OSOYOOS — Jennifer Brock has a warning both for landowners and local hunters — a warning that comes from sad experience.
Late last Wednesday, Lucy, one of her horses, was grazing on her property in the Sidley Mountain area east of Osoyoos when what Brock believes was a stray bullet struck her in the hind end.
“This was one of those things that’s not supposed to happen,” she says now in the aftermath of a hasty visit to a vet in Kelowna Friday and a long night of waiting as Lucy was treated.
“I guess the worst would really have been that she was hit in a different part of her body and actually was killed.”
The bullet, Brock believes, came from her neighbour’s property, where a hunter had permission to track deer.
She doesn’t have a problem with that; what concerns her is the shot came almost an hour after sunset.
“I was outside. My farmhand was outside. There was a shot. The dog barked in the direction of the shot,” she recalled. “And then we saw a truck drive up westward from where (the hunter) would have made the shot, toward my fence line.
“Somebody got out with a headlamp, looked around a little bit pretty close to my fence line, and then drove off.”
B.C. law provides for hunting between one hour before sunset to one hour after sunset. But the poor light at the end of the day, Brock suggests, likely contributed to Lucy being shot. She believes conditions would have made it difficult for the hunter to see what was beyond at whatever he was shooting.
“Go take a look at how dark it is an hour after sunset — it’s dark,” said Brock, who once was a hunter herself.
“The fact that Lucy got shot in the butt makes me think she just happened to be in the wrong spot at the time when he missed his shot,” she said.
“It doesn’t make you feel any better because (the hunter) should have known what was near him and behind (what he was shooting at) and how far that bullet was going to travel.”
Grateful her 17-year-old Appaloosas mare is still alive, a frustrated Brock is now concerned whenever she hears gunshots close by.
“I sit here and I wonder at night,” she said. “I see a horse lying down and I think I’d better go and check it. I look out now when I’m home and I think, ‘is everybody out there standing up?’
“And I think, I could have been out there. Or my hand could have been out there. I feed my horses in the dark sometimes.”
Brock hasn’t spoken to the hunter involved in the incident, nor does she know who that person might be, although she believes her neighbour does.
“I’ve got a $1,000 vet bill and a month of twice-a-day care — and no real apology or assurance that we will never have this happen again.”
She has reported the incident to local RCMP. Mounties were near the property two days previous and nabbed another pair of hunters out with loaded weapons after dark.
Sgt. Jason Bayda, the Osoyoos detachment’s commander, said he is aware of Brock’s concerns and noted the matter was turned over to a provincial conservation officer for investigation.
Meanwhile, Vic Skaarup, chair of the BC Wildlife Foundation’s Recreation Sports Shooting committee, said a fundamental principle of safe use of firearms is to “be sure of the target and of what is beyond.”
“Hunters need to be particularly aware of this,” he added. “If you do not have enough light to see what’s behind your target, don’t shoot.”
Brock said the Sidney Mountain area is popular with hunters and activity — and attending problems have increased over the years.
“Ranching is the number one industry up here; we have a lot of cattle, sheep, horses and houses (people) around,” she said.
“But because of the good hay fields we also have a lot of deer. That causes some hunters to take chances that they shouldn’t.”
As for Lucy, Brock said the horse appears to be recovering.
“In a way, Friday the 13th was unlucky and also lucky as I didn’t have to put her down,” she said. “(But) the long term effects of the bullet in her are unknown at this time.”