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

Comments (153) Add comment
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SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 10:15 pm
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you've put a lot of words

you've put a lot of words into my postings lux. but...to help you out...lemme break it down for ya. they are two irresponsible guys, with poor judgment. and the KILLER (NOT HUNTER) stated he was shooting at glowing eyes. it was the eyes of a human engaged in doing his job as described. what part of how ridiculously stupid and negligent that makes them do you NOT understand? killing wildlife officers is NOT legal lux. it's not my opinion it's the facts as borne out by the details offered so far, and those are ample to arrive at the conclusion that they are at fault for killing someone for no reason at all...(OTHER than that they are awash in stupid!) these two were incredibly reckless fools who killed a man for no logical reason, and no excuse will get them off the hook. neither will warcrys and rallying of some glory day relivin expats. that's exactly what i'm sayin'.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 10:24 pm
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see you all when the charges

see you all when the charges are filed and the case is heard before a judge...since there's no way he'd wanna go before a jury. it's likely the guy will cop a plea to avoid any more embarrassment from being such a fool. mark my words...because...i AM...smarternu.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 10:48 pm
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Marking you words is the best

Marking you words is the best suggestion you've had yet, SMARTY. I'll do that the same way my pooch does the bushes around our house. It's about all they're worth.

But you just go ahead and think you're so much smarter than the rest of us. If that is what you need to feel like you've got something worth reading, go right ahead. It's a free country, even for people with few manners, less respect and the social skills of an earthworm.

Adieu and bon nuit, âne futé.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 10:41 pm
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an earthworm lux...AN

an earthworm lux...AN earthworm...you see, when a word starts with the letter "e"...

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 10:55 pm
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Thanks for pointing out the

Thanks for pointing out the typo, Smarty. At least I know how to use punctuation, spacing and capitalization, and am not too lazy to use them. You might try it yourself if you're going to critique and edit other people's copy. It kind of helps with the hypocrisy, doncha know.

And that's the best you can do? Point out typos? Come on, dude. You're so smart, surely you can come up with something more substantive than that.

Maybe not.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/08/10 - 11:42 pm
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Fiat, Smart--Not that it is

Fiat, Smart--Not that it is crucial, but what is wrong with using "an" in front of earthworm...or am I missing something here?

georgiasouthern
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georgiasouthern 03/09/10 - 02:00 am
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Night hunting is illegal in

Night hunting is illegal in Georgia.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 08:48 am
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Nat, I originally left off

Nat, I originally left off the "n" in "an", and "Smarty" was just being "kind" enough to point it out. I went back and corrected it, which is why it doesn't show up that way now.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 08:51 am
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Also, SMARTERNU seems to have

Also, SMARTERNU seems to have completely disappeared. How nice.

butler123
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butler123 03/09/10 - 09:16 am
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Years ago we lived out in the

Years ago we lived out in the country. We had a dog that kept barking at night. I hated that dog, the stupid dog that kept barking at nothing and keeping me up all night. One night I just happened to look at the nothing with a pair of binoculars. There were no less than 20 deer about 50 yards from my back door. I couldn't see anything without them. I had a little more respect for that dog after that.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/09/10 - 11:49 am
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southern, not coyotes!

southern, not coyotes!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/09/10 - 12:23 pm
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GASouthern, FYI - In Georgia,

GASouthern, FYI - In Georgia, at night, no person may hunt any game bird or game animal EXCEPT for raccoon, opossums, foxes, and bobcats. Those animals may be hunted at night, but only with a lantern or a light that does not exceed six volts (Ga. Code Ann. § 27-3-24).

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Hunting

KSL
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KSL 03/09/10 - 12:24 pm
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Why doesn't smarty have a

Why doesn't smarty have a profile page?

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/09/10 - 12:25 pm
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Glass, I haven't found it,

Glass, I haven't found it, but I believe GA has added coyotes to the night hunting list. I'll research it later this evening.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/09/10 - 12:26 pm
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KSL, Smarty is smartern us,

KSL, Smarty is smartern us, he/she doesn't need one!

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 01:18 pm
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The oh-so-smart one had a

The oh-so-smart one had a profile page yesterday, briefly. I suspect it was guerrilla-posting by someone who deleted their account, or else Sean and Co. saw what was happening and decided s/he just wasn't showing any promise as an acceptable playmate for the rest of us.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/09/10 - 01:55 pm
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It seems to me that night

It seems to me that night hunting is very dangerous, but there have been lots of people killed while hunting in the daytime, also. Hunters have shot into brush and all kinds of things that have resulted in someone's death. This is not saying responsible hunting is wrong, of course.

KSL
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KSL 03/09/10 - 03:44 pm
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His profile page was not

His profile page was not found today even while he was still posting. It reminds me a bit of a poster whose comments did not show up anywhere in the archives on the old site.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 03:53 pm
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I didn't see any Smarty posts

I didn't see any Smarty posts today. Where were they?

KSL
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KSL 03/09/10 - 04:09 pm
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Guess not.

Guess not.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/09/10 - 04:19 pm
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Wow! I just read the posts

Wow! I just read the posts regarding this matter....this is obviously a very controversial subject. I am still doing some research.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 04:34 pm
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Which matter, Nat? There are

Which matter, Nat? There are a couple being discussed.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/09/10 - 04:57 pm
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Good afternoon Fiat. Well,

Good afternoon Fiat. Well, now that you mention it, I suppose the only important tragic matter surrounding this incident, and the matter of the emotional results that occurred.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 05:14 pm
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Glad to see you back on, Nat.

Glad to see you back on, Nat.

You're right about this being a real tragedy.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/09/10 - 05:46 pm
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Fiat--Is Smarternu still

Fiat--Is Smarternu still allowed to post on this site? I do not see his profile listed.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/09/10 - 05:54 pm
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I couldn't say whether

I couldn't say whether smartern was removed or deleted his/her own account. The profile was only up briefly yesterday.

I refer you to my 1:18 comment for speculations.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/09/10 - 05:56 pm
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There is no season on

There is no season on coyotes, which means they can be hunted any time. I think one of these articles discussing this tragedy made not of that.

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 03/09/10 - 06:10 pm
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I am waiting for my Hunter

I am waiting for my Hunter friend to weigh in on this...but in the meantime, without intending to sound like a "Peta Pocket," { I am genuinely curious about this,} are coyotes a real problem here in the CSRA as far as needing to "thin them out," so to speak? I mean, I see Deer all the time in the wild, and crossing the roads etc. I don't think I have ever seen a Coyote unless I mistook it for a dog or a cat...I suppose they are nocturnal creatures. I remember seeing a post that said that Coyotes are a "nuisance" and can be hunted any time....is that strictly the motive for hunting them?

KSL
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KSL 03/09/10 - 06:58 pm
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I know that there was a

I know that there was a subdivision in Aiken that was having trouble with a pack of coyotes. They can become a nuisance.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/09/10 - 07:01 pm
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Nat, they will kill your dogs

Nat, they will kill your dogs and cats, chickens, rabbits and small calves and pigs. They hunt in packs and will in rare instances, attack you. Yes, they not only need thinnning, they need eliminating! THIS IS NOT THEIR ORIGINAL RANGE.

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