Man shoots and kills another hunter after he mistakes him for a deer on the opening day of hunting season
38-year-old Justin Beutel was accidentally shot and killed during the first day of Michigan's Firearm Deer Season after another hunter mistook him for a deer.
A Sanford, Michigan man was shot and killed on the opening day of the state's Firearm Deer Season after he was mistaken for a deer by another hunter. 38-year-old Justin Beutel, a motorcycle repair shop owner, was shot at around 1 p.m. on Thursday, November 15, 20 miles northeast of Traverse City near the village of Alden and was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency services.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was at the scene alongside the Michigan State Police and Antrim County Sheriff's Deputies. A statement from Lt. James Gorno, a district law supervisor with the DNR, obtained by NBC read, "Preliminary investigation reveals that Mr. Beutel was deer hunting on private property and was apparently shot by another subject hunting nearby."
According to the Sun, the accident unfolded in a private land in northern Michigan and police have since confirmed that the 38-year-old was wearing an orange hunter's hat — which is mandated so they can be differentiated from the deer by other hunters — at the time.
The second hunter, who has not been identified, was supposedly a 45-year-old man from Gaylord in Otsego County. Gorno said that the two men had not been hunting together and that it was believed neither knew each other in any capacity as well.
A preliminary investigation into the shooting has concluded that Beutel's death was an accident, with DNR releasing a safety video for residents of the region to follow during this hunting season — which spans from November 15 to November 20 — stressing that everyone wear orange and not stray into private property.
Speaking out about the incident, DNR Law Enforcement conservation officer Danielle Zubek said, "It’s important for hunters to wear orange. You never know who else is going to be in the woods with you and it’s purely for visibility of other hunters."
"Trespassing is really important to understand," she continued. " If somebody has their trespassing signs up, it’s important for the hunter to know to stay off of there for hunting, and for tracking deer. As you’re tracking a deer, and it goes on to a posted property, you need to get permission from that landowner to enter that property after the deer."
Beutel's wife, Whitney, told NBC that her husband was the "hardest worker" she knew and that in addition to motorcycles, he also loved hunting and fishing. James Reinke, who owns the business next door to the 35-year-old also paid tribute and said, "I just can't believe it. Just a nice guy. He loved bikes and was really good at what he did."
The Antrim County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police are assisting the DNR with the investigation and processing of evidence.