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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Minnesota hunter near Junction City mistakes buddy for turkey, shoots him - twice

By Michael Pearce
The Wichita Eagle

A Minnesota man turkey hunting in Kansas was so sure his buddy was a gobbler that he shot him – twice.

Brian Hansen, of Maple Grove, Minn., is expected to recover, according to Tony Wolf, of the Geary County Sheriff’s Office.

The shooting happened early Friday morning in a public hunting area by Milford Reservoir near Junction City.

Wolf said Hansen and Terrance Spaeth arrived at their hunting grounds before daylight and split up.

Eventually Hansen walked back toward Spaeth and was shot when he was about 45 yards from his friend.

“(Spaeth) said he thought he saw a turkey so he fired,” Wolf said. “When he saw his friend rolling around on the ground he thought it was a turkey flopping so he shot one more time. When he heard the screams and moans he realized it wasn’t a turkey.”

Spaeth, 67, drove his friend to the hospital. Hansen’s family has requested his medical condition not be released.

Wolf said the hunters had been coming to Kansas for several years to hunt wild turkeys in the spring.

No charges will be filed against Spaeth. His hometown wasn’t known.

“It was just a freak accident,” Wolf said.

It was an accident that should have been avoided, according to Kent Barrett, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism hunter education coordinator.

“It’s inexcusable from the standpoint of what hunter education teaches,” Barrett said. “All hunters have the responsibility to identify their target. You have to know exactly what you’re shooting and what’s around it, too.”

Hunters annually spend about 3 million man-days in the Kansas outdoors.

Last year Barrett said there were 16 accidents. The only fatality happened when a turkey hunter shot himself in the leg while in his vehicle.

Those numbers are about average for Kansas over the past decade.

“It’s still very safe out there,” Barrett said, “but so many of those accidents could be avoided.”

Barrett said historically the most common type of accident usually involves a hunter aiming at moving game, like a quail, and not noticing a hunting partner near the bird.

Careless gun handling was to blame for 10 Kansas accidents last year, Barrett said. Several were people shooting themselves in the foot while running with a loaded gun.

The fact that turkey hunters are usually dressed in camouflage to avoid the bird’s keen eyes may contribute to some accidents.

“That just puts that much more responsibility on the hunter to positively identify the target is a wild turkey,” Barrett said.

In the springtime, hunters also must make sure a turkey has a beard — a thick, hair-like projection from their chest mainly found on male birds.

Barrett said Friday’s incident wasn’t the first time someone had mistaken a partner for a turkey and shot him twice.

The other happened last November, at the same public hunting area.

Barrett said three soldiers from Fort Riley were hunting, with one of the hunters walking within heavy brush to flush out birds while his buddies walked in the open nearby.

One of the hunters mistook his friend moving in the brush for a turkey so he shot and knocked him down.

“He and his buddy were exchanging high-fives that they’d gotten a turkey,” Barrett said. “When they saw (the wounded hunter) get up and moving away, they shot him again.”

He, too, survived.

“It was the same kind of thing, shooting at movement or shooting at noise,” Barrett said. “It’s just unacceptable behavior anytime you haven’t properly identified your target.”

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