Take a Hike, Not a Life

TEXT AND WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY ©JIM ROBERTSON

From the Spring issue of the C.A.S.H. Courier

Photo by Jim Robertson

 

Living near prime wildlife habitat means that at any
given moment you might witness the astounding sight of
great Vs of migratory ducks or cackling Canada geese
flying right overhead. If you’re lucky, trumpeter swans
might be among the waterfowl feeding and calling in the
nearby estuary. And wood ducks or hooded mergansers
might pay your inland pond a visit while searching for a
quiet place to nest.
The downside of living near a natural wonderland?
Being awakened Sunday morning at first light by the
repeated volley of shotgun blasts, as though all-out war
has been declared on all things avian (as is currently happening here this morning). The Elmers (hunters) out there
(no doubt dressed in the latest expensive camo-pattern—
a fashion statement apparently meant to impress the other
Elmers out there) must be reveling in the fact that the
dense morning fog allows them to “sneak” (in their loud
outboard motor boats) up close enough to the flocks so
that a large number of birds will end up dead, winged or
otherwise wounded when they suddenly stand up and
spray lead at all things avian or otherwise.
Duck hunting is the ultimate betrayal. It happens well
into the winter, long after just about any other hunting
season is over, when the birds are congregated in flocks
on their wintering grounds. And it happens often on lands
supposedly set aside as wildlife “refuges.” Pro-kill
groups like Ducks Unlimited (DU—an appropriate
acronym that looks like an abbreviation for “duh”) insist
that they have the animals’ best interests in mind. But
when it comes right down to it, all they really want to preserve land for is to have a playground for killing. (Just listen to them scream if you try to propose a refuge closed
to hunting.)
The other day, after the constant blasting of shotguns
earlier that morning, I heard and saw a lone goose calling
mournfully for his or her lost mate. It is not a game or a
sport for the birds—for geese and their advocates it’s
nothing short of heartbreak.
As you might have assumed by now, I’ve thought
about the issue of sport hunting a heck of a lot over the
years and I’ve long-since declared myself a staunch antihunter. Not only am I anti-hunting, anti-trapping, antiwhaling and anti-sealing, I’m anti any form of bullying
that goes on against the innocents—including humans. I
am not an apologist for the wanton inhumanity of hunting
in the name of sport, pseudo-subsistence or conservationby-killing. In fact, I’m not a fan of any society that allows
or encourages such atrocities.
Most sport hunters meanwhile must be anti-wildlife,
anti-wilderness, anti-nature and anti-competition, since
they’re notoriously anti-cougar, anti-coyote and unquestionably anti-wolf. At the same time, they’re pro-killing,
pro-death, and when it comes right down to it, pro-animal
cruelty.
In my book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of
a Dying Sport, I spend an entire chapter probing “Inside
the Hunter’s Mind.” Hence, I’m here to tell you it’s a dark
and disturbing place in there—and no one divulges that
better than the hunters themselves. Here are a couple of
quotes from hunters waxing poetic on the thrills they get
out of killing:
“I had wondered and worried how it would feel to kill
an animal, and now I know. It feels — in both the modern and archaic senses — awesome. I’m flooded, overwhelmed, seized by interlocking feelings of euphoria and
contrition, pride and humility, reverence and, yes, fear.
The act of killing an innocent being feels — and will
always feel — neither wholly wrong nor wholly right.”
A sentiment perhaps once shared by this other
unabashed killer:
“You’re the last one there…you feel the last bit of
breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes
and basically, a person in that situation is God! You then
possess them and they shall forever be a part of you. And
the grounds where you killed them become sacred to you
and you will always be drawn back to them.”
Both quotes were from people who considered themselves hunters—men who stalked and killed innocent,
unarmed victims. The first was taken from a New York
Times article written by Bill Heavey, an editor at large for
the “sportsman’s” magazine, Field and Stream. The second one triumphantly reliving his conquest was none
other than the infamous Ted Bundy, as he sat on death
row musing over his many murders to the authors of The
Only Living Witness.
It seems that, whether the perpetrator is engaged in a
sport hunt or a serial kill, the approach is similar. Though
their choice of victims differs, their mindset and/or perhaps mental illness is roughly the same.
Even our former cold war enemy seems to be light years
ahead of the U.S. in moving beyond the barbarity of hunting. Oleg Mikheyev, MP of the center-left Fair Russia parliamentary party, told the daily newspaper Izvestia just
what I’ve been saying all along: “People who feel pleasure when they kill animals cannot be called normal.”
Mikheyev entered a draft law to ban most hunting in
Russia and expressed his belief that hunting is unnecessary and immoral, regardless of whether one sees it as a
sport, a pastime or an industry. According to the bill, forest rangers will still be allowed to hunt but must first pass
a psychological test, which Mikheyev points out, “…can
help us in early detection of latent madmen and murderers.” https://www.rt.com/russia/ban-game-hunting-total-164/ .
Here in the states, Heavey went on to write, “What ran
in the woods now sits on my plate… What I’ve done feels
subversive, almost illicit.”
Then why do it?
Though some hunters like Heavey may put on a show of
innocuousness by temporarily eschewing guns and choosing to test their skill at bowhunting—arguably the cruelest
kill method in the sportsman’s quiver—the typical
American hunter sets out on their expeditions in a
Humvee or some equally eco-inefficient full-sized pickup
truck, spending enough on gas, gear, beer and groceries to
buy a year’s supply of food, or to make a down payment
on a piece of land big enough to grow a killer garden.
Clearly the motive for their madness is more insidious
than simply procuring a meal.
There’s been plenty of discussion about controlling
weapons to hopefully stave off the next school shooting,
but the media has been mute over the role hunting plays
in conditioning people to killing. And the New York
Times article is a shameful example of the press pandering
to the 5 percent who still find pleasure in taking life. Do
we really want to encourage 7.8 billion humans to go out
and kill wildlife for food as if hunting is actually sustainable and wild animal flesh is an unlimited resource?
Overhunting has proven time and again to be the direct
cause of extinction for untold species, including the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Eastern elk.
Meanwhile, hunters out west are doing a bang-up job of
