The grandmother of the woman who was fatally shot on her land in Hebron by a deer hunter Saturday said she was immersed in one of her favorite pastimes – digging for gemstones – when she died. A friend of the deceased woman, meanwhile, described her as a “free spirit.”

As of Sunday night, authorities still had not publicly identified the 38-year-old hunter from Hebron who shot and killed Karen Wrentzel, 34, of 490 Greenwood Mountain Road. They also did not say whether the man was on Wrentzel’s land when the shooting occurred.

Karen Wrentzel

Wrentzel’s grandmother, Beverly Spofford of Hebron, said in a telephone interview Sunday that she deeded about 15 acres of land to her granddaughter, and that is where Wrentzel was shot and killed Saturday morning.

“She was on her own property doing what she liked to do, digging for rocks, gems,” Spofford said. “She was just having fun.”

She said that her granddaughter “loved the outdoors. She was a nature girl.”

The incident happened around 10:30 a.m. Saturday about 200 to 300 yards off Greenwood Mountain Road in the Oxford County town near the Minot town line, according to the Maine Warden Service. The man who shot Wrentzel was hunting with his father.

“Wrentzel was not hunting when she died and had no affiliation with the two men,” the warden service said in a statement.

Spofford said she and her granddaughter were unaware that Saturday marked the first day of the firearm season for deer hunting for Maine residents.

Karen Wretzel, 34, was killed on her land in Hebron on Saturday in a hunting incident, and will be remembered as a free spirit. Photo by Jon Spofford

“Neither one of us knew it was hunting season,” she said.

The warden service is investigating the incident and said it is working with the Maine Attorney General’s Office on the case.

It said that members of its Forensic Mapping Team and Evidence Recovery Team were on the scene Saturday and will likely revisit the area as the investigation proceeds. “Game wardens continue to question the two hunters involved as well as witnesses,” it said. “The two men have been cooperating with game wardens.”

‘MISSED BY MANY’

Friends of Wrentzel said Sunday she was trying to create an off-the-grid homestead on the land her grandmother had given her.

Autumn Banks of Lewiston, a longtime friend of Wrentzel, described her as an amazing cook and nature lover.

“We became really close friends. We always talked about astrology, and rocks and nature and climbing trees,” Banks said.

Banks said Wrentzel recently moved into her grandmother’s home on Greenwood Mountain Road to keep an eye on her and work on the land, which was posted.

Tia Downing, another friend and Banks’ partner, said Wrentzel was dating Downing’s cousin, Kyle Logan.

“We set them up,” Downing said.

In her effort to make an off-the-grid homestead, Wrentzel was singlehandedly clearing trees with a chain saw, her friends said. She was a cook at Mac’s Grill in Auburn for several years. More recently she was working for friends at a farm stand.

“She was a gypsy, a free spirit and incredibly humble. She didn’t like to be the center of attention,” Downing said.

She said Wrentzel had an endless and esoteric knowledge about astrology, gemstones, psychology and history.

“You could talk to her for hours and not get bored,” Downing said.

Jon Spofford of Hebron, Wrentzel’s uncle, remembered his niece in a Facebook post, saying: “You are unforgettable. What happened to you today was beyond tragic.”

Spofford also wrote: “We all have many experiences of our time with you. At the very least I can say that you passed doing something you enjoyed … digging around for rocks, in the side of a mountain, made out of rocks.”

Spofford also said in his post that his niece was shot while on her own land.

“You lived life the way you wanted. I respected your appetite to experience life. You will be missed by many,” he wrote “It’s not right what happened to you. Rest in peace, my niece.”

FIRST FATALITY SINCE 2012

The warden service statement Sunday did not address the question of whether the hunter was on Wrentzel’s property when he shot her, and Cpl. John MacDonald, the agency’s spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

On its website, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife says that public access to private land is a privilege and not a right. The department advises hunters to obtain permission from landowners before hunting on private property. About 94 percent of the state’s land area is privately owned, according to DIF&W.

The website says that the deer hunting season for nonresidents begins Monday. The firearms season for deer ends on Nov. 25. Maine has over 219,000 licensed hunters.

According to the warden service, Saturday’s shooting was the first fatal hunting incident in Maine since November 2012, when two deer hunters in Wales fired at the same deer, and one of them, Gerard Parent, 49, was hit in the throat and died.

In 2011, William Briggs, 61, of Windham shot and killed Peter Kolofsky, 46, in Sebago early in the hunting season. Briggs was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison, with all but 45 days suspended. Briggs was also required to perform 500 hours of community service related to hunting safety.

The number of hunting deaths has plummeted over the past 30 years because of mandatory hunter education courses and the requirement for hunters to wear blaze orange.

Last year, there were four hunting-related firearm injuries in Maine, three of which were self-inflicted, according to DIF&W. Over the past 10 years, Maine has averaged fewer than seven hunting incidents a year. Nearly half – 44 percent – of firearm-related injuries are self-inflicted.

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