Poacher’s Bullet Tears Through Hunt-Camp Trailer

A Marion County night hunter fires at a spike and narrowly missed three children inside a mobile home several hundred yards away.

Brad Bailey | December 3, 1994

“At least we were able to call the police, and didn’t have to call an ambulance,” said Kim Keel, of Duluth, after a night-hunting poacher’s high-powered rifle bullet plowed through a trailer at a Marion County hunt camp and just missed her two children and a friend’s child who were inside.

The incident could easily have turned into a real tragedy.

Kim and her husband Gary, with their two children, were hunting in Marion County on Saturday, November 5 with Gary’s father Bobby and friend John Brewer, also of Duluth, and his son. Their hunt camp is located about halfway between Cusseta and Buena Vista, and they have a mobile home trailer set up on the property. There is electricity run to the trailer and on a telephone pole near the trailer three floodlights had been hooked up to provide light outside. At 8 p.m. that evening the floodlights were burning, and Gary and John were outside tending a campfire.

Inside the trailer, Gary and Kim’s 4-year-old daughter Sarah and 5-year-old son Hunter were sitting on the sofa with 4-year-old Mitchell Brewer. Bobby Keel had just closed the refrigerator door and was standing at the end of the sofa when he heard the explosion of a gun going off nearby — and then another shot.

“I heard two loud explosions,” said Bobby. “I thought Gary might have put firecrackers in the fire, and I started out a the door. Gary and John had run around the end of the trailer and yelled that someone was spotlighting deer in the pasture between the trailer and the road.”

John and Gary jumped into the a Jeep and took off toward the road to try to catch the night hunters. When they had rounded the end of the trailer, they I could see the headlights of a small pickup that had pulled diagonally off the road so that the truck’s headlight would shine into the field. The driver’s side window was facing the trailer, and the shots had apparently been fired by the driver.

Meanwhile, Kim went into the trailer to check on the kids. Her son Hunter pointed to a hole in the window screen behind the sofa.

“Look, mom, here’s where it came in,” he told her.

At first Kim couldn’t believe that a bullet had come into the trailer, but she inspected the hole and then lined it up across the room and discovered a hole through a thin wing wall—and then a bullet hole in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. The bullet had come through the window, passed just over the children’s heads, crossed the room and went on into the kitchen. Kim estimates that the round missed the kid’s beads by 6 inches. Bobby Keel had also been standing at the end of the sofa talking to the kids.

“They could have killed someone and they would have never known,” said Kim.

The Marion County sheriffs department was called. When a deputy looked inside the freezer, he located a high-powered rifle bullet in an ice tray in the freezer. The bullet, which had not mushroomed, was as evidence.

Gary and John did not catch the night hunter. When they reached the road they turned left, and apparently the poacher had gone to the right. The next morning a dead spike buck was found in the field in front of the trailer.

“The deer was between the trailer and the road,” said Gary. “I think they hit the deer with the first shot and the deer ran. They shot at it again as it ran, and that’s the shot that went into the trailer. The distance from the trailer to the road is a couple hundred yards,” said Gary. “There is a privet hedge there, but it’s not like we were hidden—the triple floodlights were burning. Whoever shot must have been so focused on the deer that they didn’t even notice us. We are really lucky that no one was hurt.”

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