Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Witnesses recount hunting accident that led to death of 11-year-old boy

Laura Fitzgerald

Port Huron Times Herald

Witnesses described in court Wednesday how a day out hunting resulted in the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy in Clay Township.

John Varndell Jr., 40, appeared before St. Clair County District Court Judge Michael Hulewicz for an examination hearing Wednesday.

Ronald Rohn Jr., Christian Washburn, Scott Washburn Jr., and Joady Rohn testified they were hunting with Varndell and his stepson, Zachary Rock, on their relative’s private property in Clay Township on Sept. 13.

Varndell and Zachary went in the woods on the property and returned earlier that day to say they had shot and injured a deer. After dinner time, Varndell, Zachary, Ronald Rohn Jr., Christian Washburn, Scott Washburn Jr., Joady Rohn and another young relative left to find the deer, witnesses said.

Christian Washburn said he noticed a pistol at Varndell’s waistband prior to going out to search for the deer.

Ronald Rohn, Jody Rohn and Scott Washburn said the only person that had a gun that they were aware of was Scott Washburn.

The group decided to split up to search for the deer after finding a blood trail but eventually losing it. Varndell went with Ronald Rohn Jr., Christian Washburn, and Jody Rohn. Zachary went with another young relative and Scott Washburn Jr.

Christian Washburn testifies during an exam hearing for John Varndell Jr. Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in the St. Clair County District Court in Marine City. Washburn was hunting with Varndell when he allegedly shot and killed Zachary Rock, his 11-year-old stepson.

Witnesses said it was getting dark, and visibility was low in the dense forest brush. No one was wearing hunter’s orange. Varndell had also been smoking marijuana that day, they testified.

Varndell went a little ahead of his group and indicated he saw a deer, witnesses said.

“He said he got the deer and then he started shooting,” Ronald Rohn said.

Witnesses said they heard one shot, followed by several shots in rapid succession from the area that Varndell was standing.

Scott Washburn said he heard shots and wasn’t aware of where they were coming from, so he told Zachary and the other boy with them to get behind him. Then, he saw Zachary fall to the ground.

Varndell, Ronald Rohn Jr., Christian Washburn, and Joady Rohn joined the group after hearing shouts that someone had been shot, and discovered that Zachary had been shot in the head.

Joady Rohn testifies during an exam hearing for John Varndell Jr. Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in the St. Clair County District Court in Marine City. Rohn was hunting with Varndell when he allegedly shot and killed Zachary Rock, his 11-year-old stepson.

When Varndell discovered what had happened to Zachary, Ronald Rohn and Joady Rohn testified they saw Varndell holding his head with a gun in his hand.

Several witnesses said Varndell said he thought he saw a deer, but shot Zachary. Joady Rohn said Varndell told her daughter about the incident after they had carried Zachary up to the house and called 911.

“He said he was sorry he accidentally shot Zachary,” Joady Rohn said, referencing a conversation Varndell had with her daughter.

During her testimony, Varndell became visibly upset, wiping tears from his eyes.

John Varndell Jr. becomes emotional during his examination hearing in front of St. Clair County District Judge Michael Hulewicz Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in the St. Clair County District Court in Marine City. Varndell is facing multiple charges for allegedly shooting and killing Zachary Rock, his 11-year-old stepson, earlier this month.

At approximately 8 p.m. on Sept. 13, officers responded to the 6300 block of Benoit Road for a report of a hunting accident. First responders found the 11-year-old boy being attended to by his family and immediately started CPR.

While treating the boy, officers heard a gunshot. The boy’s mother injured her hand when she accidentally discharged the firearm while trying to unload it, police said.

The boy was transported to McLaren Macomb hospital where he died.

Arguing for a bind over of all charges, St. Clair County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Sparling said Varndell’s negligent actions resulting in Zachary’s death should be punished.

St. Clair County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Sparling questions a witness during an exam hearing for John Varndell Jr. Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in the St. Clair County District Court in Marine City. Varndell is facing multiple charges for allegedly shooting and killing Zachary Rock, his 11-year-old stepson, earlier this month.

