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Hiker Killed by Hunter on Sauk Mountain

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Aug 04, 2008 05:00 PM |
Hiker Killed by Hunter on Sauk Mountain

Sauk Mountain, from the Skagit River. Photo by Ed Giecek.

Terribly tragic news this past weekend.

A 54-year-old hiker was accidentally shot and killed by 14-year-old hunter on the Sauk Mountain Trail on Saturday. According to media reports, including this AP story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the hiker was Pamela Almli, a resident of Oso, a small town near Arlington. Almli, who was on a day hike up the popular trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, had bent down to put something into her pack when she was mistaken for a bear by the young shooter. She was shot, fell down a steep slope, and died on the scene. The fatal shooting occurred at about 10:30 a.m. about a quarter of a mile from the Sauk Mountain trailhead.The Skagit County Sheriff's Office and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are investigating the incident.

WTA offers its deepest condolences to the friends and family of the vicitm.

One disturbing detail about this tragic incident is that the hunter, who was from the town of Concrete, was accompanied only by a 16-year-old hunter. No adult was present. According to Bill Hebner, WDFW enforcement captain for Region 4, which covers King County and most of the western Cascades, this is perfectly legal. Hebner told me that the two hunters had the appropriate licenses and tags, and legal firearms. Hunting season for bear opened that day, August 2. "Obviously, though," Hebner qualified, "it's not legal to shoot someone."

Hunting is legal just about anywhere in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, according to Renee Bodine, public information officer for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie. But, Bodine said, "according to the code of federal regulations, it's not legal to fire across roads or trails [on the forest] or 150 yards from campgrounds. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of the hunter to stay away from and not endanger others. Hunters are responsible for what they shoot at."

Hikers should take care during hunting season to wear bright clothing, talk loudly, and let hunters know when you're in the vicinity. I've blogged on this in the past here, and Andy Walgamott, editor of Fishing and Hunting News, wrote about safety tips for hikers in the October 2007 issue of Washington Trails magazine.

One other tip is knowing when hunting season is on.

The trouble is, not many hikers even knew that bear and cougar season opened Aug. 2.

Including me. Coincidentally, I was out hiking the Mount Higgins Trail off the Mountain Loop Highway this weekend. While I was biking up the road to the trailhead, I encountered a man who had just stepped out of the woods. I said hello, and after chatting with him, learned he'd just shot a bear. I thought to myself, "that's strange, it's not hunting season..."  But in fact, it was.

Certainly, it's up to hikers and the hiking community to educate themselves about when hiking season is open, and to take precautions. You can read a detailed pamphlet here about Washington state hunting seasons and regulations.

But this terrible incident also raises a troubling issue: why is it completely legal in the state of Washington for a 14-year-old to be out hunting without an adult? And why is it presumably legal to hunt on or near this trail, which sees a lot of hiker use?

Sauk Mountain is one of the more popular trails in the area. WTA often recommends this hike as a great family hiking destination. Is it appropriate that hunters should be shooting on or near this trail at all? It's an issue that will take time to resolve.

I chatted about this issue today with Snohomish County Sheriff Deputy Greg Rasar. Deputy Rasar and I had talked at  length about a year ago on the issue of shooting and public safety in National Forests for an article in last year's magazine. Rasar had e-mailed me this weekend to let me know about the incident on Sauk Mountain, and about his previous concerns that the proliferation of guns on the forest could lead to an incident like the one that transpired this past weekend. "With recent flood damage," Rasar told me today, "there are more and more people trying to share an increasingly smaller area. We have something like 3.5 million people visiting the forest with reasonably easy access. With that amount of people, I don't think there's a place for recreational shooting."

Rasar is concerned that with the proliferation of guns on the forest, safety will continue to be an issue. Though these hunters were generally acting in a legal manner, Rasar finds that many people who possess guns he meets on his patrols either "don't know the regulations or don't care to find them out."

As for the law that permits those 12 and older to hunt unaccompanied by adult, Hebner of WDFW says his agency doesn't even agree with those regulations, which were passed by the state legislature in the mid-1990s. "As an agency," Hebner said, "we strongly support requirements of a minimum age and the presence of an experienced adult." He noted the agency strongly suggests in its hunter safety education programs that young hunters be accompanied by an adult, and that his agency will in future urge the legislature to change the law.