driving wolves back to the brink of oblivion for the second time in as many centuries.
Heavey ended his Times article gloating, “I have stolen
food. And it is good.” Like serial killers and school shooters, hunters objectify their victims; so insignificant are
they to them that hunters don’t even recognize them for
what they are—fellow sentient beings. Does somebody
have to point out the obvious—he didn’t just steal “food,”
he stole a life.
Most people are anthropocentric by nature and have little or no compassion for non-humans. To reach the average reader, the mainstream media tries to frame everything in the context of how it affects people. Keeping a
record of hunting accidents may seem a rather morbid
effort, but it’s a good way to remind the public about the
lethal violence inherent in the “sport” of hunting. If a
human doesn’t get maimed or killed once in a while, people continue to believe the misguided notion that hunting
is just a friendly, social hour for traditional family-values
proponents, “ethical” conservationists (claiming to be
doing the animals a favor by killing them) or worse yet,
those fashionable so-called locavore foodies who think of
wildlife only as a source of flesh to stuff in their trendy,
goateed, hipster gob.
Never mind that folks can get together in the out-ofdoors to take a hike, watch birds or photograph wildlife—
without taking any lives. No, hunting isn’t going to end
because of a high hunter body count. Not unless those
who survive are willing to teach others to learn from their
mistakes and encourage them to lay down their weapons
once and for all.
Okay, so maybe there’s sometimes more to sport hunting than just mindless plunking away at innocent, undeserving animals. Besides the selfish, sociopathic satisfaction they get out of snuffing out their fellow sentient
beings, some hunters are also motivated by the prospect of
eating the flesh of their conquests.
These so-called “sportsmen” (or women) are not starving or suffering in any way (outside of being burdened
with an abnormally low self esteem) at the time they commit their offenses — they just have a hankering for something perversely pleasurable to them. Here’s a description,
in a hunter’s own words, of how much he enjoyed consuming the flesh of a scarce, embattled trumpeter swan:
“You would think it would be goosey, but it’s more ducky,
tight grained, very flavorful. The fat was delicious. I
plucked it all the way to the chin and used the neck as a
sausage skin.” (From the article, “Utah hunters killed 20
rare trumpeter swans by accident this year. Here’s why
that matters.”)
https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2019/12/29/utah-hunters-killed-rare/
Clearly, some of these sport-eaters fancy themselves
gourmets and may even pride themselves in their abilities
to turn a deceased carcass into a delectable feast, but the
same could probably have been said about Jeffery
Dahmer and his unfortunate victims.
And the fictional serial killer (based on an actual doctor
incarcerated in Mexico), Hannibal Lecter displayed typical hunter-bravado when he bragged to FBI agent Clarice
Starling: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his
liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Sorry to
tell self-excusatory sportsmen and other unapologetic
killers, murder does not magically become sacred once
your victims’ flesh passes through your digestive tract.
But, everyone has a right to feed themselves and their
family, don’t they? Well, does everyone—all of nearly 7.8
billion humans and counting—have the right to subsist off
the backs of other animals when there are more humane
and sustainable ways to feed ourselves? How many selfproclaimed “subsistence” hunters are willing to give up
all their modern conveniences—their warm house, their
car, their cable TV or their ever-present and attendant
“reality” film crew—and live completely off the land like
a Neanderthal? Not many, I’m sure—at least not indefinitely. That I can guarantee.
Deer, along with most other animal species—besides
Homo sapiens, have built-in mechanisms that cause their
reproduction rate to slow down when their population is
high or food is scarce. Though state “game” departments
are loath to share any information that might work against
one of their arguments for selling hunting licenses, even
they know that in reality the wildlife can ultimately take
care of their own. According to the Western Association
of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, “A mule deer herd that is
at or above the carrying capacity of its habitat may produce fewer fawns than one that is below carrying capacity.” https://docplayer.net/133460707-Of-nebraska-lincoln.html
The fact is, hunting encourages ungulates to reproduce
more, thus seemingly warranting the alleged need for population controls via, you guessed it, more hunting.
Hunting industry propagandists have a lot of people
convinced that culling is a necessary evil for controlling
animal overpopulation. Lethal removal is their one-sizefits-all solution, no matter the circumstance. But there are
always alternatives to that fatal fallback position. When
we finally get past the viewpoint of animals as objects, or
“property of the state,” and start to see them instead as
individuals, the justifications for culling begin to wear
thin.
Many places that provide habitat for healthy populations of deer could also support the natural predators who
evolved alongside them. All that’s required of humans is
to stay out of the way and let nature take its course, or, in
some cases, repair the damage they’ve done by reintroducing wolves or other native carnivores who were foolhardily eradicated. Yet, in the western US and Alaska, as
well as in Canada, natural predators are still being killed
to allow deer, moose or elk hunters a better chance of success. While some people complain that these browsers
and grazers have gotten too tame, hunters in states like
Idaho and Montana are whining that wolves make the elk
too wild and thus harder for them to hunt.
I tend to be even more cynical about areas where
humans have claimed every square inch for themselves
and aren’t willing to share with native grazers. When I
hear grumbling about deer, elk or geese pooping on a golf
course, I have a hard time relating to people’s grievances.
It’s the height of speciesism to expect that these animals
should face lethal culling for successfully adapting to an
unnaturally overcrowded human world.
Ours is the invasive species, overpopulating and
destroying habitats wherever we go. We wouldn’t want
some other beings jumping to a knee-jerk “cull them all”
reaction every time humans reached their carrying capacity in a given area.
Sooner or later Mother Nature will tire of humans’
destructive dominance and come up with a way to bring
life back into balance. I can just hear her telling off the
hunters: “Other animals have a right to be here too—just
live with it, Elmers!” ————————–
Portions of this article were excerpted from the
book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying
Sport by Jim Robertson

