Game Commission investigates shootings with muzzleloader, crossbow

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoor Columnist

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is investigating a New Year’s eve hunting accident where a hunter was shot in the leg by another hunter with a muzzleloader and an incident where a crossbow had a mechanical failure striking a dog walker.

Brandon Lee Dunkle, 42, of Fairmount City is recovering after being rescued by fellow muzzleloader hunters in Limestone Township, Clarion County.

A young buck walks near a trail camera Nov. 16, 2021, in Somerset County. A deer hunter was injured Dec. 31 when he was accidentally shot with a muzzeloader by another hunter.

The commission reports he was wearing orange clothing on his head and chest when he was shot in the right thigh by a 41-year-old Corsica man who was shooting at a deer with a .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle.

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The report reveals 23 hunters were working together during the flintlock season to chase deer toward each other. About 10 of them were pushing a section of woods toward the remaining 13 sportsmen who were on stand.

Dunkle was one of the hunters walking on the drive when a doe appeared about 40 yards away from one of the standers. The doe stopped in front of a large brush pile and the hunter fired his flintlock rifle. The commission explains the shooter didn’t see Dunkle on the other side of the brush pile and the sabot-style bullet traveled about 76 yards, striking him in the outer thigh.

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Fortunately, his fellow hunters were able to step in and help. They made two pant belt tourniquets for the wound area and numerous hunters helped to carry him up a hill where he could be placed on a UTV to Kemmer Road.

Emergency crews were able to transport him by helicopter to a trauma hospital in Allegheny County.

The commission reports his injury was “sewn up without major surgery” and was to be released the following day.

Muzzleloader hunters are not required to wear the bright clothing in the late season that runs through Jan. 17.

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Jason Amory, information and education supervisor for the Game Commission, said Wednesday morning that the investigation is continuing and could not comment on whether the shooter will be charged in this incident. He said the victim did all he could to be safe, explaining about wearing bright orange clothing even when it's not required.

Amory said he’s investigated a handful of hunting related incidents in the past few months, and he said it comes down muzzle discipline and knowing what’s behind your target. In this case, the hunter’s shot traveled through a heavy brush area and struck another human.

“You have to know what’s behind your target,” he said about deciding when or if to shoot. “Maybe it’s not a shot you should take.”

This situation can come into play when you are pushing deer toward fellow hunters. “There’s an element of danger that exists,” he said.

He also reminds hunters to keep the direction of their weapon's muzzle in mind in case of an accidental discharge.

One example of that happened on Dec. 28 in Philadelphia. Edward Schultz, 65, was walking his dogs along a utility power line when he encountered a deer hunter near the Pennypack Park area. The Game Commission reported that the hunter placed his crossbow on a nearby electrical-type box as a safety precaution while the two had a cordial conversation. 

When Schultz turned to leave, the PGC report said, he was struck in the left shoulder by a bolt (crossbow arrow) from the crossbow, which wasn’t being held by the hunter. The report stated that the hunter was “horrified and said the crossbow was still on the box and he wasn’t even touching it.”

The victim was taken by the hunter and the victim’s wife to Temple University Hospital — Jeanes Campus in Philadelphia to have the bolt removed from his shoulder. He was released on Jan. 2.

The initial investigation indicated there was a mechanical failure of the crossbow that might have contributed to the incident. The investigation is continuing.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.