WTA has taken no formal stand on this issue, but we urge our members to offer their thoughts by posting comments to this blog, contacting us by e-mail, or by calling us at (206) 625-1367.

It's clear that something must change. This is a tragedy for all: for the hiker and her family, for the young hunter, and for all of us who enjoy the mountains--whether we're hikers, hunters or both.

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Tragic, But Doesnt Justify New Restictions

Posted by HunterConservationist at Aug 05, 2008 10:53 AM
This accident is tragic for all involved. It does not, however, justify additional prohibitions.

There are on average about 3 fatalities among the non-participant population in the U.S. from hunting-related accidents. It is such a rare occurrence that there are no statistics that can justify any additional age prohibitions.

As far as trails are concerned, if the plan is to prohibit hunting near trails, plan on losing a vast portion of conservation support.

Not even a statistic?!

Posted by sballard at Aug 05, 2008 12:17 PM
"It is such a rare occurrence that there are no statistics that can justify any additional age prohibitions"

So Pamela Almli doesn't even qualify as a statistic? I dare you to say that to her her husband, son and grand-children.

Additional prohibition is necessary around trails and areas of popular outdoor recreation. Additional prohibition regarding adult supervision is required when children are allowed to hunt with lethal weapons.

No-body wants to infringe on hunters rights to hunt. But safety in the woods and mountains is paramount. This tragedy would never have happened had the above mild and reasonable restrictions been in place.

Restrictions are not the answer

Posted by ommedia at Aug 13, 2008 11:52 AM
I am sure that "HunterConservationalist" was not suggesting that Pamela isn't a statistic. You chose to read that into what was written.

Restrictions are not the answer. This type of "tragedy", which is also known as an "misfortune", is every bit as painful and heartfelt, by hunters and non-hunters, as is a traffic accident. It was just that. If there was malice intent, and suddenly a spike in this type of act, then sure, officials should address it "appropriately".

The point is, this type of accident is very very rare. There are mistakes in all professions and recreations in the world. Hunters know and practice so many skills, especially regarding safety, that you are not aware of.

Sadly, an accident has happened. Now the knee jerk reaction by "tv land" society today is not to identify the problem, the mistake, and evaluate the situation, No, it's to place more restrictions on the rest of us. The rest of us didn't have anything to do with it.

Hikers should be very aware of the hunting seasons. Hunters have to wait to go into the woods during designated seasons set by qualified officials. The tragedy could have easily been avoided by not hiking that day as well. Is that reasonable? Maybe the restriction should be "no hiking" during hunting season...see...doesn't make any sense does it?

Be reasonable and resposible citizens and respresentatives of yourself, your family, your state, your country, and your hobby. People who don't know a thing about hunting should learn about hunting, take safety lessons (as we have to) so that you realize that "additional prohibition" is not the answer. It's an avenue to place blame.

Don't forget that just because you don't hunt, doesn't mean that we don't hike. Public awareness of both activities would be a good faith response to this tragedy.

Sauk Mountain Tragedy

Posted by redcedar at Aug 05, 2008 12:54 PM
 I have just read the article about the hiker shot dead by a hunter on a trail to Sauk Mountain.
It is very disturbing to think that this so called 'civilized' society allows teenagers as young as 12 to carry guns and shoot in the woods as soon as they see something moving in the bushes without the supervision of an adult.
This tragedy confirms that the lack of tougher gun control regulations is a recipe for disaster.
However rules can go so far if they are not followed by a thorough gun education. It is just too easy to have a gun license in this country.
I really hope that this tragic death will make people realise that the American idealized gun culture has to change and jeeeezzz!!!! I hope also that the NRA won't win the battle for lifting the ban on firearms in National Parks!



Posted by arguslives at Aug 05, 2008 09:06 PM
How does one go about figuring out what trails would be outside of areas where huntings allowed? ie: is it safe in national parks, or in national forests? Seems ridiculous to send hunters and hikers out on the same terrain without letting the hikers know the hunters are there. Let me make an informed decision so I can stay away from these chuckleheads.

