Details surrounding the death of a 37-year-old northern Wisconsin hunter remained a mystery Monday as investigators tried to determine why his gun cannot be found, authorities said.
"There is a lot of information that is missing," said Tom Bokelman, a recreational safety officer for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The hunter's identity was not immediately released Monday pending notification of his family, said Matt Del Fatti, chief deputy of the Clark County Sheriff's Department.
The Medford man went hunting by himself Friday in Clark County and never returned home. Rescuers found his body Saturday about 200 yards from a tree stand on private land, Bokelman said. He had a single gunshot wound to the chest.
"The problem is we haven't found his gun. That throws a whole wrench into the process," he said. "It is mysterious at this point."
Investigators are considering the death a hunting fatality unless other evidence surfaces that suggests otherwise, Bokelman said.
The man's body was found in a brushy, swampy area of dense vegetation, and the water was knee-deep in places, Bokelman said.
"It is one of those nasty areas prime for wildlife but hard to recover evidence," he said.
Investigators used metal detectors Monday to try to find the man's gun and planned to search by air for a dead deer, he said.
One theory is the man shot a deer, left his gun near it and was shot while walking to get help to retrieve the animal, Bokelman said.
Investigators weren't certain Monday whether other hunters were in the area Friday, he said.
"We are just hoping somebody who knows something steps forward," the investigator said.
The Medford man was one of seven hunters who died in 19 shooting-related accidents during the nine-day deer hunt that ended Sunday.
It's the most hunter deaths since eight occurred in 1987.
Still, the 19 accidents made the season the fifth-safest on record, and this season had two fewer accidents than last year when two hunters were killed, said Tim Lawhern, the DNR's hunting safety administrator.
"It is bittersweet," he said.
No simple answer explains why fewer accidents occurred while the number of fatalities skyrocketed, Lawhern said.
"Once in a while, a freak thing like this happens," Lawhern said. "It just looked like a freak year."
For example, the 1984 season had 60 shooting accidents with five fatalities, he said.
The worst season occurred in the 1920s, when more than 100 accidents killed 50 hunters, Lawhern said. The safest year was 1997, with 10 accidents and one fatality.
About a fourth of this year's accidents involved young hunters, who usually are involved in about a third of hunting accidents, Lawhern said.
Three of the accidents involved unsupervised 12- or 13-year-old hunters in violation of state law, he said.
The DNR won't know how many deer were killed until Tuesday because hunters continued to register their animals Monday with the agency.
Earlier, the DNR reported 151,929 deer were registered with the agency from the first two days of hunting, down 24 percent from a year ago and off 17 percent from two years ago.
Seven hunters were killed and 19 shooting accidents occurred during Wisconsin's nine-day deer gun hunting season, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Here's a look at the accidents:
--VERNON COUNTY: A 56-year-old man died after shooting himself in the head with a .348-caliber rifle in a tree stand at 5:45 a.m.
--ADAMS COUNTY: A 76-year-old man died after he was shot in the abdomen by a 47-year-old man using a .44-caliber Magnum rifle at 7:30 a.m.
A 20-year-old man shot himself in the foot with a 12-gauge shotgun when he sat down and the gun discharged at 2 p.m.
--CALUMET COUNTY: A 14-year-old boy was wounded after he was shot in the abdomen and left arm with a 12-gauge shotgun by a 36-year-old man during a deer drive at 9:30 a.m.
--SHAWANO COUNTY: A 40-year-old father was wounded after being shot in the foot by his 14-year-old son using a .30.30-caliber rifle at 10:30 a.m. The boy's finger slipped off the gun's hammer. The boy did not have a hunting license.
--BURNETT COUNTY: An 82-year-old man shot himself in the right thumb with a .357-caliber revolver when he stumbled and the gun discharged at 3 p.m.
--OUTAGAMIE COUNTY: A 40-year-old man shot himself in the leg with a 12-gauge shotgun when he stumbled and the gun discharged at 3:02 p.m.
--TREMPEALEAU COUNTY: A 21-year-old man died after he was shot in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun by his 14-year-old brother as they tracked a wounded deer at 4:20 p.m.
--ROCK COUNTY: A 35-year-old man was wounded in the thigh with a 12-gauge shotgun by an unknown shooter firing at running deer during a deer drive at 9 a.m.