“The only thing clearly that is an accident here is the resulting death of an 11-year-old boy,” Sparling said. “It was not accidental that he smoked marijuana; it was not accidental he took that gun out there when he was told not to; it was not accidental that he fired that gun; it was not accidental that he fired when it was too dark to see. The loss of the life of an 11-year-old boy, that was due to these conscious decisions and choices that the defendant made.”

Varndell’s attorney, Michael Boucher, argued against the case being bound to circuit court.

“At the end of the day, judge, it was a hunting accident,” Boucher said.

Michael Boucher, attorney for John Varndell Jr., questions a witness during an exam hearing for John Varndell Jr. Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in the St. Clair County District Court in Marine City. Varndell is facing multiple charges for allegedly shooting and killing Zachary Rock, his 11-year-old stepson, earlier this month.

Hulewicz bound over Varndell to St. Clair County Circuit Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter, felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition, two felony firearms second offense charges and a habitual fourth violent offender.

Due to the habitual offender enhancement, he faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

Varndell was released from parole in January for a felony firearms charge.

His bond is set at $500,000 cash/surety.

Krystal Rock and Shana Rock, Zachary’s aunts, said they are supportive of the charges against Varndell because the incident could have been avoided.

“Every charge he got, he deserved,” Krystal Rock said.

She described her nephew as a happy, smart kid who loved fishing, hunting and being outside.

“We are crushed, we are devastated,” Shana Rock said. “He will always be a void in our heart.”

Australian Trophy Hunter Gored By Dying Buffalo He’d Just Shot

Published July 16, 2020
Updated July 29, 2020

The bull managed to leave a “Coke can-sized” hole in the hunter’s leg — but died shortly after.

Mcsherry With Bull

Chris Mcsherry/FacebookChris Mcsherry was not put off by the incident and claimed that he will return to hunting after recovering.

A trophy hunter in Australia suffered the brutal revenge of a wild buffalo when he was gored twice in the leg by a 1,700-pound bull that he’d just shot for sport.

The incident left him with a “Coke can-sized” wound in his right leg and an eight-inch gash below his buttocks. Meanwhile, the buffalo managed to survive several bow strikes for long enough to fight back before soon dying from its injuries.

According to the Daily Mail, 35-year-old Chris Mcsherry, a bow hunter of 20 years, was on a hunting trip with a friend at Port Bradshaw off the northeastern coast of the Northern Territory on June 20. When Mcsherry came across a prized buffalo, he quickly shot the massive beast several times.

Underestimating the buffalo’s might, Mcsherry waited confidently nearby for the animal to drop dead from his attack. But the bull then charged him instead.

“I managed to turn and get about three steps in before he was on my back and gored his horns into my upper thigh, pushing me forward,” Mcsherry told news outlet NT News.

Hunter killed by grizzly in Alaska died during ‘surprise attack’

The hunter who was killed by a grizzly bear in an Alaska national park died in a surprise attack that left him unable to defend himself while field-dressing a moose, officials said.

Austin Pfeiffer, a 22-year-old from Ohio, was killed Sunday during a 10-day hunting trip at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve as he salvaged meat from a moose he and his hunting partner killed a day earlier, the National Park Service said Thursday.

An investigation found Pfeiffer died during the “surprise attack” and didn’t have a firearm or bear spray with him at the time, according to Thursday’s statement.

No evidence was found that the bear remained in the remote area of the 13.2 million-acre park. Pfieffer’s death was the first known fatal bear attack in the wilderness area since it was established in 1980, officials said, adding that park rangers will continue to monitor the area for bear activity.

Pfieffer and his hunting partner, who was also from out of state, killed the moose late Saturday and returned to the area to field-dress it before taking it back to their camp, a park spokeswoman told the Anchorage Daily News.

Pfieffer decided to stay behind to butcher the animal as his partner took loads of the meat to their campsite, park spokeswoman Jan Maslen said.

