KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Cpl. Ken Lowell with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said their No. 1 goal as conservation officers in the recreation section is to keep hunters safe.
“That’s our goal is to train hunters and outdoorsmen to stay safe and to enjoy the outdoors and hunting, that we all love and do it in a safe manner,” Cpl. Lowell said during a phone interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday. “So, when stuff happens like that, it's sad to see. Sad for the individual and sad for the families.”
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said on Monday, Dec. 13, at dusk, a 17-year-old was hunting in Solon Township from a tree stand when his 12-year-old brother went outside to get him for dinner.
“Unfortunately he saw the movement, mistook it for a deer, which he was deer hunting,” Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said during a Zoom interview on Wednesday. “And a very unfortunate circumstance happened where he inadvertently shot his brother and seriously injured his brother.”
Sheriff LaJoye-Young said that the 12-year-old is in stable condition and confirmed that the older sibling had a permit and was hunting during doe-hunting season.
However, they opened an investigation, as it's standard protocol for all shootings.
“We are investigating whether there’s a reckless portion of this, if he’s acting outside of what normal custom would be for deer hunting,” the sheriff said. “One of the issues that will be vetted is the light condition at the time of the shooting and whether that was beyond what was being allowed.”
As sad as the situation is, the sheriff and DNR said it’s a good time to go over hunting safety.
“We want to make sure that we’re wearing our hunter orange. We want to be visible to other hunters,” Corporal Lowell said. “That’s our first step in staying safe there.”
He said it’s not about being visible for the animals but for other hunters. He added that it’s important to be in a safe firing zone with no blind spots.
“You need to know what you’re shooting at and you need to know what is beyond that animal,” Corporal Lowell said. “If you’re shooting at a deer, you have to also realize that bullet can go beyond that animal if you miss.”
He said it can go into a home or building or, even worse, a person. So, he said it’s best to keep the firearm pointing down to the ground as often as possible.
“We want to make sure that we’re pointing in a safe direction at all times when we’re carrying a firearm,” Corporal Lowell said. “Keeping our fingers away from the trigger is very important until you're ready to fire because if you keep your finger near that trigger and you trip or you bump something and you’re close and that finger hits the trigger, you may have an accidental discharge.”
Sheriff LaJoye-Young stressed firearm safety as well, and carrying a communication device whether it be a cell phone or a walkie-talkie in case anyone gets lost or disoriented.
She said the department puts on trainings on hunting safety and so does the DNR. She also suggested visiting their website for further tips.
Nevertheless, firearm safety is always a top priority, she said.
“Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded. Understand that a rifle that’s strong enough to be deer hunting with can be deadly,” Sheriff LaJoye-Young said. “Certainly our hearts go out to this family. Obviously this has got to be particularly difficult because there’s two brothers involved in it. So we’re praying for the family [and] the recovery of the 12-year-old.”