Restrictions and separation of hikers & hunters

Posted by mcallkrm at Aug 05, 2008 10:26 PM
With regard to more rules/restrictions and the reality of this tragedy, no one sensible would suggest to Pam Almli's husband or son or grandchildren that her death doesn't amount to an adequate statistic to justify additional restrictions on guns or hunting. However, this accident should not have happened. These youngsters, like all hunters, went through mandatory hunter safety and the importance of identifying their target was emphasized many times during that training. Perhaps the presence of an adult would have made a difference here but I believe that a fourteen year old should be able to follow that simple ethical rule of hunting. To suggest that society create new rules, to apply to everyone across the entire state or nation, every time a tragic accident occurs, is simply destined to create an unwieldy body of unforceable law that is to voluminous and unreasonable for most citizens to pay attention to. There are many many more instances where young drivers, each year, cause tragic accidents that result in lost lives. We could raise the legal driving age and raise it again... and again. Then, cut out those with marginal eyesight or slow reflexes or asthma.

It's fairly easy to pick up a hunting rules pamphlet to get a sense of where and when open hunting seasons are occurring. The fact is that the state doesn't prohibit hunting in very many places. Virtually the entire state falls into one of the many "game management units" that are part of the season structure for many big game species. It's much less easy to understand where local ordinances might prohibit shooting. They are generally applied in pretty urbanized and dense residential areas. Of course, National Parks and State Parks have hunting prohibitions. You could go hike there if you want to be somewhere that hunters aren't. Better not step off the trail at Mount Rainier National Park though. I've been severely chastised for stepping on a rock next to the Paradise trail to try to photograph a butterfly. Needless to say, the highest tribute to creation of rules that dictate human behavior exist in our National Parks. It may work for National Parks but, personally, it's not something I want to see applied everywhere.

I've been reading some of the newspaper articles about this accident and learned that the forest service has a regulation prohibiting shooting across roads or trails. That's a good example of a well-intentioned but essentially empty regulation. How can a hunter ever be certain they are not shooting It's relatively easy to avoid shooting toward people who are on a trail or people or cars on a road but it is not always possible to see that there is a vacant trail or dirt road in the line of fire. It's just one of many rules that sits waiting to be selectively enforced on someone who just needs to be written a ticket or arrested.

teenage gun to car comparison

Posted by salsadecohete at Aug 09, 2008 02:09 AM
When I was 16 I got my driver's license and off I went with the same rules and regulations as anyone any age with any driving record. In the 12 years since that day in Washington State dramatic laws have been passed in recognition of the collision statistics of young drivers, now there are restrictions on the times that new drivers can be out and number and types of people that can be in the car with, set up in a progressive manner such that restrictions are eased with increased age and experience. Guess what? MVA involving teenagers have gone down, and asthmatics can still drive (btw individuals with slow reflexes and poor vision are currently required to provide proficiency before being given a drivers license and if unable to do so are not granted permission to operate a motor vehicle on this state's highways).
The argument that we shouldn't amend laws and social restrictions in light of new statistics and evidence or else we will snowball down a path to fascism is quite simply invalid.
In short: age and supervision restrictions work wonderfully with deadly weapons of all sorts and this tragic story should be an impetus to spur us on to refine our laws to fit the populations needs.

This should have never happened

Posted by richmaley at Aug 05, 2008 11:05 PM
I am a father of three daughters who all love to spend time in the woods. I cannot even imagine how I would feel had one of them been shot, on a trail, mistaken for a bear. My heart crys for Pamela's family, I wish nothing but God's Peace and Blessings. My heart also goes out to the young hunter who made a split second decision that will change his life forever. I cannot imagine a greater tragedy.
 I am a hunter, and when I heard this story, I was coming out of the woods hunting during opening weekend for Bear.
 Bear hunting has become a very difficult endevour. No longer are hunters allowed to bring bear to a centralized location, away from the general population, away from trails, hikers and other hunters. They are forced to comb the hills in pursuit of Bear in a manner that has potentially added a degree of difficulty that, for experienced hunters should not be a problem, but for new, inexperienced hunters, puts everyone at risk.
 I do not want to place any blame in this tragedy, but I do believe that it all could have been avoided had the state of Washington allowed regulated bait sites and moved the hunting away from general travel areas.
 Gun Control has NOTHING to do with this issue.
 It is a situation that could have been avoided had the State of Washington not discontinued the practice of setting up Bear Bait locations.
 I would hope that all, Hunters and Non-Hunters would reconsider this law and give everyone in Washington an opportunity to feel safe in the woods.

