14-year-old mistakenly shoots pony while hunting
Staff Writer | November 12,2013
A Shetland pony named Ladybug was an unexpected hunting casualty over the weekend, according to the animal’s Williamstown owners, who say a young hunter mistook their tiny pony for a deer while hunting with his father in Eden.
Two Shetland ponies were sharing a field with at least three deer when the fatal shot was fired shortly before 6:30 a.m. Saturday, according to Ladybug’s owners, Patricia Pierce and Ken Hall, who were asleep miles away at the time.
Pierce and Hall live in Williamstown but free-lease their 13-year-old pony to Hillside Creek Stables on Shover Road in Eden, where Ladybug was used to provide riding lessons for young children.
Jamie Ketcham, who owns the stable with her mother, confirmed the shooting and said two ponies — Ladybug and another pony she owns — escaped a fenced-in pasture area and were both loose when Ladybug was shot and killed in what she characterized as a “tragic accident.”
According to Pierce, Ketcham is at least half right.
“Is it really an accident if you shot something you weren’t 100 percent sure was a deer?” she asked, referring to an incident that was investigated by a state game warden who is now working with Vermont State Police.
Col. David LeCours of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday the investigation was nearing completion and information would be presented to the county prosecutor to determine whether any criminal charges should be filed.
According to LeCours, the 14-year-old boy did almost everything right during youth hunting weekend. He was hunting with his mentor on private land with the owner’s permission at the time of the incident, LeCours said, adding that one “cardinal rule” was broken.
“You need to be 110 percent sure of your target before pulling the trigger,” LeCours said.
Pierce said the pony was shot through the heart and died instantly shortly after daybreak Saturday.
“A wonderful animal is dead right now because they took a shot they shouldn’t have taken,” Pierce said.
Pierce said she learned Ladybug was dead hours after the incident when Ketcham called to tell her what had happened, prompting Hall to report the incident to authorities.
Pierce said she was told the boy and his father, whom LeCours declined to name, were tracking three deer in a field when they saw two small deer and the back of what they mistakenly concluded was the third larger deer that had been traveling with them.
Pierce said the exposed back of her pony was all that was visible over the top of a grassy knoll, but father and son opted to take the shot anyway.
“Everything they did was wrong,” she said. “They shouldn’t have taken the shot, period."
Hall said he couldn’t agree more.
“Apparently the father said: ‘Fire when ready,’ and when (the boy) did, three deer ran off and one pony didn’t,” he said.
LeCours said such cases are “extremely rare” and he wasn’t aware of any others like it over youth hunting weekend.
With rifle season set to start Saturday, Pierce said she believed it was important to underscore the importance of being absolutely sure of what you’re aiming at before pulling the trigger.
“That’s the lesson in all this,” she said. “You need to be able to see what you’re shooting at. … It’s not good enough to think you know. You have to be positive.”