A darkening forest, a glimpse of movement and a hasty decision at last light turned out to be a recipe for tragedy for a Crawford County man who had taken his son deer hunting.
The Nov. 1 death of 22-year-old Nathaniel Stone was first reported in a frantic 911 call at 7:33 p.m., according a Georgia Department of Natural Resources report filed by DNR law enforcement Corporal Mitch Oliver.
The young man was shot in the chest by his 50-year-old father, Patrick Stone, who was hunting with a bolt-action 30.06.
According to a family member quoted by Macon television station WMGT, the young man was running down a road “right at dark and he wasn’t supposed to be there,” and was mistaken for a deer and shot.
Such shootings are rare, but they do occur far more often than they should.
According to records kept by Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division, 143 hunting related fatalities have been investigated during the past 25 years, of which 48 deaths involved tree stand accidents.
The total number of accidents involving shootings was 511, of which 296 were self-inflicted, often through careless handling of firearms.
If these statistics seem overly grim, keep in mind that accident rates have declined significantly in the state – and around the country – since mandatory hunter education programs were launched more than a decade ago.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the department investigated as many 50 shooting accidents each year. Since 1999, however, those numbers have been reduced by more than half.
The Crawford County accident is the only reported fatality so far this season, but there have been two other non-fatal shootings that included a Screven County man who shot himself in the foot Sept. 4; and a Gordon County hunter who shot himself in the hand while trying to place his gun on safety.
There were also six serious, but non-fatal tree stand accidents reported this year, and one unusual case where a Meriwether County hunter fell into an old well after its rotted plywood cover collapsed – breaking his jaw and leg and several verterbrae.
Accident statistics, of course, are cold and terse and rarely tell a complete story, but they do send a collective message to everyone who enjoys the outdoors: be careful.
WILDWOOD RAMP CLOSED: Columbia County officials have closed the popular “mega-ramp” boat launch site in Wildwood Park due to receding water levels.
It is the latest casualty in the downward trend in the reservoir’s pool level, which was hovering near 315 feet above sea level last week. Full pool is 330 feet above sea level.
FLY FISHING TRIPS: The CSRA Fly Fishers group will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday at the River Island community clubhouse off Blackstone Camp Road. Members will discuss winter and spring fishing trips. Visitors are welcome.
For more information, visit www.csraflyfishers.org.