well said

Posted by ommedia at Aug 13, 2008 12:00 PM
I too am a father who spends a lot of time in the outdoors with my child. Your observation is very awakening and draws a very good argument to a decision that this society made that in the big picture has a lot to do with the young man and Pamela being in the same place at the same time.

We don't like to look back on past actions to find our own mistakes; seems as a society we just to restrict our fellow citizens when it isn't something that pertains to us.

Well stated. Our prayers are with Pamela's family.

Another 2 cents....

Posted by mmonahan at Aug 05, 2008 11:49 PM
I'm a dad, I'm a hiker, and I'm a hunter. I enjoy "being" all three of these things but, that said, I suppose that I am not an expert at any of them.

This whole story just makes me sick to my stomach - for the loss of Pam Almli and the sorrow that her family must be feeling, and for the lifelong impact that a poor decision will have on a 14-year old kid.

I don't believe that the absence of bear baiting has anything to do with this incident - it probably could have just as easily happened during deer, elk, or some other season. If you don't believe me, ask Dick Cheney.

As far as I'm concerned, it comes down to the careless use of a rifle - regardless of the age of the user. If a hunter goes in to an area with hiking trails on a summer weekend, he should be thinking that the odds of coming across another person are pretty damn good. And of utmost importance, the hunter is responsible for positively identifying his target before taking a shot.

This is a concept that is taught in Hunter's Education classes (I re-took the class a few years ago - 25 years after taking it the first time), and is passed down from generation to generation of gun users. It is a practice taught to be used in both the field and on the range. It is one of the most basic and important rules out there.

I do believe that hunters and hikers can share the same forests, at the same time, safely. We all do it every year - that is why this incident hits us so hard....because it is so rare.

It was also, obviously, preventable. Perhaps requiring that young hunters (say those under 16 years old or so) be chaperoned in the field, isn't such a bad idea. It would be impractical for some methods of hunting (two hunters covering one area is less fruitful than two hunters covering two areas), but as any marksman will tell you, "safety first." This would also allow the chaperones plenty of opportunity to observe the kids out in the woods with rifles in hand - to really pick up on whether or not the child is being safe.

When I look forward to the day that (hopefully) my girls decide that they want to go hunting with me, I don't think about "the kill" anyway - I think about quality time spent in the woods with a loved one. Taking meat home would be a bonus. Staying near each other in the woods would be fine too - I'd be more focused on one the girls getting a deer than I would on all of us coming home with one each.

Most hunters out there are responsible, good folks - not stereotypical "chuckleheads" out blindly shooting the bark off trees. We're all getting older too - these days, young people are not taking up hunting as a hobby in big numbers as in past years.

I think that the sport of rifle hunting should be passed on to the next generation by those who love it. Hunters should not be villified over this accident, nor should teenagers. While a chaperone requirement for young hunters may be reasonable in the long run (and perhaps even a good idea), we have to remember that bad choices cannot be fixed by more legislation.

It is up to each one of us to have an open mind to who/what might be in the woods when we leave the trailhead. We should try to be aware of what areas we can recreate in, and who else may be there with us. And we should act appropriately when we cross paths with eachother.

Wouldn't that be just dandy? Well, you can't legislate that kind of thinking and behavior. We have to teach it to eachother and our kids. It's not a perfect method, but it's the best we've got. The lawmakers in Olympia can't come close to replicating it.

In the meantime, accidents like this will continue to happen every once in a while. That's just how life happens.


