Deer hunter seriously hurt after being shot by dad

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014
deer hunting
Fairfax NZ

BUCK FEVER: The most exhilarating time for deer hunting, known as the roar, has opened with a father shooting his son during a family hunting trip.

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A father shot his son with a deer hunting rifle on Monday and spent four hours tending to the wound until a paramedic was choppered into the rugged hills.

The 22-year-old was yesterday recovering in a serious but stable condition as authorities urged shooters to identify their target beyond doubt before firing.

The police investigation will continue today into the incident southeast of Opotiki.

Police said a father and his two adult sons from Hamilton went deer hunting in the early morning and about 10am it appeared the father shot his son in the abdomen.

While the father did first-aid, the other son scrambled out of the bush to get help.

He fortunately found a family friend with a personal locator beacon, which was activated about 1.30pm.

The Taupo-based Greenlea Rescue Helicopter responded.

Pilot Pete Masters said the weather was fine and still. After collecting someone from a landing site to navigate, Masters flew a paramedic 3km into the hills on a "sling line" where the father and his injured son waited at the bottom of a rugged bush-clad gully.

All three were hauled out on the line because landing or hovering was impossible.

The son was transferred to Rotorua Hospital in a critical condition, where he underwent surgery.

Masters said the father was "traumatised".

"It's bloody sad for them - thank Christ he's lived."

Police spoke to those involved yesterday and returned to the shooting scene to investigate.

They would not speculate on what, if any, charges would be laid.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Standen said the young man was "extremely lucky", given the time between the shooting and reaching the hospital.

The shooting has cast a shadow over this year's roar.

Mountain Safety Council spokeswoman Nicole McKee said "buck fever" was often a factor in such incidents, particularly during the roar.

During the month-long mating period, stags roar in the forest to establish territory and dominate their hind harems.

Hunters exploit that by roaring in a challenge. Stags will hunt out the caller to fight, and irate stags can come within a few metres of a hunter.

It was adrenaline-fuelled and exhilarating, McKee said.

"We always advise that when you come across a target you're about to take a shot at, you take a moment, a breath . . . and think about the scenario you're in.

"And that is quite often when people won't take a shot because they realise perhaps they're not seeing what they should be seeing, they're seeing what they want to be seeing."

She urged hunters to always identify the target beyond doubt.

"My understanding is the shooting was at a relatively short distance, less than 100m, which makes me think there was a bit of scrub in the way."

Police would not elaborate on the circumstances.

Nor would they confirm it was the father who pulled the trigger.

"Our condolences to the family and his hunting companions," McKee said. "This is not a great way to start the roar and I hope other hunters take heed of what's happened and think about what they're shooting at before they pull the trigger. Because once they do, it's too late to bring the projectile back."

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