Cape man shot in State Forest hunting accident
A piece of buckshot fired by an unidentified deer hunter on the opening day of shotgun season Monday struck Dr. Joseph Asiaf, a 73-year-old pediatrician from Centerville, in the neck.
Mr. Asiaf was hunting with a large multi-generational group of family and friends in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest in the quadrant near the intersection of West Tisbury Road and Airport Road when the accident occurred just before noon.
He was transported to Martha's Vineyard Hospital and later transported by MedFlight to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where a family friend said he is being treated for his injuries.
Deer hunters in Massachusetts are restricted to shotguns, which have a short range, and hunting accidents are relatively rare, according to state records.
Hunters typically fire deer slugs, one-ounce lead bullets. But, when hunting deer at close range in heavy cover, hunters may use buckshot, which are shells loaded with a set number of small steel balls, depending on the size of the load.
Environmental and State Police responded to the scene and began an investigation.
Mr. Asiaf was participating in a drive, a common and effective method of hunting in the state forest, which employs drivers who walk through the thick brush to push deer out of their hiding places, and standers, positioned along the fire lanes to shoot at the fleeing deer.
Mr. Asiaf was part of a group of approximately 18 hunters that included members of the Island's BenDavid Family.
Gary BenDavid of Oak Bluffs said he and his family members have hunted with members of the Asiaf family of Brockton during shotgun week for years. It is a tradition that spans generations and 50 years, he said. Mr. BenDavid said he is now hunting with men he knew as young boys.
The accident occurred when a buck ran across the line of hunters. Multiple shots were fired at the deer. Suddenly, Mr. Asiaf called his son on a radio and said he had been hit.
There are reports that hunters who were not part of the hunting party drive were also present during the incident.
State Police Sergeant Neal Maciel said the identity of the shooter has not been determined but the incident remains under investigation. He said he would like to speak with two men seen on one of the fire lanes who may have been present when the accident occurred.
Noting that buckshot could easily ricochet off branches, Sergeant Maciel said everything points to a stray shot. "Eight to ten guys shooting," he said. "It could have come from anywhere."
Sergeant Maciel said the Brockton crew has been hunting for years. One of the members told him they would read about hunting accidents and wonder how they could happen if people stressed safety. "He said we've always been very safe and here it happens to one of our guys," Sergeant Maciel said.
Environmental Police Sergeant Matt Bass said there is nothing to indicate that it was anything but a hunting accident.
Sergeant Bass said that in his experience most hunting accidents involve buckshot. He said the ballistic properties of buckshot pose definite risks of deflection. "You are sending nine balls downrange and you as a hunter are responsible for all of them," he said.
The Vineyard was not the only scene of an opening day hunting accident.
On Nantucket a man who police did not identify was struck in the face just before noon. The man was hunting with a group of hunters. The man drove himself to the hospital and his injuries were not considered serious, according to published reports.
In Plymouth on opening day, a man hunting with a group was struck by a buckshot pellet.
Although hunting usually involves the use of firearms, statistically it is a relatively safe sport and getting safer as more states require license holders to pass a hunter education safety course.
From 1997 to 2007, there were a total of 25 hunting accidents across the entire state. In 2005, a hunter was fatally shot, the state's first hunting fatality since 1992, according to state records.
The state shotgun season ends on December 12