Hunter shot and killed during Ohio’s firearms opener

Columbus — A 62-year-old Florida man was shot and killed Nov. 27 in Ashtabula County during the opening day of Ohio’s seven-day firearms deer-hunting season.

Shot while legally hunting on private land in Ashtabula County’s Monroe Township was Randy Lee Gozzard of St. Petersburg, Fla. The incident – as hunting accidents are called in the vernacular of Ohio’s wildlife agency officials – occurred about 2 p.m. off Horton Road, located just to the west of Conneaut Creek’s West Branch.

Gozzard was hunting with three others. His was the first hunting-related fatality in Ohio since 2014.

Also, a non-fatal hunting incident/accident was reported Nov. 27 in Henry County, located in northwest Ohio.

The Gozzard matter is being conducted via an investigation by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, with agency officials stating they are yet unsure of how the fatal shot was fired and who fired it.

Ohio law does stipulate that all hunters participating in any firearms deer-hunting season must wear as an outer garment a vest, coat, jacket, or coveralls with solid blaze orange or camouflaged blaze orange material.

An autopsy on Gozzard’s body was planned for today (Tuesday, Nov. 28) by Ashtabula County coroner, Dr. Pamela L. Lancaster. It is up to the coroner’s office to decide when to release the information.

John Windau – media spokesman for the Division of Wildlife – said that his agency follows a strict set of standards and procedures for conducting such investigations.

“In addition, our investigators have attended the International Hunter Education Association training academy on handling hunter incidents,” Windau said. “We also work in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, as well as with other state agencies, including the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.”

Asked how long it takes to conduct such investigations, Windau said “it varies from case to case, depending on the facts and circumstances.”

“Investigations on hunter incidents are given the highest priority,” he said.

Following the investigation, the evidence will then turned over to the county prosecutor for a determination of whether charges, if any, will be filed, Windau said.

As for the number of hunting incidents in Ohio since 2013, these are the statistics provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife: 2013 – four non-fatal and three fatal; 2014 – three non-fatal and one fatal; 2015 – 4 non-fatal and zero fatal; 2016 – seven non-fatal and zero fatal.

As for the number of hunting licenses and deer tags sold for the last two years in Ohio: For 2016, the number of hunting licenses sold was 388,036 and the number of deer permits sold was 445,166. For 2017, the number of hunting licenses to-date is 345,532 and the number of deer permits sold to-date is 374,011.

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