In the Eyes of the Hunted, There’s No Such Thing as an “Ethical Hunter”

President, C.A.S.H.

Enough of this championing one type of hunter over the other already! It just helps perpetuate the myth of the “ethical hunter.” You’re more likely to see a UFO land in the middle of a crop circle than to meet a hunter who is truly ethical to the animals he kills. How can tracking down an inoffensive creature and blasting it out of existence ever really be ethical anyway? No matter how a hunter may rationalize, or claim to give thanks to the animal’s spirit, the dying will never see their killer’s acts as the least bit honorable.

I’m sure Ted Nugent considers himself an ethical hunter. Hell, Ted Bundy likely thought himself an ethical serial killer. But to their victims they’re just murderous slobs. Likewise, Teddy Roosevelt—who, in his two-volume African Game Trails, lovingly muses over shooting elephants, hippos, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, giraffes, zebras, hartebeest, impalas, pigs, the not-so-formidable 30-pound steenbok and even a mother ostrich on her nest—considered himself an exceedingly ethical hunter.

All hunters, whether they call it an act of sport or subsistence, eat what they kill (or at least give the meat away to others). Would Jeffrey Dahmer be considered ethical just because he ate those he murdered? Though some get more pleasure out of the dirty deed of killing than others, no hunter would even be out there doing it if they didn’t get some joy out of the act of stalking and “bagging” their prey. But there are less destructive ways to get your kicks and healthier, less costly sources of nourishment than cholesterol-laden, carcinogenic rotting flesh.

