Dog may have fired shot that killed hunter
A duck hunter killed Thursday night may have lost his life after his dog stepped on a shotgun in a boat on the Cumberland River, a state wildlife official said yesterday.
Lawn-care service owner Thomas A. St. Charles III, 28, of Carriage Drive, Bellevue, died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after being wounded on a west Nashville river inlet.
He had gotten out of a boat late Thursday afternoon to pick up decoys at the end of the hunt, said Cape Taylor, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency law enforcement supervisor for Davidson and several other counties.
His hunting companion, Harold C. Hamm II, 28, of Bellevue Road, had remained in the boat, where St. Charles' shotgun lay on the floor.
"The dog apparently jumped back there and hit the trigger of the gun," Taylor said.
Either the safety lock had not been on or the dog knocked the safety button, depending on the type of shotgun, and released it, he said.
The shotgun fired and blew a hole through the side of the boat, striking St. Charles in the lower abdomen, Taylor said.
Detectives probe shooting
Metro police's statement yesterday stated that detectives are "working to determine" why the gun went off and that detectives said "a hunting dog may have been in the boat when the gun went off."
Hamm told detectives he had remained in the boat to bag decoys, the police press release said. Hamm said he had his back turned to his friend when the gun fired and wondered why the gun discharged, Taylor said. Then, St. Charles called out to Hamm.
"He said, 'Call 911. I've been hit,' " Taylor said, repeating information from the TWRA agent on the case.
Taylor said Hamm told authorities he thought the dog could have stepped on the gun, causing it to fire.
Hamm could not be reached last night for comment. Family members said St. Charles' beloved dog is a retriever named Sadie.
The men had started their outing earlier that day, putting the boat in the Cumberland at the Cleese's Ferry boat ramp and going downriver. The 911 call was made about 5:50 p.m. Thursday. Emergency personnel reached the men by driving on River Road to the inlet.
Hunting death is second
The men had complied with hunting regulations, except that Hamm did not have a current hunter education certification. St. Charles did have the certification.
Hunters are advised to unload firearms as soon as they are through for the day, Taylor said. Hamm's shotgun was unloaded and in a case.
Keith Milby, a Goodlettsville dog trainer, said canines should always be under control.
"That dog should have been still," Milby said. "He shouldn't be allowed to be moving — jumping around in that boat. People don't allow other people to jump around in a boat."
The incident is the second death this month in a Midstate hunting accident. The other was a deer hunter who was mistakenly shot by his brother outside White House. Neither of the men was wearing the blaze orange gear required for deer hunting.
Those injured or killed in hunting accidents are typically part of the same hunting party, Taylor said. Misidentifying a target, as happened earlier this month, or carelessness with a gun, as it appears in this case, are the usual causes, Taylor said.