Sunday, December 8, 2013
A Standish man who was shot in the left eye by his son while they were hunting wild turkeys Monday said he is more concerned about how his son is feeling than his own injury.
ACCORDING to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s website, the popularity of turkey hunting has seen a resurgence. The bird’s numbers and habitat have increased through the management efforts of wildlife managers and sportsmen.
IN 2010, more than 18,000 wild turkey permits were issued and more than 6,000 turkeys harvested. That compares with 2000, when nearly 15,000 permits were issued and 1,500 birds harvested.
THE NATIONAL Wild Turkey Federation reports that turkey hunting has become one of the safest outdoor activities. The national incident rate for turkey hunting has dropped to 2.95 injuries per 100,000 hunters.
ONLY SHOTGUN gauges 10 through 20 or a bow and arrow may be used to take a bearded wild turkey during the spring hunting season. Electronic turkey-calling devices are legal.
HUNTERS may hunt wild turkey from a half hour before sunrise until noon.
Monday was the first day of wild turkey season, which ends June 2.
"My boy is torn apart. He has been in the woods since he was knee high to a grasshopper. I told him, it was a full-fledged, 100 percent accident, and not to worry because it was my bad eye," said 61-year-old Joseph Kennedy, who lives on Deerfield Circle.
Kennedy said that with the exception of limited peripheral vision, he has been blind in his left eye since birth.
He underwent eye surgery Monday before being discharged from Maine Medical Center. He was recovering at home Monday night, but said the injury remains painful. Kennedy said he may need additional surgery to repair the damage.
An avid outdoorsman and former bow-hunting instructor, Kennedy has been hunting and fishing with his son, 29-year-old Kevin Kennedy of Westbrook, for years.
Kennedy said he and his son were in the woods hunting about 4:45 a.m. Monday. According to a news release issued by Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service, the Kennedys were hunting off Anderson Road in Windham when they decided to split up about 9:45 a.m. to pursue different flocks.
After hearing a gunshot, the younger Kennedy began walking toward the sound. He spotted two turkeys and fired his shotgun three times at one of the birds, MacDonald said.
The older Kennedy was standing behind evergreen trees and could not be seen by his son at the time. One pellet lodged in his father's left eye, MacDonald said.
Kennedy's son drove his father to Maine Medical Center in Portland, which by law had to report the shooting to authorities, according to District Game Warden Peter Herring, the primary investigator.
Herring said he returned to the scene of the shooting with Kevin Kennedy. Herring said Kennedy's father was standing behind several evergreen trees when his son shot at the two turkeys.
The shells were filled with bird shot pellets, which spray at a target. A single, copper-plated pellet passed through the trees and hit his father.
Herring said he was surprised that only one pellet struck Kennedy. He also said that wardens wearing fluorescent-orange vests could not be seen when they stood behind the evergreen trees.
"His father was not in plain view at the time," Herring said.
Herring said his agency will conduct an investigation before presenting its report to the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office, which must decide whether to press charges.
"It's a matter of protocol that we present the evidence to the district attorney," Herring said. "Someone has to be found criminally culpable before any charges can be brought."
As for the elder Kennedy, he remains hopeful that the district attorney will not press charges against his son.
As far as the hunting went, Kennedy said he and his son came out of the woods empty-handed.
"The only turkey that got shot was me," he said.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org