DNR conservation officer Ken Lonneman says 36-year-old William Rancourt was hunting at the Boone River Greenbelt public hunting area in Wright County around 1:20 p.m. when the accident happened.
“Long story short — it was really a freak accident– one of the hunters in the hunting party set his gun down on the ground and one of the dogs in the hunting party just stepped just right, or just wrong, onto the trigger guard of that shotgun, and the gun fired,” Lonneman says.
Lonneman says Rancourt was hunting with three others and was the only one hit by the shot. He was taken to the hospital in Fort Dodge and Lonneman says the hunter was lucky he was about 22 yards away when the 12-gauge fired.
“He’s fortunate that the distance was as far as it was, because shotguns are extremely dangerous at close ranges,” Lonneman says. “At 22 yards he caught most of the shot pattern in his back from his waist up to his neck. He was in x-rays yesterday as they were determining if they would require surgery to remove the pellets, or if they could get most of them with a forceps.”
Lonneman says the distance definitely kept the accident from being fatal. “At three yards it’s going to do a lot more damage than at 22 yards. But he still got peppered pretty good at 22 yards,” according to Lonneman.
Hunting dogs are commonly used in pheasant hunting, but Lonneman says from his experience accidents involving dogs are rare. “It’s only happened twice that I’ve seen in my 31 years as a conservation officer where a dog actually was responsible for the accidental discharge of a gun. But it does happen,” he says.
He says the accident is another reminder about hunting safety. “And what we want to emphasize to the hunters is a friendly reminder –.we can learn from these people’s mistakes — always unload your gun and double-check the safety before putting a firearm down,” Lonneman says. “Whether it is on the ground or leaning it up against a fence or a tree, because you never know when something like that is going to knock it over.”
Lonneman says the dog that stepped on the gun was one of two brought from New Hampshire for the hunt. And he believes it Rancourt’s own dog which stepped on the gun. “They were good bird dogs and I think as any of us can imagine, accidents can happen,” Lonneman says, “and that one put its foot in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He says the dogs are fairly young German shorthairs and it is likely they hadn’t been pheasant hunting before.