The first incident occurred the weekend before Thanksgiving on November 20 in Wisconsin, where 11-year-old Easton Thom, a sixth-grade student at Berlin Middle School, was shot. A statement from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said that when the 41-year-old man accompanying Thom on their deer-hunting trip attempted to unload a firearm on the back seat of a vehicle, he accidentally fired the weapon and hit the young boy in the chest.
Later that week, on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, a second 11-year-old was shot when hunting with his father at Bear Mountain, near the West Virginia–Virginia state line, reports WDTV. The boy’s identity has not been released, nor has information on who fired the shot.
Both boys died of their injuries.
Hunting is a large part of the U.S. economy, with a 2022 report from Sportsmen’s Alliance finding that recreational hunters and sport shooters contributed $149 billion to the national economy in 2020 and supported nearly 970,000 jobs.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey data shows that 11.5 million Americans enjoy hunting, around two thirds of whom only use firearms.
Many people are injured or killed during hunting expeditions each year across the U.S. Data from the International Hunter Education Association reveals that there were around 1,000 firearm-related hunting accidents across the country each year between 2002 and 2007. Around one in ten of these resulted in death.
A significant number of minors are injured and die each year in hunting incidents: one 2017 study in the journal Pediatrics found that between 2012 and 2014 there were an average of seven hunting-related deaths in children 12 and under each year. The figure for 13-17 year olds was five deaths per year.
Some 200 members of the Berlin, Wisconsin community attended a candlelight vigil on November 25 in honor of Thom, one of the 11-year-olds lost during this year’s Thanksgiving. The attendees dressed in blaze orange-colored hunting gear in his memory.
“He’s Berlin’s child. He’s not just their child. He’s Berlin’s child,” Kathleen Nechkash, co-organizer of the candlelight vigil, told local television station WBAY.
“We come from a hunting community, and we just wanted to show that orange has become Easton’s color. It’s all about him and the love for him,” said Nechkash.
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recommends that children on hunting trips wear fluorescent blaze orange clothing from head to toe to avoid being misidentified as a target. They should never shoot at a sound or movement and never wave to catch another hunter’s attention, as the movement may attract fire.
Fowler, K., et al. Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States. Pediatrics (2017) https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-3486
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