The end of shooting hours were almost upon Washington Island on Sunday, Nov. 23 when an accident claimed the life of Steve Hoogester during the first weekend of the state’s gun deer hunt.
The preliminary investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Washington Island Police Department indicated that Hoogester, 65, of West Bend appeared to be exiting a ground blind when he accidentally shot himself. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It looks like it was an accident,” said Washington Island Police Chief Tyler McGrane.
Hoogester was a District 6 alderperson on the West Bend Common Council and a retired lieutenant who had spent 34 years with the West Bend Police Department.
Family members who were with Hoogester called in the incident around 5 pm, McGrane said. Personnel and equipment from the Washington Island Police Department, Washington Island Fire Department, Washington Island Rescue Squad and DNR responded to the scene.
Mike Neal, a DNR conservation warden, said the accident occurred on the island’s northwest side, a location that challenged the response. Cell phones bouncing off towers in Michigan provided spotty service, and daylight had waned, forcing the responders to conduct the investigation in the dark.
Full reports from McGrane and the DNR are still pending, and the investigation will remain open until the autopsy report has been completed.
The DNR’s Hunting Incident Summary shows there have been eight hunting-related fatalities during the past five years out of 77 accidental shootings. Only two of those fatalities resulted from deer hunting. The remainder occurred while the individuals were hunting waterfowl, grouse, turkeys and coyotes.