Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Firearms hunting claims three lives

Three deaths were firearms related

By Marty Kovarik Correspondent

Lansing — Three hunters have died in firearms-related hunting
accidents this year in Michigan as of Nov. 27, according to a
hunting incident report prepared by the DNR’s Law Enforcement
Division. Because each local law enforcement agency (sheriff, state
police, local police departments) provides the DNR with accident
information, this may not be the final count.

The report lists 27 firearms-related incidents, of which three
were fatal. Three accidents occurred in January and February; all
three were non-fatal and small-game related. The remainder of the
incidents occurred between Sept. 15 and Nov. 22. Deaths that were
not firearms-related (falls, asphyxiation, medical emergencies,
etc.) were not included in the report.

Two of the firearms-related deaths were during the early part of
the firearms deer season.

After Michael Reyes, 35, of Pinconning, failed to return from
hunting, his body was found by a friend, according to a statement
from the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Undersheriff Robert Fitzgerald, it appeared Reyes
had fallen on his gun and it discharged. Evidence showed that he
walked about 250 yards toward his car after the shot. Reyes’ body
was found on state land about 50 yards from his vehicle, according
to the Associated Press and the Bay City Times.
An autopsy showed that Reyes’ gun had discharged at close range and
hit him in the chest. The accident occurred Nov. 20.

While hunting in the Watson area 25 miles south of Marquette, a
Negaunee man died after he was accidentally shot by a hunting
companion. State police confirmed the death and it is being
investigated by the DNR in Newberry.

The first firearms-related hunting death occurred in Isabella
County on Sept. 18, when a 57-year-old squirrel hunter died from a
self-inflicted shotgun wound. The DNR lists the major factor in the
incident as careless handling of a firearm.

Not included in the report were 10 treestand falls, four of them
fatal. The deaths occurred in Alcona, Kent, Hillsdale, and Presque
Isle counties.

The body of Russell Sutton, 53, of Somerset Township, was found
by friends after Sutton was late returning from a hunt, according
to the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department. The Jackson
County Patriot reported that Sutton died from trauma resulting
from a 21-foot fall from his treestand.

In addition to those deaths, a deer hunter died in Lake County
due to carbon monoxide poisoning in a hunting blind.

Another hunter died during the small-game season when the duck
hunter drowned in Mackinac County.

The DNR list reports that there were seven non-fatal
firearms-related accidents this deer season, all occurring during
the first three days of the season. Three of these were
self-inflicted. The victims ranged in age from 34 to 65 years old.
The shooters in the non-self-inflicted accidents ranged from 46 to
51 years old.

Sixteen hunters who were pursuing small game, predators, or
non-game animals were injured in firearms-related accidents; five
were self-inflicted. Three of the 11 shooters were under the age of
17, the rest ranged from 18 to 83 years old. The youngest non-fatal
victim was a 10-year-old waterfowl hunter in Bay County. The youth
was hunting with an apprentice youth small-game license and there
is no record of the victim taking a hunter safety class. According
to the report, the victim moved into the line of fire.

On Sept. 23, an 86-year-old bear hunter was injured by a rifle
shot in Cheboygan County. The shooter was 60 years old.

In addition, the Marquette Mining Journal reported that
a Cadillac man was found dead near his Mackinac County deer blind.
The cause of death was determined to be natural causes. The Coast
Guard and State Police canine team assisted in the search.

The Sanilac County Sheriff’s Department reports that a
47-year-old Ohio man died from a brain aneurysm while hunting in
Moore Township.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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