SCDNR: Know your target

Officials from SCDNR say most of the accidental shootings in South Carolina are victims in the line of a shooter and those

mistaken for wildlife.

Another deer firearm season is coming to a close across the state, but it’s still open season for other wildlife and the hunt may continue year-round. That means outdoor enthusiasts could at any time get caught in the crossfire.

“Experienced hunters and inexperienced hunters alike - it can happen to anyone,” said Captain Billy Downer, Director for Hunter Education for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

While state law requires all residents and nonresidents born after June 30, 1979, to complete a hunter education course before obtaining a hunting license, accidents can still happen.

In November deputies in Berkeley County were dispatched to the Roper St. Francis Berkeley Medical Center because of an accidental shooting that occurred in Cordesville.

According to a report, the victim told deputies that with permission of a landowner, he had been on a wooded property looking for artifacts, and while leaning over a small hole he had dug, he said he felt a bullet strike him.

Deputies said they also talked to the person who fired the gun, and he told them he, too, had authorization to hunt on the land and thought he had spotted a wild hog in the field about 200 yards away. The shooter told deputies he fired a .223 rifle, the report stated. 

The man in the hole survived the injuries.

During a second separate incident that occurred in November, medics at a station in Cross reportedly called a Berkeley County deputy about an injured person, who had walked up to the station and reported being accidentally shot while at a nearby hunting club.

The injured victim was taken to Trident Medical Center, where deputies were dispatched and spoke to a father and son who said they had been hunting with dogs at a club off Swansea Circle. The son told deputies a deer had run between him and his father, when the father told him to shoot. According to the father, he heard the bullet ricochet from one of the shotgun pellets, and the pellet hit the man in the foot, deputies said.

Downer said similar accidental shootings aren't uncommon across the state.

“The incidents in South Carolina, particularly, are victim in line of shooter and mistaken for game accidents," he said.

While firearm and hunter education is vital and has dramatically decreased the number of statewide hunting accidents, some hunters don’t take the time to be certain of their targets before pulling the trigger, according to Downer.

“Identify what you are shooting at,” he said. “Identify your target; know what lies beyond it and in front of it before you take a shot. That could prevent a majority of our accidents.”

There's also another simple solution for those not wanting to be the victim of an impatient hunter.

“Be safe; be seen,” Downer said.

Wearing clothing with international florescent blaze orange is unmistakable in the woods, and anyone wearing it will stand out, said SCDNR officials. Downer revealed it's also wise for hunters to share their hunting locations, even if it's a favorite secret spot.

“Too many times people want to say, ‘I don’t want to let somebody know where I’m at,’” said Downer. “You know what? It sure beats an accident.”

SCDNR also offers an instructor-led hunter’s education course, also available online. 

For more information and questions about the certification, call 1-800-277-4301.