Hunter Dies After Scuffle With Buck

by Ben Sobieck, online editor

An Indiana hunter died of liver lacerations after fighting hand-to-hoof with a buck he had shot, according to

Paul J. Smith, of Fort Wayne, told his son via cell phone he killed the buck with a knife after seeing it was still alive following his shot. The tangle damaged his liver, according to an autopsy. Wildlife officials and first responders found Smith dead against a tree. He appeared to have bruises from the melee, but no punctures, according to the article.

When acute liver failure occurs in a rapid way, such as in Smith’s case, it can be swift and deadly. The Mayo Clinic associates symptoms of sleepiness and confusion with liver failure. That Smith was found seated against a tree suggests he experienced some measure of both before dying.

Incidents like this one are rare, yet reinforce how important it is to make sure a deer is dead before approaching it.

32 thoughts on “Hunter Dies After Scuffle With Buck

  1. wayne

    Lonnie are you a doctor.If not please keep your comments to yourself.And flater this has nothing to do with it being a pet deer.It was an animal fighting for it’s life.

  2. CODIA

    I have not read all the comments but will offer this warning to those who posted talking about cutting the throat or stabbing it before you consider him dead…if they are not completely incapcitated, you are putting yourself in big danger. I have shot a second arrow or shot into deer that were looking very dead. Often they lunge the instant the arrow or shell touches them. I watched one back of the head shot jump and could have easily cleared a parked trucks hood with my followup shot. The first shot was in the back of the head during MO rifle season. My bowkill just last week was all but bled out. He could not raise his head. I stayed uphill and put a second arrow in him. He lunged at least 6 ft forward when that second arrow passed through him. I tried the knife sticking technique myself. I the instant the knife entered the buck. he kicked me in th wrist like a calf. Cutting the throat? do you want your head withing inches of a bucks antlers? NO…..
    Very sad story here for sure.

  3. Louie King

    My sympathies to Mr Smith’s family. So sad to here of such tragic accidents like this. It sure will remind me to carefull out there. God bless him.

  4. Jerry Walker

    I would like to send my deepest sempathy to the Smith family.
    I have been deer hunting for around 25 years and shot around 8 bucks and my uncle taught me a long time ago that you never walk up on anything that you shoot from the leg side of the animal and you should alway’s look to see if the eye’s are open or shut, never ever approach a deer that has his eye’s shut shoot him again and wait, all my deer died with thier eyes open and tonge hanging out. Remember fellow hunters it’s always better to wait a little longer than try to fight a wild injured animal.
    I am so sorry to lose a fellow hunter in that way.

  5. Larry mc farland

    One thing to always remeber when we hunt or do outdoor activities.Even if you raise a fawn to a full grown deer its got wild instincts,especially a buck,when they come into the rut phase they can & will kill you,so just because a animal seems docile its not.My heart goes out to the Smiths family Its always sad when we loose a love one & it never seems to make sense why them,but thats how nature is just like we don’t know how & when were going to pass away but even though we know that one day all of us will sooner or latter be called home,no disrespect meant but I hope that we can still hunt & fish while we live eternally in a holy bodynever to know the ailments we have here,& to never again have to worry about death it hurts to much when we loose a love one,I hope that when my time comes everyone that I have ever known or effected or what ever that everyone of them are there to meet me by the river to welcome me home,& most importantly I meet my savior to personally thank him for all hes done in my life just before I ask him why is there so much hurt & wrong in the world we just left to grow up knowing,& loving so many different people.Why our bodys age & fall apart in life when we get old & why people seem to have less to do with us when were older.

  6. gbickford

    I downed a 6pt. buck once from a 15 ft ladder stand. The deer collapsed and pushed itself around in a circle while flat on the ground. I waited 10 min. after it ceased moving, unloaded my rifle to climb down to the ground. My mistake was not loading at least one round in my rifle. As soon as I came within 5-6 yds. of "Bucky" he struggled to get up, then half loped away. I had enough time to load & fire to claim the deer. Last week I shot a buck from same stand, deer was 35-40yds from spot above deer was killed. My shot dropped this deer, but he was struggling to get up. Without hesitation I put another shot through his upper neck. Party’s Over, Safety First. My condolences to the family of the hunter that passed away.

  7. Larry mc Farland

    even if you don’t see it breathing poke it or touch its eye with your gun,the 1st deer I killed was a good size spike I’d shot it in the neck it dropped like a rag.I was so excited I ran over to the deer to drag it back to the abandoned buss I was at because it was raining again & it was @ 140 yds from where i shot it while still hunting when I’d shot the deer it was only about 40 yds from me.I grabbed the deer be the hind leg that deer started kicking its legreally hard I couldn’t hold on to it & I was afraid that i’d loose it thinking that it would get up & run away so I stepped back & shot it again that time it just kicked a little bit & diedout of my excitement all being new to me I don’t remember looking to see if its eyes were opened or closed muchless to see if it was breathing all I knew was that it dropped in its be sure to tell everyone to see if breathing or to check the eyes.what was my lucky day turned out to be my real lucky day it could have been a bad day just as easy. Be safe no matter what & use commond sense,it might save your life…

  8. jon

    Years ago i hit a doe with car,knocking it out.i got out of my car to look at my car and she came to.i thought i could tackle her and cut her throat.after i tackled her i found myself in the fight of my life as she hoofed and thrashed violently with me on her back.if it was a buck id be dead.ill never do that again….the hardest i ever worked for backstraps.

  9. Mike Conley

    Never hesitate to take a second shot to finish off a wounded deer, buck or doe. Even spine shot deer will usually only be incapacitated in the area behind where they were hit. The front legs and head can do a lot of damage.
    Use a second shot (gun or bow) to take out the lungs. The deer will die humanely, and you won’t ruin edible meat, even at close range. Since the deer is lying down, it’s again important to know where the organs are with a deer in that position.

