Fatal shooting of Ga. game officer under investigation

Monday, March 8, 2010 12:41 PM
Last updated 1:25 PM
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The fatal shooting of a USDA Forest Service law enforcement officer by coyote hunters in Jasper County remained under investigation today by state and federal wildlife authorities.


Coyote hunters shot and killed 37-year-old Christopher Arby Upton of Monroe, Ga., Friday night.  Special
Special
Coyote hunters shot and killed 37-year-old Christopher Arby Upton of Monroe, Ga., Friday night.

"At this point, charges, if any, have not been determined," said spokeswoman Melissa Cummings of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. "It is still under investigation and we are working with the Forest Service on this one."

The officer, 37-year-old Christopher Arby Upton of Monroe, Ga., was shot and killed about 11 p.m. Friday while patrolling in the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Recreation Area of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

The man who shot him, Norman Clinton Hale, 40, of McDonough, Ga., was hunting coyotes with a high-powered rifle equipped with night-vision equipment. He was accompanied by another man, Clifford Allen McGouirk, 41, of Jackson, Ga., authorities said.

According to the their accounts of the incident, Upton was behind a berm, using binoculars, and the binocular lenses apparently looked like eyes through the men's night-vision scopes. They later told investigators they mistook Upton for a coyote and shot him. They subsequently dialed 911 to report the shooting and are cooperating with investigators.

Coyotes are a nuisance species in Georgia and there is no closed season, Cummings said. They may be hunted year-round, and at night, with no bag limits-and the equipment the men were using is legal for such hunts.

Steven Ruppert, special agent-in-charge for the Southern Region of the Forest Service, said in a letter to employees today that the incident has been a terrible tragedy.

 "We are all aware of the inherent risk and danger of this job," he wrote. "Ability, training, and experience, however, cannot protect us in all situations even though we do the right thing. Chris was doing his job and doing it well."

Law Enforcement Col. Homer Bryson of Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division said the officer was killed instantly-and blamed the tragedy on the failure of the shooter to properly identify his target before pulling the trigger.

The accident marks the 32nd accident and eighth hunting related fatality in Georgia for the 2009-2010 seasons, according to Department of Natural Resources records.

The eight fatalities included-in addition to Upton's death-two deaths attributed to natural causes (stroke and heart attack), one "mistaken for game" shooting, one accidental, self-inflicted shooting, a rattlesnake bite and two falls from deer stands.

By comparison, Georgia's 2008-09 hunting season yielded 34 hunting accidents with four fatalities.  Two of those cases involved heart attacks and two were due to falls from tree stands. There were no fatal shootings, but state authorities did investigate six people who were shot by other hunters in cases where people were mistaken for game; and six cases of accidental self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

One of victims among those 2008 shootings was a Georgia game warden, Cpl. Curtis Wright, who was shot in the lower chest with a 7 mm magnum rifle by a deer hunter 70 yards away. He survived his wounds but has since retired.

The deer hunter who fired the shot, Lynn Jeffers, eventually pleaded guilty to negligent use of a firearm, hunting without hunter education certification, hunting without a license and hunting without permission. He received four years of probation plus fines and was given first offender status, according to DNR records.

During the 2007-08 season, there were five shooting fatalities, of which four involved children or teenagers. During 2006-07, there were no fatal shootings and the single reported fatality involved a fall from a tree stand.

Most hunting accidents occur during deer season, which attracts the most participants. Typically, about 350,000 people hunt in Georgia each season.

Upton, a 4-year veteran of the Forest Service, previously worked as a game warden for the U.S. Marine Corps and as a game warden and pilot with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and a 4-year-old daughter, Annabelle.

GEORGIA HUNTING ACCIDENTS

2009-2010: 32 accidents with eight fatalities

2008-2009: 34 accidents with four fatalities

2007-2008: 21 accidents with five fatalities

2006-2007: 22 accidents with one fatality

2005-2006: 28 accidents with three fatalities

2004-2005: 16 accidents with two fatalities

2003-2004: 17 accidents with four fatalities

Source: Ga. DNR

THE SOUTHERN COYOTE

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Canis latrans

COLOR: Grayish brown to reddish tan to nearly black

AVERAGE WEIGHT: 25 to 45 pounds

PRIMARY DIET: Rabbits, rodents, fruit berries, birds

SCAT: Cigar-shaped, with bone, fur and seeds

TOP RUNNING SPEED: 40 mph

HABITAT: All areas of Georgia, South Carolina

HOME RANGE: 2 to 20 square miles

LITTER SIZE: 5 to 7 pups, born in spring

Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Ga. Department of Natural Resources