Missing The Point

Posted by JMcIntyre at Aug 06, 2008 12:41 PM
I have a more fundamental question, perhaps beyond the scope of this thread. Hunting aside, supervision rules aside, why is it legal for a 14 year old to carry a lethal weapon in this state? I'm not speaking out for gun control. Rather I'm speaking of the assertion that adolescent at this psychological development stage is sufficiently mature to justify handing him/her a gun and a license to boot! Regardless of training, can we really be confident that a 14 year old is going to make the right decisions, especially under stress, peer-pressure, etc. in a potential life threatening situation? Someone here made a comparison to driving fatalities. If you want to make that comparison then raise the legal hunting age to 17 or 18 first.

My second concern is do we really have too many bears around that we need to shoot them? I've been hiking and climbing in the Cascades seriously for 15 years and I've never seen one.

Your looking for a needle in a hay stack

Posted by ommedia at Aug 13, 2008 12:28 PM
I do appreciate that fact that you seek answers and that you ask questions that are very good and obvious questions. I will we all took this path first.

I'll answer these questions for you.

Young hunters in all NW states are in the woods each year, not making the mistakes this one young man did. Thousands upon thousands of teenagers hunt. Nobody cares until a accident happens. Adult supervision is always presumed to be better, but think of the responsibilities we had at that age; I held down a part time job and worked on very dangerous equipment.

Do we have too many bears? That is so funny to hear from a non-hunter because I don't except many hikers see bears. When you are hiking over the last 15 years, I will guess the following is true. You talk, make noise, stay on trails, don't hike in the dawn and dusk hours, you don't sit and look for/glass (use binoculars) for bear. These are my guesses. If you decide you want to see a bear, make an effort to look for one. We have seen 42 bears since the August 1st season opener.

The state of Washington and Oregon have huge bear populations, in most areas they are exceeding the management levels, encroaching into neighborhoods, and raiding campsites. Yes, we have too many bears.

Hunting bear is very difficult with the methods we are limited to.

Tragic Accident

Posted by ecicotte at Aug 06, 2008 05:51 PM
To the family and friends of Pamela Almli, I am deeply sorry for your loss.

This tragedy has caused me to consider my luck. Three times in my life I've had bullets pass close enough to me to hear them ripping through tree branches above my head or ricocheting off the rocky ground nearby.
Twenty years ago we bought blaze orange vests and hats. We continue to wear them while hiking during the hunting seasons. Thankfully, the result has been no more near misses. Blaze orange is the only approved color for hunter visibility and every hunter knows what it means. Other bright colors don't work as well. Don't worry about fashion. Don't worry about cost, check Walmart.

We will be sharing the trails with hunters for years to come. Be safe out there.

Hiker killed by young hunter

Posted by jnusbaum at Aug 07, 2008 09:31 AM
This is tragic but again an acident just waiting to happen. When will this state ever get it right. When I was very young and just becoming a hunter, I never went out without an adult. This very thing almost happened to me as a young boy who was just learning to hunt. Luckily the young hunter was with his father and thought I was a bear. After having his sights on me for about 20 minutes, his father walked up the road to see if I was a bear or not. After realizing that I was not a bear but just a kid wearing bright red clothing he wandered back to his son and informed him that I was not a bear. To this day that has stuck in the back of my mind knowing that my life could have been over that fast. The next year I took up archery hunting because of this and other horror stories that I had heard. Although I have often wondered when I am hiking with my beautiful lab, during this time of the year, what idiot my be out there with there scope or sights on me or my dog thinking we are bears or a deer. Fall is my favorit time to hike and something like this is always in the back of my mind. I know it doesn't have to be a young kid but just as easily an adult with an itchy trigger finger with a thrist for a kill. My heart does go out to the family and friends of this hiker.