  10. Ben Sobieck

    On the topic of liver lacerations vs. liver failure, in this case they are one in the same. Acute liver failure means the failure happened suddenly, not over time as with chronic failure. The lacerations were the culprit for acute failure. Acute and chronic failures are two different things.

    Having had both of my kidneys fail, I’ve got a personal vantage point on the difference.

    Which reminds me, please be an organ donor. A living person decided to donate one of her kidneys to me last year. That’s the only reason I got to hunt this past weekend.

  11. Gary Jones

    I firmly agree that one should always approach a downed deer wiith caution!!! One should always have another round ready and do not hesitate to fire it or ever how many it takes to finish the job. So what if messes up a little meat. I once shot an 8 point at really close range.When he fell he was two steps from my seven foot stand. He first layed motionless but with in seconds after I climbed down he started kicking.I was so close that I just pointed my rifle at and shot him in the head. After close examination there was only one bulllet hole, the second shot.The first had hit his antler and simply knocked him out and did not break the antler. I never hesitate with the second shot if needed.
    I really hate to hear of the accident and my prayers and simpathy for the family.

  12. Robby777

    He probably had watched too many sportsmen shows where they don’t take precautions !

    curse on the two capcha inventors !

  13. James A. Ritchie

    I live in Indiana, so this article hit home with me. I’ve never known a hunter killed by a deer, but I have known two who made the same mistake the unfortunate man did. One wasn’t injured at all, but the other was knocked off his feet, and had a nasty bruise on his thigh from a kick.

    A cautionary tale, indeed, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Smith’s family.

  14. lucky python

    Last year I had to kill a spike
    Horn that got hit by a car and broke
    His leg that was the hardest fight I
    Have ever had it took 20minutes for him to die after. Cutting his throught

  15. Lonnie Robinson

    I seriously doubt this hunter died from liver failure, which typically is a chronic disease process that occurs over several weeks to months as a result of damage or toxins interfering with the cellular function of most or all of the liver. A laceration can only occur from trauma and the cause of death from a laceration would always be due to hemorrhage and shock from exsanguination (just like a deer shot in the liver). If there were no signs of trauma, it is curious as to how the lacerations occurred, but if the cause of death is liver failure, the deer didn’t cause it. (At least that’s my humble medical opinion…)

  16. Troy

    My sympathies go out to the family of Mr Smith. It is very unfortunate that this tragic event took place. There surely aren’t words to even begin to compare to the grief that is felt when a loved one tragically passes away, but please know that there is a family in Iowa praying for your family. God bless you.

  17. Bernie Ritchie

    Liver failure is NOT the same as liver lacerations. A liver laceration, or cut, is going to cause death by bleeding. Liver failure will cause a much slower death by buildup of body toxins that the liver normally neutralizes and eliminate. They are not the same. It sounds as if Paul bled to death, rather than had liver failure.

  18. stan keasling

    while I am sorry for the lose for the family . knowing we all die, as no one gets out alive. how lucky would you be to go out of life doing what you love! we never know when or how it will end. but if I have a choice the woods in the fall is good too me.think about it. its way better than getting hit by a bus

  19. gary flater

    in most cases the buck was probably a pet at one time, and had lost the fear of humans, i have read and done some resurch on other type cases, check in the area where the man was killed, and you will probably find someone who had a deer pet, escape.

  20. Lou

    I am a former New York Stae Hunter Safety instructer. Even when I watch some of the so called professional hunting programs I see hunters approach their prey from the wrong direction. First, a hunter should wait a while before approaching a downed animal. Secondly, never approach a downed animal from the leg side. Always approach from the back side after poking the animal with a fairly large branch.

  21. Marty

    Old Pete Capstick used to say it’s the dead ones that will kill you. Sometimes people are to hung up on the "one shot kill". If the animal is suffering or the shot is marginal, shoot again

  22. Steve

    You’ve probably heard about the practice of slitting a deer’s throat in order to "finish it off." Tragedy can happen if you do that. If a deer isn’t dead, shoot it again.

  23. floyd

    Iam sorry for Mr Smith death and for his family but it shows us we all should be careful when walk on a dead deer after shot them.To make sure they are dead. My thought and preyers gos with his family.

  24. J. Tim

    So sorry to hear we have lost a brother hunter.
    A 2nd shot from 10 feet will always be a safer bet than hand to hoof any day. Let us learn from a brother hunters mistake.
    Seattle, Washington

  25. Gary69

    No matter what we think : We are not "Grizzly Adams " or " Jerimah Johnson" Be careful we lose too many good people to preventable accidents.

  26. Andy

    Let us keep his family in our thoughts and prayers. So sad and near the Holidays increases the sadness of losing a family member. God bless to a fellow hunter down.

  27. Jim Cobianco

    Our prayers for the family.I have yet to shot my 1st whitetail but I will be extra careful when I do, a heads up to all the hunters out there.

  28. richard

    i have had the same experiance with deer shot in the neck it breaks it but does not kill it. i go around the deer towards his back and stab it in the lungs with a knife. myself and alot of other friends do the same thing. but i always keep the rifle or 44mag in hand just incase.

  29. Mr_Priest

    It’s tragic to be sure, but one more slug only costs pennies. It’s almost happened to two friends of mine, they thought it was dead but it was only stunned, they both had tried to knife them. (Deer won both times) I just can’t understand why you would approach a downed deer without carrying your weapon. If it’s breathing… Bang! One more to the neck, chest, head… wherever, problem solved.

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