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glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 01:10 pm
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No excuse for the shot, but

No excuse for the shot, but sounds as if the ranger was not using good judgment either! Go to the hunter's vehicle and wait until he returns sounds like a lot better judgment than walking around in the woods, at night, with no flashlight and no florescent clothing!

x58dav8r
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x58dav8r 03/08/10 - 02:14 pm
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Does anyone else think it odd

Does anyone else think it odd they reported he was using binoculars at 11 PM? What could he be looking at at a distance in the dark?

Rob Pavey
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Rob Pavey 03/08/10 - 02:25 pm
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x58dav8r, if there are

x58dav8r, if there are reports of people, vehicles or activity out in the woods late at night, game wardens will often sneak in to see what's going on. during deer season, they are always scrambling to catch night-hunters.

themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 03/08/10 - 02:25 pm
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I was watching a special

I was watching a special about two men night hunting in the swamps of Louisianna, and they were using night vision goggles, and from a distance their eyes glowed like an animals eyes in the dark. That is most likely what happened in this case and from that distance the hunters just assumed he was an animal. In any case it was a tragedy.

x58dav8r
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x58dav8r 03/08/10 - 02:40 pm
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Understand that, Rob. Just

Understand that, Rob. Just don't understand what you expect to see late at night in the woods through binos. Like TMITM, I expect the man was using NVG, not binos.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 05:22 pm
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coyotes a nuisance species??

coyotes a nuisance species?? looks more like stupid hunters are the nuisance species!...there ya have it sargebaby!...thought it was coyote eyes! and blasted an innocent man in the head! like i said earlier..negligence to the Nth degree! based on the number of "accidental killings" shown on the books...looks like they need to crack down on these idiots who shoot at eyes/sounds/shadows/movements...he deserves to face some serious charges...and to glassrinkmaker- why would you even TRY to find ANY fault on behalf of the victim?! it doesn't matter if the guy was wearing a coyote costume, while walking his pet coyote and playing a tape of coyote sounds!...ANY RESPONSIBLE HUNTER CAN TELL YOU THE DIFFERENCE IN A HUMAN AND AN ANIMAL - day /night/up close/hundreds of yards away! if you are NOT POSITIVE THRU VISUAL AFFIRMATION DON'T SHOOT! ST@@PID KILLS! ...you seem to place some BLAME on the victim...which is absolutely ridiculous! the guy didn't carry a flashlight because it can be seen by poachers and folks violating the law and safety orange is invisible a night-genius!

lastminutejon
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lastminutejon 03/08/10 - 05:00 pm
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Rule #1. Identify your

Rule #1. Identify your target. Rule #2 Don't identify your target by aiming a high powered rifle at it. This guy, Mr. Hale, is nothing more than a poacher. He wasn't hunting coyotes, he was obviously hunting eyes. He's the kind of fool you can't protect yourself from in the woods cause rules and common sense don't apply to him. What's wrong with calling the DNR and letting them know you're going to be hunting coyotes at night and approx. where you're going to be. You know if you're in the woods at night with lights, rifles, etc. you're probably going to be paid a visit at some point.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 05:21 pm
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right on, lastminutejon.

right on, lastminutejon. shooting at eyes? do coyote eyes reflect with lil neon "coyote" signs in'em?...i don't think so. georgia lawmakers have opened the door for this kind of tragedy by allowing a yr round open season on any animal that is hunted at night. it allows for too much room for deer poachers to say they were "hunting coyotes" and "accidentally" killed a deer. which they would suffer severe penalties for doing...like losing their guns/trucks/equipment at the scene and paying severe penalties. BOTH of these guys DESERVE the most severe penalties they can face. then the law should be changed to increase the penalties for such thoughtless behavior.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 05:25 pm
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Smarternu sez; "ANY

Smarternu sez; "ANY RESPONSIBLE HUNTER CAN TELL YOU THE DIFFERENCE IN A HUMAN AND AN ANIMAL - day /night/up close/hundreds of yards away!"
____________________________________

Right there is where your intelligence quotient drops a couple dozen points, Smarter. I can place you in the hunting area where I hunt and as responsible as you may claim to be, I'll bet a bullet you will misidentify a target during both night and day.

