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December 18, 1998

For more information contact:
Greg Huljack at 609-292-9430

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife today charged the hunter involved in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Charles Townsend of Long Valley on December 8. Townsend was leaving the woods after deer hunting on Schooley's Mountain when a single stray pellet of buckshot struck him in the chest at 4:15 p.m.

"As Director of the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, I am deeply saddened by this tragedy," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Such irresponsible hunting is inexcusable. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family and loved ones of Charles Townsend for their tragic loss."

The shooter, 30-year-old John Searles of Long Valley, was deer hunting when he accidentally shot the victim. Searles is charged with negligent use of and careless discharge of a firearm.

"Searles has violated one of the three primary rules of hunter safety -- shooting without being sure of the target and what lies beyond. Sadly, this accident could have been prevented. As responsible sportsmen and women we cannot and will not tolerate such behavior," McDowell added.

Despite this fatal shooting, hunting remains one of the safest forms of recreation in New Jersey. Each year, more than 100,000 people hunt safely in the Garden State, spending approximately one million recreational days afield. Although the total number of hunting accidents averages less than 20 per year in New Jersey, each one is a personal tragedy which can be avoided if the person pulling the trigger takes the extra caution needed to be absolutely sure of a safe shot. The Division will continue to stress safe and responsible hunting practices in the mandatory hunter education courses required of all first-time hunters.