A Green Country man was pierced by a bullet while walking out of the woods on a deer hunting trip. John Mason was shot Friday evening while hunting on public land in the Welling area, east of Tahlequah.
The person who pulled the trigger left, but John’s family said if it weren't for his father, John might not be alive today.
John has been recovering in the hospital since he was shot Friday. His family says they're thankful it wasn't any worse. Still, they want to know who would shoot someone, then walk away.
“We had our orange hats on and our orange vests,” said John’s father, longtime hunter, Bill Mason.
Deer hunting is the common bond Bill Mason shares with his son, John.
“We've been pretty much been hunting ever since he was 10 or 12 years old,” Bill said.
It's a sport the two respect--with rules they follow.
“It's got to be a safe, ethical shot to be able to make sure something like this don't happen,” said Bill. “If you can't see it, don't shoot it.”
But it seems not everyone plays by that same set of rules.
“Never had anything like this happen,” said Bill.
The sun had all but set Friday evening, when Bill jumped out of his deer stand, headed toward his son's hunting spot.
“It was about 5:37, and I heard two shots,” Bill said.
Two shots followed by a scream that’s still ringing in his ears.
“Bone chilling,” said Bill. “Just something you never want to hear, something I don't ever, ever want to have to listen to again.”
The bullet pierced John's right arm and shoulder before going out his back. They didn’t see the shooter, but Bill thinks the shot was taken from the ground no more than 50 yards away.
“Whoever pulled that trigger knows he shot a person. And when he left, he left knowing that he was leaving somebody to die,” Bill said.
John was bleeding badly and it was a quarter-mile walk out of the woods--a walk he might have made without his dad by his side.
“He probably wouldn't be here, I think might have passed out and bled to death,” Bill said. “He's a tough young man, tough young man to make it out.”
There are a number of houses near the public hunting land and neighbors told deputies they heard at least one gunshot, they also say they remember seeing a red, four-door Dodge pickup in the area at the time of the shooting.
“We're not sure if they're witnesses, suspects, what their status is, but we would like to speak with them to see if they know anything,” Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said.
Chennault said if the shooter had come forward initially, it’s possible the person wouldn’t have faced charges.
“If they would have told us when it happened, we probably could have explained away, if it wasn't intentional,” said the undersheriff.
But with each passing day, Chennault said the shooting because more suspicious.
“The longer it goes, the more it looks like they're hiding something,” Chennault said.
The victim’s father said he can forgive an accident, but he can’t forgive someone who would just walk away from an injured man.
For Bill, his peace of mind will come when the shooter is caught.
"I just don't want this ever to happen again, and if this person is ever allowed to go back in the woods, it could happen again,” Bill said.
Afer two surgeries, John will walk away with some nerve damage and many questions.
“He just would like to know why they did not stay and help,” Bill said, speaking for his son.
The undersheriff asks anyone with any information to call the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office at 918-456-2583. He says you can make that call anonymously.
He said the shooter could face charges of reckless use of a weapon or assault and battery with a deadly weapon.