PORTLAND — A deer hunter from Windham faces a manslaughter charge for fatally shooting another hunter in Sebago in November.

William Briggs, 61, was indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury last week. Briggs shot Peter Kolofsky, 46, in woods near Kolofsky’s home off Hoghill Fat Road.

Briggs was hunting with his brother late in the afternoon on Nov. 5. The two separated when Briggs saw what he believed to be antlers moving in an area of brush and trees with leaves, said his lawyer, Peter DeTroy.

Briggs fired a shot and nothing happened, DeTroy said Tuesday.

“He saw the antlers moving again, and that’s when he shot the fatal shot,” DeTroy said.

Briggs yelled for his brother, who came running. They tried to call 911 but got no service, said DeTroy. They then ran to the road and called for help there, he said.

A married father of two, Kolofsky was pronounced dead at the scene. He was wearing blaze orange, as required by state law.

DeTroy said there were antlers near Kolofsky’s body. Hunters commonly use antlers for “rattling” to attract deer to an area. Rattling mimics the sound of clashing antlers during the rut, when deer breed and bucks spar to win mates.

“The dominant deer, if it hears clashing of antlers in (its) territory, it’s going to come running — ‘Who’s in my territory?’” said Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service. “Even smaller bucks will come into the area and see what’s going on.”

Maine law requires hunters to positively identify their targets before firing. The law describes an unobstructed view of the head and torso as the most critical part of evaluating a potential target.

The law also requires hunters to realize that other factors, including distance, terrain and lighting, come into play in target identification.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said manslaughter must involve criminal negligence or reckless behavior. She would not discuss the facts of Briggs’ case, but said he has been cooperative. Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Friends described Kolofsky as a logger, a carpenter and a commercial fisherman who had a strong work ethic and a generous spirit.

“Our position is, this was a terrible, terrible accident — a terrible tragedy,” DeTroy said. “Mr. Briggs has been absolutely distraught about it, has been from day one.”

He described Briggs as a longtime hunter who has cooperated with investigators, and who tested negative for alcohol and drugs after the shooting. State law requires any person responsible for a hunting fatality to provide a blood sample for drug and alcohol testing.

Briggs has not been arrested on the charge. DeTroy said Briggs will plead not guilty at his arraignment, which has not been scheduled.

There are 200,000 licensed hunters in the state. The 2011 hunting season began Oct. 29 and firearm season ran through Nov. 26.

The previous hunting fatality in the state was in 2008, when a New Gloucester man accidentally shot himself in Piscataquis County.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: akim@pressherald.com