Jerry Cusick of Scandia on a recent turkey hunting trip to Nebraska. (Courtesy of Jerry Cusick)
Cusick, a Washington County sheriff's commander and firearms safety instructor, was shot by a turkey hunter Tuesday while Cusick was scouting private land in St. Croix County, Wis., for an upcoming turkey hunt.
"I'm very disappointed in people, especially this shooter," he said. "I mean, how could you? ... The fact is, he made a very, very poor choice. It was an unconscionable choice to shoot without identifying what he was shooting at."
He estimated the other hunter was 15 to 30 yards away -- a typical range for a hunter to draw a bead on a turkey's head.
The shooting is being investigated, but the presumption is Anthony Cardarelli, 27, of White Bear Lake mistook Cusick for a turkey.
A cardinal rule of hunting safety is this: Positively identify your target and what's beyond it. In turkey hunting in Wisconsin and Minnesota, only birds with a "beard" -- a hairy tassel hanging from the chest of most males -- can be shot. The requirement serves to create an extra level of positive identification.
Yet, safety experts and hunters warn, the mind plays tricks.
The task force examined 158 incidents in which hunters were injured. "Failure to identify target" accounted for 68 percent of them.
Perhaps surprisingly, novice hunters were not the most likely to pull the trigger. Average age of the shooter: 42.
Cardarelli was no novice either.