Though they may not take trophies or photographs of themselves with their kill, nearly everyone who hunts gets some kind of a thrill when boasting about their conquest or sharing the spoils at the neighborhood barbeque.

In the book, Exposing the Big Game, I quote Farley Mowat, the sagacious naturalist and author of the 1963 trendsetter, Never Cry Wolf, whose firsthand insight into the hunter mindset should lay to rest the myth of the “ethical hunter:”

“Almost all young children have a natural affinity for other animals…When I was a boy growing up on the Saskatchewan prairies, that feeling of affinity persisted—but it became perverted. Under my father’s tutelage I was taught to be a hunter; taught that ‘communion with nature’ could be achieved over the barrel of a gun; taught that killing wild animals for sport establishes a mystic bond, ‘an ancient pact’ between them and us.

“I learned first how to handle a BB gun, then a .22 rifle and finally a shotgun. With these I killed ‘vermin’—sparrows, gophers, crows and hawks. Having served that bloody apprenticeship, I began killing ‘game’—prairie chicken, ruffed grouse, and ducks. By the time I was fourteen, I had been fully indoctrinated with the sportsman’s view of wildlife as objects to be exploited for pleasure.

“Then I experienced a revelation…” 

Farley Mowat, is his eloquent and sometimes verbose way, goes on to tell of wounding a goose who yearns to join her fast disappearing flock. You can read the entire piece in my book or in his foreword to Captain Paul Watson’s Ocean Warrior, but to make a long, sad story short, he ends with:

“Driving home to Saskatoon that night I felt a sick repugnance for what we had done…I never hunted again.”

Now that’s what I call an ethical hunter.

Bald eagle dies after hunter mistakes it for goose

Bald Eagle

Cory Morse | MLive.com

A bald eagle at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids on Friday, March 8, 2019. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

UPDATE: 2 Michigan hunters confess to killing bald eagle in Manistee

MANISTEE, MI – A bald eagle was shot and later died after a waterfowl hunter mistook it for a goose over the weekend.

The 2-year-old eagle was in the care of Wings of Wonder in Empire when it had to be euthanized on Monday, Oct. 7, because of the severity of its injuries, said Wings of Wonder Executive Director Rebecca Lessard. Both its wings were fractured, and it had multiple gun pellet wounds.

The eagle was shot and checked in at Wings of Wonder on Saturday, Oct. 5.

“The hunter said the sun was in his eyes and thought it was a goose,” Lessard said. “He might as well have said it was a flying cat. … She was just cruising the river looking for a meal and got shot. It’s so preventable; she didn’t need to die.”

Being a juvenile, the eagle did not yet have the iconic white head that would have made it more distinct from a goose. Eagles get their white head when they reach sexual maturity at age 5 and usually raise their first clutch at age 6.

Lessard suspects the bird was a female based on its weight and the large size of its feet. White specks on its head suggest its 2 years old, which means it survived at least one winter, she said.

About 75 percent of raptors in Michigan die during their first winter, usually due to starvation, Lessard said. That she survived and was a healthy weight means she was a good hunter.

“Those are more serious cases because she would have been a good breeding bird in the state,” she said.

X-rays showed several fractures and one shattered bone in the eagle’s left wing along with five pellets, Lessard said. There was one broken bone and one pellet in the right wing.

Although the bird of prey, considered an American symbol, is no longer on the endangered species list, it is illegal to shoot them in the United States.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is investigating the case and sent it to a prosecutor for review. A first-time offender can face a fine of up to $5,000 or one year in jail for shooting a bald eagle.

The eagle has been tagged and frozen as evidence in the DNR investigation, Lessard said. The X-rays and veterinarian’s notes are also saved for the investigators.

The DNR did not immediately respond to a request for a photo.

NY hunters begin black bear, Canada goose hunting season

ALBANY – Hunting season for black bear and Canada geese have begun in New York.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said black bear hunting seasons opened beginning Sept. 7.

In southeastern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 7 to Sept. 22 in Wildlife Management Units 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, and 4R. The early bowhunting season for bears will open in all of the Southern Zone Oct. 1, followed by the regular firearms season beginning Nov. 16.