10 test positive for COVID-19 at Routt County hunting camp as local case total increases

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A hunting camp in Routt County recently experienced an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases, county health officials confirmed Wednesday.

The camp had 10 confirmed cases, none of which were permanent county residents. Not being local residents, those positives were not included in the county’s total number of cases.

“They are here in the county doing their work,” Nicole Harty, the county’s permanent epidemiologist, said as she briefed the Routt County Board of Commissioners during a public health meeting Wednesday. “We know where they are and that they’re in quarantine.”

“(This) highlights again the risk; not cohorting and trying to limit your contact among people,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health medical officer.

“Hey, you guys can handle anything but maybe not COVID,” Monger said.

With rifle season ahead, the bulk of expected hunters is still to come, Harrington said.

A family event that took place in Routt County also had an outbreak of COVID-19, with five people there testing positive. A total of 16 out-of-county residents tested positive between the hunting camp and family event.

In the past two weeks, from Sept. 7 to 20, Routt County has added 11 positive cases to its total, not counting the 10 from the hunting camp. That translates to 42.9 cases per 100,000 people and puts the county now into the medium spread category, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There were eight positive cases from Sept. 14 to 20, with five cases in one day. Almost 400 tests were conducted in the past week.

Harty said the number of cases in a two-week period per 100,000 people is the best metric to compare what’s happening in the county to what’s happening elsewhere in Colorado.

Routt County’s increase in cases follows the statewide trend, Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said.

“The trend in number of cases per day is increasing,” Harty confirmed. “We’re seeing things start to trend up, but not quite as high as things were at the end of July.”

Harty concluded the increasing positivity is a sign of more cases in the community, not just because more tests are being conducted.

“Sure, there was an increase in the number of tests that were done but not in a proportion of the number of new cases that we had seen,” she explained.

Routt County is now also at a C- rating for social distancing compared to its activity prior to COVID-19.

“I don’t believe it’s at a point where we need to be incredibly concerned about it and just notice what’s going on,” Harrington said.

Dr. Fritha Morrison, a temporary epidemiologist for the county, said the latest test results are likely the beginning of results from Labor Day. That will continue for the next week or two, she said.

Harrington was especially cognizant of the demographics of the positive cases from last week. As he noted, four of the eight cases were found in individuals ages 40 to 50, and the other four who tested positive were in their 20s to 30s.

“Contrast that to what we’ve seen in the weeks this summer,” Harrington said. “If this trend continues, it would be a concerning trend. It would emphasize there is a greater community spread and in more segments of our population.”

Another concern with the latest cases is the explanation as to how the disease was transmitted. As Harrington explained, there wasn’t much explanation as to how they contracted the virus.

“This would indicate increased community spread,” he affirmed. “But we’ve been here before. We know we can do better and be out of this.”

Despite now being in the medium spread category, the county is considering putting in a request with the state to be placed in the Level 1 category for the Safer at Home phase.

The lowest phase, Protect Our Neighbors means that communities that meet certain criteria have less stringent restrictions than under Stay at Home and Safer at Home, according to the state health department.

A transition to the Protect Our Neighbors phase would be based upon the county’s hospitalization and positivity rates. UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has cared for a total of eight hospitalized patients with COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

An official decision from the county commissioners on whether to submit a request to join the Level 1 Safer at Home phase is expected this week.

Routt County only provides updates on its positive COVID-19 case count on Tuesday evenings through its online dashboard, then shares the data and analysis the following day with the three Routt County commissioners during a public health meeting. While the state updates its numbers when positive tests are received, county officials have stated there are no exceptions that will be made for early reporting despite having any new positive cases.

“The numbers alone do not tell the story, and public behavior should not change based on case count,” Robin Schepper with the Routt County Office of Community Engagement said in an email to Steamboat Pilot & Today. “We need to practice the Five Commitments to Containment regardless of the case count.”

STARS takes man to hospital after northern hunting accident

Published Thursday, September 24, 2020 1:54PM MDT

StarsFile photo.

EDMONTON — A 21-year-old man was air lifted to hospital in Edmonton with injuries after a hunting accident in northern Alberta.

