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Antrim County — A deer hunter in the northern Lower Peninsula was shot to death Thursday on the first day of the open firearms hunting season, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR says 38-year-old Justin Beutel of the Midland County community of Sanford was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lt. James Gorno, a district law supervisor with the DNR, says Beutel was hunting on private property and was apparently shot by a 45-year-old Gaylord man who was hunting nearby. He says the men weren’t hunting together and apparently didn’t know each other.

"The preliminary investigation looks like it was an unfortunate accident and one hunter mistook another hunter for a deer," Gorno said. "We are still processing evidence and processing the scene, but are not ruling out anything else."

The incident occurred shortly before 1 p.m. near the intersection of West Elder Road and Northeast Torch Lake Drive, which is located near the village of Alden, roughly 20 miles northeast of Traverse City.

Gorno said hunting remains "one of the safest sports you can participate in," and that having a hunter shot by another hunter is "very odd, very, very rare."

As for staying safe, he encourages hunters to identify their target, follow all state laws and rules and participate in hunter's safety courses. 

 

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