In northern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 14 to Oct. 18 in Wildlife Management Units 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J. Bowhunting season for bears also begins on Sept. 14, in the other Northern Zone units (WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N). Muzzleloader season then opens in all northern WMUs on Oct. 19, followed by the regular firearms season for bears on Oct. 26.

“New York’s early bear hunting seasons are not only a great way to help us manage black bear populations across the state, early seasons also offer hunting and outdoor enthusiasts an excellent opportunity to enjoy late summer outings going afield,” Seggos said.

During the early season, bear hunters may use a bow (with appropriate bowhunting eligibility), crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle (where allowed). Because of the likelihood of warm weather, bear hunters should be prepared to skin and cool harvested bears as soon as possible to protect the quality of the meat.

Hunters may opt to skin and quarter the bear in the field, then pack out the meat in game bags to a waiting cooler of ice. From roasts, stews, burger, and sausage to barbecued ribs, bear meat makes excellent table fare. Hunters may also consider rendering bear fat into grease or lard, which is a great oil for cooking or baking and can be used to waterproof leather or to lubricate patches for muzzleloading.

Hunters are required to report their bear harvest within seven days, and DEC also encourages hunters to submit a premolar tooth and the scaled-dressed weights of the bears they harvest. DEC uses the tooth to determine the bear’s age and weight to monitor physical condition. This data is important for DEC biologists to monitor bear population dynamics and trends. Hunters who report their harvest and submit a premolar tooth from the bear are eligible to receive a commemorative NYS Black Bear Management Cooperator Patch.

Canada goose hunting season opened Sept. 1 throughout most of the state.

The September goose hunting season is designed to help reduce or stabilize resident Canada goose populations. Resident Canada geese are those that do not migrate significant distances to breed in northern Canada.

Typically, resident geese are the birds commonly associated with nuisance situations in urban and rural areas. Over the past 25 years, New York’s estimated population for resident Canada geese has grown from 80,000 birds in 1995 to more than 340,000 today.

As the population has grown, season lengths and bag limits have been liberalized in efforts to reduce even greater population growth.

For more information on the differences between migratory and resident geese and how these birds are managed, read the article “Canada Geese in New York-Residents or Visitors?” in the August 2019 issue of the DEC’s Conservationist magazine.

“Resident Canada goose populations are high in many parts of the state and New York’s goose hunters are critical partners in DEC’s efforts to manage these populations,” Seggos said. “The September goose hunting season allows hunters excellent opportunities to get out in the natural environment and pursue resident geese.”

The September Canada goose season occurs in all goose hunting zones except the Western Long Island zone. All Upstate areas are open Sept. 1 through Sept. 25. Canada goose seasons in the Central and Eastern Long Island zones begin the Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday (Sept. 3 this year) and run through Sept. 30. In the Western Long Island zone, the season opens Oct.12.

The September season includes liberal bag limits (8 to 15 birds/day, depending on zone), extended shooting hours, and other special regulations to maximize hunter success.

Notable 2019 hunting rule changes: No antlerless deer hunting, liberalized black bear season

Thu., Sept. 12, 2019, 6 a.m.

In this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, photo, Stuart Schueller waits for other hunters during a hunt in Sherrill, Iowa. (Eileen Meslar / AP)
In this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, photo, Stuart Schueller waits for other hunters during a hunt in Sherrill, Iowa. (Eileen Meslar / AP)
https://www.nny360.com/sports/recreationalsports/ny-hunters-begin-black-bear-canada-goose-hunting-season/article_abb81589-2d57-5687-a0fe-d7275f84296e.html

No more antlerless deer hunting. That’s the biggest change for Eastern Washington hunters in 2019.

Earlier this year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to end all antlerless hunting in Eastern Washington units (Game Management Units 101 through 121).

That comes on the heels of a more liberalized 2018 season when archers, black powder hunters and modern rifle hunters had a chance, for the first time in a long time, to hunt antlerless deer. Prior to 2018, there were longstanding youth and senior antlerless hunts.

All that is gone in 2019.

“There are no antlerless harvests,” District 1 wildlife biologist Annemarie Prince said. “Our total harvest this year might be a little deceiving. We will have to compare the antlered to antlerless.”

The change, recommended by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is in response to decreasing harvest numbers, tough winters in 2016 and 2017 and a devastating outbreak of bluetongue in 2015.

The other big change for Washington hunters is a liberalized black bear hunting season.