According to police, the incident happened on Tuesday shortly before 8:30 p.m.

RCMP and STARS Air Ambulance were called to a remote location northwest of Fairview.

Investigators haven’t disclosed the seriousness of the man’s injuries.

Fairview is about 550 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Hunter Killed by Grizzly Bear in Alaska at Largest U.S. National Park

The attack was the first known bear mauling fatality at Wrangell-St. Elias since the park was established in 1980

By Rachel DeSantis

September 23, 2020 11:55 AM
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

A hunter was killed by a grizzly bear at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Sunday, the first known bear fatality in the country’s largest national park.

The hunter was with a friend on a 10-day moose hunt at the park, which is located in southeast Alaska, when the incident occurred near the Chisana River drainage, the National Park Service said in a news release.

The hunter’s identity is being withheld pending an investigation, and the cause of death and type of injuries sustained remain unclear.

The NPS said it was the first known bear mauling fatality at Wrangell-St. Elias since the park was established in 1980.

“Visitors are encouraged to be Bear Aware when traveling in the backcountry and take precautions such as carrying bear spray and using Bear Resistant Food Containers,” the release said.

Guidelines issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for staying safe around bears vary based on the situation, but hunters are advised to never approach a bear, and to remain calm and make yourself appear larger if you are approached. Running is also not advised, as it may elicit a chase response.

RELATED: ‘Predatory’ Black Bears Kill Two People Within Two Days in Alaska Wilderness


It’s known for its mountains, rivers and glaciers, and also contains one of the largest active volcanoes in North America.

The height of the bears in the park range from 4.5 feet to 6 or 7 feet tall, and they can measure up to 9 feet when standing. They weigh between 300 and 1,500 pounds, the NPS said.

ID: Hunters fight off reported grizzly bear near Island Park

ID: Hunters fight off reported grizzly bear near Island Park


Stock image

ISLAND PARK — A hunter survived a bear attack near Island Park Friday after using bear spray on the animal.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reports the archery hunter, who has not been named, was in a remote area of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest south of Two Top Mountain looking for elk. The victim and his hunting partner ran into the bear while moving through thick brush. Then bear attacked them.

Both hunters were carrying bear spray and were able to successfully deploy it during the attack, according to a department news release. But the victim was knocked down to the ground in the process of spraying the bear.

The hunting partner continued to deploy the bear spray, shortening the attack and eventually scaring off the bear. The hunters said it was a grizzly, but Fish and Game officials have been unable to confirm that.

The hunters walked out of the area to call for help and the victim was taken to Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg for treatment. IDFG spokesman James Brower says the victim only received minor injuries from the bear’s claws.

Fish and Game say they are placing signs on nearby roads about the attack to warn of bear activity in the area.

Officials remind anyone traveling in bear country to be prepared and carry bear spray.

The hunters were in a remote area just south of Two Top Moutain near Island Park. | Google Maps

Hunter recovering after being bitten by a grizzly near Pemberton, B.C.

Tessa VikanderReporter,

@TessaVikander Contact

Published Saturday, September 12, 2020 11:23AM PDTLast Updated Saturday, September 12, 2020 7:07PM PDT

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A man is recovering in hospital after being attacked by a grizzly bear while hunting in the backcountry near Pemberton.

VANCOUVER — A 36-year-old man is recovering in hospital after being bitten by a grizzly bear in backcountry territory near Pemberton, B.C.

Sgt. Simon Gravel with the Sea to Sky Conservation Office shared details of the incident, saying the man and two friends were on their first day of a hunting trip when there was a “surprise encounter.”

“The man was hiking towards the North Creek Cabin and he saw a bear cub and the first thing he knew the sow was on him, biting his leg, so he fought back,” Gravel said. “The bear disengaged and came back shortly after to cause more injuries, then he fought back again and eventually the bear disengaged.”

Gravel said the trail was in dense bush and there was no way for the man to know there was a bear cub feeding on berries nearby, adding it was a “hazardous situation.”

