe" hunter does not give anyone a "free pass" to make a tragic and careless mistake. EVER. Much like the "safe" driver who CHOOSES to drive drunk one night and as a result may take the life of another. While perhaps unintentional, the fact remains that a CHOICE was made and as a result tragic consequences occur. Accountability is not absolved by "not meaning to do it."
I will not get into my feelings on gun control here, as I realize not many of you would agree with me. And that is okay. I would simply make this argument - if you have ever lost someone you love at the hands of another who was reckless with a gun, wielding the power of life and death over another in their moment of stupidity - perhaps then your opinion on the matter would change.
Those are all issues that are irrelevant, however. The greatest thing we could ask for is your prayers. Let us not lose sight of the real issue at hand - a great man is now gone. Rest In Peace, our dear Chris.

RAWR
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RAWR 03/07/10 - 07:56 pm
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he deserves no more

he deserves no more protection than a gang member who ACCIDENTALLY kills an innocent person in a driveby shooting!

WHAT? Did you read that before you hit save comment? A gang member doing a drive by is trying to MURDER another HUMAN being, not animals. It doesn't matter if their intended target is innocent or not.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/07/10 - 08:01 pm
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Amyk--I am so sorry for your

Amyk--I am so sorry for your loss....I can only imagine.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/07/10 - 09:28 pm
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I really don't know if it is

I really don't know if it is still premature to discuss the facts surrounding this case in light of Amyk's and the family's loss. But please allow me to clear the Legal differences that have been mentioned here. When one is hunting, he/she has a legal right to do so [as long as it is legal hunting season for that particular game/sport]. In other words, it is legal for that person to have a weapon [if the weapon is legal to have, such as a high-powered rifle, and they are not a convicted felon], and that person is acting legally when he-she discharges the weapon [as long as the weapon is discharged at the correct game]. In the other example, a gang member has no legal right to discharge a weapon in public even though he/she may not be a convicted felon and still have the legal right to possess a weapon. In other words, the gang member is doing something illegal when the weapon is discharged, rather than a Hunter who is doing something Legal when he/she discharges the weapon. If the Hunter hits a person it could be an accident, negligent, or intentional. If the gang member hits a person it cannot be an accident...it will be a crime of various degree, from criminal negligence to homocide.

tccllc4
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tccllc4 03/07/10 - 08:11 pm
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Hunters: 1 Government: 0

Hunters: 1 Government: 0

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/07/10 - 09:05 pm
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i KNEW that would be the ONLY

i KNEW that would be the ONLY part of what i wrote that folks would focus on...so...lemme clarify...the two (gangsta/hunter) were VERY different in their actions/rights up UNTIL they pulled the trigger...after that...NO DIFFERENCE in outcome or responsibility...not being sure of your target..legal or not...is negligent and reckless. didn't say the gang member had a right to kill anyone for any reason...same applies to hunters.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/07/10 - 08:48 pm
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for those of you wanting to

for those of you wanting to take me to task on what i've said...save it...go tell it to a 4yr old girl, a wife, and a family who lost their father/husband/son/brother. i'm SURE they'll understand your defense of RESPONSIBLE hunters like this one...the only thing he's RESPONSIBLE for is killing their loved one.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/07/10 - 09:27 pm
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For all of you non hunters,

For all of you non hunters, coyotes are not native to this part of the country and yes they are predators needing control. I don't know what the ranger was doing out at that time of night or what he was looking for. I will withold any judgment on anyones part until the investigation is complete. I do know gen 1 and 2 are not the best night vision optics~

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