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Portland, Me., Oct. 24?The China Lake Sportsman's Club is holding an unusual contest. For $50 a hunter may register to win a prize for the biggest buck or doe shot this fall. Half the contest's net proceeds will be donated to the families of hunters killed in Maine this year.
A chilly November dusk was closing in when Maynard Marsh, special investigator for Maine's Department of Inland Fish & Game, drove his canoe-racked sedan into the yard of his home in Gorham. Dog-tired, he climbed the steps and pushed into the warm kitchen. His wife handed him the phone.
"The chief warden's office," she told him. "It's another one."
Marsh, a slender, bespectacled man with the aspect of a youthful Yankee schoolmaster, knew exactly what she meant by "another one." His job was investigating hunting accidents. Into the phone he said, "Where to now, Chief? A fatal?"
"I'm afraid so," the chief warden said. "Had any sleep?"
"I had my boots off for two hours last night at Jackman. Haven't had my pants off in three days."
These three particular days had started on a Thursday. During a Maine gunning season something like 165,000 hunters take to the woods. Of this number, a normal season's accidents will run to 70 dead and wounded. Marsh's casualty report this Saturday evening could be succinctly stated as: three Mistaken Identities; two Line of Fires; two Accidental Discharges. Score?five dead, two wounded. Before the Inspector got to take his shoes off Sunday, his dark itinerary included Benton, where a youngster had fatally shot a man collecting firewood near his camp; Wilton, where a hunter had managed to shoot himself while removing a loaded gun from his car; Parlin Pond, where a Norwegian carpenter had mistaken another Norwegian carpenter for a deer and sent a rifle bullet drilling through his abdomen; the town of Alfred, where a hunter had seen, too late, that his "deer" was a Greek restaurant owner stooping over to pat his beagle; Acton, where a father on a late-afternoon stand shot his son who was hurrying along to meet him on a woods road. And nice shooting that last one was: a direct hit through the neck.
Fatals usually are good shooting. For example, there was the Parlin Pond case. Marsh got that call at Skowhegan as he was about to try for a cat nap. When he arrived at Little Joe's sporting camp in the late afternoon the county sheriff and the local warden were waiting for him. "We're holding a pair from the Bronx," the sheriff told him. "They're so broke up I can't get much out of them."
Marsh's interrogation produced the following account: They had seen game in a certain section west of the camp. Following sound hunting procedure, one man set himself to patrol an east-west trail where a north-south trail ran into it. The second hunter worked quietly out the north-south trail. The third cut off the trail into the woods, thinking he might jump a deer and drive it across one trail or the other where his friends were stationed.
Ten minutes later the hunter in the woods heard the crack of a rifle. Returning to the trail, he found one friend mortally wounded, the other horror-stricken. The hunter at the junction of the two trails had seen a "deer" 50 yards down the north-south trail. He had shot deliberately. The bullet, striking a pocket watch, had driven the pieces deep into his friend's vitals.