On July 1, the commission simplified black bear hunting regulations, opening the season statewide on Aug. 1 and allowing hunters to kill two bears anywhere in the state. Previously, hunting had opened later in Eastern Washington and hunters could only kill one bear from the east side of the state.

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Minnesota man reportedly shoots himself in hunting accident

https://www.valleynewslive.com/content/news/Minnesota-man-reportedly-shot-in-hunting-accident-559750841.html

An 18-year-old Crookston man reportedly suffered minor injuries after shooting himself in a hunting accident.

In a media release on Sunday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office stated deputies made contact with the victim at the RiverView Health Emergency Room on Saturday.

He was hunting geese at the time his gun accidentally discharged, according to deputies.

As a result of the shooting, Polk County deputies wanted to issue a reminder to hunters on the basics of safely handling a firearm:

1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded.
2. Never point muzzle of the firearm at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Mistrial declared in hunting death case

Millard County Sheriff’s deputies watch over a field in November 2017 where a hunter was shot during a goose hunt. The man later died and a member of his group was charged with negligent homicide.

Holdout juror forces prosecutor to refile case; August retrial set

A mistrial was declared in a negligent homicide case heard by a Millard County jury last month.

The 4th District Court trial ended after a six-person jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the Class A misdemeanor case against Adam McDermaid, who was charged in the Nov. 17, 2017 accidental shooting death of Tygh Backer.

One juror voted not guilty, while five others voted to convict.

Backer died after suffering a shotgun blast to his upper body during a goose hunting excursion with four friends near Delta.

According to the facts laid out by the trial, McDermaid at first hadn’t even realized he’d shot Backer. His defense attorney, John Easton, argued heavy winds on the day of the hunt interfered with his client’s ability to shoot at a flock of geese coming toward the hunters. A flap covering the single-man blind McDermaid was in somehow failed to open, the lawyer argued, contributing to the accident.

During opening arguments in the case, Easton urged jurors to understand that accidents happen and sometimes there are serious consequences, but don’t necessarily rise to the level of criminal behavior.

“We are all familiar with accidents…some accidents have true, true consequences. But it doesn’t make it criminal,” he told jurors.

County prosecutor Pat Finlinson told jurors the prosecution and the defense actually agreed on most facts in the case, saying, “This case is interesting. It’s probably a little bit unique in that there’s really no dispute. There’s not going to be really any disagreement about what happened.”

Finlinson, however, argued McDermaid was criminally negligent because as an avid hunter he had a reasonable expectation of acting with extreme caution in handling a firearm.

“What we have to show is that Adam should have been aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist, or in this case that the result would occur,” the prosecutor reminded jurors at the end of the trial, during closing arguments. “We have to show that Adam should have been aware that what he was doing could result in injury or in this case in death.”

A number of witnesses were called during the proceeding, including sheriff’s deputies, the other hunters in Backer’s party and an expert witness who testified about firearm safety.

Easton made a point to inquire of all the hunters who testified whether McDermaid exhibited any alarming behavior before or during the hunt. He also asked whether drugs or alcohol appeared to play any role that day. All testified they witnessed no alarming behavior or any suspected drug or alcohol consumption or influence.

Deputies who responded to the scene that day also testified that McDermaid and the other hunters were cooperative during the investigation, though initially McDermaid denied firing his shotgun during the fatal incident.

“It really could have only come from Adam’s gun. I think at some point Adam recognized, acknowledged it had to have come from my gun, but maintained he didn’t remember firing his gun,” Finlinson told jurors in his opening argument. “And that he didn’t remember even having his gun up there and he didn’t know how it could’ve happened.”

Shotgun pellets taken from Backer’s body by a medical examiner only matched the ammunition used by McDermaid that day, Finlinson said.

When Backer screamed out after being struck by the shotgun blast, the hunters with him at first thought he was having a medical episode, a heart attack or something similar. When blood was discovered from a wound near Backer’s chest, the hunters then thought perhaps it was a self-inflicted wound. They called 911 and then raced Backer toward Delta to meet an ambulance dispatched to their location. When Backer was placed inside the ambulance, EMTs alerted dispatchers to have a medical helicopter en route.

Backer died during the flight north for treatment.

Backer was an avid hunter. He also trained hunting dogs, a passion of his. Backer had only known McDermaid a few months, according to testimony.

It wasn’t until February 2018 that prosecutors decided to file a negligent homicide charge against McDermaid. A jury trial was scheduled earlier this year but postponed.

A new trial in the case is scheduled to take place on Aug. 29.