Want to know why positively identifying your target before you squeeze the trigger is one of the primary tenets of gun safety and why blasting indiscriminately into the night at noises is a bad idea? Ask two coyote hunters who were shot by an as-yet unidentified person in rural Indiana on Saturday, June 17, 2023.
Although an investigation is ongoing, officials are calling the shooting a hunting accident, officials say.
According to a press release from the Rush County Sheriff’s Department, deputies responded to a 911 call at approximately 10:52 p.m. about two individuals suffering from gunshot wounds in Anderson Township. Anderson Township Fire, Milroy EMS, and Rushville Fire EMS also responded.
When they arrived on the scene, first responders found two victims, Joseph Bell and Alan Stockman, and immediately rendered aid to both men, who were seriously injured.
Stockman was taken by ambulance to nearby Decatur County Hospital in Greensburg, Indiana. Bell’s injuries required transport by helicopter to an Indianapolis hospital for treatment. Both are reported to be in stable condition.
Details of the incident are scarce, but some sources claim the two men were calling ’yotes when they were mistaken for predators by a nearby landowner, who started shooting into the darkness, striking both hunters and causing serious injury.
While the official Indiana coyote season ended on March 15, landowners can kill coyotes on private property year-round and can use mouth, hand-operated, or electronic calls. Plus, hunters can take coyotes on private property outside the regulated season as long as they have a valid hunting license and written permission from the landowner.
It’s unlikely that song dogs have taken up arms and started shooting back. Since Acme rocket skates and giant rubber bands are more Wile E.’s speed, there’s probably some truth to that story from social media.
How to Not Be Mistaken for a Coyote
Unsurprisingly, the armchair coyote hunting experts have come out in full force with their social media commentary, blaming the hunters for everything from trespassing to reckless behavior. While the details still aren’t confirmed, if it went down the way officials think, any responsible hunter knows the onus ultimately falls on whoever pulled the trigger.
As Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, the founding father of firearms safety, taught us, “Always be sure of your target.” Shooting randomly into the night is, like, the exact opposite of that rule.
Still, self-preservation is important, and you can’t always trust every other hunter in the field. Anything you can do to prevent being popped with a cap Dick Cheney–style is worthwhile.
If you’re predator hunting at night, blaze orange isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good.
So, jokes mostly aside, here are some common sense things you can do to reduce the chances of being mistaken for a pasture puppy.
Know the Area — Do your scouting in the daytime, when you can assess the risk of other hunters (or skittish, trigger-happy landowners) sharing your spot.
Tell a Neighbor — If you’re hunting private property, it’s a good idea to let adjacent landowners know you’ll be out there calling after sundown.
Light It Up — Plenty of modern coyote hunters use night vision or thermal technology to help them see after dark without being seen by wild nocturnal eyes. However, visible artificial light can help others identify you as decidedly non-canine. As far as I know, Acme hasn’t started shipping flashlights to coyotes. If you and your hunting buddies are running IR optics and lights, putting an IR tag somewhere on your gear may not be a terrible idea.
While conventional white light tends to scare away game, a red (or green) lens will go unnoticed by after-dark predators but shines like a red don’t-shoot-me flag to humans. Some jogging headlamps will include a small red light on the back of the unit, which would work great for this.
But if we all follow Cooper’s advice and the basic rules of gun safety AT ALL TIMES, these precautions should be unnecessary. Stay safe out there, ’yote killers.