Man Opens Fire on Wis. Duck Hunters

Updated: 10/23/2013 7:39 AM By: Beth McDonough

Two hunters looking for ducks found trouble instead.

The harrowing hunting story happened in Barron County in Western Wisconsin. Two men were shot at numerous times while hunting legally, and the man who opened fire is facing minor charges.

Now, both sides are telling their stories.

It's the heart of duck hunting season. On Sunday, a marsh looked perfect for outdoorsman, "we knew it was going to be a great day, it started out good."

Yet within minutes of shooting two mallards the hunters became the hunted.  

A stranger lurking in the nearby woods, got mouthy, "he went off on a rant about how we shouldn't be here, we should be in Afghanistan if we were gonna shoot something," says Levi Johnston.

Then, that stranger, Van Hawkinson, got a gun, "for a moment there, I got angry and was hurt. I jumped in the vehicle took a .410 with me, what's that gonna do? I shot out at the corn field up in the air. I had my weapon like so."

We asked duck hunter David Reichenberger if he felt targeted, "oh absolutely, if he had a .22 or any other lethal weapon he could've killed us."

Reichenberger and Johnston were in a canoe. No way to escape. The shots were close enough to scare them.

And that's the point, "I'm an animal lover and bird lover. I don't like to see things die, especially for the sport of killing," says Hawkinson.

Although the hunters were on private land, they had permission from the owner to be there. Authorities arrested and charged the 64-year-old with dangerous use of a weapon and disorderly conduct, which are misdemeanors and considered minor crimes by the law. 

We asked Hawkinson if he was sorry, "yes, why? Because I went to jail for it." He was there for one night, then he was free on $1,000 bond. 

"That's it?" That's what David Reichenberger and Levi Johnston want to know, "he got nothing for basically trying to kill us, how is it you can shoot somebody and the next day get out of jail?"

KSTP called the sheriff and county attorney to ask about the charges, but we haven't heard back.

The DNR publishes safety guidelines for hunting on private land, including tips to follow before, after and during the hunt.

Click here to for both sides of the story and decide for yourself.