--RUSK COUNTY: A 20-year-old man was wounded in the ankle with a 12-gauge shotgun by a 23-year-old man shooting at running deer during a deer drive at 11:30 a.m.
--BUFFALO COUNTY: A 38-year-old man died after being shot in the chest with a 12-gauge shotgun by a 31-year-old man shooting at running deer during a deer drive at 1:28 p.m.
--SAUK COUNTY: A 30-year-old man was shot in the leg with a .30.06-caliber rifle by man during a deer drive at 12:30 p.m.
--WOOD COUNTY: A 13-year-old boy died after shooting himself in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun while hunting alone at 10:30 a.m.
--PRICE COUNTY: A 15-year-old boy died after being shot in the head with a .30.06-caliber rifle by a 50-year-old man after the boy stood up in front of him in a blind at 11:35 a.m.
--RUSK COUNTY: A 12-year-old girl shot herself in the toe with a .308-caliber rifle while hunting alone as a "deer drive stander" at 1:05 p.m.
--MARATHON COUNTY: A 65-year-old man was wounded in the abdomen and arm with a .308-caliber rifle by a 19-year-old man during a deer drive at 2:46 p.m.
--CLARK COUNTY: A 37-year-old man died after being shot in the chest by an unknown shooter at an unknown time.
--DODGE COUNTY: An 18-year-old man was wounded in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun by a 50-year-old man shooting at running deer in a deer drive at 10:15 a.m.
--SHAWANO COUNTY: A 47-year-old man was wounded after being shot in the upper buttocks with a .30.30-caliber rifle by a 33-year-old man shooting at running deer during a deer drive at 12:50 p.m.
Well, all of these seem to be honest hunting accidents. But the news about the lost gun sounds a litte strange. ###Pretty hard to shoot your self in the chest with a rifle unless you have pretty long arms. Does anyone ever think that it could be extreme animal activist. Hey blame it on a hunters ###msitake, no one well ever know? ### I don't ###believe anyhthing is a freak accident. ###But we will all keep hunting.
The thing that I noticed from all the listings was how many of these accidents were "drive" related. ###We don't really do that out here in the West and maybe it's just something I'm not use to but I've always thought that it was inherently dangerous. ###Seems like that might be the case... ###I don't think I'll be on any deer drives any time soon.
I noticed the same thing about so many of them being drive related. ###We occasionally try to make drives but the land is usually open out here in the West. ###I can only imagine that Wisconsin is pretty dense woodland and you can't see very far in the thick vegetation. ###(Thus all the shotguns) ###That would make it hard to apply the safety rule of "Be aware of you target and backstop." ###This article makes it sound like a war zone. ###I don't think I would want to be a part of it. ###I'll stay here in the open country out west.
Does the DFG keep a record of hunting accidents/statistics? It would be interesting to see how people screw up. If I'm not mistaken, the American Alpine Club publishes a record of North American mountaineering fatalities. I'd rather learn from someone elses mistakes, especially if they are fatal.
I was lucky enough to hunt Wisconsin this year (I'll post a little later with photos). ###Monday the 19th had both local papers showing deer taken on the front page as well as the fatality total. ###I was in Buffalo County and yes, the woods are THICK. ###We did two drives on Monday. ###They were all family members who had been hunting/driving this family farm of 390 acres for 20+ years. ###They weren't quite sure what to make of this SoCal hunter but they were REALLY sure that everyone knew the safe shooting lanes. ###We all had on full blaze orange. ###Still unless you got lucky, it was hard to see more that 50-70 yards in any direction. ###We only spooked up one 8 point and it ran about 30 yards in front of me. ###I had already filled my antlered tag so I watched him ###slip between two other hunters not even 50 yards apart. ###They didn't even see him. ###He just magically appeared across the draw. ###It's a lot different than SoCal. ###
They also had one accident with two fatalities but no one was shot. ###Two older guys which the papers described as local Alzheimers patients were found dead of hypothermia in a local swamp. They had guns but no licenses. ###The only food they had was cherry drops. ###I only read it once but the whole town thought it might be a hoax.
all these guys killed by shotguns.. was there any fatalities in california? ###i know there are dense woods and so on but alot of these accidents were self inflicted.. are we doing a better job in safety training??