While much of the United States views hunting through a lens of the affluent killing endangered animals for trophies, subsistence hunting still exists in many rural areas.
Subsistence hunting is when a hunter intends to feed themselves and their families with the meat from a successful hunt.
Subsistence hunting also involves strictly regulated population control of animals whose habitats can only sustain a limited number after urban and suburban sprawl has eliminated natural predators and habitat.
But hunting is a dangerous venture, even when the animal is considered a prey species like deer or elk.
On October 22, a subsistence hunter using an old-fashioned muzzle loaded rifle, 66 year-old Thomas Alexander of northern Arkansas, was attacked and killed by a buck—a male deer—he shot while hunting near his home in Yellville. Like many states, Arkansas has a season set aside for those who hunt with bows and arrows and a season for those who use muzzle loaded weapons before the modern high powered rifle season begins.
A spokesperson for the state’s game and fish commission—the government agency which oversees the regulated activity in Arkansas—told Buzzfeed News that Alexander shot the buck around 6:30 pm and called a family member to share the news.
Chief of communications with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Keith Stephens told ABC News:
“It appears he shot the deer and he had put his rifle down near the deer stand and walked down to check and make sure it was dead. And that’s when whatever happened, happened.”
In what officials are calling a bizarre incident, an Arkansas hunter was killed by a deer that he thought he had shot dead. https://t.co/0It5OQnnph
— ABC News (@ABC) October 24, 2019
AGFC’s assistant chief of communications, Trey Reid, confirmed via email that Alexander was attacked after approaching the fallen buck.
This is why you dont charge up on a dying animal. You normally reload and prepare to finish it just incase as well.
— marcey anderson (@marceyplay) October 25, 2019
Alexander was able to call his wife around 8:00 pm—after the revived deer ran off into the woods—and emergency medical services were contacted.
Arkansas hunter dies after being attacked by deer he just shot: “It got back up, and he had several puncture wounds on his body” https://t.co/V3ea0biWSZ
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 24, 2019
By the time the medic team extricated him from the woods and began transport, the 66 year-old hunter stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
True, their hooves and rack, can eviserate a human.
My husband & I met up with a moose in the woods one winter we were hunting for a Xmas tree…the moose was like, “Not in my hood you don’t”
Found out I could run on touring skis ????
— Just sayin’ (@mrmjustsayin) October 25, 2019
The hospital noted puncture wounds on the body, likely from the antlers, however they couldn’t rule out a heart attack or other cause of death.
While many online posted their dislike of hunting in response to Alexander’s death, some stated let those without steak knives in the drawer and t-bones in the freezer cast the first stone.
Love all the PETA lovers responses, I guess if it doesn’t come from the freezer section at Walmart you don’t eat it nor wear it.
— Jim Wadkins (@jpwadkins) October 24, 2019
Tragic. Nothing funny about this, and no “karma” either. Just sad that a man is now dead and his family is now grieving. #empathy
— Jeffrey Glenn (@jglennfl68) October 24, 2019
I’ll just assume everyone happy the hunter died are all vegetarians because no way in hell can anyone think factory farming and mass slaughter houses are somehow better than killing and harvesting an animal in nature.
— MillennialGal (@Millennial_Gal) October 24, 2019
I feel sorry for the family that lost a loved one. There are way to many deer!
— Laura (@durgin_laura) October 25, 2019
Some pointed out the hazards unchecked populations of deer create after humans in urban and suburban areas shrink their habitat.
Not a supporter of hunting, live in Penna. dead all over the roads. Ppl get injured sometimes killed bcause of them. They are all over. I think they are adorable but deadly. Hunter should have known better. Sad event. They are not Bambi. The r a hazard to humans.
— A4n6guy (@4n6guyphilly) October 25, 2019
You do realize that without those hunters “having fun” the deer population would run rampant right.
— Dalton Hampshire (@DaltonHampshire) October 24, 2019
People on this thread have no idea. Some of the responses are cruel to this man who died and his family. I’m not into trophy hunting big game. Deer are a different story. The herd must be culled. They will kill you in Pennsylvania on our roads. I thank the hunters every yr.
— A4n6guy (@4n6guyphilly) October 25, 2019
Collisions with deer cause about 200 deaths in the United States and over $1 billion in property damage each year.
But a majority of Twitter reactions argued the deer was defending itself, the hunter was just a victim of “karma” and Alexander deserved to die.
Survival of the fittest
— Anton Chigurh (@burninglipps) October 24, 2019
Well the Deer was just defending itself!!
— wiggyfloyd (@wiggyfloyd) October 24, 2019
I hope the deer survives pic.twitter.com/GFFSX8lsR6
— Virginia Hart (@JetBlueOne) October 24, 2019
Yes, but the deer community offered thoughts and prayers.
— If Dirt Were Dollars (@ScreamingLiner2) October 24, 2019
Wouldn’t that go under the heading of self defense? Certainly more than Traevon Martin’s killer qualified as. The scales of Justice tip heavily towards man in this feaud, but tally at least one for Mother Nature! U mess with the Buck, u get the horns! Literally&figuritivly! IRIE
— Irie Craig (@theiriecraig) October 24, 2019
It’s a shame it doesn’t happen more often.
— Anthony Ashcroftworthford (@AnthonyAshfiel1) October 25, 2019
— space kadet (@spacekadet606) October 25, 2019
A few tweets surfaced in which the deceased hunter was acknowledged with some empathy.
Awww sorry for the guys death. That being said. What did that deer do to deserve being hunted?
— Donna melchiorre (@pinkflamingo511) October 24, 2019
Feel sorry for the guy but I can’t say I blame the deer.
— Forthetruth (@GlennK1) October 24, 2019
But compassion for Alexander was still lacking overall.
It’s hard not to side with the deer????
— Lauren Sampson (@Laursamp) October 24, 2019
Animals are so at our mercy and abused in so many ways on this planet. I wish this would dissuade other hunters but I don’t think it will have any effect-&the poor deer will suffer until he dies.????
— Gracie B (@GracieB38887818) October 24, 2019
Reid told Buzzfeed that deer attacks are uncommon in Arkansas. He’d heard of only one other attack.
Fortunately that incident ended without fatal consequences.
“An attack of this nature is quite rare, but not unheard of.”
“Our hunter education coordinator has been working in this field for more than three decades and knows of only one other incident when a deer has attacked a hunter after being shot in Arkansas.”
“That hunter was seriously injured but survived.”
Stephens said a search for the injured deer that attacked Alexander continued but suffered a setback.
“We’ve had two K-9 units in the area, but it’s begun to rain in [Yellville], so that’s hampered efforts.”
While many online joked about looking for the deer…
Leave the deer alone, he was just protecting himself.
— Goldie (@larrygohabsgo) October 24, 2019
I like the last line of the story “Officials are still looking for the deer” like he’s going to be arrested or something.
— Scott (@BellCowBack) October 24, 2019
I hope they do not harm the deer. It was an unfair fight but the deer still won. He deserves to be left alone.
— LeicaNYC (@LeicaNYC) October 25, 2019
…it is standard practice for wildlife management agencies to locate animals reported as injured to determine if they can survive their injuries and to prevent extended suffering if they can’t.
If the deer is injured they need to be treated.
— Zack (@littleloser81) October 25, 2019
Alexander—an experienced hunter according to the AGFC—leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren.
For parts of the world, hunting for food is still an integral part of life. The book Hunting Camp 52: Tales from a North Woods Deer Camp is available here for a view of hunting from that perspective.