MADISON, Wisconsin — An Alaska man died after his hunting companion apparently shot him during opening weekend of Wisconsin's gun deer season — the first firearm-related fatality during the season in three years, state officials said Monday.
The 39-year-old Fairbanks man was hunting with a 35-year-old Wisconsin woman in Columbia County on Sunday morning, state Department of Natural Resources Warden Jon King said. The man apparently tried to hand a loaded rifle to the woman, who was in a tree stand. The woman had mittens on and grasped the gun near the trigger when the weapon discharged. The man was struck just below the armpit, King said.
Both hunters had valid licenses to hunt in Wisconsin, King said. He declined to release either hunter's name, saying the incident was still under investigation. He didn't know if the hunters were related.
"It's a very unfortunate case," King said. "We tell people to never carry a loaded firearm in and out of the tree stand."
No other gun-related fatalities have been reported so far this season, which began Saturday. The last time someone died from a gunshot during the nine-day season was in 2012.
At least two other hunters were injured in firearms-related incidents this weekend.
A 14-year-old hunter shot his 26-year-old hunting companion in Marathon County on Sunday. The teen tried to de-cock a rifle when it slipped and fired, hitting the victim in the arms and chest, King said.
The other incident took place in Rock County around midday Saturday when a 16-year-old boy fell asleep and apparently shot himself in the leg, King said.
The Green Lake County Sheriff's Department reported 66-year-old Francis Dymond of Ripon died of a possible heart attack Saturday morning while dragging a dead dear to his vehicle in the town of Kingston. The sheriff's department said Dymond had a history of heart problems.
Overall, the opening weekend harvest was up considerably from 2014. Hunters killed 90,280 deer through the first three days of the gun season last year. As of midday Monday, they had taken 115,971 deer. They need to kill about 106,600 more to reach last year's overall harvest of 222,588 animals.
It's unclear how license sales compare to the same point last year. As of 9 a.m. Saturday, the DNR had sold 591,783 licenses. Agency officials didn't immediately have comparable numbers going into opening morning of 2014. The DNR had sold 609,779 licenses by the end of the nine-day season last year, however.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker tweeted he hunted Sunday in Vilas County. But he wasn't having much luck. He tweeted around midmorning Monday he was back in the woods and again in the early afternoon that he was still out there.
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1