A Westport man was killed Sunday in a hunting accident authorities say was avoidable.

Gregory L. Saylor, 41, was fatally shot by a friend while deer hunting in Jennings County. Saylor, along with Ron Michael and William Michael were scouring a rolling wooded area with heavy undergrowth.

One of the men believed he shot a deer and the hunters began running after it. The Michaels came down from a perch and ran toward the animal. As they emerged from a dry creek bed they saw movement where they thought the wounded animal would be. Ronald Michael fired and killed Saylor.

“A hunter must positively identify the target before shooting,” said Indiana Conservation Officer Bill Beville. “People get in a hurry and wont take the extra second to be safe. One shot is not worth hurting someone or worse, taking their life. Mr. Michael learned that all too tragically.”

The shot was fired 205 feet from where Saylor was standing. Investigating officers said it was so difficult to see anything between the two spots they had a subject hold up a white handkerchief to become more visible.

Beville said hunters should always be aware of where their partners are. In this case, Saylor got away from his friends and they fired not knowing where he was. Conservation officers are continuing their investigation but no foul play is suspected.

“Mr. Saylor had a two-year-old girl,” Beville said. “His wife is torn up about this as are his hunting partners.”

Another safety precaution, had it been taken, could also have prevented this incident. Hunters are instructed to wear bright orange clothing at all times when in the woods.

“The primary reason this tragic event happened was because Mr. Saylor was not wearing any hunter’s orange gear,” said Beville. “His wife and the two witnesses to the shooting said he always wore an orange sock hat but must have removed it because he got hot. His partners said he was wearing the hat when they last saw him but nobody knows for sure when took it off and put it in his pocket.”

Beville recommends hunters use a lightweight orange vest instead of a hat which can be taken off too easily.

“The vest doesn’t create any extra heat and hunters wont be tempted to pull it off,” Beville said. “It also provides a larger orange area which is much easier to see.”

The list of safety precautions doesn’t end there. Conservation officers suggest hunters always get permission to hunt on private property, they make sure their firearms and he safeties on those guns are working properly and never drink alcohol or do drugs while hunting.

“Alcohol has no place in hunting. The beer is for celebrations at home after the guns are all locked up,” Beville said. “You can’t drive a car or a boat while intoxicated but there are no laws to stop people from hunting in that condition. I think it would be good if the legislature considered making possession of a firearm while intoxicated illegal.”

Sunday was the final day of firearms deer season but muzzle loader and archery dates are still scheduled to round out the year. Beville said it’s easy to make sure another life isn’t lost in 2005.

“It’s the simple things that save lives,” Beville said. “Hunters go out saying ‘That will never happen to me’ until something tragic like this happens. The only way something good can come out of this is if someone takes this message and these precautions to heart and changes the way they hunt to be safer.”

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