I never stated that there aren't "stupid hunters" roaming the forests, nor did I place blame on the victim. Do you have reading comprehension disabilities? I stated IF the game warden was not wearing a safety vest with reflective strips, genius!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 05:47 pm
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ha! my IQ? oh sarge...what

ha! my IQ? oh sarge...what are you talking about????...i'd be PATIENT enough to wait until i could SEE & POSITIVELY IDENTIFY my target...if NOT, i'd SIMPLY let the UNIDENTIFIED BEING walk away without taking a shot...or EVEN RAISING MY WEAPON! - SIMPLE AS THAT SARGEBABY. PLEASE POST WHERE YOU HUNT SO WE CAN ALL AVOID YOU! genius? TRUST ME it does NOT take a genius to see HOW WRONG YOU ARE...and how much you spin your words to avoid eatin'em! swallow it sarge your posts from yesterday were DEAD WRONG! and mine were DEAD ON!

jack
11
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jack 03/08/10 - 05:45 pm
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themaninthemirror themaninthe

themaninthemirror
themaninthemirror
Monday, Mar. 8 2:25 PM
new

* Report

I was watching a special about two men night hunting in the swamps of Louisianna, and they were using night vision goggles, and from a distance their eyes glowed like an animals eyes in the dark. That is most likely what happened in this case and from that distance the hunters just assumed he was an animal. In any case it was a tragedy.....You don't ASSUME anything when identifying a target when hunting. You should KNOW what you are shooting at. It was a tragedy ;that should not have happpened. I imagine the shooter wont feel like hunting any more.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 05:48 pm
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x58dav8r asks; "Does anyone

x58dav8r asks; "Does anyone else think it odd they reported he was using binoculars at 11 PM? What could he be looking at at a distance in the dark?"
_________________________________

x58, a good pair of binoculars on a fairly moonlit night, is a light gathering instrument. If you have a strong powered pair, test this, and see for yourself. As for what they were looking for, is anyone's guess.
_______________________________________________

Apparently, Georgia sportsmen are not all "stupid" as Smarter claims. "This accident marks the 32nd accident and eighth hunting related fatality in Georgia for the 2009-2010 seasons, according to Department of Natural Resources records.

The eight fatalities included-in addition to Upton's death-two deaths attributed to natural causes (stroke and heart attack), one "mistaken for game" shooting, one accidental, self-inflicted shooting, a rattlesnake bite and two falls from deer stands."

So far, up until this tragic incident, only Mr. Upton has died, out of the tens of thousands, or more, of Georgia hunters who were not mistaken for game. I'm sure DNR has statistics on the actual numbers of hunters in our state, but so far the only thing I've found "stupid," about the majority of Georgia's law abiding hunters, is Smarter's comment!

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 05:53 pm
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SMARTERNU, don't worry "Mac,"

SMARTERNU, don't worry "Mac," the last guy I killed was in Tay Ninh Province in Vietnam. I'll let others judge whether I'm right or wrong. Apparently, you certainly do not have that ability.

CobaltGeorge
192491
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 06:05 pm
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Way to go Sarge, lay on the

Way to go Sarge, lay on the facts and let them stew. The only real comment that should have been made was "condolences" to the family and friends."

CobaltGeorge
192491
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 06:09 pm
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SMARTERNU, I do not know who

SMARTERNU, I do not know who you are...but you sure are missing a lot of Common Sense.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 06:13 pm
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Cobalt George sez; "Way to go

Cobalt George sez; "Way to go Sarge, lay on the facts and let them stew. The only real comment that should have been made was "condolences" to the family and friends."
__________________________________

Which I did early on, in this topic. Howdy George! Did you get that leak repaired?

CobaltGeorge
192491
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 06:15 pm
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Got her fixed but still

Got her fixed but still trying to get the grease off. Today sure would have been a great day to spend a few rounds.

CobaltGeorge
192491
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 06:20 pm
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Sarge, don't let someone like

Sarge, don't let someone like SMARTERNU put dirt in your receiver and cause a missfire. Debating when him is like providing FACTS and common sense to a liberal.

