A hunting death in Manitoba that led to a German being sentenced to two years in prison this week has been called a tragic but “completely preventable” incident.
Oleg Unruh of Rosengart was shot and killed by Carsten Aust after hunting deer on private land near Elma, about 90 kilometers east of Winnipeg, around dusk on October 5.
Aust, 46, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to reckless use of a firearm and use of a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. He voluntarily returned to Winnipeg from Germany, which does not have an extradition treaty with Canada, to face justice.
“One thing I would like to emphasize is that this is not a hunting accident: this is a poaching accident,” said Chris Benson, who teaches safety courses hunting with the Manitoba Wildlife Federation and an instructor for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course.
“You never want to see this kind of thing happen. It re-establishes the message that if you want to go hunting, take a safety course and learn from trained and qualified instructors how to be safe.”
Aust, who was in Canada raising money for a Philippines-based children’s charity, and a friend from Manitoba were hunting a black bear in a wooded area when he saw something moving in the bush, prosecutors said. Crown Adam Bergen in court.
Aust assumed it was a bear and, armed with a high-powered rifle, fired a single shot, which hit Unruh, who was returning to his vehicle. The 59-year-old school bus driver was shot in the arm and chest, the court heard.
Bergen said a distraught Aust applied a tourniquet to Unruh’s arm and performed CPR.
Aust’s friend told the RCMP the couple had permission from the landowner to hunt on the land while Unruh hunted on the same property.
Before the incident, the friend says, they met Unruh and agreed to hunt in different parts of the country.
Benson said the death raised a number of “red flags” and questions for safety advocates.
Before pulling the trigger, hunters must identify their target and what lies beyond it in order to make a legal and ethical shot, he said Thursday.
“Shooting something in the bush that moves or something that makes noise is incredibly irresponsible.”
Also, two parties being allowed to hunt on the same property “doesn’t make sense,” Benson said.
To hunt in Manitoba, resident, non-resident and foreign hunters must complete a training course and hold a license for the specific animal they intend to kill.
Foreign resident black bear hunters must be in the care of a lodge or licensed outfitter.
Aust had no guns or hunting license and his friend was not an outfitter.
When Unruh died, the black bear and white-tailed deer archery seasons were underway. The muzzleloader and rifle seasons had not yet begun.
For some hunts, orange clothing and hats are legally required. Even if they aren’t, most hunters will wear them for safety reasons, said Benson, who has been teaching people how to hunt and use firearms for more than 20 years.
There are several safety courses and licensing requirements in Canada to prevent this type of incident, he said.
“Hunting, despite what many people think, is an incredibly safe activity, and that has to do with these courses.”
– with files by Dean Pritchard