Deer Lunges, Injures Cornish Man After Being Shot
Hunter Everett Gray, of Cornish, shows the antler of the buck that punctured his side after Gray shot the animal across the street from his home. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Everett Gray will be adding to his bedroom collection of deer he shot over the past decade with a buck who attacked Gray Thursday after he was moving in to finish off the deer with a knife. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Everett Gray, of Cornish, holds his puncture wound with his left hand yesterday as he smokes a cigarette in his garage where the deer that gored him hangs. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Cornish — Everett Gray had walked into the woods near his home Thursday afternoon with a 257 Roberts rifle for an impromptu deer hunt. Very quickly, however, the hunter was captured by the game and in a fight for his life.
In Gray’s telling, as dusk began to settle in, he dropped an eight-point buck with a shot to the neck and went in to finish the kill with a knife.
As he leaned in close, the injured white-tail lunged, pierced Gray’s abdomen with an antler point and raised its head, lifting the Cornish hunter off the ground.
Gray quickly found himself on his back on the forest floor with the deer looming over him, ramming its head into his stomach and using its powerful hind legs to push him down a slope.
He felt the animal’s antler inside him, puncturing his rib cage. Gray grabbed the buck’s rack with both hands and tried to remove the dagger from his side while the animal violently swung its neck.
“I thought it was going to kill me,” Gray, 57, said. “I can feel him just going into my guts, and he’s grinding his head down and I can’t get him out, I can’t get away. Yea, I was scared.”
New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said yesterday it’s extremely rare for a deer to attack or turn on a human, and it’s more likely for a deer to attempt to flee before or after being shot. But anything can happen with a wild animal, officials said.
Gray was in a neighbor’s yard on Center Road in Cornish when he saw a deer walking with its head down along a nearby ridge line. It was around 4 p.m. and the sun was setting, and Gray couldn’t tell if the deer had a rack. He grabbed his rifle, found a quiet spot on the ridge and lit a cigarette.
In a matter of minutes, the deer appeared to Gray’s right and he could make out the points of the antlers. When the buck got within 20 feet, Gray fired.
That’s when Gray made a mistake. The deer was the seventh he’d shot, and the prior six all died from the bullet wound. He’d never been faced with shooting a deer a second time.
“I just didn’t have the heart to put another bullet in it right then. And I should have,” Gray said.
Instead, Gray walked up to the buck and scratched its head between its antlers and thanked it for giving its life to him, as he had with each of his kills.
At that point, the buck tried to flee by rolling down a slope, but became tangled in brush. Gray walked down the slope and freed the deer. As he took the knife out to end the buck’s struggle, the beast lunged and cornered him on the ground.
Grasping the buck’s rack, Gray was eventually able to twist its neck enough to dislodge the antler point from his side. Once Gray was free, he ran the 300 feet back to his house and didn’t look back.
His daughter’s fiance took Gray to Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, but he was soon transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center because doctors were worried that the buck had punctured Gray’s intestines. Luckily, there was no major internal damage.
Gray was released from the hospital that evening and was back at his Cornish home by 11 p.m.
But he didn’t sleep that night.
“I close my eyes and I’m going right back through the same scenario over and over,” Gray said.
As he recounted the tale yesterday, Gray’s eyes grew big and watery. He wore camouflage pants and a matching shirt, which was unbuttoned so he could place his left hand into his shirt and hold his injured side.
While he was at the hospital, Gray’s brother and a few friends went into the woods and dragged the eight-point buck back to his house and hung it in his garage. They also gathered his rifle and knife, which he had dropped in the woods.
Despite the struggled, Gray said he has a lot of admiration for the buck.
“That deer had so much heart,” Gray said. “He was a survivor. He did what he was supposed to do. You’ve got to respect that.”
Robert Bryant, administrative lieutenant for N.H. Fish and Game, said it’s very rare for a deer to attack a human. Before working in administration, Bryant was a field officer for 25 years and said he had never heard of a similar encounter.
However, Bryant said that just because he’s not aware of a particular instance where a deer went after a human, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
“Any animal that’s wounded, when it’s down and then approached, it’s going to be defensive,” Bryant said.
Gray blames himself and said he should have just finished the deer off with a second shot from the start, but Bryant said he doesn’t think Gray did anything wrong. He said it’s normal for hunters to step very close to a deer to take a second shot. Animals are unpredictable, however, and hunters should not be nonchalant when approaching a wounded animal, Bryant said.
While Gray has been hunting since he was 12 years old, he didn’t shoot his first deer until 10 years ago because he said he didn’t have a need for the meat. Now, five of the deer trophies are mounted on his purple bedroom wall right above his bed, and he has the same plans for the one he shot Thursday.
Gray has thought about whether he’ll hunt again, and his initial reaction was of course he’ll hunt another deer, if more cautiously. But as he pondered it more, he wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know if I want to go through anything like this again,” Gray said. “Maybe this was the last one I was supposed to get.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.