CHESTER, Maine — Surgeons at a Bangor hospital were removing pellets from the face, neck and upper left torso of a LaGrange man after he was shot accidentally while turkey hunting on Tuesday.
Adam Jewell, 30, was hit by a 12-gauge shotgun blast from about 40 yards away by 29-year-old Joel Susen of Chester as Jewell sat on the ground between a large hayfield and thick woods near 440 North Chester Road shortly after 7 a.m., Maine Warden Service Lt. Thomas Ward said.
The shooting was Maine’s first turkey hunting accident since 2008, said Ward, who described Jewell’s wounds as “serious.”
“Turkey loads [in shotgun shells] are generally pretty powerful loads,” Ward said Tuesday. “They are made to carry some distance.”
A Penobscot Valley Hospital ambulance took Jewell to the Lincoln hospital, where he was stabilized before being transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Ward said. His condition at EMMC was not immediately available Tuesday evening.
Jewell was conscious and alert at the scene, Ward said.
The warden service took Susen’s weapon as evidence, as is procedure, and will refer the case to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office for review when the investigation is finished, Ward said.
“This is a case of mistaken identity of a target,” Ward said. “Wild turkeys have very sharp eyesight. To hunt them effectively, hunters usually dress in camouflage. That makes the hunters very difficult to see.”
At least 15 miles long, North Chester Road, residents said, is a fairly popular and remote hunting area of farmland in Chester, a small town just east of Lincoln along Interstate 95 in northern Penobscot County.
Wearing camouflage garb, Jewell, Susen, Susen’s brother, 31-year-old Joshua Susen of Lincoln, and a young boy and relative of a group member started looking for wild turkeys in the field off North Chester Road early Tuesday, Ward said. The boy was not hunting.
The hunters spotted and called a turkey they saw in the field before it ran into thick woods on the north side of the field. They made more turkey calls but failed to lure the bird back out of the woods, Ward said.
The hunting party separated and moved to the edge of the woods. Jewell was sitting in an area between the woods and field, apparently quite concealed, when Susen thought he saw a turkey and opened fire from about 40 yards away, Ward said.
When they realized that Jewell had been shot, the hunters immediately called 911. It was about 7:10 a.m. Game Warden Sgt. Ron Dunham, the first emergency service provider to arrive, carried the ambulance crew in his pickup truck about 300 yards from North Chester Road to the accident site to treat Jewell. Dunham and the crew then used the truck to take Jewell to the ambulance, Ward said.
The accident, Ward said, underscores the importance of properly identifying a target before firing.
“This is a great sport, and it’s a great time to be out here, but you really have to be careful,” Ward said.
Nine wardens went to the scene, plus another who went to EMMC, Ward said. Warden service forensic evidence recovery and mapping teams were still at the scene as of 3 p.m. They were aided by a warden service airplane.
In 2007, 19,079 people registered as turkey hunters and claimed to have harvested 5,984 turkeys, according to the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website, maine.gov/ifw. In 2008, 19,445 hunters, according to preliminary figures, reported harvesting 6,348 turkeys.
More recent statistics were not available Tuesday.
North Chester Road starts at the Route 116 intersection in Chester opposite the Penobscot River and the Route 2-Sweet Road intersection in Lincoln. It continues northeast along the river past its Winn Road intersection before veering north and then east in a gradual, jagged circle before terminating near Hathaway and Medway roads.