First responders came to the aid of a hunter Friday after he shot himself in the leg and needed a ride to St. John’s Medical Center for surgery.

The visiting hunter, Chris Covell, was hunting on the National Elk Refuge near the northern parking lot off Highway 89 when the accidental shooting occurred, according to Cris Dippel, acting refuge manager.

“I don’t really know the details of how he did it,” Dippel said, “but he was probably finishing up, getting back to the vehicle and didn’t make his weapon safe, obviously.”

St. John’s spokeswoman Karen Connelly said Covell was in fair condition Monday and soon would be transferred to the hospital’s primary care unit. She couldn’t provide any other medical details because of federal privacy rules.

Dippel heard that the bullet “grazed bone,” which, he said, is a “good thing.” The alternative could have been a bone-shattering blast.

Hunting accidents involving firearms on the refuge are rare, Dippel said.

“This is certainly the first one since I’ve been here,” he said, “though we did have someone put a bullet hole through the roof of their truck once.”

Elk hunting on the National Elk Refuge goes through Friday. To date it has been unusually slow.

“It’s not a good season,” Dippel said. “We’re probably around 40 to 45 [elk killed] right now.”

The rough average hunter harvest, he said, is more like 250 elk per season.


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