A Mississippi duck-hunting trip turned into a near-death experience last month when a dog hopped on a loaded gun — pushing the safety and pulling the trigger, one of the hunters said.
The 12-gauge shotgun the dog jumped on fired from the bed of a Polaris Ranger vehicle where it had been sitting on Dec. 28, Micah Heckford wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 2. Heckford said the bullet struck Matt Branch — a 29-year-old former offensive lineman at Louisiana State University — in the thigh just inches from his groin.
“Matt screamed and fell to the ground,” Heckford wrote. “In the midst of the chaos at this point, I ran over to Matt to assess what had happened. We had no clue what the damage was at this point in time.”
Heckford said he told another man in the five-person hunting party to call 911.
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Branch’s leg had to be amputated just above the knee, People magazine reports. Branch is in intensive care. Heckford said more surgery is anticipated “to make sure that everything is in his leg the way the doctors wanted it,” according to People.
Branch has suffered “massive blood loss and damage to his femoral artery,” according to a GoFundMe page created to raise money for Branch and his family. More than 700 people have donated to the fundraiser in the last eight days, raising about $75,000 so far.
The accidental shooting happened near Eagle Lake, Mississippi, in a cypress slough on some farmland, Heckford said. His Facebook post recounting the story of the shooting has been shared nearly 5,000 times.
Once the hunters had loaded Branch into the Ranger after the shooting, they drove through the muddy field where they’d been hunting so they could meet up with first responders, Heckford wrote.
Heckford said volunteer firefighters got there first, and cut off Branch’s waders so they could treat the wound.
“I think that’s when it hit me how serious it was,” Heckford said, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. “I realized how much he had bled. His pants were just soaked in blood.”
Branch is being treated at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Clarion Ledger reports. He has a 1-year-old son and a wife, according to his GoFundMe page.
Heckford said in his Facebook post the incident should serve as a reminder — and cautionary tale — to other hunters.
“Sadly, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have left shells in my gun while moving to a different location to hunt, or even wading around moving decoys between flights,” he wrote. “I know we all remind ourselves every time we hunt of the basics of being safe, not pointing our guns at one another, not swinging wide on a shot etc.… But do we really ever grasp the seriousness of just how important it is?”