A true story

Posted by salsadecohete at Aug 09, 2008 02:38 AM
When I was 13 I went on my first elk hunting trip in the back country. My step-father had arrived at our camp three days ahead of me and in that time had shot and killed a nice bull. I decided to head off in the general direction of his kill to test my luck. After hiking in several miles off trail I posted up on the fringe of a nice open glade and laid in wait for a big bull to come my way. As luck would have it after about an hours wait I heard the rustling of a large four legged animal coming from the dense forest across the meadow. I was shaking with excitement, ticked off my safety, and shouldered my rifle with the barrel pointed down waiting not so patiently for my prize to reveal itself to me. Eventually I made out the large brown tetrapod and brought the scope to my eye and my finger to the trigger ready to fire away. However instead of firing, as I was seconds away from, my mother who was sitting right beside me told me to put my gun down and scolded me in my haste as she had noticed my finger slip over the trigger and my barrel rise, which she had trained me against doing before 100% positive ID. She knew I had not positively identified my target and told me to wait. With her years of experience she knew that no elk would ever walk through the woods that loud, and with her eyes she saw before I did that what I heard was my step-dad and his buddy on two horses with two mules in tow on their way back to camp with his freshly claimed carcass strapped on. Thank God for her because only I know how close I came to mounting at least a horse and at my most my step-dad on the living room wall.
Hunting is a right in this country, and our wilderness preservation efforts arose at the behest of hunters (trust me, Teddy Roosevelt did not give anywhere near as much of a care about uninterrupted vistas as he did about the preservation of a hunting ethic when he pushed what is now our national park and forest system, and without the efforts of such hunting conservationists you had better believe that northern pacific, wearhouser, dupont and others would have turned the west into west virginia by now).
Gun control has nothing to do with this tragedy. The current informed proponents of gun control measures know so and as such stay away from bringing hunting rifles in the field into the debate.
I wholeheartedly agree that no child, or adult inexperienced hunter, should be in the field without the guidance of a more informed voice of reason; and that since we have a legislature that needs real issues to legislate we darn well ought to put them to work on laws in an effort to ensure that stories like this evaporate while preserving the American heritage that is enjoying our wild spaces in a safe and sustainable manner that appeals to the varied interest of many user groups.

Hiking and Hunting do NOT mix

Posted by mattsa2 at Aug 10, 2008 02:21 PM
When I heard of the woman being shot and killed on a popular hiking trail by a hunter, I could not believe it. Why are hunters in the same area as hikers?? It doesn't make sense. It's too dangerous to have hikers and hunters in the same woods. It's a terrible thing that happened.

I am hiking/camping with my family next weekend. I do NOT want to share the forest with hunters. I feel hunters should have their own area. It's not right that my family must risk their lives to satisfy the desires of hunters... who seem to have rights in any area of Washington. I will call the Ranger in the area we are planning to visit to get safety precautions for the weekend.. and pray no idiots are in the woods.

Hunting is an archaic tradition. It is no longer needed to hunt food for one's family. Forests containing hiking trails should be OFF LIMITS to hunters.

The killing of Mrs. Almli...sickens me...It should NOT have happened.

Non Hunting Hikers don't mix

Posted by ommedia at Aug 13, 2008 12:47 PM
As hunters we are regulated as to when we can be in the woods as "hunters". The rest of the time we are in the wooods, we are "hikers".

I wonder how many "idiots" you meet that you don't even realize are "idiots"?

Maybe you shouldn't be in the woods during any hunting season in that area. What do you think of that? I know pretty unfair idea huh?

Hope to see you on the trail.


Posted by salsadecohete at Aug 13, 2008 10:17 PM

I dont hunt. I hike. How many woods do you think are out there? Do you think that forests just go on and on forever? Name calling is ridiculous. I mean idiots? Really?

Oh yeah and there are places hunters cant go. Their called urban areas and National Parks.

Vastly more people are killed by cars every year than guns. Every time you get in your car do degrade yourself as a sickening monster and also those whom you drive past?

The simplistic poorly thought out responses to accidents like this .... sickens me....

And by the way. The only reason, and I repeat ONLY, that there are forests that our capitalist American industrial society have not turned into McMansions, Toilet Paper, Computer Ledger, toothpicks and so on, and the forward thinking Hunter Conservationists who fought very hard to protect some modicum of wild America. So thank the next hunter you and your family see in the woods while camping out of your car with your tasty beverages and propane cooking stove, their heritage and license fees are why you have YOUR woods that you dont feel like sharing.

If you dont want to 'risk your life' camp at a state park campground or NP. Or just consider keeping your bourgeois suburban family out of MY woods.

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