Michael A. Sawyers
Cpl. Jeff Herndon, the Maryland Natural Resources Police investigator for the state’s four most western counties, was in West Virginia recently when he and some other officers were made aware of a 911 call.
“We were told that the caller said there was a man who had fallen from a treestand near a certain road,” Herndon said this week. “We were able to locate tracks in the grass and eventually found the treestand with a hunter hanging from it in a full-body harness. We also discovered that he was dead with a bullet hole through him.”
As officers were searching the area, according to Herndon, a woman approached and said she hadn’t heard from a hunter and was concerned about him.
“Then another hunter in full camo came up to us and he turned out to be the woman’s husband and the dead man was his hunting partner,” Herndon said.
Bottom line, the dead man had been having an affair with the woman and the woman’s husband shot him.
“You know the old adage,” Herndon said. “If you want to get rid of somebody, take them hunting.”
But there’s more to this story. It was staged. The dead hunter was actually a mannequin and the woman and the shooter were role players.
The story line was real, though, actually having happened. But this time it was part of a weeklong training session at Chief Logan State Park dealing with hunting-related shooting investigations.
Herndon was one of 40 officers from 16 states in attendance. He called the training “extremely valuable.”
The training was put on by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the International Hunter Education Association.
The shooting of a person by a hunter is not considered to be an accident, according to IHEA.
“The term that is used is hunting-related shooting incident,” Herndon said.
Herndon has been with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for 25 years, eight of those years with NRP and 3.5 of those years as an investigator.
Instructors at the training session came from seven states. This academy, formed in 1993, is the only one of its kind. It offers a national clearinghouse database that can be used by investigators anywhere.
“The idea is to re-create the shooting scene,” Herndon said. Investigators first attempt to determine from where the shot came. A bullet that passes through a hunter and strikes a tree or some other object gives investigators a direction to work from.
The direction of a blast from a shotgun can be determined by finding branches or brush that have been clipped by pellets.
Herndon said he hopes he never has to investigate such shootings in Maryland, but if he does he now is better equipped to reach a successful conclusion.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.