A veteran hunting-accident investigator with the Department of Natural Resources says when one hunter shoots another, it’s “C-S-I in the woods.” The D-N-R’s Rod Slings says he began studying how to investigate hunting accidents some 20 years ago and now teaches other rangers how to gather clues and unravel what’s happened.
Slings says when it comes to mishaps involving firearms and hunting, “not all are accidents.” He says some could have been prevented, and some are truly accidents, though he says for the most part they’ve replaced that term with “incident.” The way Slings describes the work is “kind of C-S-I in the woods,” and looking for needles in a haystack. He trains officers who put together information found at the scene of an incident to re-create what happened, when there were no witnesses.
Most of the agents are active hunters themselves, he says, and spend a lot of time in the woods. He teaches them to be alert for what they should scrutinize when they get into the woods, to find whatever’s not natural at the scene, what has taken place, and to look for the pieces of the puzzle. He says they’re slug-chasers, following up incidents in the woods and trying to figure out a hunter’s state of mind.
Slings says the investigators get into every facet of an investigation, not just the forensic angle — though he’s attended many autopsies in his years with the department and he praises the state’s medical examiners. He says they try to learn something and turn around the information to educate and keep hunting a safe activity.
Slings says when a hunting incident takes place, “it’s not big news because there’s so many, it’s big news because there’s so few any more.” He says Iowa and Missouri are nationwide leaders in hunting-incident investigation and in teaching hunter safety. Slings will travel to New Zealand next week to speak at an International Firearms Safety Conference there.