The two men he was travelling with applied first aid and took shelter in a nearby hut, where they activated a spot beacon.

David MacKenzie with Pemberton Search and Rescue said they received a call about the incident around 6 p.m. on Friday, saying there was a person injured by a bear in the backcountry.

“We’ve got a lot of local knowledge of these areas,” MacKenzie said, and the text message from the beacon contained GPS coordinates so the rescue teams were “able to figure out where they were.”

The men were all airlifted out of the area. Gravel said that was a precaution taken to avoid another encounter with the bear. The injured man was then transferred to Lions Gate Hospital for surgery.

“It seems like he has a good spirit and he will recover from his injuries,” Gravel said.

The BC Mountainerring Club has closed the cabin for the remainder of the season to avoid any further interactions. Signs are also being installed at the trail head.

The attack is the third that the search and rescue team has responded to this year.

“This is actually the third grizzly bear encounter call that we’ve had in the last month,” MacKenzie said. “In my experience, I can’t recall any in the last 10 years.”

He believes there are more people venturing farther for camping and hiking and, as a result, the search organization is warning would-be adventurers that they are visiting grizzly territory.

“Be bear aware. You have to remember we’re actually visitors in their territory,” MacKenzie said. “If you come across a mother and some cubs, you want to distance yourself, stay calm.”

Stepfather arrested after 11-year-old fatally shot in Clay Township hunting accident

Posted at 10:06 AM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 5:25 PM, Sep 14, 2020

(WXYZ) — An 11-year-old boy was shot and killed after a hunting accident in Clay Township. The accident happened Sunday night in the area of Benoit Road and Marsh around 8 p.m. according to Clay Township Police.

The land where the incident happened is owned by the boy’s family. However, they live out of the area.

Police Chief Michael Koach said a group of people were looking for a deer they had shot earlier in the day when the child was hit by gunfire. It’s believed at this time that the child’s stepfather pulled the trigger, Chief Koach told 7 Action News.

The stepfather is now in police custody.

It’s unclear where on the boy’s body he was shot. He was taken to McLaren Macomb Hospital and then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Detroit, where he died overnight.

“He was treated by our officers and EMS,” Chief Koach said. “While doing so they heard another gunshot go off. Ended up finding that the mother trying to unload the firearm had injured herself in doing so,” he said.

The child’s mother is expected to recover.

“With this being the youth hunt weekend, this is something where they need to be accompanied by another adult in doing so. I think what took place there, family members went out looking for the deer and that’s when the tragic accident occurred,” Koach said.

Youth deer hunting season is for children 16 and under and their families. The group consisted of 5 people, 3 adults and two boys. The boys were the 11-year-old and a 15-year-old.

While the 40-year-old stepfather is in police custody, he has not been formally charged. he does have a criminal record. Sources tell 7 Action News he is being held as a felon in possession of a firearm.

The St. Clair County Prosecutor’s Office is reviewing the case.

This tragedy the Chief said, is a reminder of the importance of hunting and firearm safety. The investigation is focused on were they hunting too late in the dark and were they wearing bright orange as required by law.

“We’re a big hunting community. Our department instructs hunter safety as well each year so it’s something that we really take to heart,” Koach told 7 Action News.

The name of the 11-year-old boy has not yet been released.

Stay with 7 Action News for updates.

14-year-old Michigan deer hunter killed after being run over by corn harvester

Associated Press

CASEVILLE, Mich. — A 14-year-old deer hunter who possibly fell asleep in a farm field was killed when he was run over by a corn harvester in Michigan’s Thumb region, police said.

Emergency workers were called about 9 a.m. Saturday to the cornfield in a rural area near the Huron County city of Caseville after a farm worker spotted the boy soon after accidentally driving over him, according to the county sheriff’s office.

The boy from the nearby city of Elkton had been dropped off earlier for deer hunting at the field and might have fallen asleep, the sheriff’s office said. The farm worker wasn’t aware that anyone was in the field.

The boy’s identity wasn’t immediately released by authorities and an autopsy was expected to be performed in the coming days.