On Tuesday, police say Vernon Goyne of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, shot a deer in DC’s Palisades neighborhood. He used a handgun to drop the deer and was reportedly standing over it in the woods, about to beat it with a stick, when police arrived. “Everyone should know that there is no hunting season in DC,” Scott Giacoppo of the Washington Humane Society told Fox5. Goyne has been charged with animal cruelty, among other offenses; the deer was euthanized.
This would seem to be the end of things, but beyond the obvious insanity of allegedly hunting deer in a residential urban neighborhood where you are not allowed to hunt deer, there are a couple of technical questions I cannot quite resolve about this incident. Such as:
1) Who kills a deer with a handgun?
More people than you might think. You can find many videos of people hunting deer with handguns on YouTube, and Field & Stream has a helpful guide to hardware. A hunter friend of mine informs me via text message that the longer range at which you need to shoot deer make handguns a particularly challenging way to kill one. Much better, he suggests: Rifle, bow, shotgun, or car. (I am never driving anywhere with him again.)
2) Why hit the deer with a stick instead of, you know, shooting it?
A couple theories from an informal poll I conducted from people who, unlike me, enjoy hunting. It could be that Goyne wanted to brain the animal to preserve meat. Or he was enamored of the deer’s rack, which is substantial, according to a photo in the Fox5 report.
3) But does it sound like this fellow knew what he was doing?
The unscientific consensus appears to be “no.” Beyond his choice of weapon, the alleged hunter didn’t appear to have waited a reasonable time for the deer’s adrenaline to ebb before approaching it. And he could have finished it off with a shot to the heart-lung area if he wanted to preserve the rack. The deer in the Fox5 photo looks like it was shot in the spine, said one person, further suggesting inexperience. (You want to aim for center mass of the vitals area, the forward half of the rib cage, this person patiently explained to me.) One person suggested Goyne was not planning to hunt at all but saw the deer and got a sudden case of buck fever. But what about the fact that he was dressed in camo? Perhaps meaningless, this person suggested–he was from West Virginia, after all.