The 27-year-old mountain biker was struck by a bullet when riding near dusk in a heavily-wooded area open to hunting.
A scary accident unfolded near Hopkinton, N.H., last week when a hunter fired a shot shortly before dark. Around 4:20 p.m., a 27-year-old woman heard a gunshot then realized she’d been hit by a bullet.
Officials have released few details about the incident, but all signs point to a hunter who did not follow one of the primary rules of gun safety: Be sure of your target and what’s beyond.
The woman was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released from a hospital on the same day as the incident.
Shot While Biking
According to a press release, the woman was riding on Hall Road on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ property. Deer season began a few weeks before, and an official on the scene claimed she was wearing brightly-colored clothing.
Officials were called to the scene afterward and interviewed a 34-year-old suspect. He claimed to be firing at deer but “failed to see the victim on her mountain bike in the background.”
While late-evening hunting is certainly legal, dark settings make it more difficult to verify a target. And in a multi-use area such as Elm Brook Park, movement and sound can come from potential game, hikers, or mountain bikers.
“Once you pull that trigger, you can’t take the bullet back,” said Scott LaCrosse, New Hampshire Fish and Game Lieutenant. “The hunters, you’re not the only ones in the woods, and you have to positively identify your target before you pull the trigger.”
Of course, hikers and bikers can employ a wealth of tactics to cohabit space responsibly with hunters. We advocate for non-hunters to use blaze orange, recreate during midday for visibility (and not to spook game animals that move during twilight hours), and to make noise when trekking through hunting lands.
Hunting Misfire History
Jim Juneau, assistant chief of law enforcement for New Hampshire Fish and Game, said between 2000 and 2014 there were 53 firearm-related injuries due to hunting. Of those, 19 were self-inflicted, and 10 occurred when hunters fell, often from tree stands.
The 14-year period Juneau referenced translates to 2.4 injuries to other people per year from hunters. Injuries happen, but they are most often always accidental and usually happen within members of a hunting party.
Scene of the Shooting
LaCrosse was immediately on the scene following the event. The case is currently ongoing with potential charges against the shooter undetermined.
In New Hampshire, a person hunting “who negligently shoots and wounds any human being, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” The hunter’s intent is the key to being convicted or not.
“The particular area where she was at, it kind of opens up. It’s not heavily wooded on either side,” LaCrosse said in an interview with WMUR9. The park covers 10,000 acres. He claimed the area of the incident was open enough to drive a vehicle through.
Investigators mapped the trajectory of the bullet for an idea of where the shooter and victim were located when the bullet struck. He was using a rifle. The darkness made it difficult to know if a deer was in the area of the shooting, and there is currently no evidence of a deer being hit.
The hunter stuck around the scene and helped the woman after he realized what had happened. He seems to have accepted responsibility for his actions, but the shooting should remind hunters of the importance of positively identifying your target and knowing what lies behind it.
– For outdoor enthusiasts recreating in hunting zones, consult our guide on “How To Play Safe During Hunting Season.”