Fiat_Lux
17398
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 06:29 pm
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This standard PETA peep snark

This standard PETA peep snark is what one might call "tempting" the Almighty. Rather, it should be "There but for the grace of God go I". You never know when just being a human being yourself might cost someone else his life.

This is a very sad tragedy.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 06:30 pm
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I'm kinda like x-58---could

I'm kinda like x-58---could not have been binos, if so, he was looking at his own eyeballs, there was NO moon Fri night at 2300.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 06:33 pm
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Not negating the fact that

Not negating the fact that this was a tragedy--deer season is also over. Just wonder what the Ranger was looking for. Said it before, will say it again, poor judgment on his part. Go to hunter's vehicle and wait!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 06:33 pm
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If he is who I believe him to

If he is who I believe him to be, CG, he is definitely a Lib.!

Yes, Fiat Lux, the "light" has been dimmed for this family. I hope they know how many people off their condolences. Very sad indeed!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 06:37 pm
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Glassrinkmaker sez; "Not

Glassrinkmaker sez; "Not negating the fact that this was a tragedy--deer season is also over. Just wonder what the Ranger was looking for. Said it before, will say it again, poor judgment on his part. Go to hunter's vehicle and wait!"
____________________________________-

Maybe it will come out in the investigation, Glass, but second-guessing his judgment is a bit premature at this point.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 07:16 pm
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hhmmmm...we can't rebuke what

hhmmmm...we can't rebuke what he's saying and he makes more sense than we can handle...so lets change the topic to his politics? you don't wanna go there either, because soon thereafter you'll just have to change the topic again! sarge, you don't know me...and you won't know me. stop trying to figure out who i am, and focus on the topic. it does not matter who you are or who i am for you to recognize the facts of this case. it matters that this guy was killed by reckless people with guns and they will likely pay a heavy legal price for it. i guess you also learned some diversionary tactics in the military too...well...i will only bring it back to the facts. facts are...you have made many comments based on your opinion...mine are based on irrefutable facts; facts that have been supported by even the limited details of this case. fiatlux...i don't put my responsibilities on god. i will never shoot at a target that i can't i.d....so save the "grace of god prayer" for some reckless fool.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 07:25 pm
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cobaltgeorge...you are

cobaltgeorge...you are exactly right...i don't have common sense. i have uncommon sense. common sense is the sense of the common people and just as has been proven here and all over these forums that's pretty worthless and sometimes deadly. the guy who pulled the trigger on glowing orbs in the dark has common sense and look where it got him. more importantly look where it got the victim, his family and friends. those who continue to remotely defend the killer have common sense and they can keep it. i'll stick to my uncommon sense. it's exactly what makes me...smarternu.

CobaltGeorge
192491
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 07:25 pm
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SMARTERNU... You Capitalized

SMARTERNU... You Capitalized your name, show the same respect for "God".

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 07:26 pm
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Well, Smarter, I don't really

Well, Smarter, I don't really care who you are, but let me finish this by stating, the investigation is incomplete. All the "Smarts" you have cannot negate the fact that you have called people you do not know, stupid, to include the fellow who ACCIDENTALLY killed an innocent human being. You only know what you've read in the two articles published here, and apparently, you did not study them very well. It is reckless and stupid to accuse someone without knowing all the facts. So, before you label anyone else, smarten up!

donnymack
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donnymack 03/08/10 - 07:29 pm
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There is no excuse for

There is no excuse for shooting another person. The hunter was obviously trigger happy and has no business owning a gun. I own night vision scopes and binoculars,and the reflection of glass versus an animals eyes are as plain as day. This person is not a hunter,but another person that thinks he is entitled to shoot at whatever moves. I am angry because he gives real sportsmen and hunters a bad name. The Game Wardon is dead so there are no stories to compare.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 07:32 pm
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Sarge, I agree, wait till the

Sarge, I agree, wait till the facts come out.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 07:47 pm
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i know them through their

i know them through their actions and the facts as reported thus far...and that's enough to call'em stupid. do you know more than i that you can claim they are not stupid?...are you getting secret factoids from a hidden source?...cobaltgeorge...save your demands for someone else. i'll show my respect to any "god" by not recklessly and stupidly blasting their "precious children" with a rifle...in exchange for that, i'm sure any decent god would forgive me for not using caps!

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